The Beautiful People audio (5MB)
Jesus was standing in the synagogue, in Nazareth, and he read from Isaiah 61 …
After he read the passage, he rolled up the scroll, he gave it to the attendant, everyone was staring at him and he said, ‘Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
I love that moment … I think because, I imagine, that the scene at the synagogue wouldn’t have been that different to our church gathering here this morning … except that the men and women would have sat separately and the music wouldn’t have been as good and they didn’t have powerpoint, but apart from that …
I can see women gathering at the back with their friends, and catching up on news (which happens here every week) … I can see kids running around outside, thinking “when do we get to eat?” I can see younger men sitting in the front row learning the scripture. I can see the majority of the congregation kind of glazing over as the scripture reading starts, kind of half listening, or hearing the first verse and thinking, ‘oh yeah, I know that one’ … and then young Jesus, who is just like Jamin or Nic or Abel-John … just a young man who everyone knows and people have watched him grow up and do his apprenticeship and make his Bar-Mitzvah …
… he gets up and says, ‘the prophecy has been fulfilled today’ … and people are thinking, ah, ‘Jesus, you’re not supposed to preach, just read the reading and sit down’ … or his brothers and sisters are thinking, ‘what is our embarrassing brother doing now?’ … and some people are thinking, ‘yeah he’s always been a bit strange this one, thinks he’s got a gift of prophecy or something …’
And yet, in that ordinary place, amongst those ordinary people … because of a seemingly ordinary man … the prophecy was indeed fulfilled, in their hearing.
Today’s passage from Isaiah, chapter 55, is all about a prophecy that is being fulfilled as we meet here today. We have just in the last two weeks of this teaching series, shifted into a second section of Isaiah … having moved pretty quickly through over a hundred years of history, from the year of King Uzziah through King Ahaz’s reign, the Assyrian conquest of the northern kingdom, and King Hezekiah’s faithfulness to God …
We have now come to a section of Isaiah that is almost exclusively about the future. The Lord revealed to Isaiah prophecies about things that hadn’t happened yet, and the plan he had to save Israel … this plan included the Babylonian conquest of the southern kingdom (which happened) about a hundred years later … as well as something that happened about six hundred years later …
Six hundred years later, a young carpenter, was reading from the prophecy at a tiny little synagogue, in Nazareth. He said he was the one who had been anointed to save Israel.
He fulfilled the promise that we read today in Isaiah 55:3 – “I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David.”
Notice there the Lord says, “I will” … it’s a statement about the future … he is going to make a new covenant (that will look like the covenant that he made with David, but will in fact be a new covenant with Israel). To understand how this has unfolded we have to understand the history of God’s covenant faithfulness …
God’s Covenant Faithfulness
A covenant is simple a promise … and God makes five particularly significant promises throughout the Old Testament .. (I’m gonna run through these really quickly)
1. To Noah and all living creatures – Gen 9 – promises not to destroy the earth
- Means that however God’s going to respond to the problems of this world, he will do it on earth (effectively he is not going to give up on his creation)
2. To Abraham – Gen 12 - 17 – promises to give him descendants, land, to make his name great and that his descendants will be a blessing for the whole earth
- On the earth that God created, he is going to create a blessed nation who will be a blessing to other nations
3. To Israel – Mt Sinai – Exodus 19-24 – God promises to make Israel a holy nation (19:6) if they obey him (he gives the law)
At this point in scripture we are given a new detail about God’s plan … not only that he gave the law and the sacrificial system by which he will forgive their sins (which is what we tend to emphasise when we study this covenant) … but God’s plan for this nation is to make it holy
4. To David – 2 Samuel 7:5-16 - to establish his kingdom forever, to be his father and to love him as a son
5. A New Covenant with Israel - In Isaiah 55:3 the promises made to David are extended to Israel – Just as David was the anointed king, Jesus will become the anointed king who will establish a kingdom; a kingdom of God’s people in relationship with God, as their Father. This kingdom was always God’s plan
In Exodus 19.5-6 God says - “Indeed, the whole earth is mine, but you shall be for me a priestly kingdom and a holy nation.” However, this kingdom couldn’t be established under the old covenant of the law, because the people consistently disobeyed the law. So Jesus had to fulfil the requirements of the law on the cross … and by his blood, sanctify, make holy, a new Israel, under a new covenant.
Jesus is the anointed one who came to earth so that ..
- God will establish a holy nation
- To bless the whole world
- To reign in a kingdom where Jesus sits as king,
- And God will love them as his own children forever
As we read in Isaiah 55.10-11, God’s word never returns to him empty, he always does what he says he’s gonna do. He keeps his promises.
The Prophecy Fulfilled
What this means for us is that we are that holy nation.
This makes us different to the world. The world is unholy. We are holy. We are to bless the world with our holiness.
You probly don’t wanna say that to too many people who aren’t Christians … ‘we’re holy and you’re not’ … but do you believe it? Or does that feel uncomfortable? Does that mean we judge ourselves as being better than others? //
You know why that sounds judgemental? It’s because we don’t actually know what holiness is. We have made it into something moralistic, which it’s not. Holy people do the right thing, unholy people do the wrong thing. Holy people keep God’s law, unholy people break it. If that was the criteria, then we are all as unholy as anyone else.
But it’s not the criteria. If we don’t see Jesus against the backdrop of God’s salvation plan, then we just don’t get, that what he came to do was to make us holy, and to be holy is to be like him, to be like God.
When we think about who Jesus is, what’s the first thing that comes into our minds? // Is it that he’s without sin (completely obedient to the Father), or is it, that he is a man who is the true and living God, and that in him we see the full glory of God … in him God’s holiness is made manifest … and so he speaks with authority, he heals, he sets the captives free, he is the power and the love of God.
It’s true that he is without sin, but he is more than what he is not … he is holy … he is God. Holiness is ‘god-ness’ …
Or the way it is described in Isaiah 55 is as beauty – in v3-5 the Lord says he will make us like David, a witness to the peoples …
We are to be leaders and commanders … and our godliness is going to be so attractive to others that nations that we do not know will run to us, because “the Lord your God, the Holy one of Israel, he has glorified you … the Hebrew there means, he has ‘made you beautiful’
Do we realise what this means?? We are the beautiful people! We are beautiful like Jesus is beautiful.
I think we have become so fixated as a church on being saved from our sins, that we forget what we have been saved for … beauty, holiness, love … to bless and heal the world.
We think of sin like a cancer (which it is) … and the cross is the remedy for that cancer in our souls … so Jesus is like the surgeon who does surgery on us and removes the tumour …
But when a person becomes cured of cancer, do they spend the rest of their life thinking of themselves as someone who doesn’t have cancer? Or do they think of themselves as healed, so that they might live, and have life. Jesus came not just to save us from sin, but to make us holy … Isaiah says we were made to glorify the Lord … and goes even further in chapters 42 and 49, to describe us, God’s people, as the covenant itself – we are God’s gift to the world, to bring light to the world.
We are God’s beautiful people.
God’s Beautiful People
An image of this that I’ve had in my mind since last Sunday, is of Shellie sharing her testimony (if you weren’t here you missed a very powerful testimony of how God has set Shellie free to be a holy person) …
And she is a holy person. She’s beautiful. She gets more beautiful the more she grows in her faith. The love of Christ and the glory of God is just pouring out of her … but, out of all of you!
Is Shellie perfect? No. Does she still make mistakes in her life? Yes. Are we still sinners though we have been saved? Yes.
But we are beautiful … because we, like Shellie, have responded to God’s invitation here in Isaiah 55:1-3. God calls out to us, like a seller in a market-place, Are you thirsty? Come and get my water? Are you hungry? Come and eat my food. And then he says something weird, “You that have no money, come, buy and eat!”
How do you buy without money and without price? This holiness, this beautiful life that the Lord offers, can’t be earned … but it does have a currency … and it’s the same currency that Shellie spent when she made her promises to God last week:
She said: ‘I turn to Christ (I seek to follow him) and I repent of my sins’.
Isaiah 55.6-8 – Tells us that faith and repentance are what we give to be saved … We are to seek the Lord and seek to know his ways and turn away from our own ways.
And the more we seek him … and the more we repent … the more the victory of the cross changes us and makes us holy … the more beautiful we become.
We are a holy nation. We are the beautiful people.
Perhaps we think we’re just ordinary. No different to anyone else. Well, there were those who said that about Jesus. Isn’t this guy just Mary and Joseph’s son, from Nazareth? But he was the glory of God revealed.
And so are we. We are Jesus body in the world. The glory of God is made manifest through us. We sit on David’s throne, to lead and command the nations. We are his beautiful people.