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Sun, Aug 17, 2003

12 - Faith-Rest Promises

3 John 1:3 by Robert Dean
Series:3rd John (2003)
Duration:1 hr 3 mins 51 secs

Faith-Rest Promises; 3 Jo 3


Isaiah 40:31 NASB "Yet those who wait for the LORD will gain new strength; They will mount up {with} wings like eagles, They will run and not get tired, They will walk and not become weary."

There are other passages where the Bible talks about waiting. Psalm 39:7 NASB "And now, Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in You." Here we see that waiting is parallel to hope, and the idea of confidence being placed in God allows us to relax and wait patiently in a situation for God to work. Psalm 130:5 NASB "I wait for the LORD, my soul does wait, And in His word do I hope." Note the parallel there. In the first line waiting has as its object the covenant God of Israel who is faithful to His promises to Israel. In the second line the object of hope is in His Word. So we don't just trust God in some sort of abstract way, we trust God in terms of what He has revealed about Himself in His Word. So once again we reinforce this idea that faith always has His Word as its object.

Psalm 25:3 NASB "Indeed, none of those who wait for You will be ashamed; Those who deal treacherously without cause will be ashamed." The believer relaxes who does what is right, who follows the procedures of Scripture and waits upon God to bring about the consequences. [5] "Lead me in Your truth and teach me, For You are the God of my salvation; For You I wait all the day." That is an expression of confidence in God based on His revelation in terms of truth. So we take that back to our basic idea of 3rd John 3, 4 that we walk by means of truth, and that necessitates waiting and resting in the Lord.

There are two elements to the faith-rest drill, an active sense and a passive sense. The active sense is that we do whatever the promise says to do, e.g. "Pray without ceasing" or, "In everything by prayer and supplication let your requests be made known unto God, and the peace of God which surpasses all comprehension shall defend your hearts and minds." You pray with thanksgiving. Then there is a passive sense. I focus on the promise, do what the promise says to do, and then in the passive I am waiting for God to bring about the consequences or the results that are promised.

Psalm 25:21 NASB "Let integrity and uprightness preserve me, For I wait for You." The waiting is based upon an understanding of the character of God. One of the major rationales that undergirds the faith-rest drill is the essence of God rationale. We work our way through the attributes of God and then apply that to the situation.

Psalm 27:14 NASB "Wait for the LORD; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the LORD." God is going to work out the situation, whatever it may be. It may be a health crisis, one that goes on for weeks, for months, for years. What we do in that situation is relax and trust the Lord. He is in control and that may be the precise area in which we need to be tested for our spiritual growth. God has specifically tailor made each area of adversity in our life because the end result is to produce in us the character of Jesus Christ. The concept of "heart" in this verse relates to our thinking in the core area of our soul. This is not talking about emotion; emotion doesn't produce courage. This is talking about thinking. The only way we will have courage in the midst of a crisis is to think on the basis of objective absolutes. Once we get involved in emotion—panic attack, anger, bitterness, resentment, etc.—we can't have courage. We start making mistakes and will fail the test. Taking courage also brings in the idea of endurance, long-term obedience. Wait for the Lord.

Psalm 37:34 NASB "Wait for the LORD and keep His way, And He will exalt you to inherit the land; When the wicked are cut off, you will see it." Waiting for the Lord is the passive idea where we relax and rest in God's control of the circumstances. Keeping His way is the active sense. We don't just relax and say that God is going to take care of it in some sort of mindless turning over to some impersonal force but it involves at the same time walking according to the mandates and the procedures of Scripture. The exaltation to inherit the land is a long-range future destiny and if we don't reach the point in our spiritual maturation where we are living today in light of eternity, where we have a personal sense of our eternal destiny, it is difficult to learn how to wait for the Lord.

Psalm 52:9 NASB "I will give You thanks forever, because You have done {it,} And I will wait on Your name, for {it is} good, in the presence of Your godly ones." The concept of "Your name" relates to His essence. It is hoping or being confident in the character of God, understanding who and what God is as the sovereign creator-God of the universe who is working our a plan. He has a plan for our life and will eventually work all things together for good, Romans 8:28. It is because we understand that God is going to work things out according to His integrity that we can relax, even though we may not see it in this lifetime.

The context of Isaiah chapter forty

Isaiah 40:28 NASB "Do you not know? Have you not heard?..." There are two rhetorical questions here related to knowledge given in a poetic format. They are a form of synonymous parallelism that is designed to call the reader's attention to the fact that he should know something, and in fact that he does, but he is not applying it. This is often what happens when we are in some kind if crisis. We know it, we have been taught it, but we are not applying it at the moment and instead we are pushing the panic button or giving up or we are blaming God. "…The Everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth Does not become weary or tired. His understanding is inscrutable." Stage one of the faith-rest drill is to claim the promise. You look at the promise, understand what it means, that (v. 31) "those who wait for the LORD will gain new strength" – exchange of human strength for divine strength. The result is that there is endurance in the midst of the test.

The second stage of the faith-rest drill is to find out what the rationale is behind the promise. To do that we have to go to the context. We see the rationale developed in v. 28. It develops from an understanding of the essence of God, so this is the essence of God rationale. Therefore before this we need to understand the attributes of God. We need to be able to think our way through those attributes, and this is exactly what is going on in a passage like Isaiah 40, e.g. v. 28. The first thing he goes to is "the everlasting God." This brings in the attribute of His eternality. He is beyond time, there never was a time when God did not exist. How does that relate to our particular problem? If God is everlasting that means in conjunction with His knowledge (the last phrase of this verse) then there never was a time when God did not know about every single problem that we face in life. He is eternal, He has all knowledge and therefore whatever happens in our life is not a surprise to God. Therefore He has provided a solution for it from eternity past. Then He is called "the Lord," in the Hebrew Yahweh, the covenant name of God. This is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob who has entered into a covenant with Israel; it is not some abstract deity, this is the personal God of the Jews who called Israel into existence and made certain promises. It brings in the idea that he is faithful to His Word and faithful to His covenants.

Then we move to the doctrine of the creator-creature distinction. We can't divorce creation from the character of God and problem-solving. He is "the Creator of the ends of the earth," and that phrase, "ends of the earth," is a metaphor which means including everything. Everything we can think of was created and came into existence by God. The act of creation implies planning and forethought, and the power to bring about that which is planned. It implies ability and control over all of the details in order to bring that to task. So we have come to the doctrine of omnipotence: He is able to do that which he intends to do. This leads to the next thought, "Does not become weary or tired." God doesn't get tired. He has unlimited power, infinite power, and He can do whatever He intends to do and whatever He plans to do.

We need to look at the historical context here. Why is it that Isaiah brings this point to bear? What is going on in Israel? We have to understand something about the broad structure of Isaiah. Isaiah is divided into basically two sections. In the first section, chapters 1-39, there is an emphasis on God's judgment. In chapters 40-66 the emphasis is more on God's grace and deliverance. What is going on in chapter 40? The situation envisioned in 40-66 is what is talking place at the end of the Babylonian captivity. What happened in the history of Israel is that God had told the Jews that if they disobeyed the Mosaic Law, disobeyed His Word, and didn't keep His commandments then He was going to take them out of the land that He had promised. On the other hand, if they obeyed God He would keep them in the land and it would be a land where they experienced tremendous prosperity an blessing. But Israel continued to disobey God and the first sign of divine discipline was that the kingdom was divided on Solomon's death into the northern kingdom called Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah. The northern kingdom was dominated by apostasy. There wasn't one good king in the north, they all took the kingdom into idolatry, and in 722 BC Assyria overran them and they were taken out in divine discipline and removed from the land. The southern kingdom fared a little better. They had a few good kings who followed the Lord, but the majority did not, and the people rejected the Lord and so finally in 586 BC God took them out of the land in discipline. God used the Babylonians to come in and conquer them militarily and the people were taken from the land and resettled in Babylon. It is in this situation that was the result of military defeat, economic collapse, the loss of hearth and home, as the people are removed from the land to Babylon, that there was a tremendous amount of physical suffering and deprivation that took place. They are outside the place of blessing from God.

So the first thing to do whenever there is a situation of suffering is to ask what the cause of the suffering is. We have seen the two broad categories for suffering: deserved suffering and undeserved suffering. Under deserved suffering what is being emphasised is that at some level the suffering is the direct result of human volition. In undeserved suffering we cannot trace it to a specific decision that someone has made.

We go through the rationales and we see that Israel is faced with a divine situation. They have been warned of the Babylonian captivity in rhe first 39 chapters of Isaiah but in the last chapters, 40-66, Isaiah is taken out of his own time and he is writing to those who are in that discipline generation. The entire section focuses on God's grace and His future restoration of the nation to the land and His deliverance of the nation which eventually culminates in the suffering Messiah in chapter 53. So what is embedded in this entire section of 40-66 is that God always operates on grace, even when we are in suffering, with grace before discipline, with grace during discipline, with grace after discipline. The focus of this section is on God's grace after discipline.

The first eleven verses of chapter 40 focus on the key to deliverance of Israel. Actually, these verses have a strong millennial overtone to them. The ultimate fulfilment does not come to pass until the future, but in the historical perspective of the 6th century BC they still see this as one advent. So God is speaking at the beginning of verse 1: "'Comfort, O comfort My people,' says your God." This is His call to Isaiah, that as a prophet he was to comfort the people. The comfort comes from doctrine, from understanding the reality of why they are suffering and what they were to learn through the suffering in terms of obedience to God. Isaiah 40:2 NASB "Speak kindly to Jerusalem; And call out to her, that her warfare has ended, That her iniquity has been removed, That she has received of the LORD'S hand Double for all her sins." The concept of doubling does not mean that they paid for it twice. The idea is an idiom in Hebrew meaning full payment. The grace is that once we are disciplined for personal disobedience there is restoration and what is behind is put in the past.

Isaiah 40:3 NASB "A voice is calling, 'Clear the way for the LORD in the wilderness; Make smooth in the desert a highway for our God.'" In context this is talking about a highway back to Jerusalem. This verse is taken and applied by New testament Gospel writers to John the Baptist but in its original interpretive framework it is talking about preparing a way of return of the exiles to Jerusalem. [4] "Let every valley be lifted up, And every mountain and hill be made low; And let the rough ground become a plain, And the rugged terrain a broad valley." That is simply picturesque language for levelling the road. The vision is that God will remove all of the obstacles to their return to the land. [5] "Then the glory of the LORD will be revealed, And all flesh will see {it} together; For the mouth of the LORD has spoken." So here we are reminded that there is a contrast between God and His power pictured in His glory and the limitations of flesh. [6] "A voice says, 'Call out.' Then he answered, 'What shall I call out?'…" So God gives Isaiah the message. "… All flesh is grass, and all its loveliness is like the flower of the field. [7] The grass withers, the flower fades, When the breath of the LORD blows upon it; Surely the people are grass." In other words, man cannot depend on flesh; man cannot depend on mankind for succour or for sustenance. All flesh is easily destroyed. In contrast the Word of God never is destroyed. [8] "The grass withers, the flower fades, But the word of our God stands forever."

Isaiah 40:10 NASB "Behold, the Lord GOD will come with might, With His arm ruling for Him. Behold, His reward is with Him And His recompense before Him." What elements do we see in that verse? We see His arm, the symbol for His omnipotence. We also see reward. Reward comes in the future, so we see this orientation to future resolution. [11] "Like a shepherd He will tend His flock, In His arm He will gather the lambs And carry {them} in His bosom; He will gently lead the nursing {ewes.}" The point is that even though we are going through suffering, through torture, through the most horrendous adversity, God has not lost control. He is working out His purposes and he will bring about ultimate resolution and He will care for us even in the midst of that crisis.

And that leaves the writer to focus on the character of God. Starting in verse 12 the focus shifts to God and His attributes—His power, His majesty and His control of history. There are five rhetorical questions that are asked. Isaiah 40:12 NASB "Who has measured the waters in the hollow of His hand, And marked off the heavens by the span, And calculated the dust of the earth by the measure, And weighed the mountains in a balance And the hills in a pair of scales?" All of that verse is the first question and it has to do with measurement or calculation or quantification. In this verse we see the use of anthropomorphisms to communicate the immensity of God. Further, we see here the idea of God's immensity. Immensity is related to God's transcendence, that He is bigger than creation, bigger than any of our problems. We can define immensity as that perfection of the divine being by which he transcends all special limitations and yet is present at every point of space with His whole being. He is exalted above all space and time, and that reduces our problem to just a small little speck.

Isaiah 40:13 NASB "Who has directed the Spirit of the LORD, Or as His counselor has informed Him?" In verses 13 & 14 these questions emphasise God's omniscience, His divine knowledge. This verse should be corrected to "Who has directed the thinking of the LORD?" The word translated "Spirit" here is the Hebrew word ruach which is normally translated "spirit" but in both ruach in the Old Testament and pneuma [pneuma] in the New Testament "spirit" has the idea of wind or breath, but it can also means thinking or attitude, and it doesn't always mean the Holy Spirit or the human spirit. Here it has the idea of thinking. No one has directed the thinking of God, He doesn't need to be taught. [14] "With whom did He consult and {who} gave Him understanding?..." There is no one to whom God goes for information. The fifth rhetorical question in this section is, "… And {who} taught Him in the path of justice and taught Him knowledge And informed Him of the way of understanding?" What idea just came in here? Justice. Always when there is adversity there is always a challenge to the fairness and the justice of God.

Then vv. 15-17 compares the immensity of God to what is going on historically. Isaiah 40:15 NASB "Behold, the nations are like a drop from a bucket, And are regarded as a speck of dust on the scales; Behold, He lifts up the islands like fine dust." The point of the image is that all of man's plans, all of man's power, all of the connivings and schemings of nations is nothing in the sight of God.

Isaiah 40:28 NASB "Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Everlasting God [His eternal life], the LORD [His covenant faithfulness], the Creator of the ends of the earth [the planner in control of everything] Does not become weary or tired [omnipotence]. His understanding is inscrutable [omniscience]." Why does Isaiah say this? because the question is raised in verse 27 NASB "Why do you say, O Jacob, and assert, O Israel, 'My way is hidden from the LORD, And the justice due me escapes the notice of my God'?" In the context of the discipline there were these whiners. God has forgotten about me! Why is God not taking care of the problem? Why isn't God providing the solution? And so Isaiah reminds them of who God is and His attributes, that He is the one even in the midst of overpowering adversity who gives power to the weak (v. 29). It is not our power, it is God's power. "He gives strength to the weary, And to {him who} lacks might He increases power." This is the context of the promise. So we work through the rationale, it helps us to understand that what undergirds the promise is the character of God. Because of this He is greater than all of our problems, he knew about all of our problems in eternity past, therefore God has provided a solution for all of those problems. Because God is who he is we can then relax in the midst of a situation and can wait on Him. When we do that there is an exchange of strength; it is not our strength, it is God's strength. This is when we come to that third point in the faith-rest drill of claiming a doctrinal conclusion. We reach a point where there is a firm conviction in our soul that this is true. That is when you reach that conclusion. It is not just an abstract conclusion but a conclusion that is true in our soul, and at that point we completely relax and rest in the Lord. As a result of that exchange of strength is the ability to endure with strength whatever testing, or struggle or difficulty comes in life.