Online Text Sermon - The Return of the Redeemed, Isaiah ch.51 v.11
|Preacher||Rev. Maurice Roberts, Inverness|
|Sermon Title||The Return of the Redeemed|
|Text||Isaiah ch.51 v.11 |
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"Therefore, the redeemed of the Lord shall return, and come with singing unto Zion; and everlasting joy shall be upon their head: they shall obtain gladness and joy; and sorrow and mourning shall flee away" (Isaiah 51,11).
1. God's encouragement to His redeemed people.
2. Their behaviour
3. The blessings they receive
1. GOD'S ENCOURAGEMENT TO HIS REDEEMED PEOPLE
Now, in this chapter the prophet, being divinely inspired, is giving encouragement to the Lord's people. Encouragement is essential for the Lord's people, and especially in a difficult time; and this was a difficult time. It is clear from the chapter that there were two particular worries troubling the minds of the Lord's people at this date. One was the smallness of Christ's cause at that time. The reason for this was because of the ravages of war, the decline of religion, the persecution of kings who ruled in Judah, and the exile which, in a short time, was to carry many of them away into Babylon, and they would be lost forever; and the true elect of God, who were spiritual, were very burdened by the smallness of the cause. I think you and I know the meaning of that. They were worried; they were troubled; so few in the nation who really feared God.
I point out to you how this inspired prophet gave them comfort. At the beginning of the chapter, he points them to Abraham: "Look unto Abraham, your father, and unto Sarah that bare you: for I called him alone, and blessed him, and increased him" (verse 2). Now, God is saying to His people there, if He could bring the church of Christ into existence out of one man's loins and one woman's womb, to create the church, which in the times of the Jews amounted to thousands of people, and in our time amounts to millions, why should we doubt the power of God to bring all His elect safely home to Himself?
But, there's then another worry which comes hard on the heels of the first, and you could put it into words like this. The Lord's people were burdened, secondly, because of the desolation which appeared everywhere. The cause of the Lord was so low; everything seemed broken down and in pieces. Well now, the Lord comforts His people for that worry too, in verse 3: "For the Lord shall comfort Zion: he will comfort all her waste places; and he will make her wilderness like Eden, and her desert like the garden of the Lord".
Obviously, these comforts and this encouragement was meant for us in our day, just as it was meant for the Jews in theirs. No matter how desolate the cause may seem, or broken down, the Lord is able to comfort all the waste places of His church. He's able to make London, and Birmingham, and Liverpool, and Manchester, and Glasgow, and Edinburgh, and Dundee, and so on, He's able to make them cities with mighty churches again; and we must never walk by sight, we are called on to live and to walk by faith.
Now, amongst the encouragements that God gives, is my text at verse 11: "Therefore, the redeemed of the Lord shall return, and come with singing unto Zion; and everlasting joy shall be upon their head: they shall obtain gladness and joy; and sorrow and mourning shall flee away" (text).
I can only speak briefly about these words today, in the time we have, but let me first point out to you a wonderful description of the people of God: "the redeemed of the Lord". I find those words extremely comforting. However much indwelling sin we have (and we have much), however many failings and faults we possess (and we do have many), we still are the redeemed of the Lord; and that's a wonderful phrase. You will know that the word redeemed has a very precious meaning: it means 'purchased' or 'bought' or 'bought back'. Some money has been paid for us, and we are assured by the Word of God that we have not been redeemed with corruptible things like silver and gold. Mind you, I find that rather strange, if I may say so with reverence. We tend not to think of silver and gold as being corruptible. We talk about base metals as corruptible; we talk about iron that rusts, and aluminium that corrodes, and brass that tarnishes. We tend not to think of gold and silver as being corruptible; but in the course of time all metals corrupt. The tooth of time will bite through even the most precious of metals. So, we are not redeemed by pounds, or by dollars, or by gold bullion. The price that God has paid for a redeemed people has been paid by the precious blood of Christ, which means that the blood of Christ (unlike these metals) is incorruptible. That thought ought not to escape us. If you kill a bull or a goat, as they did in sacrifice of old, their blood was fresh and warm, but only for an hour or two, and then it congealed and dried into dust. But the blood of Christ is incorruptible: it is as fresh, and as warm, and as efficacious before God as the day when it flowed from His blessed veins on the Cross. We are redeemed to God by His precious blood (Revelation 5,9).
I think we have to put it in some such way as this: that the payment which was made for God's people, was made by the grace of God, to the justice of God. God's grace found a way whereby a payment could be made to the justice of God. This is how in one of the Psalms we are told that in the gospel "righteousness and peace kiss one another" (Psalm 85,10). If God is to redeem His people, He must do so in this way: it must be by the precious blood of Jesus Christ. But, you say, why does there need to be? If God wishes us to be His people why does there need to be the shedding of blood? And the answer is that God will not save anyone in a manner which does not do justice to His own righteousness. God will never lay aside the claims of law and of righteousness. That's where men and nations go wrong. Men and nations can set aside the claims of righteousness. They think that it is a kindness to do so - but it's not. The claims of righteousness are inflexible; and it was because God found a method whereby He could be just and also the justifier of sinners that He devised this method whereby His exiled people would not be eternally banished from Him: they are the redeemed of the Lord.
Now, my brother and sister in Christ, if you are redeemed by so rich and wonderful a price as by the blood of the Lamb, Jesus Christ, you belong to God! and I want to remind you of that: we belong to God. Whatever people may say about us, on radio and television and in newspapers, we belong to God; and he that touches you touches the apple of His eye. He that attacks the Lord's people is stabbing at God, who in His sovereign love has chosen His people. "Touch not mine anointed, do my prophets no harm" (Psalm 105,15; 1 Chronicles 16,22). Whoever you speak against, don't attack the Lord's people. Whoever you go for - if you're that kind of person with a sharp tongue - don't go for His people. They belong to Him, and they do not belong to the world.
2. THEIR BEHAVIOUR
Now, the second thing I have time to mention briefly is this: it is the behaviour of the Lord's redeemed; their behaviour. What is said about them? "The redeemed of the Lord shall return and come to Zion with singing" (text). They shall return. They are like the prodigal son. Every one of the redeemed, sooner or later, comes to the point in which they say: "I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto Him, Father, I have sinned" (Luke 15,18). That is the universal behaviour of all the redeemed in this world; whatever their background, they all speak the same language. They return. You will know that wonderful passage in Jeremiah. Let me read it to you. It's a description of this very thing: "In those days, and at that time, saith the Lord, the children of Israel shall come, they and the children of Judah together, sowing and weeping, they shall go seek the Lord their God. They shall ask the way to Zion with their faces thitherward, saying, Come, and let us join ourselves to the Lord in a perpetual covenant that shall not be forgotten" (Jeremiah 50,4-5).
That is the universal behaviour of all those who are bought by the blood of Christ. They travel towards Zion. Now, Zion is one of the names for Jerusalem; and it is a symbolical way of saying that they come to church. All the Lord's people find their way to church, and they find their way to the gospel, and they find their way to the truth, and they find their way somehow to the fountain of living water from which they drink. They become serious about the things the world cares nothing about - serious about the Bible, about their own soul; they weep to think that they could be shut out of the kingdom of God, and they come to Zion. They don't go to Athens, which is the centre of intellectual paganism. They don't go to Babylon, which is the house of idols. They come to Zion. They come to the place where the truth of God is, and is loved, and embraced, and espoused, and promoted.
So, that means that a real Christian is someone who has broken with the past. He is a changed person. A hypocrite takes his sins with him; but the true child of God weeps, and leaves his sins behind. "They will come unto Zion with singing"; they sing, of course, because they're happy - the Lord's people are happy people. They don't always look it, but then you don't have to go around with a grin on your face to be happy. The world has an artificial happiness; the world is laughing in the sense of Dutch courage: like whispering in the dark to keep their spirits up. That's why the world is so full of laughter. That's why they want comedy shows, and things to make them laugh all the time, so they don't think of the serious things - their eternity: hell, God, judgement. But the Lord's people have crossed over from death into life, and they're travelling to Zion; and as they do so they come, we are told, with songs,
3. THE BLESSINGS THEY RECEIVE
Now, the third thing that I have time, very briefly, to mention is the blessings that the redeemed of the Lord receive. What are the blessings they receive? "They shall obtain gladness and joy; and sorrow and mourning shall flee away...everlasting joy shall be upon their head" (text).
I'm quite certain that we're not talking here about grace; we're talking about glory. We're not talking about church membership only; we're talking here about heaven. "Everlasting joy shall be upon their head." Now that is the joy of being at God's right hand, where "there are pleasures for evermore" (Psalm 16,11). Everlasting joy refers to the ultimate state, the final state of glory. That is the destiny which the Lord's people shall obtain: everlasting joy and happiness.
And they are comforted along the way. They are comforted in two ways. "Sorrow and mourning flee away." Now, there's plenty of sadness for a Christian in this life. I won't weary you by telling you the many ways in which Christians are sad. Every Christian has had plenty of it; they do not need me to make a commentary on it. This is a sad world for the Lord's people; but they will get out of it; and I want to remind you of that, my dearly beloved friends: you will get out of all your sorrows. The day will come when you'll be sorry no more for anything, and sorrowful no more for anything. All the things today which are the source of heaviness and grief to you, you will get out of them - remind yourself of that. And every conceivable comfort and blessing will then be given to you: "they shall obtain gladness and joy...everlasting joy shall be upon their head" (text).
Now, I've tried to find out what the commentators tell me about 'everlasting joy on their head'. I wasn't altogether satisfied with any of them. I think I read about eight different views. Why should the joy be on their head? Well, I can't profess to know for sure, but the best I can do is this: that when the Lord comes again to the world, Jesus Christ stands on the clouds, and all His angels are gathered with Him, and all the saints will rise up in a cloud to meet the Lord in the air at His coming; but as they get closer and closer to Him, that the glory which is His will shine upon their heads - first, - and then upon their whole body to make them radiant, to shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. So, this joy will be first on their heads. Oh, I wouldn't go to war over that interpretation - maybe there's a better one - but perhaps there's some light also in the suggestion that I make.
Now that's all I can do by way of exposition this morning in the time we have.
Let me say one or two things to different people. First of all, to elders and deacons: dear, dear brethren in Christ, I am thankful to God for you, elders and deacons. You have no idea what a strength you are to your minister; and I want to remind you, as you know it already (I'm not telling you anything you don't know, and I'm sure you know it better than I do); but let me just gently say, it is a great honour to help the redeemed of the Lord to get to heaven. It's a great honour, and an honour which we should take seriously, and do everything in our power, to put our own wishes aside, and to live for the flock of Christ. The Lord will reward you - elders and deacons, and others who do the same kind of work - the Lord will reward you for helping His redeemed to get to heaven. Even though you give but a cup of cold water, He will reward you.
I never forget, when I was put on trial in June, there was an American gentleman there who was in charge of the proceedings, telling people and the Moderator who was to come in, and I asked him, I said, "Well, one thing you can do for me please, if you have a cup of cold water on the desk, in case I need to drink a little water." "Yes, sir," he said, "I will" - and he did. And I realized what Christ meant: a cup of cold water given in the name of the disciples will in no wise lose its reward (Matthew 10,42). I remembered this: how grateful I was to that gentleman. He did the thing I asked, and he did it in a good spirit. Well, dear elders and deacons, it will be no hardship to you to serve the Lord's people, because they are the redeemed of the Lord.
Now, those of you who are the Lord's people. I don't just mean members, but I mean those of you who are the Lord's people, whether you are professing members, or disciples in secret, I would like to say to you in connection with my text: live in this world like those who have been redeemed by the Lord. Live in that spirit, and with that desire. You know there are many Christians today, and they are too much interested in the world, too much interested in the world. I really don't understand Christians taking too much interest in anything, in this world: whether it's classical music, or jazz, or popular music, or football, or anything. I can understand a passing interest. These things have a passing interest. I've always been interested in some of these things, this classical music, myself; but just keep it at a minimum, don't let it get out of hand, don't let your heart be swallowed up by anything. If He has redeemed us, then all our affection must be directed to Him. We are not our own, we are bought with the precious blood of Christ (1 Corinthians 6,19-20). So don't let the world come in. Live that holy life which is consistent with what you are.
And then it must be, finally, those of you who are not yet the Lord's people, those of you who are seeking the Lord. There are some of you here; some of you are older, some younger: all of you who are seeking the Lord. I want to say this to you: What have you got to do? Well, the Bible makes it clear in this verse. Return, return to the Lord. "The redeemed of the Lord shall return." Come back, my friend, come back, come home, come in to the true church of Jesus Christ. Let your heart's love be for Christ - crucified. Why should you be a stranger, sitting in this place week in and week out? and yet going home without ever professing any faith outwardly in Christ.
The communions are upon us again. Is not this a golden moment in life for you to seek the Lord, with all your heart? I would like to represent to you that it is; and that you will never, never regret giving your whole life to the One who redeemed us from all corruption, and washed us from our sins in His own blood.
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