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Evangel Tabernacle | July 21, 2018

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The Heritage Of The Servants Of The Lord

The Heritage Of The Servants Of The Lord

| On 13, Mar 2018

KEY TEXT
Isaiah 54:1-17 (RSV)
V1- “Sing, O barren one, who did not bear; break forth into singing and cry aloud, you who have not been in travail! For the children of the desolate one will be more than the children of her that is married, says the LORD.
V2- Enlarge the place of your tent, and let the curtains of your habitations be stretched out; hold not back, lengthen your cords and strengthen your stakes.
V3- For you will spread abroad to the right and to the left, and your descendants will possess the nations and will people the desolate cities.
V4- “Fear not, for you will not be ashamed; be not confounded, for you will not be put to shame; for you will forget the shame of your youth, and the reproach of your widowhood you will remember no more.
V5- For your Maker is your husband, the LORD of hosts is his name; and the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer, the God of the whole earth he is called.
V6- For the LORD has called you like a wife forsaken and grieved in spirit, like a wife of youth when she is cast off, says your God.
V7- For a brief moment I forsook you; but with great compassion I will gather you.
V8- In overflowing wrath for a moment I hid my face from you, but with everlasting love I will have compassion on you, says the LORD, your Redeemer.
V9- “For this is like the days of Noah to me: as I swore that the waters of Noah should no more go over the earth, so I have sworn that I will not be angry with you and will not rebuke you.
V10- For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you, and my covenant of peace shall not be removed, says the LORD, who has compassion on you.
V11- “O afflicted one, storm-tossed, and not comforted, behold I will set your stones in antimony, and lay your foundations with sapphires.
V12- I will make your pinnacles of agate, your gates of carbuncles and all your wall of precious stones.
V13- All your sons shall be taught by the LORD and great shall be the prosperity of your sons.
V14- In righteousness you shall be established; you shall be far from oppression, for you shall not fear; and from terror, for it shall not come bear you.
V15- If any one stirs up strife, it is not from me; whoever stirs up strife with you shall fall because of you.
V16- Behold, I have created the smith who blows the fire of coals, and produces a weapon for its purpose. I have also created the ravager to destroy;
V17- no weapon that is fashioned against you shall prosper and you shall confute every tongue that rises against you in judgment. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD and their vindication from me, says the LORD.”

It is a privilege to be a pastor of a church that has a big pool of members who are engaged in the spiritual service of the Lord in one way or the other.

The first service of Etab composes of those who are leaders and servers of this church.

Last January 7, the medical mission team from Ministry of Health, Singapore witnessed the dedication of about 100 leaders (not counting workers) on the stage during our First Fruit Service and the team was very impressed by the sheer number of our leaders. Sis Kabayao told me during the St Robert’s Spiritual Reflection conducted in our church on 12 February 2018, that it is very rare to find one church like Etab that has such a big pool of ministry workers. Etab was able to pool in, within such a short notice of time, 50 counsellors for that School Reflection. She recounted how in the past she had to approach 10 churches to solicit the same number of workers from them in order to assist her Kabayao Foundation in conducting Spiritual Reflections for High School graduating students.

Yes! I acknowledge this blessing of a big pool of ministry workers as to be from the Lord. It is a goodly heritage that the Lord has bequeathed to Etab and I am very grateful and thankful to the Lord for giving me and Pastor Toh Nee such human resources and support.

In Etab, we call this pool of people by many names:
• Ministry workers
• Volunteers
• Leaders of the Church
• Pastors and Zone pastors
• Leadership Advisory Team
• Cell leaders
• Youth mentors, youth leaders and peer leader
• Teachers of The Kiddie Church and SCG
• Helpers of Departments
• Worship leaders, back-up singers and musicians
• Directors and department heads
• Ushers, cooks and janitors

But the Bible in our Key Text calls them the SERVANTS OF THE LORD (V17).
When the Bible uses such terms as SERVANTS OF THE LORD, our minds conjure up thoughts of meaning THE PASTORS ONLY.

No!

The servants of the Lord do not mean pastors or those in the five-fold ministries only. The SERVANTS OF THE LORD refer to any born-again believers who obediently walk in God’s perfect will for their lives and serves His divine purpose faithfully with the talents God has endowed them with, in the house of the Lord as well as in the secular (marketplace Christians). These are the people who recognize that they are saved to serve the Lord and not saved for the Lord to serve them.

This morning, I want to encourage this big pool of workers and servants of the Lord of this church with a message crafted just for you who are engaging in the spiritual service of the Lord. I understand that in the midst of us today are some visitors and new ones who have been coming back to our church consecutively for many Sundays and you may think this message isn’t for you. Don’t turn off your ears to this message yet as I have been praying that after listening to this message, you will be motivated not only to attend our church but will decide to serve God in the ministries that are available in this church.

This morning, I would like to share a message entitled, THE HERITAGE OF THE SERVANTS OF THE LORD.

In the message this morning, I would like to touch on 4 areas:
• The background of Isaiah 54

• The Journey of the Servants of the LORD
-5 kinds of Roadblocks
-Redemptive Suffering – Pathema
-The Pattern of the journey

• The Heritage of the Servants of the LORD
-5 blessings

• Our Suffering Servant – Jesus

(I) BACKGROUND OF ISAIAH 54
The book of Isaiah carries four “Servant Songs” that describe the service, suffering and the exaltation of the Servant of the Lord, the Messiah. These four songs are found in Isaiah 42, 49, 50 and 52-53 and they show the Messiah to be God’s meek and gentle Servant.

After Isaiah 53:12, the theme of Isaiah’s prophecy shifts from the WORKS OF THE SERVANT (Messiah) to the SALVATION that He brings.

Chapter 54-56 are oracles of SALVATION to three different groups of people who are BENEFICIARIES of this SERVANT’S ministry. Isaiah 54 is addressed to the first group- those in exile who are faithful to God and it represents the Spiritual Church in all ages.

A significant shift is evident in Chapter 54 when “THE SERVANT” as a singular noun disappears from Isaiah’s prophecy. From now on, “the servants” of the Servant, or THOSE WHO CARRY ON HIS LEAGACY OF OBEDIENCE, FAITHFULNESS AND SELF-SACRIFICE will be the focus of Isaiah’s attention. The key to understanding Chapter 54 is found in the conclusion when the Lord says, “This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD and their righteousness is of me” (54:17 KJV). Perhaps we can imagine ourselves sitting together as children at the reading of a loving parent’s last will and testament. Blessing after blessing is given to us in the legacy.

Now let’s look at the journey of the children of Israel implied in Isaiah 54. Here Israel is encouraged to burst into song because her punishment which was the exile to Babylon is over. And the Lord, like a loving husband, is taking back His wayward bride and showering her with blessings. Her exile in Babylon was necessary because of her grievous sin but it was only a temporary banishment because the Lord is faithful to His promises. Just as God honored His covenant with Noah, He will honor His “covenant of peace” with Israel. These verses await their complete fulfilment in the messianic kingdom.

The imagery throughout Isaiah 54 is that of Yahweh, the faithful Husband, forgiving Israel, the unfaithful wife, restoring her to her home and bestowing her with undeserved blessings. The nation was “married” to Yahweh at Mount Sinai but she committed adultery by turning to other gods and the Lord had to abandon her temporarily. However, Isaiah promises that Israel will be restored when the Messiah comes and establishes His Kingdom.

(II) THE JOURNEY OF THE SERVANTS OF THE LORD
As you study the painful journey of Israel in exile and her restoration by Yahweh from Babylon to Jerusalem in Isaiah 54, you will find that any believer who is called to serve the purpose of God will also undergo the same journey like Israel.

Whether you are the natural seeds of Christ like Israel or the spiritual seeds like the Church of Christ today, in the road map of your discipleship journey with Christ as a servant, you will encounter suffering in the various forms like what Israel had undergone in Isaiah 54. I call them roadblocks. What are the 5 roadblocks in the journey of the servants of the Lord?

1) BARRENNESS
V1a- “Sing, O barren one, who did not hear; break forth into singing and cry aloud, you who have not been in travail!

Here Isaiah draws upon the metaphor of a BARREN WOMAN who has lost hope for having children. Sarah, the barren and aged wife of Abraham, would immediately come to mind for the Jews in Babylonian exile. They would liken themselves to her despair because they had lost hope in God’s promise to Abraham that his seed would be as the “sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered for multitude” (Genesis 32:12).

In ancient Israel, the BARREN WOMAN carried on enormous load of SHAME AND DISGRACE. The Babylonian exile and captivity meant more than oppression for Israel. It meant shame, disgrace and humiliation.

Application: Today, you may be like Israel – barren. You are in the spiritual service for the Lord and yet there seems to be no fruit coming from your life and ministry. It seems you are having no spiritual impact. You feel desolate like Israel. It may cause you shame and disgrace just like how I felt in 1999 that after serving God in this church for 14 years, our congregation was only 200 and we were mocked by a member from a mega church in Cebu, “Tsk Tsk Tsk! After 14 years your church is only 200. That is really a very slow growth.” Zone Pastors, cell leaders and Youth directors- do you feel barren in your ministry today? Are you feeling the shame and the disgrace? That is the first journey in this roadmap of spiritual service – BARRENNESS.

2) ABANDONMENT
V4- “Fear not, for you will not be ashamed; be not confounded, for you will not be put to shame; for you will forget the shame of your youth, and the reproach of your widowhood you will remember no more.

V6- For the LORD has called you like a wife forsaken and grieved in spirit, like a wife of youth when she is cast off, says your God.
V7- For a brief moment I forsook you; but with great compassion I will gather you.
V8- In overflowing wrath for a moment I hid my face from you, but with everlasting love I will have compassion on you, says the LORD, your Redeemer.

Just as God compared the disgrace of Israel to the shame of barrenness, now He compares Israel to a woman “forsaken” by her husband and their humiliation to the REPROACH OF WIDOWHOOD.

Here, Isaiah envisions God as the bridegroom of the adulterous young bride. For her sin He has put her away in a separation short of divorce.

“The shame of your youth” could refer to Israel’s time of bondage in Egypt or its wandering in the wilderness. There is plenty in Israel’s “youth” that she might be ashamed of. And she feels the “reproach of widowhood”, as the Lord briefly forsakes her and she goes into exile (v7). The exile is that period of SEPARATION where you will feel abandoned, forsaken and forgotten and cast off.

“Shame…..disgrace…..humiliated” represent three synonymous Hebrew verbs sharing the fundamental idea of DISAPPOINTED HOPES, THE EMBARASSMENT OF EXPECTING – EVEN PUBLICLY ANNOUNCING ONE THING AND THEN REAPING ANOTHER.

I call this journey of ABANDONMENT as the DARK NIGHT OF OUR SOUL.

Psalms 88: 6, 14- “You have put me in the lowest pit, in dark places, in the depths……..O Lord, why do You reject my soul? Why do You hide Your face from me?”

Dark night of the soul is a TIME OF PERCEIVED ABANDONMENT and even rejection, a season when God blesses by NOT BLESSING.

E.g. Madame Jeanne Guyon
In the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, Madame Jeanne Guyon, living in France, persecuted and imprisoned by the church, wrote of her own experience of the dark night of the soul. She spoke of a time when the Lord withdraws joy and allows the believer to undergo seasons of persecution even from fellow Christian and those in authority. She wrote of deep seasons of suffering compounded by betrayals on the part of those she trusted most. Her experience of the dark night of the soul included difficulties with health and numerous other forms of loss, including PROFOUND SENSE OF ABANDONMENT BY THE LORD.

Madame Guyon warned of the danger of forsaking the Lord under the emotional pressure of these losses and its accompanying sense of impending spiritual death. “But the true land of promise always lies beyond a vast wasteland. PROMISE IS FOUND ONLY ON THE FAR SIDE OF A DESERT” she wrote. And she continued: “When you can go beyond that place and not seeing your Lord, believe He is there by the eyes of faith alone. When you can walk further and further into Christ when there are no senses, no feelings, not even the slightest registration of the presence of God; when you can sit before Him when everything around you and within you seems to be either falling apart or dead; and when you can come before your Lord without question and without demand, serene in faith alone, and there, before Him, worship Him without distraction, without a great deal of consciousness of self and with no spiritual sense of Him, then will the test of commitment begin to be established. Then will begin the true journey of the Christian life.”

Question: Are you feeling a sense of abandonment by the Lord? Do you feel you are now undergoing the dark night of your soul when you feel very forsaken, rejected and forgotten by the Lord?

3) AFFLICTION
V11- “O afflicted one, storm-tossed, and not comforted, behold I will set your stones in antimony, and lay your foundations with sapphires.

The word “affliction” in Hebrew means “the state of being pained or distressed by oppressors.”

Paul in 2 Corinthians 1:8 describes his affliction which he experienced in Asia to be causing him to be “so utterly and unbearably crushed” that he despaired of life itself.

Yes, affliction has a way of crushing us and making us despair of life.

Application: Are you in affliction now? Are you in a state of being pained or distressed by oppressors? Your oppressors could be people or this cruel circumstance. All servants of God have to undergo such kind of affliction – none is spared.

4) STORM-TOSSED
“Storm-tossed” means “beaten with the storm”. The idea is that of a ship that is driven by the tempest or any object that is tossed about with a whirlwind.

Psalm 88:17- “Your wrath has rested upon me, and You have afflicted me with all Your waves.”

Beyond doubt, the psalmist believed that some hidden trespass had ignited the Lord’s anger with him. Why else would he suffer so? In the psalm, picture a man struggling to stay upright in a relentless high surf, exhausted by the pounding and tossing of waves. Each time he nearly succeeds in gaining his footing, another wall of water sweeps him off his feet and rolls him over in the sand and grit of the beach, filling his mouth and nostrils with salt. Coughing and retching, he rises, only to be driven under, time and time again.

To be storm tossed means to undergo disaster after disaster. Hurt after hurt.

Application: Those in the spiritual service must expect to meet your “storms in life” where you will be tossed to and fro. There would be disaster after disaster coming to you just like our church one disaster after another, hurt after hurt from 2012-2015.

5) NOT COMFORTED
“Not comforted” means “you are far away from all the comforts which you have enjoyed in your good days.”

In the dark night of the soul there seems to be NO SENSE OF THE PRESENCE, NO VOICE OR THE BLESSING OF GOD. You face repeated disaster with little or no perception of His protection. Nothing works. You fail in all you do.

Application: Are you in this stage of your journey where you can’t sense the presence of God in the worship service; you can’t hear from God in the Bible as you do your devo and there seems to be no more blessings coming upon your life? All the comforts and blessings seem to dry up.

PATHEMA-REDEMPTIVE SUFFERING
These 5 roadblocks that you will face in your journey as servants of God – barrenness, abandonment, affliction, storm-tossed and not comforted, are what the New Testament called SUFFERING. And the Greek word for “suffering” is PATHEMA. It means that if you would accept the calling from God to serve, you must accept the suffering that comes with it as the price of attaining it. Those who refuse the suffering cannot attain the calling.

Philippians 3:10- That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His SUFFERINGS, being conformed to His death.

Pathema – redemptive suffering is an integral journey for any servants of God. The modern church has largely lost the concept of redemptive suffering. Society conditions us to regard suffering in any form as illegal, and we spend millions of dollars annually trying to anesthetize it medically. As a result, we too often teach that all pain is of the devil and therefore must be avoided or cast out, but this teaching is culturally conditioned, rather than biblically sound. It fails to represent the whole counsel of God, either in Scripture or in the experience of the saints and martyrs throughout history.

Some forms of suffering come from the hand of God to bring about BROKENNESS in His servants, to put the flesh to death and to create rested dependence on Him, humility and wisdom. This kind of suffering must be embraced, cherished and accepted in the faith that it leads to greater glory.

Pathema must be embraced as part of the inevitable price of high calling and I speak not only of high calling in the church. God has strategically placed highly gifted people in every walk of life to influence the culture around us and to demonstrate the power of His kingdom in the public arena. High calling in the Lord extends beyond the roles we traditionally regard as Christian vocations. Whether God deploys you in the church or in the secular world, His preparation for high calling remains the same.

Philippians 3:10 tells us that oneness with Jesus can never be complete apart from sharing the fullness of his experience, which includes redemptive suffering. One does not accept the calling of God to discipleship without at the same time accepting the price of that calling. Pray as you may, God will do nothing to relieve pathema until it produces what he intends it to produce. To relieve pathema prematurely would be to cheat both us and his kingdom of the benefit.

In short, if you want to play football, you must run the laps. If you wish to earn the scholarship, you must choose to study. Similarly, God’s servants pay a price in redemptive suffering for the glory of sharing in the compassionate nature of Jesus and the exercise of His power. But unlike skill in competitive sports, we cannot “achieve” pathema. We can only embrace and submit to it, letting it do its work in us.

PATTERNS OF THE JOURNEY OF SERVANTS OF THE LORD
Scripture shows us a repeated pattern of life and destiny in which a man first receives a CALL to ministry or some high level of influence, experience SUCCESS, is driven into EXILE and then finally RETURNS to fulfill his destiny in the Lord. Pathema is integral to the process.

E.g. # 1- God destined Joseph to lead his brothers (calling) and gave him powerful gifts of prophecy (success). Unbroken, arrogant and immature, he tried them out on his brothers and created such offense that they sold him into slavery (exile). Later in Egypt, he rose to power, his true destiny (return), and used that position to minister to his family in a time of famine.

E.g. # 2- The prophet Samuel anointed David king (calling). Through military victory he achieved prominence in Saul’s court and enjoyed the praise of the people (success), only to be driven into the wilderness by Saul’s jealous insanity (exile). Yet, it was he, who, after Saul’s death, united the tribes and established a stable monarchy (return). Destiny follows the dark night. The dark night of exile prepares the servant for destiny.

E.g. # 3- New Testament Saul, who later became Paul, was converted (calling) and immediately began preaching in Damascus, leading many to Christ (success), but fled the city under threat of death to spend fourteen years in Tarsus making tents (exile). Finally, the eldership of Antioch sent for him, and ultimately launched him on his missionary journeys (return).

In each case we see calling and initial success, followed by exile (wilderness) and then a return and entrance into true destiny. God summons us, gives us a taste of our gifting and then sends us to the crucible of suffering and exile where our character undergoes change and refinement. In the end, having been prepared by means of baptism of EXTENDED FIRE, He calls us back to service and into our true destiny. The promised land always lies on the far side of a vast wilderness.

Calling, Exile and Destiny – that is the pattern of the journey of servants of the Lord.

Now, after your exile, what do you return to receive from the Lord?
The heritage of the Lord!

(III) THE HERITAGE OF THE SERVANTS OF THE LORD
The word “heritage” here means the legacy of blessings that Jesus, our SUFFERING SERVANT, has left for us. What is the heritage of the servants after all the pathema they have to undergo?

• THE BLESSING OF GROWTH
V1- “Sing, O barren one, who did not bear; break forth into singing and cry aloud, you who have not been in travail! For the children of the desolate one will be more than the children of her that is married, says the LORD.
V2- Enlarge the place of your tent, and let the curtains of your habitations be stretched out; hold not back, lengthen your cords and strengthen your stakes.
V3- For you will spread abroad to the right and to the left, and your descendants will possess the nations and will people the desolate cities.

For the BARREN ISRAEL, the Lord has a special message. Just as the barren woman, Sarah, gave birth to a son who became the father of Israel, so He will bring them from the desolation of their exile to the promise, “And your descendants will possess the nations and will people the desolate cities” (verse 3). As Sarah’s child represented the special promise of God, so the barrenness of the faithful servants of God will be blessed by sons and daughters who will grow in numbers far beyond the boundaries of Jerusalem and Judah. The curse and the shame of barrenness would be so completely broken and Israel would be so fruitful that they would have to enlarge the place of their tent. This verse is already fulfilled in the NT when Paul quoted Galatians 4:27 to indicate that the number of the New Covenant children would outnumber the children of the Old Covenant.

Application: For those of you who are the barren servants of the Lord- you need to know something about your barrenness. God often withholds fruitfulness only to make us more fruitful in the end. In this God-given barrenness, we are broken in our attempt to create fruit on our own. Fruit comes from dwelling in the vine of Christ (John 15:1-5). In our desolation, our relationship with Christ is nourished that enables us to handle the blessings of fruitfulness and growth. The condition of barrenness is preparatory and it is not permanent.

E.g.: Etab didn’t remain at 200 by 2000. For the next ten years from 2000 till 2010, Etab grew from 200 to 500, from 500 to 800 and by year 2010, Etab had 1000. When the pathema hit our church in 2012, our attendance dipped. Though for the last six years, we have been” feeling barren again”, I know this is the year when Etab can “Sing…break forth into singing and cry aloud….for the children of the desolate one will be more than the children of her that is married, says the Lord (verse 1-2). I strongly believe that by end of this year 2018, God will restore what Etab had lost – the 1000 attendance. Last year Oct 10, we literally spread abroad to the right – Cambodia so that our descendants can possess nations and people the desolate city.

• THE BLESSING OF GRACE
V4- “Fear not, for you will not be ashamed; be not confounded, for you will not be put to shame; for you will forget the shame of your youth, and the reproach of your widowhood you will remember no more.
V5- For your Maker is your husband, the LORD of hosts is his name; and the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer, the God of the whole earth he is called.
V6- For the LORD has called you like a wife forsaken and grieved in spirit, like a wife of youth when she is cast off, says your God.

Though Israel might have been regarded as FORSAKEN as a widow, the Lord promises to stand in the place of her HUSBAND.

Through the centuries, many a hurting woman has taken this promise for herself. Forsaken by a husband or forsaken of a husband, they have found beautiful comfort in the promise that God would be a HUSBAND to them, when all others forsook them. The principle is true- GOD WILL SUPPLY AND MEET OUR EMOTIONAL NEEDS AND RESCUE US FROM OUR DISGRACE AND SHAME, WHEN OTHERS HAVE FORSAKEN US.

To comfort and strengthen His people, God reminds them of how glorious of a Savior He is. He is their MAKER, He is the LORD OF HOSTS, He is their REDEEMER, He is the HOLY ONE OF ISRAEL and He is called THE GOD OF THE WHOLE EARTH. Not only does God supply a husband, but a great one – Himself.

Application: The promise that the LORD will meet our needs when others forsake us does not leave us to a place of “second best.” The Lord God can be a GREATER husband than any man can be. This is something for every SINGLE woman to remember and something no MARRIED WOMAN should forget. An earthly husband can never fulfill every need that the Great Heavenly Husband can.

God explains His restoration of Israel.

“For a brief moment I forsook you (v7)”- God never really forsook Israel, yet He recognizes that they FELT FORSAKEN. God says, “for a brief moment I allowed you to feel that I have forsaken you.”

“But with great compassion I will gather you (v7)”- The FORSAKEN is in the present tense; the GREAT COMPASSION is in the future tense. But they are real and give Israel cause to SET THEIR HOPE AND TRUST IN THE LORD, though they feel forsaken and abandoned at the moment.

“For a moment I hid My face from you but with everlasting love I will have compassion on you (v8)”- The contrast is between the MOMENT of feeling forsaken and the EVERLASTING nature of the mercies and compassion that will come.

Application: When we feel tried and forsaken like a widow, we should recognize that it is just for a MOMENT and the EVERLASTING BLESSING will certainly come.

• THE BLESSING OF PEACE (VERSES 9-10)
V9- “For this is like the days of Noah to me: as I swore that the waters of Noah should no more go over the earth, so I have sworn that I will not be angry with you and will not rebuke you.
V10- For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you, and my covenant of peace shall not be removed, says the LORD, who has compassion on you.

Here, God says he will make a promise with Israel like he did with Noah. Remember the promise made to Noah was that he would not destroy the world by water again. God so passionately loves Israel that he makes a COVENANT OF PEACE with them.

The COVENANT OF PEACE is the steadfast love of the Lord that will not depart from Israel.

This covenant will not be removed even though mountains and hills may be removed.

Application: Sinful people like us are going to break this covenant repeatedly. But God will not revoke his steadfast love. God will not remove this covenant of peace. There is never a point when we will sin too many times that we cannot return and BELONG TO THIS COVENANT again. God never says, “No, you cannot be in my covenant.” There is nothing that we can do that moves God to reject our plea for forgiveness and belonging to him if we truly desire him.

E.g. I saw this Noahic covenant being replayed right before my eyes twice when I felt very forsaken and rejected. In 2012 when I was running away from my persecutors to France, I was on the speed train from Paris to Lyon, where my youngest daughter was studying. A rainbow appeared before me. The second time was in 2014 when both of us were so burnt out that we took time out for a vacation at Lyon with Jan. Again, in the train to Lyon, we saw the rainbow again. It was like God telling me – “People have removed your reputation, your job and your security. They have removed their love and trust from you but I will never remove from you my steadfast love. People have been rebuking and been angry with you for the last 26 years, but I will not be angry with you nor rebuke you. Instead you will see my steadfast love following you and overtaking you. This covenant of peace that I am establishing with you will not be rescinded by any man – no matter what spiritual authority they claimed they have over you. They wanted to bequeath you with curses but my covenant of peace will nullify their curses against you and your ministries.”

• THE BLESSING OF PROSPERITY (VERSES 11-13)
V11- “O afflicted one, storm-tossed, and not comforted, behold I will set your stones in antimony, and lay your foundations with sapphires.

God cares about the afflicted one. He cares about the one tossed with tempest. He cares about the one who is not comforted.

It is easy for them to believe God doesn’t care. But He does and He gives precious promises to give strength.

“Behold I will set your stones in antimony, and lay your foundations with sapphires. I will make your pinnacles of agate, your gates of carbuncles and all your wall of precious stones (v12-13)” – God will lavish RICHES upon the hurting and afflicted. When someone feels afflicted, tossed and not comforted, they feel POOR, no matter how much money they have in the bank. God promises to make the afflicted truly RICH.

Notice all the different precious stones named here- they are actually precious stones used to construct palaces or temple. Isaiah writes that the afflicted ones, storm tossed and uncomforted one are like stones and God will mix them with all these precious stones to build up their lives. The afflicted ones may be feeling POOR but the Lord is using all their afflictions to build them into rich and magnificent structures fit for a king with BEAUTY, MAGNIFICENCE, PURITY, STRENGTH AND SOLIDITY. God will set our lives that is liken to an ordinary stone in FAIR COLORS (KJV v11). With all the costly and precious stones, God will make the afflicted ones in the comfortless condition exceedingly beautiful and glorious by a rich and plentiful effusion of excellent gifts and graces

This verse 11 here undoubtedly contains a figurative description of the FUTURE PROSPERITY AND GLORY OF THE CHURCH OF GOD in Revelation 21:18-21.

Application: What makes the afflicted beautiful and rich is that they have the GLORY OF GOD.

Illustration: There was an expo fair in South Florida featuring large sand sculpture. It was amazing to see the details and gravity-defying designs that are made out of sand. Now sand by itself is not very glorious just like stones. If you go to the fair and all that is inside the expo building is a big tower of sand, no one would say that it is amazing. Everyone would simply walk past it. It is just sand. But when the big pile of sand is made into something glorious, now people pay attention.

Application: This is the idea Isaiah is presenting. Without God, we are just plain stones – some ordinary people who walk the earth for a short amount of time doing things that in the eyes of the world are fairly insignificant. But when we are joined with God in his eternal covenant, now you become beautiful stones being built into the spiritual house or spiritual palace/temple of God, reflecting the glory of the Lord. The afflicted and oppressed have beauty and purpose in the temple of the Lord. This is what God is picturing for us. YOU CAN BELONG TO SOMETHING BEAUTIFUL AND GLORIOUS: The Kingdom of God through his covenant made available through the death of Jesus.

“All your sons shall be taught by the LORD and great shall be the prosperity of your sons (v13)”- When we are afflicted, tossed and not comforted, we feel bad not just for ourselves, but also for our CHILDREN. God gives precious assurance not only for us but also quiets our fears for our children. “All your children will have God for their teacher – what a mentor for your children (message v13).

• THE BLESSING OF PROTECTION
V14- In righteousness you shall be established; you shall be far from oppression, for you shall not fear; and from terror, for it shall not come bear you.
V15- If any one stirs up strife, it is not from me; whoever stirs up strife with you shall fall because of you.
V16- Behold, I have created the smith who blows the fire of coals, and produces a weapon for its purpose. I have also created the ravager to destroy;
V17- no weapon that is fashioned against you shall prosper and you shall confute every tongue that rises against you in judgment. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD and their vindication from me, says the LORD.”

Here, God promises those who are afflicted, tossed and not comforted will find protection and security in Him. The sovereign God who created the blacksmith, also has the power to protect. He promises that “no weapon formed against you shall prosper.” Whatever weapon that is raised against God’s people is destined to be destroyed itself. God will ultimately even protect His people from CRITICISM – indeed “every tongue that rises against you in judgment you shall confute.”

The Lord will not allow the WEAPON FORMED AGAISNT His servants to PROSPER. Sometimes this means the Lord takes the WEAPON out of the hand of the enemy of His servants. Sometimes it means that God allows the WEAPON to strike but brings a greater good out of it than the pain of the immediate blow. In allowing this, God will not allow the WEAPON to PROSPER, but transforms the violent sword into a trowel for building His kingdom.

The TONGUE THAT RISES AGAINST YOU can really hurt. “Satan leaves no stone unturned against the Church of God. He uses not simply the hand; but what is oftener a sharper weapon, the tongue. We can bear a blow, sometimes, but we cannot endure an insult. There is a great power in the tongue. We can rise from a blow which smote us to the ground but we cannot so easily from slander, that lays the character low” (Spurgeon).

Yet, we can trust in the Lord’s triumph. “The more accusers, the more acquittals; the more slanders, the more honor; so, the enemy may slander us as much as he pleases” (Spurgeon).

These are not blanket promises for any churchgoer. The Lord specifically says THIS IS THE HERITAGE OF THE SERVANTS OF THE LORD. Vindication from the Lord against those who attack you, slander or criticize you are reserved only for the servants of the Lord (verse 17).

Are you a servant of the Lord? Then you can rest easy in all these promises of God.

(IV) OUR SUFFERING SERVANT -JESUS

The Servant of the Lord – Jesus has done His work. Having “poured out His soul unto death” and borne the “sin of many”, He is now “exalted and extolled and be very high” (52:13). From His position at the right hand of the Holy God, Jesus will continue to “make intercession for the transgressor” (53:12) and to hand out his legacy, his benefits and heritage to those who are serving him. Jesus says, “whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me” (John 12:26).

The message for us as servants of the Lord is the same as the message for the returning exiles in Isaiah 54. God has begun a new work in Christ and called us as a kingdom of priests and a holy nation displaying the mercy and righteousness of God. Great promises of the blessings of growth, grace, peace, prosperity and protection are held out to those who obediently walk in God’s perfect will for their lives. Let’s all desire to receive this heritage of the Lord by engaging in the spiritual service unto the Lord.

MY TESTIMONY
In the height of the shake of this church by our enemies, I wrote in my devo on 18 April 2012, “In the dark season, everything that can be shaken will be shaken. But if you can come out of the darkness with something intact, then it is yours to keep. You will have learned what it means to trust Him when everything screams that God has been unfaithful to you.”

This was what I know in my MIND about the dark night of my soul. But experientially, what I knew about the dark night of my soul and what I felt while undergoing the adverse situation was different. In 29 July 2012, I was reading Isaiah 54 and these were what I wrote, “Today Architect Nilo came to discuss the position and materials for our church building. Instead of a tent, he suggested GI sheets and glass that will cost about 4.5 million pesos. I was very discouraged and troubled when I heard that. Then I remember what you [God] told me two days on 30 May 2017, which is to build the church in Tent. The rhema was from Isaiah 54. Just now I reviewed your rhema and I read it in NET, Message and Amplified version and I want to follow your instruction. Honestly, the whole day today, I was feeling very blue. I am very troubled by the finance of the church. Offering for July cannot even cover our church electricity bill and rental. Worse is we have to return the Navarra 4×4 to the bank soon. I confess I am feeling depressed. I am very afflicted by my oppressors and the finance of the church and worse is to witness the slow death of Blessing, my Rottweiler. I am also feeling very ABANDONED not only by men but also by God. Inside me is the constant thought of going back to Singapore. But how about the innocent souls of the church members? The church will splinter if we go back.

I feel very driven away and unconsolable despite the many promises of God. I know, Lord, momentarily, you have forsaken and rejected me in the burst of your anger but please gather me back again with your great compassion. Jesus, you are still my Bridegroom and I am your Bride. But right now, I feel like an ABANDONED BRIDE. Nonetheless, your word today promises that you will call me back and you will reinstate my status as your bride again – and this time as your fruitful wife who bears many spiritual children. Your covenant of steadfast love and your devotion to me will never be removed. You promise me that my spiritual children will be your followers and great will be their prosperity. I will be reestablished again when you vindicate me. Anyone who dares to challenge me will be defeated. You promise that I will not experience oppression; nothing frightening shall come near me and I will not be terrified or afraid.

I receive another rhema from Psalm 145:13-21 (message) that assures me that THE LORD IS FAITHFUL IN HIS WORDS AND GRACIOUS IN ALL HIS DEEDS. That means the Lord always keeps His promises and does what He says. Though I am very bent over, very bowed down by so many burdens, and feeling very fallen from grace, always ready to quit, I choose to take you at what you have just spoken to me from Psalms 145 that “you will give a fresh start to those about to quit”. ……..Lord, give me fresh hope, fresh faith and fresh joy again.”

It was in those brief moments of my pathema that I penned those words. Today, six years have passed from the date I penned those words and I dare to testify to you that I am seeing all the 5 blessings come to pass in my life and ministry. I have received the blessing of growth, grace, peace, prosperity and protection from the Lord. Every verse in Isaiah 54 has come to pass in my life – the pathema as well as the heritage of restoration and renewals. Glory be to God!

PROPHETIC WORD FOR ETAB
I was praying up for the service last night and I thank the Holy Spirit for using my Devo from Psalm 16:8-9 to confirm that this is the sermon He wants me to preach to our congregation.

Psalms 16:8-9 (RSV) – The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; thou holdest my lot. The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places, yea I have a goodly heritage.

The Lord says to the congregation of Etab:
If you make me your chosen portion in this life, then I will hold the lot in your life. I will support your lot in life. If you choose to serve and make my purpose the most important portion and cup of your life, then I will make sure that the boundary line of your life will fall in pleasant places. And I will give you a GOODLY HERITAGE. As long as you continually set me and my purpose before your very eyes, I will uphold your right hand and you shall not be shaken by any suffering, enemies or troubles for my right hand is a hand of victory and power. I will steady you through all these.

But if you choose to serve another god and if you choose this world and your belly to be your portion (Psalm 17:14), then you will multiply your sorrows.

Therefore, choose ye this day whom you will serve – whether the gods of this world that is beyond the walls of this church or me (Joshua 24:14-15).

For if you choose me and serve me in sincerity and faithfulness, I will ensure that this goodly heritage will fall pleasantly in your lot of life. YOU WILL HAVE A BEAUTIFUL HERITAGE FROM ME!!!” Amen!

End
PRECHED AT ETAB 1ST SV ON 11 MAR 2018

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