Chapter # 3 Paragraph # 1 Study # 9
Thesis: John's message was not to be corrupted by the error of thinking it was within man's abilities to accomplish.
Introduction: In our study last week, we moved more closely to Luke's message regarding John's "words from God to Judah" by looking more carefully into his reference to Isaiah 40. In that study, we intended to see how the "quoted material" in Luke 3 fit into the Isaiah 40 context, but we ran out of time. We did, however, have time to show that Isaiah 40:1-2 was a "cry" to Jerusalem regarding "Yahweh's" satisfaction with the double-payment for Jerusalem's sins. Our conclusion was that, as a prelude to John's message to Judah, the thesis of a sufficient redemption price was absolutely crucial. Luke's introduction of the baby Jesus as the Ruler over the house of Jacob forever (1:33) Who would be the fulfillment of the mercy of Yahweh as defined by His words to Abraham (1:54-55) was brought by the angelic announcement to the identity of "Savior" (2:11) Whose function as "Savior" was brought by Anna down to the specific issue of "Redeemer" (the One Who would pay a sufficient redemption price -- 2:38). This "Redeemer" thesis was addressed by Zacharias in 1:68 in respect to Yahweh's deliverance of His people so that they might be able to serve Him in holiness and righteousness all of their days. Thus, the thesis of "Justice Satisfied" is critical to our grasp of John's message of grace.
Now, this morning, it is my desire to return to the Isaiah 40 context so that we may see another major thesis that has an inalterable link to John as the messenger of the Dawn of Grace. This thesis is found in the paragraph that immediately follows the portion quoted by Luke. It's significance is theologically enormous. Therefore, we are going to look this morning at Isaiah 40:6-8.
January 15, 2006
- I. The Issue in 40:6-8 is a Presentation of the Absolute Frailty of Man.
- A. The "Cry" of the "Voice".
- 1. It centers upon one major thesis: "All flesh is grass".
- a. This is the opening statement.
- b. This is the conclusion in 40:7c.
- 2. It is deliberately set in contrast to the enduring Word of Yahweh Elohim.
- a. This is the "introduction" to 40:6 at the end of 40:5.
- b. This is the "conclusion" to 40:6-8 at the end of 40:8.
- 3. Its focus is upon one central reality: man's ability to "create" a lasting impact of "loveliness" does not exist.
- a. The word translated "loveliness" is used 248 times in the Old Testament and only in this text is it translated "loveliness". It is typically translated "mercy" (149 times) or "kindness" (70 times). Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament argues that its essence is that of the New Testament's "God is love" -- i.e., "agape".
- 1) What is at stake in the term is the issue of the compelling reason for a person to make a commitment from which there is no backing away.
- 2) There are two issues: first, the 'result' issue that has to do with making firm commitments in the form of unilateral promises in which there is no foundation for a change of mind; and, second, is the 'cause' issue that has to do with 'priorities' which are set and immutable. Typically, the term for the establishment of priorities is "love".
- b. The point here is this: man's ability to move out of his self-focused priority system in order to "create" an impact of "other-focused love" is non-existent. Everything about man's attempts to "produce" a lasting impact of genuine "other-centered, freely-expressed, kindness" is corrupted by his "grassliness".
- B. What is "Grassliness"?
- 1. In the earlier context, man's "problem" was Jerusalem's iniquity/sins.
- a. There was, in this, a superficial identification of this "problem": the refusal to actually "do" what a "Yahweh-focused love" would have automatically done [Jesus said it this way: "If you love Me, keep my commandments"]. Historically, this was Judah's refusal to really observe the Sabbath.
- b. But, as always, the superficial identity has an underlying, more profound and far more problematical, identity: the incapacity to install Another in the Seat of 'Beloved'.
- c. The result of both the superficial and foundational identities was the same: 40:2's "warfare" -- a desperate fight to acquire/maintain the ability to set the agenda.
- 2. In the current context, God's "contrast" is the "foreverness" of the Word of God.
- a. The issue of this "foreverness" is relatively obvious: it is the opposite of man's "loveliness".
- 1) The "loveliness" is the image of "other-focused love" with settled and immutable commitment.
- 2) Though the "grass" can create a very temporary "image" of such a thing, it cannot carry through; but, Yahweh's glory is that He is fully capable of "other-focused love" even if the commitments it calls for will result in the most horrendous personal consequences imaginable.
- b. Thus, the "foreverness" of the Word of God is God's willingness to keep His word(s) no matter what.
- c. Thus, "grassliness" in man is simple: it is his love-less vacillation that will do a little here and a little there in terms of personal sacrifice, but always has a limit beyond which it will not go.
- II. The Issue in This Thesis is That "Man" Cannot, in any Ultimate Sense, "Do" What is Necessary to Fulfill the Eternal Word of God.
- A. This means that however we define John's "message" of grace, it must take seriously the true condition of man in his "grassliness" -- his fundamental inability to be loyal.
- B. This means that John's summons to "repentance" is not a call to man to bring any kind of iron-clad commitment to Yahweh in order to obtain His favor.
- C. This means, then, that "repent" means "bring Me your disloyalty" and "receive My eternal-word-commitment to address it".