Isaiah 50:4-8 NLTse The Sovereign LORD has given me his words of wisdom, so that I know how to comfort the weary. Morning by morning he wakens me and opens my understanding to his will. (5) The Sovereign LORD has spoken to me, and I have listened. I have not rebelled or turned away. (6) I offered my back to those who beat me and my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard. I did not hide my face from mockery and spitting. (7) Because the Sovereign LORD helps me, I will not be disgraced. Therefore, I have set my face like a stone, determined to do his will. And I know that I will not be put to shame. (8) He who gives me justice is near. Who will dare to bring charges against me now? Where are my accusers? Let them appear!
The most obvious point in time to look for a fulfillment of this prophecy is during Jesus’ first trial in front of the religious leaders after His arrested. To my surprise searching the word beard in three different translations turned up no results. I’ve heard so many sermons on Jesus’ arrest and trial, each one blending Isaiah 50 with accounts recorded in the gospels, I thought people pulling out Jesus’ beard was recorded in at least one of the gospels. I had to think about that for a few days and pray about it. Preachers often make the mistake of blurring prophecies and a random fulfillment without explaining the how they made a connection. By doing so they loose the effect and often times miss the deeper point.
When we look at a prophecy we have to look at the details. Remember, all prophecies point to a particular point in time and we find it difficult to understand God’s timing. In this case the prophecy reads, “ I offered my back to those who beat me…” This prophecy is written in the past tense. This is not unusual for a prophecy but it’s a point many people miss. Since this prophecy was fulfilled during Jesus’ first trial in front of the religious leaders and pulls in Jesus being whipped by Roman guards, which is a point in time at a later trial. When we look at this prophecy, we see it was written in the past tense. “I offered my back,” indicates the event is already past and thus points us to an intersecting moment of time beyond those trials, crucifixion and resurrection of Christ. The fact the prophecy covers moments before the cross tells us we also have to study that particular time frame to understand how it prepares us for the actual fulfillment after the cross.
While Jesus was bound in chains facing an overwhelming number of jealous and vindictive number of religious leaders by Himself, Peter was wondering around outside in the courtyard. Simon Peter followed Jesus, as did another of the disciples. That other disciple was acquainted with the high priest, so he was allowed to enter the high priest’s courtyard with Jesus. (John 18:15 NLTse). No one knows for sure who the other disciple was but most suspect it was John, one of the most passionate Bible writers. If it was John, you can just imagine the effect it had on him as he watched the mock trial, Jesus’ silence, and those men beating Jesus while He stood in chains?
Peter tried to loose himself in the shadows along the walls of the courtyard. There were a number of fires in the courtyard people lite to warm themselves. Peter looked at the small groups gathered around the fires. One of those groups looked safe to approach. It was mostly women. That fire provided not only warmth but light. As Peter stepped into the light, one of the women recognized him. That was the first time Peter denied Jesus. The process was repeated three times so Peter would not forget the scene. The walls, fire, and faces of the people were burned into Peter’s memory.
Let’s fast forward to Peter’s meeting with Jesus after His resurrection. “Bring some of the fish you’ve just caught,” Jesus said. (John 21:10 NLTse). The first thing Jesus did was feed His disciples. Jesus served them the bread and the fish. This was the third time Jesus had appeared to his disciples since he had been raised from the dead. After breakfast Jesus asked Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” Peter replied, “you know I love you.” “Then feed my lambs,” Jesus told him. (John 21:13-15 NLTse).
What do we find when we combine the two stories? Here is another important aspect of Bible Study – learn to look at the connecting factors Bible writers recorded. This was the third time Jesus visited His disciples. Then Jesus asked Peter if he loved Him three times. The number three links the story about Peter denying Jesus three times in the courtyard. Jesus fed His disciples before He told Peter to feed His sheep. That physical food actually relates to spiritual food. When did Jesus provide that spiritual food? Throughout His three year ministry with His disciples. Peter and the other disciples had three years to learn how to reach people but during Jesus’ trial, Peter missed three opportunities to witness about Jesus. Peter could have shared everything he should have learned about Jesus. Imagine the impact Peter’s witness would have had if he told those people, “yes I am one of Jesus’ disciples and you will crucify Him and He will rise on the third day.” Jesus told Peter everything he needed to witness to those people. Peter had the ability to save those people by turning them to Jesus. But Peter missed the opportunity God had given him. The moment past and God had to work on another plan to reach them. “Then feed my lambs,” Jesus told him. Do you understand?
There are a few chapters Isaiah 50 could be pointing to. One of them will be studied here. Another you can use for practice is at the end of this study. You need to practice. Learning easy study methods isn’t enough. You need to put what you’ve learned into practice or you’ll face the same trial Peter faced when He denied Jesus. Peter failed to witness because he didn’t put what he learned into practice. Don’t make the same mistake. Just because the rest of the world wants simple answers, wants other people to find the answers for them, and avoids talking to God. Mass error and majority vote does not make it right? It’s time to put the world away and look at what is coming from Heaven. Let’s take a look at one of those chapters explaining how Isaiah 50 was fulfilled so we can learn a little more about our role as disciples.
2 Corinthians 6:4-10 NLTse (4) In everything we do, we show that we are true ministers of God. We patiently endure troubles and hardships and calamities of every kind. (5) We have been beaten, been put in prison, faced angry mobs, worked to exhaustion, endured sleepless nights, and gone without food. (6) We prove ourselves by our purity, our understanding, our patience, our kindness, by the Holy Spirit within us, and by our sincere love. (7) We faithfully preach the truth. God’s power is working in us. We use the weapons of righteousness in the right hand for attack and the left hand for defense. (8) We serve God whether people honor us or despise us, whether they slander us or praise us. We are honest, but they call us impostors. (9) We are ignored, even though we are well known. We live close to death, but we are still alive. We have been beaten, but we have not been killed. (10) Our hearts ache, but we always have joy. We are poor, but we give spiritual riches to others. We own nothing, and yet we have everything.
Once we look at a connecting chapter it becomes evident Jesus suffered trials, pain, torment, unfair treatment, and hardships to let His disciples know they are not alone in this fight. Jesus suffered far worse than most of us will face and He wants us to know He is along side of us all the way. As a matter of fact, Jesus us way ahead of us. You talk about a God with experience, Jesus saw how bad this world got before it was destroyed in a flood. Jesus knew what He was getting into before He came to this world. That didn’t stop Him. Jesus also knows what Satan and his angels are planning for us. Jesus will only let Satan go so far. Not to get into a discussion about facing only what you can endure, only Jesus knows those details, we are led to another example. Paul saw a lot of hardships he didn’t expect. He tells us about those hardships to help us understand and prepare. That is only half the story. Praying about this I saw details about Paul’s life I never saw before.
When Paul met Jesus, He blinded him. Before Jesus healed the blind man in John 9, His disciples asked why the man was born blind. “It was not because of his sins or his parents’ sins,” Jesus answered. “This happened so the power of God could be seen in him. We must quickly carry out the tasks assigned us by the one who sent us. The night is coming, and then no one can work. But while I am here in the world, I am the light of the world.” (John 9:3-5 NLTse). It seems strange for Jesus to give sight to one person and take it away from another. It’s time for us, as Jesus’ disciples to ask why Jesus blinded Paul. The answer is the same. “This happened so the power of God could be seen in him.”
Those scales on Paul’s eyes didn’t represent what Paul’s life was but what his life had been. Once again, and you better be getting into this habit, we have to look back. Paul was a few steps away from possibly becoming the next high priest. To say the least, Paul was on his way up and had enough ambition to get what he wanted. Where did it begin? Here is a lesson taught in the conception of another son, someone God choose for an important task. An angel told Zechariah he was about to have a son. Some say it was Zechariah’s unbelief that caused him to loose his voice. That was part of the equation, but not the full story. The angel said, “Don’t be afraid, Zechariah! God has heard your prayer. Your wife, Elizabeth, will give you a son, and you are to name him John. You will have great joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great in the eyes of the Lord. He must never touch wine or other alcoholic drinks. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even before his birth. And he will turn many Israelites to the Lord their God. He will be a man with the spirit and power of Elijah. He will prepare the people for the coming of the Lord. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and he will cause those who are rebellious to accept the wisdom of the godly.” (Luke 1:13-17 NLTse). Zechariah’s doubt extended past the unexpected birth all the way to the unusual roll God needed John to fulfill. Zechariah had his own plans for his son. Zechariah wanted his son to follow in his footsteps as a priest.
Paul was groomed from birth for the same roll Zechariah wanted his son to fill. God allowed Paul’s parents to shape his life with long hard training to fill the Levitical role they felt he was born for. All that training put scales over Paul’s eyes, Jesus only made those scales visible so they could be dwelt with in the proper manner.
That was an example showing how God’s Spirit communicates. One of the ways God’s Spirit communicates is through His Word leading you through a sequence of stories and showing you how they are linked together. Most people call this seeing the spiritual side of the story. Most people experience this type of communication with God not knowing this is one way God’s Spirit talks to you. This is exactly what we’ve seen in this book, God’s Spirit linking one chapter to another and adding other texts when required. The key is linking entire chapters not one text or part of a text.
We prove ourselves by our purity, our understanding, our patience, our kindness, by the Holy Spirit within us, and by our sincere love. Paul wants us to know we’re not known by our trials. Those trails can help encourage others in the same predicament, but there is far more people need to know about us before they see our Christian side. Paul included a list. Study it. Those are the weapons Paul tells about. We use the weapons of righteousness in the right hand for attack and the left hand for defense.
Isaiah agreed with the concept of purity, understanding, patience, and kindness, by the Holy Spirit within us long before Paul wrote about it. “The Sovereign LORD has given me his words of wisdom, so that I know how to comfort the weary.” Some times we reach people because we shared in their suffering. Jesus relates to our suffering as well as Paul. As Jesus’ disciples we have to learn to look at our trials as a way of building character as well as skills to reach out and comport people we know or meet. There’s no doubt Isaiah 50 and 2 Corinthians 6 cover the same topic. What about the rest of the chapter? Is God ready to prove His case? Don’t forget, Jesus may be in Heaven conducting judgment at this moment. But before Jesus entered the the Heavenly Most Holy, there was another trial in Heaven. God was on trial. God was judged by all His created beings in Heaven. Another subject for another time line to study. Jesus’ death was supreme evidence of the need for God’s law. Jesus’ treatment in the trial and His crucifixion showed how far Satan will go without the law. Satan was freed from God’s law when he was cast down and restricted to this planet. Freed from the law but not without restrictions. God removed those restrictions from Satan for a moment while the universe witnessed the results which revealed Satan’s true intentions.
One of the lessons shows God does not mind being on trial. God does not mind it when you ask questions. But they have to be asked in the right way. More often than not there is a direct relationship between how people study God’s Word and how they communicate with God. I’m sure you see that in other people. Do you see it in yourself? Examining the entire chapter is a way of testing God and at the same time allows Him to present His evidence. You see, people are used to asking questions but not waiting for answers. They study as as if evidence doesn’t matter. As if they’ve made up their mind before talking to God, before questioning Him, before the trial. How does it make you feel when people prejudge you?
Isaiah 50:1-3 NLTse This is what the LORD says: “Was your mother sent away because I divorced her? Did I sell you as slaves to my creditors? No, you were sold because of your sins. And your mother, too, was taken because of your sins. (2) Why was no one there when I came? Why didn’t anyone answer when I called? Is it because I have no power to rescue? No, that is not the reason! For I can speak to the sea and make it dry up! I can turn rivers into deserts covered with dying fish. (3) I dress the skies in darkness, covering them with clothes of mourning.”
2 Corinthians 6:1-3 NLTse (1) As God’s partners, we beg you not to accept this marvelous gift of God’s kindness and then ignore it. (2) For God says, “At just the right time, I heard you. On the day of salvation, I helped you.” Indeed, the “right time” is now. Today is the day of salvation. (3) We live in such a way that no one will stumble because of us, and no one will find fault with our ministry.
What do you see when you read those two introductions? I know God’s Spirit is speaking to you trying to make a connection, trying to show you details you never saw before. Do you see yourself in those texts? Do you see a portion of Jesus’ life and ministry? What about Peter? Is there a hint of Peter’s life in there? How about Paul? Can you see Paul’s childhood and day of salvation hidden away?
Hidden is not the word to use in Bible Study. When God’s Spirit reveals a detail it becomes as light as day and as impossible to cover up. Why does a chapter containing a prophecy about Jesus begin with a question about divorcing your mother? Obviously this is a symbol which leads to a far greater fulfillment. To understand that fulfillment, we have to search for evidence supporting that spiritual fulfillment. Since the fulfillment of the prophecy about Jesus giving His back and cheeks led us to Paul’s letter, we should stick with the story of Paul’s life to find the answer. Key words help us understand the message when we look at the sequence. We usually don’t look at pronouns as key words, but in this case it’s wise to look at them, because they point to one detail. The message is very personal. Isaiah repeated the words you and your a number of times. Paul used related words partners, we, and our ministry. We see a sign of a movement from working alone for personal gains to a partnership with God. Quite a difference. Paul doesn’t hide the fact He is in a partnership with God while Isaiah shows how most people move away from Him to work on their own. Isaiah also shows how those choice effects people around and closest to us. Isaiah also used the symbolism of being sold to creditors, people with worldly control.
What did Jesus see in Paul? It’s strange the Bible used the symbol of scales which were over Paul’s eyes. Instantly something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he got up and was baptized. (Acts 9:18 NLTse). Scales build up on eyes over a matter of time, so those scales show Paul was influenced by people around him to slowly make him blind. Paul’s blindness wasn’t like being born in darkness or something that happened instantly. Isaiah points us to Paul’s mother. I’m sure Paul cared for her, but mothers don’t always do what is right for their child when they are doing what they think is best for them. Women can be misled by ambition as much as men. Ambition was one thing Jesus saw in Paul as well as dedication and the childlike demeanor he approached everything with.
Paul didn’t wait around for someone to give orders, Paul volunteered. When he volunteered he put his reputation on the line. Now we see the connection to the word you Isaiah repeated. Paul put everything he had into every task he did. Now we can understand what Paul felt as he wasted away in prison all those years, A time he would rather be out witnessing to masses of people. Jesus knew everything inside of Paul and knew how to ignite that fire inside his heart. Jesus knew Paul had all the elements inside his heart to get that flame going.
It takes more than a belief or knowledge of Jesus to get that flame and light in your heart. It takes a combination of dedication, a desire to learn, and accomplish things beyond your imagination. It takes an open mind and a desire to learn like a child. Never let go until you see the light and always be prepared to share it. Paul had all that and more than mentioned here. Jesus knew a spark was all Paul needed to get going. Jesus knew the light Paul was able to share with the world.
Everyone has what it takes to create that fire within, but not in all the proper proportions. Some lack enthusiasm. Others lack dedication or attention to detail. And many lack the ability to take orders and carry them out. Pride has the ability to overcome and extinguish that flame and it comes in subtle forms. Some people say, “I can’t witness yet. I have to accomplish this or that or be financially stable.” People think of all kinds of excuses when Jesus calls. They convince themselves because their friends don’t believe like they do, their witness and message will have no effect. They use their family, brothers, sisters, father and mother as an excuse not to advance. Paul didn’t use any of those excuses. Paul didn’t have any of those fire extinguishers inside him. Paul waited quietly, listened to God’s Spirit then examined himself and his own beliefs.
I talked to a few people this week who were brought up from a young age being indoctrinated into a form of religion they could see was not right. None of us read the Bible before we were 6, 8, or 10 years old, but we knew inside many of the things being taught were not in God’s Word. We all felt strange kneeling down in front of a man to confess our sins. We felt strange eating pork on Easter, the day Jesus rose from the grave. We knew stories about how heavenly beings played a part in salvation and their ability to forgive sins was a lie. God’s Spirit was able to reach us with words we never read or heard. We all have that same access to God’s Spirit and all of us have the same ability to listen. But most people feel little or no need to question anything. For them it was easier to kneel down in front of a man and get it over with. Those people lack those basic elements to produce a flame inside their heart from a single spark. God is always working to get those elements in their hearts, to uncover them and get rid of all those doubts that can extinguish that flame. It’s different for all of us but it always requires an extraordinary event to shake things up. For Paul it was a vision of Christ and loosing his sight. The other disciples and many others had to see Jesus die on the cross to shake them up and examine their lives and beliefs the world put in them. What did it take for you to finally open up and look at your life with open eyes? Once Paul got going there was no stopping Him. Not beatings, not prison, not the lack of money or support from his family or the other disciples. Once Paul latched onto God’s Spirit there was no letting go. And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow–not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. (Romans 8:38 NLTse). “At just the right time, I heard you. On the day of salvation, I helped you.” Indeed, the “right time” is now. Today is the day of salvation. We live in such a way that no one will stumble because of us, and no one will find fault with our ministry. God loves teaching with contrasts and Paul’s life was a good example. From the dedicated Pharisee persecuting Christians to the faithful follower of Christ who eventually gave his life to be a witness. Once we find those parallel chapters we begin to understand how the information in them leads us to much more than you’ll ever imagined. The information God gives us is always more than you need because most of it is meant to be shared. Once you find the right person or group to share it with, you’ll understand.
Isaiah 50:9-11 NLTse See, the Sovereign LORD is on my side! Who will declare me guilty? All my enemies will be destroyed like old clothes that have been eaten by moths! (10) Who among you fears the LORD and obeys his servant? If you are walking in darkness, without a ray of light, trust in the LORD and rely on your God. (11) But watch out, you who live in your own light and warm yourselves by your own fires. This is the reward you will receive from me: You will soon fall down in great torment.
2 Corinthians 6:14-18 NLTse (14) Don’t team up with those who are unbelievers. How can righteousness be a partner with wickedness? How can light live with darkness? (15) What harmony can there be between Christ and the devil? How can a believer be a partner with an unbeliever? (16) And what union can there be between God’s temple and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God said: “I will live in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they will be my people. (17) Therefore, come out from among unbelievers, and separate yourselves from them, says the LORD. Don’t touch their filthy things, and I will welcome you. (18) And I will be your Father, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the LORD Almighty.”
You really don’t understand the influence your parents have on you until you think about it. Your parents influence your ambitions in life. They teach you what they know about right and wrong. They teach you hope, dreams, desires, and fears. Those influences are much deeper than most people consider. Isaiah points us to another influence in our lives. “See, the Sovereign LORD is on my side! Who will declare me guilty?” Is knowing right from wrong, good from evil restricted to the influence of your parents and others around you? Or like most people, were you taught to rely on yourself for answers? Are those people able or willing to defend you when your name comes up in judgment? Would their defense do you any good? Who among you fears the LORD and obeys his servant? If you are walking in darkness, without a ray of light, trust in the LORD and rely on your God. Don’t team up with those who are unbelievers. How can righteousness be a partner with wickedness? How can light live with darkness? What harmony can there be between Christ and the devil? How can a believer be a partner with an unbeliever?
Paul faced Jesus alone, examined his own life when scales covered his eyes, then left civilization to be lone with Jesus for three years to learn at His feet. This is such an important fact Paul wrote about it. Dear brothers and sisters, I want you to understand that the gospel message I preach is not based on mere human reasoning. I received my message from no human source, and no one taught me. Instead, I received it by direct revelation from Jesus Christ. You know what I was like when I followed the Jewish religion–how I violently persecuted God’s church. I did my best to destroy it. I was far ahead of my fellow Jews in my zeal for the traditions of my ancestors. But even before I was born, God chose me and called me by his marvelous grace. Then it pleased him to reveal his Son to me so that I would proclaim the Good News about Jesus to the Gentiles. When this happened, I did not rush out to consult with any human being. Nor did I go up to Jerusalem to consult with those who were apostles before I was. Instead, I went away into Arabia, and later I returned to the city of Damascus. Then three years later I went to Jerusalem to get to know Peter, and I stayed with him for fifteen days. (Galatians 1:11-18 NLTse). So what’s stopping you from learning at Jesus’ feet? Where are you in your walk with God?
If a dedicated well educated man like Paul, known nation wide as a master of scripture, and on a list as possible high priest of the nation, spent three years learning from Jesus, how long do you think your education process will take? A few days, weeks, years, a life time? How much is there to learn from the Infinite God? How much does self pride extinguish the real flame that should be burning in your heart? How far could you go with half the dedication Paul had? How far could you go if you only learned from Paul’s example? What is holding you back? Are you afraid of what others may think? Are you afraid to face the world like Jesus did without a penny in his pocket? Are you afraid of loosing your prestige in the world like Paul did? Jesus, Paul, and the other disciples, as well as the prophets serve as examples for us. They went through far worse conditions than many of us will experience. All of them served as an example of God’s glory while adding to the faith we need.
Now it’s time for a little homework. A test of sorts. There are also a number of parallels between Isaiah 50 and Galatians 1 you can examine on your own. Finding faith and a form of comfort knowing those before you suffered isn’t enough. Their suffering is for nothing if it doesn’t add fuel to the fire inside you. Your own trials will be for nothing if that spark from that trial doesn’t start that flame. Study Galatians 1 on your own and by all means, share what you learn with others who need your encouragement. God gave you all these things for a reason. No one can know a person’s thoughts except that person’s own spirit, and no one can know God’s thoughts except God’s own Spirit. And we have received God’s Spirit (not the world’s spirit), so we can know the wonderful things God has freely given us. When we tell you these things, we do not use words that come from human wisdom. Instead, we speak words given to us by the Spirit, using the Spirit’s words to explain spiritual truths. Go and announce to them that the Kingdom of Heaven is near. Heal the sick, raise the dead, cure those with leprosy, and cast out demons. Give as freely as you have received!
(1 Corinthians 2:11-13, Matthew 10:7-8 NLTse)
Galatians 1:11-16 NLTse (11) Dear brothers and sisters, I want you to understand that the gospel message I preach is not based on mere human reasoning. (12) I received my message from no human source, and no one taught me. Instead, I received it by direct revelation from Jesus Christ. (13) You know what I was like when I followed the Jewish religion–how I violently persecuted God’s church. I did my best to destroy it. (14) I was far ahead of my fellow Jews in my zeal for the traditions of my ancestors. (15) But even before I was born, God chose me and called me by his marvelous grace. Then it pleased him (16) to reveal his Son to me so that I would proclaim the Good News about Jesus to the Gentiles. When this happened, I did not rush out to consult with any human being.
Galatians 1:3-10 NLTse May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace. (4) Jesus gave his life for our sins, just as God our Father planned, in order to rescue us from this evil world in which we live. (5) All glory to God forever and ever! Amen. (6) I am shocked that you are turning away so soon from God, who called you to himself through the loving mercy of Christ. You are following a different way that pretends to be the Good News (7) but is not the Good News at all. You are being fooled by those who deliberately twist the truth concerning Christ. (8) Let God’s curse fall on anyone, including us or even an angel from heaven, who preaches a different kind of Good News than the one we preached to you. (9) I say again what we have said before: If anyone preaches any other Good News than the one you welcomed, let that person be cursed. (10) Obviously, I’m not trying to win the approval of people, but of God. If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ’s servant.
Galatians 1:15-24 NLTse (15) But even before I was born, God chose me and called me by his marvelous grace. Then it pleased him (16) to reveal his Son to me so that I would proclaim the Good News about Jesus to the Gentiles. When this happened, I did not rush out to consult with any human being. (17) Nor did I go up to Jerusalem to consult with those who were apostles before I was. Instead, I went away into Arabia, and later I returned to the city of Damascus. (18) Then three years later I went to Jerusalem to get to know Peter, and I stayed with him for fifteen days. (19) The only other apostle I met at that time was James, the Lord’s brother. (20) I declare before God that what I am writing to you is not a lie. (21) After that visit I went north into the provinces of Syria and Cilicia. (22) And still the Christians in the churches in Judea didn’t know me personally. (23) All they knew was that people were saying, “The one who used to persecute us is now preaching the very faith he tried to destroy!” (24) And they praised God because of me.