The Lord, the King, the Redeemer, the Rock

Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel, and His Redeemer, the LORD of hosts: ‘I am the First and I am the Last; besides Me there is no god.‘    Isaiah 44:6


When Lloyd C. Douglas, author of The Robe and other novels, was a university student, he lived in a boarding house.  Downstairs on the first floor was an elderly, retired music teacher, now infirm and unable to leave the apartment.
Douglas said that every morning they had a ritual they would go through together.  He would come down the steps, open the old man’s door, and ask, “Well, what’s the good news?”  The old man would pick up his tuning fork, tap it on the side of his wheelchair, and say, “That’s middle C!  It was middle C yesterday; it will be middle C tomorrow; it will be middle C a thousand years from now.  The tenor upstairs sings flat, the piano across the hall is out of tune, but, my friend, that is middle C!”
The old man had discovered one thing upon which he could depend, one constant reality in his life, one “still point in a turning world.”
Maxie Dunnam, in “Jesus’  Claims – Our Promises”

Wherever you go, whatever you do, “middle C” will always be the same.  If you have “middle C,” it is the starting point after which the tones of at least western music fall into their proper order in the musical scales.  It is the cornerstone for some of the most majestic music ever written.

I am always in awe of what a composer can do.  Not only does he put notes on the page in a certain order, he can weave in different instruments to create the musical effect he wishes.  A person’s mood can be lifted or be made pensive because of how the tones are arranged, whether it be for an oratorio like Handel’s Messiah, or an opera like Wagner’s works, or any of the popular songs of our lifetime.  All this and more are centered around “middle C.”

Listening to Isaiah, we find something greater than “middle C,” something which forms the pivot of all spirituality, the pivot of all human history.  It is the Rock, Who has no competition – the Rock of Ages, Who stands above history, Who challenges any and every so-called god to match, for example, His ability to prophesy centuries in advance.  Think of a cornerstone, which in olden days established the level and squared the walls of a structure, this Rock provides an unmoving reference point for a strong and solid faith in the midst of a world which seems to be spinning out of control.  This Rock is the “middle C” which forms the starting point of the greatest symphony of all time, the symphony of the close participation between God and humanity.

The message was very important for Isaiah’s listeners.  They stood at the brink of a serious calamity.  Very soon Babylon would overrun their beloved Promised Land and destroy their temple and their holy city.  Heartache, death, and destruction loomed over their heads.  The majority of the people would be deported, leaving only the ones which even Babylon didn’t want, to care for the land.

Worst of all, they knew that the nation had no one to blame but themselves.  It had persistently, determinedly mixed their worship of God with the false gods with which they surrounded themselves.  At a time when they should look up, they instead were quick to try any way which presented itself, no matter how far it might take them from the Lord.

How utterly sad they had become!  This Rock is the Creator God Who has such a handle on the totality of History that He could identify Himself as “the First and the Last” beside Whom “there is no god,” Who could declare from the ancient people up to now the things which are coming and shall come.  He challenges His People in chapter 8[:19], why do you “consult the mediums and the wizards… consult the dead on behalf of the living – should not a people consult their God?”  Coming back to the chapter of our text, again

says the LORD, your Redeemer, and He who formed you from the womb: ‘I am the LORD, Who makes all things, Who stretched out the heavens alone, Who spread out the earth – who was with me? – Who frustrates the omens of liars, and makes fools of diviners; Who turns wise men backward, and makes their knowledge foolishness; Who confirms the word of His servant, and performs the counsel of His messengers”  [vv 24-26]

Our lesson is very timely and requires careful thought in our world of today.  The kind of fear which the believers must have felt when Isaiah prophesied the coming captivity might echo in many believers’ hearts today.  Look at the anarchy and destruction happening only kilometers from our border.  Satan has been covertly setting up his followers in particularly the education, the media, and the political sectors and he must now feel very confident to make such a bold move, stirring up disorder, upheaval, and mayhem in a powerful attack against law and order,  decency and compassion in major cities in the US.

Yes, it is Satan.  God refuses to be associated with Satan’s deceitful and cunning methods, as He declares, “I did not speak in secret, in a land of darkness; I did not say to the offspring of Jacob, ‘Seek me in chaos.’  I the LORD speak the truth, I declare what is right” [Isaiah 45:19].
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We would be fools if we didn’t realize that such determined rebellion against God is infiltrating the whole world and even our own society here in Canada.  He Who holds the history in His hands has already told us that a day is coming when Satan will go all out to destroy God’s Kingdom and terrify God’s People.  The believers Isaiah was talking to knew that they would be swept up in the Babylonian captivity and yet understood that it would be a process by which those who truly would stick to the Lord would be revealed.  But most importantly, this was not happening behind the Lord’s back, and He gave firm promises of His involvement with His People in their captivity – if they were willing to actually remain as part of His People.

The Rock of Ages, the God of all history, has warned New Testament believers as well:

For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.  There will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. … Then they will deliver you up to persecution and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My Name’s sake.  Many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another.  Many false prophets will rise up and deceive many.  Because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. [Matthew 24:7-12]

Jesus makes us pause for a moment.  Is not what He is describing actually happening today?  Could this be Satan’s final push at the end?  Perhaps.  More likely it is just a dress rehearsal, yet each such rehearsal is a real thing which pushes us closer and closer to the fulfillment of these prophesies.  Chaos and rebellion are becoming more ingrained into the mindset of more and more in North American society.

For the listeners to Isaiah, how difficult it must have been for them to watch their own People turning away farther and farther from the God Who was there from Abraham, through Moses, through David; how they must have recognized that the judgment of God would be such a heavy burden which would soon break this special People.

As we look at the US and even Canada, which have been, perhaps not Christian countries per se, but at least a countries founded upon the morality and ideals of Christianity, what is rapidly taking over are such concepts as that our existence is merely by evolutionary chance and that we are, at best, no more than mindless, even heartless, animals.  Human life has no significance other than what is convenient, as even abortion in some jurisdictions is now legal after the child is born.  If you are of the right party or mob, then there is justification for practicing cruelty to another human being.  “Law abiding” basically depends on how the “goal of the day” justifies any means.

We may arrogantly look down at such things, and yet, likely not in such big and major ways, but often in the little things of our attitudes and actions, how often have we participated in laying the groundwork of the rebellion prophesied by Jesus?  How much have we contributed to the stored up judgment of God?

How easily we could be overwhelmed by the seeming explosion of evil, chaos, and destruction, including the threat to what we value, the ideals, and way of life which we cherish.  But the answer given to us is the same answer given to Isaiah’s listeners, “Thus says the Covenant LORD, the King of His People, and His Redeemer, the Covenant LORD of hosts: ‘I am the First and I am the Last; besides Me there is no god.’”     

This Lord has two solid grounds from which He speaks: He is the uncontested eternal Creator and King over all things, especially when it comes to His People; and the other is that through the redemption of His Son alone, believers are freed from the terrible penalty and effects of their rebellion, are empowered to seek the will of the One Who has so extraordinarily loved them, are brought to surrender to His Kingdom, and are made God’s own People.

Like “middle C,” this is the one immovable point despite the downward spiraling world, this is the one absolute of which there is no shadow of change yesterday, tomorrow, or in a thousand years.  It is the message of confidence from the Great God, the Rock of Ages, the One Who promises that in every step of the way, He is with His People always no matter what the conditions are in the world.  He is the One Who has the whole of history, even the history to come, in the palms of His hands, so that we know that despite possible initial appearance, the outcome will be exactly the way He planned and foresaw.

Of course, all which God has prepared for us centers in Jesus Christ where He speaks unbendable declarations that all the goodness, grace and mercy of the Father is and shall be showered upon those who repent and believe; upon those who follow and submit to Jesus will come peace and power.  This is deliberately confirmed by sharing Himself, His Body and Blood, and His Holy Spirit with each one of us.

Our God is the only God, so Jesus can confidently say, “he who endures to the end shall be saved” [Matthew 24:13], and also calls us to focus not on Satan’s desperate end times schemes, but rather “when these things begin to take place, look up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near” [Luke 21:28].  After all, the Covenant LORD, the King of His People, and His Redeemer, the Covenant LORD of hosts holds the whole of your future in His hands.

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