MY WAY Will Not Work (James 4:7-12)

Notice the verbs in James 4:7-10. "Submit," "resist," "come," "wash," "purify," "grieve," "mourn," "wail," "change," and "humble yourselves." These verbs suggest that "I did it my way" or "my way or the highway" is NOT a wise way to live. It is certainly not the way to live under the blessing of God.
  1. Horrible Days (1:1-4). The Way to Maturity and Wholeness.
  2. How to Know What's Going On (1:5-12). A Prayer that God is Always Happy to Answer.
  3. When Trials Become Temptations (1:13-21). God Never Tempts Anyone.
  4. Self-Deceived Christians (1:22-27). When Reading and Studying the Bible Makes You Worse.
  5. Showing Favoritism (2:1-13). Trust God rather than show favoritism toward influential people.
  6. True Faith and Loving Deeds (2:14-26). Loving others--amid our own difficulties and trials--always accompanies true faith.
  7. Lashing Out Verbally at Others (3:1-12). If you think you have to teach others, it's better to shut up!
  8. The Wise and the Selfishly Ambitious (3:13-18). You can't be wise if you are selfishly motivated.
  9. Infighting in the Church (4:1-6). Being upset with others may not be the fault of others.
The first sin in God's universe was someone saying to God, "Not your will, but mine!" (Genesis 3; Isa 14:12-14; Eze 28:11-17) The rebellion against God says, "Do what you want, not what God wants. God is holding back something good from you, something that will make you feel real good and make you smart and wise. But God doesn't want you to have it. So you got to go and get it for yourself. Don't let God decide what's good for you. You decide, which you can and should do." In the Garden of Eden when Eve agreed to this, Adam agreed too. They both set themselves against God, becoming enemies of God. So God had no choice but to cast them out of Eden, which was paradise. This rebellion against God continues to this very day in many forms depending on the vastly different circumstances of our lives. But they all basically say, "God is NOT going to give me want I want."
  • God is not going to give me the kind of comfortable retirement that I want. I gotta worry about making a lot more money for my retirement years. Cut a few corners. Bend a few rules. Just don't get caught.
  • God (or he/her) is not letting me be honored and recognized as I should. So I gotta craftily bad mouth certain people to make them look bad, so that I will look good.
  • God is not going to give me the marriage that I want. My spouse has major issues. I need a change.
  • There are no one in church who is cool and cute and funny for me to date. I have to expand my horizons, lower my standards a little (but not make it obvious) in order to find "the one" for me.
  • Why be devoted and dedicated to God and to the church if God is not giving me what I want?
Such is the voice of Satan. Yet God still woos us jealously, asking us to trust him and He stands ready to bless us if we will humble ourselves before him (Jas 4:4-6).

The world's way of coping with trials is to lash out against others, fight and quarrel with others because they are the ones aggravating my difficulties, and basically demand that others act the way I expect them to act.

In contrast to the world's way of reacting, James appeals to Christians to submit to what God is doing in our lives (Jas 1:2-4; 4:7-12), to accept that things will be difficult for a while, and to not try to teach others in our frustration to conform to our expectation (Jas 3:1-2).

Jas 4:7a, 10 are parallel statements: submit, humble yourself. The verses in between describe what this humble submitting looks like as far as God is concerned (Jas 4:7b-9), and the verses which follow describe what it looks like as far as others in the church are concerned (Jas 4:10-12).

To humbly submit to God means first to resist the devil, who always insinuates that God is not being good to you and is withholding something from you. When we resist the devil we affirm Rom 8:28 and Jas 1:17. In this way we come near to God (Jas 4:8a) even when a trial is unbearable. When we do Satan flees from us (Jas 4:7b), because our humble submission to God is a grave threat to him and his evil kingdom. C.S. Lewis has Screwtape, a senior demon explain to his mentee Wormwood:

"Our cause is never more in danger than when a human, no longer desiring, but still intending, to do our Enemy's will, looks round upon a universe from which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys."

To submit humbly means to wash our hands of sin and purify our hearts and cease being double-minded about whether God is in our trials for our good (Jas 4:8b; 1:6-7, 14-15, 21). In our submission we may grieve and mourn for the heaviness of our trials, our failures and our lapses during them (Jas 1:9). Our circumstances may not elicit laughter and joy. But our conviction is secure and unshakable: The Lord is good. He will eventually lift us up (Jas 1:10).

Humbly submitting to God enables us to become gentle and kind toward others. We do not slander or judge others for how their actions and words adversely affect us (Jas 1:11-12). That violates the law of love. Instead of advesarial words and actions we become peace-loving, considerate, submissive and full of mercy (Jas 3:17). In this way we avoid being pulluted by the world's way of responding to trials by blaming others (Jas 1:27; 2:8-13; 3:1-4:10).

When we submit to God, we know that MY WAY is not the way. Instead, we learn from the Son: "Not my will, but yours be done" (Lk 22:42).


Infighting in the Church (James 4:1-6)

Why do we not like certain people? Why are there fights and quarrels, some rather bitter and longstanding, even in the holy church of God?
  1. Horrible Days (1:1-4). The Way to Maturity and Wholeness.
  2. How to Know What's Going On (1:5-12). A Prayer that God is Always Happy to Answer.
  3. When Trials Become Temptations (1:13-21). God Never Tempts Anyone.
  4. Self-Deceived Christians (1:22-27). When Reading and Studying the Bible Makes You Worse.
  5. Showing Favoritism (2:1-13). Trust God rather than show favoritism toward influential people.
  6. True Faith and Loving Deeds (2:14-26). Loving others--amid our own difficulties and trials--always accompanies true faith.
  7. Lashing Out Verbally at Others (3:1-12). If you think you have to teach others, it's better to shut up!
  8. The Wise and the Selfishly Ambitious (3:13-18). You can't be wise if you are selfishly motivated.
What causes us to be angry, to fight and to have quarrels?


The Wise and the Selfishly Ambitious (James 3:13-18)

Who is one who is not wise, and the one you should not listen to? Briefly, according to James, it is the one who thinks they are wise and are too quick to teach others (Jas 3:1)! How can one tell who they are? They often cannot control their tongue and they blame others. Those who desire to teach others and who see the fault in others but none in themselves are the ones who should learn to simply shut their mouth!
  1. Horrible Days (Jas 1:1-4). The Way to Maturity and Wholeness.
  2. How to Know What's Going On (Jas 1:5-12). A Prayer that God is Always Happy to Answer.
  3. When Trials Become Temptations (Jas 1:13-21). God Never Tempts Anyone.
  4. Self-Deceived Christians (Jas 1:22-27). When Reading and Studying the Bible Makes You Worse.
  5. Showing Favoritism (Jas 2:1-13). Trust God rather than show favoritism toward influential people.
  6. True Faith = Loving Deeds (Jas 2:14-26). True faith is always expressed through deeds of love for others, regardless of what trial we may be personally going through. [Loving others--amid our own difficulties and trials--always accompanies true faith.]
  7. Lashing Out Verbally at Others (Jas 3:1-12). If you think you have to teach others, it's better to just shut up!


Lashing Out Verbally at Others (James 3:1-12)

Lacking tongue control: "If anyone makes no mistakes in what they say, such a person is a fully complete human being, capable of keeping firm control over the whole body as well" (Jas 3:2b, N.T. Wright). "Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check" (Jas 3:2b, NIV). "For if we could control our tongues, we would be perfect and could also control ourselves in every other way" (Jas 3:2b, NLT).

ThemeIf you cannot control your mouth, don't teach the Bible to others. Definitely, don't teach others the Bible if you are blaming others for problems and difficulties. Don't be in Christian leadership if you have a habit of lashing out at others. For the easiest way to sin, the most common, and the hardest sin to prevent, is with the tongue.


Faith During Trials and Loving Deeds (James 2:14-26)

  1. Horrible Days (Jas 1:1-4), or The Way to Maturity and Wholeness.
  2. How to Know What's Going On (Jas 1:5-12), or A Prayer that God is Always Happy to Answer.
  3. When Trials Become Temptations (Jas 1:13-21), or God Never Tempts Anyone.
  4. Self-Deceived Christians (Jas 1:22-27), or When Reading and Studying the Bible Makes You Worse.
  5. Showing Favoritism (Jas 2:1-13), Trust God rather than show favoritism toward influential people.
How can we know if our faith during our trying times and troubling trials will bring forth the blessing of God which James calls "a crown of life" (Jas 1:12)? There is a way to know whether your faith is alive and vital, and will see you through the trial to the good end that God intends (Jas 1:4). Here's how. Very simply, James says that your loving deeds toward others reveal a liging faith. Your loving acts of compassion and mercy show that you have a genuine trusting faith that will see you through the trials to God's reward.  Read James 2:14-17.


Showing Favoritism (James 2:1-13)

  1. Trials are Beneficial: Overview of James.
  2. Horrible Days (Jas 1:1-4), or The Way to Maturity and Wholeness.
  3. How to Know What's Going On (Jas 1:5-12), or A Prayer that God is Always Happy to Answer.
  4. When Trials Become Temptations (Jas 1:13-21), or God Never Tempts Anyone.
  5. Self-Deceived Christians (Jas 1:22-27), or When Reading and Studying the Bible Makes You Worse.
If you see a pretty girl and an unattractive girl at two ends of the room, which end do you casually gravitate toward? If you see a rich cool guy who is funny and friendly and a poor nerdy guy who is awkward with shabby clothes who would you charm up to? If you meet a person who can possibly benefit you and your church and a person who looks like they will be a drain to you and your church, which person would you extend more grace to?


Self-Deceived Christians (James 1:22-27)

Imagine that reading and studying the Bible and listening to good preaching could make you worse!

"But be people who do the word, not merely people who hear it and deceive themselves" (James 1:22, N.T. Wright).

"Mirror, mirror on the wall..." What do you see when you look in the mirror? Beautiful eyes? Fantastic flowing hair? A look to die for? A cool tough masculine look? Some facial hair to enhance your manliness? Or do you see a balding hairline, wrinkles, crow feet and sagging bags under your eyes?
  1. Trials are Beneficial: Overview of James.
  2. Horrible Days (Jas 1:1-4) or The Way to Maturity and Completeness.
  3. How to Know What's Going On (James 1:5-12) or A Prayer that God is Always Happy to Answer.
  4. When Trials Become Temptations (James 1:13-21) or God Never Tempts Anyone.


When Trials Become Temptations (James 1:13-21)

"Nobody being tested should say, 'It's God that's testing me,' for God cannot be tested by evil, and he himself tests nobody" (James 1:13, N.T. Wright).

James has written that we should consider trials as pure joy (Jas 1:1-4). Horrible days are simply God working in us to produce patience and perseverance until we come to maturity and completeness (Jas 1:2-4), until we are "conformed to the image of his Son" (Rom 8:29). If we're not sure what's going on (Jas 1:5-12), James tells us that there is a prayer that God is always happy to answer (Jas 1:5). But there is one condition (Jas 1:6): we must trust that he is good and not doubt his goodness by blaming stupid people around us.


How To Know What's Going On (James 1:5-12)

(A Question that God is Always Happy to Answer)

"If any one of you falls short in wisdom, they should ask God for it, and it will be given them. God, after all, gives generously and ungrudgingly to all people."

In the first sermon, Horrible Days (Jas 1:1-4) or The Way to Maturity and Completeness, James tells us that horrible days and hardships, trials and tribulations should be thought through thoroughly. We should count and consider them as something positive, even joyful, for that is God's way to bless us with what we truly need in life: perseverance (patience, endurance)--which in God's time will lead to maturity (perfection) and completeness, not lacking in anything.


Horrible Days (James 1:1-4)

(The Way to Maturity [Perfection] and Completeness)

"James, a slave of God and of the Lord Jesus the Messiah (Christ), to the twelve dispersed (scattered) tribes: greetings.
My dear family, when you find yourselves tumbling into various trials and tribulations, learn to look at it with complete joy, because you know that, when your faith is put to the test, what comes out is patience (perseverance, endurance). What's more, you must let patience have its complete effect, so that you may be complete (mature, perfect) and whole, not falling short in anything" (James 1:1-4, N.T. Wright).

Theme of James (Consider Trials a Complete Joy): Persevere joyfully in trials because of God's reward and blessing (Jas 1:2-4, 12).


Consider Trials as Beneficial (The Book of James)

Theme: Be happy when you encounter trials, difficulties, disappointments and hardships.
"Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy." "God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him" (Jas 1:2, 12, NLT). 
"Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds." "Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him" (Jas 1:2, 12, NIV).


Romans at West Loop

Sermons preached at West Loop in 2014:
  1. Gospel of God's Grace (Romans 1:1-6). "Through him we received grace..." (Rom 1:5).
  2. Gospel Enthusiasm (Romans 1:7-15). "I am so eager to preach the gospel also to you" (Rom 1:15).
  3. Gospel Power (Romans 1:16-17). "...the gospel...is the power of God..." (Rom 1:16).
  4. Gospel Suppression (Rom 1:18-2:5). "...people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness" (Rom 1:18).
  5. Gospel Impartiality (Romans 2:6-29). "For God does not show favoritism" (Rom 2:11).
  6. Gospel Accusation (Romans 3:1-20). "There is no one righteous, not even one" (Rom 3:10).
  7. Gospel Righteousness (Romans 3:21-26). "...the righteousness of God has been made known" (Rom 3:21).


The Sin of the Religious Person (Isaiah 58-59)

Manipulating and controlling God is in essence the sin of the very religious person, including Christians.

It is unfortunate that Christians have historically applied the Bible to others--non-Christians and Christians of other expressions and denominations--rather than to themselves. They/we seem to naturally confess the sins of others, rather than our own sins. They/we naturally think that others are obviously worse than we are. They/we see how much others need to change, without clearly knowing how much they/we need to change. Thus, the "worst" sin in the Bible could very well be self-righteousness, even and especially when one is "right." When one thinks that they are right and others are wrong, WATCH OUT! The most unpleasant person is not necessarily the obvious sinner that everyone can see and know. Rather the most unpleasant person in Scripture is the self-righteous Pharisee who thinks and talks as through they are better than everyone else. In this regard, the self-righteous religious person are like the blind who are completely unable to see and know the true reality--especially of themselves. The self-righteous person is not only blind to themselves, but to God whom they think are blind like themselves.

Isaiah 58-59 addresses the sin of the religious person, the person of the church, the temple or the synagogue:
  1. Outwardly Religious (Isaiah 58)
    1. Outward show of being religious ("Christian") for others to see (1-5)
    2. False Sabbath keeping to show one's outward faithfulness to God (6-14). We might skip "guarding our own heart" but we do our best not to skip church or church gatherings.
  2. Inwardly Sinning (Isaiah 59)
    1. Lying naturally and comfortably (1-8). Religious people who lie often have no clue that they are lying, perhaps because they believe the lies to be true.
    2. Helpless to change (9-14)


The Sovereignty of God

When did I acknowledge the sovereignty of God? When I became a Christian in 1980.

What is the sovereignty of God? A pastor friend said it best: "There is a God and I'm NOT him." I might add to that: There is One in charge and in control, and it better not be me, or anyone else.

How did I come to acknowledge the sovereignty of God? Genesis 1:1; 2:16-27.

What did it mean to mean? Mt 6:33; Lk 9:23; 1 Cor 5:16.

How has the sovereignty of God shaped my life? All of life is a gift of grace. 1 Cor 15:10; Ac 20:24.

What stories (verses) in the Bible illustrate the sovereignty of God? Rom 8:28; Genesis 37-39.


Assurance (Isaiah 43): I love you

"Since you are precious and honored in my sight,  and because I love you, I will give people in exchange for you, nations in exchange for your life" (Isa 43:4).
  1. I have redeemed you (1-7).
  2. You are witnesses of my love (8-13).
  3. I am doing a new thing (14-21).
  4. I remember your sins no more (22-28).
Derek Kidner, Barry Webb
  1. Grace abounding (1-21).
    • Fear not (1-7).
    • You are my witnesses (8-13).
    • I am the Lord ... your King (14-15).
    • See, I am doing a new thing (16-21).
  2. Grace despised (22-28).
Isaiah 43 is a reaffirmation of Israel's calling to be the Lord's servant. The fact that God has pointed to another and greater Servant (Isa 42:1ff) does not mean that Israel's own servant role has been abrogated. Quite the reverse. It is confirmed here in the strongest possible terms (Isa 43:10; 44:1-2).

"But now" (Isa 43:1) is a feature of these chapters. This same Hebrew expression is found repeated in Isa 44:1; 49:5; 52:5; 64:8. It expresses the love of God, continually rebuffed yet continually returns with the initiative. Notice the shift in tone from Isa 42:25 to Isa 43:1. It is breathtaking. What is God to do after the looting and plundering (Isa 42:24)? What God will now do is grace. There is nothing the Judeans have to do in advance for this grace to become available to them. They do not have to repent or promise to change their ways. God simply declares, as in Isa 40:1-2, that he has "redeemed" them. It is a completed fact (Rom 5:8).

Fear not (43:1-7). These verses in eloquent detail give Israel the assurance Christ gives to, the church, that the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. The ominous word "flames" (Isa 43:2) from the closing verse of the previous chapter (Isa 42:25) is countered with the steadying exhortation "Do not fear" (Isa 43:1). There are some of the tenderest words here that God ever spoke to his children: "you are mine" (Isa 43:1b), "you are precious and honored in my sight" (Isa 43:4a), "I love you" (Isa 43:4a), "I am with you" (Isa 43:4). They are addressed to people far from home, still in the midst of deep waters, rivers, fire and flames (Isa 43:2). They have many  more trials to face before they reach their final rest. There is no promise of a quick fix or a trouble-free future, but of God's sustaining presence right through to the journey's end (Isa 43:5-6), come what may. God's people are still today like aliens and exiles in a violent, visious hostile world (1 Pet 2:11; Jas 1:1). But God promises to never leave or forsake them or us until he brings us home (Dt 31:6; Heb 13:5-6; Mt 28:20).


The First Servant Song (Isaiah 42)

Hope, Trust and Wait on the Lord (Isa 40:31): "Even if the enemy's foot be on your neck, expect to rise and overthrow him. Cast the burden of the present, along with the sin of the past and the fear of the future, upon the Lord, who forsaketh not His saints. Live by the day—ay, by the hour. Put no trust in frames and feelings. Care more for a grain of faith than a ton of excitement. Trust in God alone, and lean not on the needs of human help." Charles Spurgeon.

"Fits of depression come over the most of us. Usually cheerful as we may be, we must at intervals be cast down. The strong are not always vigorous, the wise not always ready, the brave not always courageous, and the joyous not always happy." Charles Spurgeon, Lectures, The Minister's Fainting Fits.

42:1-25 (The Servant Saves)


Communities defined by Guilt or Shame




Normal defined by

Rules and laws

Relationships and roles

Behavior guided by

Internal conscience

External community

Violations produce



Core problem

"I made a mistake" (action)

"I am a mistake"


Violations affect

The transgressor

The group

Violator's response

Justify or apologize

Hide or cover

Public's response

Punish to serve justice

Exclude to remove shame

Way for resolution




Comfort, Fear, Servant, Assurance (Isaiah 40-43)

  1. Comfort (Isaiah 40): Wait on the Lord.
  2. Fear (Isaiah 41): I am with you.
  3. Servant (Isaiah 42): Justice to the nations.
  4. Assurance (Isaiah 43): I love you.
Isaiah 1-39 (Trust); Isaiah 40-55 (Grace); Isaiah 56-66 (Power)

Comfort (Isaiah 40): Wait on the Lord
  1. The God of comfort (1-11)
  2. The incomparable God (12-26)
  3. The God who makes man fly (27-31)
Fear (Isaiah 41): I am with you
  1. Living in fear (1-7): God predicts the rise of one from the east (Cyrus) and people panic in fear.
  2. Living without fear (8-20): God choosing his servants to be with them and to help them.
  3. Fear and idols (21-29): Fear causes the making and depending on idols, which are worthless and useless.
Servant (Isaiah 42): Justice to the nations
  1. What the Servant does (1-9): Proclaims justice to the nations.
  2. How the world responds (10-12): Praise the Lord!
  3. What God does (13-17): Zealously accomplish his purpose.
  4. Who we truly are (18-25): Blind and deaf.
Assurance (Isaiah 43): I love you
  1. I have redeemed you (1-7).
  2. You are witnesses of my love (8-13).
  3. I am doing a new thing (14-21).
  4. I remember your sins no more (22-28).


The Servant Saves (Isaiah 42)

Theme: Man's hope is that the Servant proclaims justice by gently and persevearingly serving the weak, blind and deaf. God's heart is always for the weak, blind and deaf.
  1. What the Servant does (1-9): Proclaims justice to the nations.
  2. How the world responds (10-12): Praise the Lord!
  3. What God does (13-17): Zealously accomplish his purpose.
  4. Who we truly are (18-25): Blind and deaf.
The "servant of God" theme is one of the richest strands of Isaiah's thought, and it lies right at the heart of his message as it moves to its climax in this second half of the book. 42:1-9 is the first of four "Servant Songs" (49:1-13; 50:4-9; 52:13-53:12), the first of a remarkable series in which the servant theme is developed in a quite distinctive way and brought to a resounding climax. 61:1-3 could be regarded as fifth and final Song which brings the whole series to a (another) climax.


Quotes about Waiting on God

Isaiah 40:27-31

Theme: Wait, Trust and Hope in the Lord (Isa 40:31): "But those who wait on the Lord Shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint" (Isa 40:31, NKJV). "But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength" (Isa 40:31, NLT). "...but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength" (Isa 40:31, NIV).

An entire sermon could be preached on every single one of these quotes about WAITING ON THE LORD:

What’s the purpose of waiting on God? "Biblically, waiting is not just something we have to do until we get what we want. Waiting is part of the process of becoming what God wants us to be." John Ortberg.

Why should we endure our problems? "What then are we to do about our problems? We must learn to live with them until such time as God delivers us from them…we must pray for grace to endure them without murmuring. Problems patiently endured will work for our spiritual perfecting. They harm us only when we resist them or endure them unwillingly." A.W. Tozer.



1. We humans are enslaved beings.

"Man is born free, but everywhere he is in chains. One man thinks himself the master of others, but remains more of a slave than they are." Jean-Jacques Rousseau.

2. We humans enslave one another (by our demands, expectations, power).

"Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed." Martin Luther King Jr.

"Those who deny freedom to others, deserve it not for themselves." Abraham Lincoln.

3. Freedom involves making a choice/decision.

"Freedom is not the right to do what we want, but what we ought. Let us have faith that right makes might and in that faith let us; to the end, dare to do our duty as we understand it." Abraham Lincoln.

"I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it." Voltaire.

"The unity of freedom has never relied on uniformity of opinion." John F. Kennedy.

{ unencumbered } "...let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us" (Heb 12:1).

4. The way to freedom.

{ soaring, flying } "...those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles..." (Isa 40:31, NIV). ["wait for" (ESV, NASB); "trust" (HCSB, NLT)]

{ set free } "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free" (Jn 8:31-32). ["abide" (ESV), "continue" (NASB, HCSB), "remain faithful" (NLT)]

{ you must be freed } "Therefore, if the Son sets you free, you really will be free" (Jn 8:36, HCSB). "Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom" (2 Cor 3:17). "So Christ has truly set us free. Now make sure that you stay free, and don't get tied up again in slavery to the law" (Gal 5:1, NLT).

{ greatest, most useful lesson } "If you want to learn something that will really help you, learn to see yourself as God sees you and not as you see yourself in the distorted mirror of your own self-importance. This is the greatest and most useful lesson we can learn: to know ourselves for what we truly are, to admit freely our weaknesses and failings, and to hold a humble opinion of ourselves because of them." Thomas Kempis.

{ embrace suffering as inevitable } "Plan as you like and arrange everything as best you can, yet you will always encounter some suffering whether you want to or not. Go wherever you will, you will always find the cross… God wants you to learn to endure troubles without comfort, to submit yourself totally to him, and to become more humble through adversity." Thomas Kempis.

"Great tranquility (freedom) of heart is his who cares for neither praise nor blame." "Grant me prudently (freedom) to avoid him that flatters me, and to endure patiently him that contradicts me." Thomas Kempis.

No one can be happy without freedom. Unhappiness comes from enslavement.


Idols vs. the Perfect Servant (Isaiah 41:21-29; 42:1-9)

41:21-29 is Isaiah's 2nd statement of his case against idols and 42:1-9 is his 2nd address to the servant of the Lord. The case against idols is similar to the first (Isa 41:7) except that it is considerably more pointed. The address to the servant is very different from the first (Isa 41:8-20), so much so that it is likely to be a different servant being addressed.

The Case Against the Idols (41:21-29)

(41:21-24) Again God calls on the idol worshippers to present their case that the things they worship are really gods (Isa 41:21-22). Here Isaiah strikes directly at the heart of the pagan worldview. He calls on the idolaters to give evidence that their idols have ever specifically predicted the future or give an explanation of the past (Isa 41:22). Since there is neither a sense of purpose or of overarching meaning, there is no possibility of understanding why anything happens. If the past cannot be explained, then neither can the future be predicted (Isa 41:23). Have any of the gods ever given a specific prediction of something that had never happened before but that then subsequently did occur? Of course not. So God mocks them, daring them to do anything at all--either good for their worshippers or frightening against their enemies (Isa 41:23). But there is no answer. So God pronounces judgment (Isa 41:24). These gods are nothing. Their works are worthless. Those who worship them are foolish (detestable, an abomination). In attempting to deify creation, the idol worshippers have actually committed an offense against it.

(41:25-27) God responds to the challenge. God has a plan for history. What will unfold before the exiles' eyes will be the evidence of it. God has brought the conqueror (Isa 41:2; 44:28-45:1) who is coming down on Babylon like a brick-maker or a potter, who jumps into the vat where the clay is and treads it into liquid form (Isa 41:25).

It is one thing to assert that Cyrus's is coming at the direction of Jacob's King (Isa 41:21), but quite another to prove that the assertion is so. To prove this Isaiah declares that none of the idols predicted Cyrus's coming at all (Isa 41:26, 28). By contrast, the God of Israel did make such a prediction in advance (Isa 41:27) through Isaiah his messenger of good tidings in this very writing. The prediction is made in what Isaiah wrote during his own lifetime. Then when that writing is read with opened eyes (Isa 8:16; 29:11-12) amidst its fulfillment during the Exile, 150 years later, it will become its own confirmation.

41:28-29 is the pronouncement of judgment on the idol worshippers. They have been unable to give any answer to the questions God asked (Isa 41:28). There is no one among them who can give evidence that their gods are even in the same category as Yahweh (Isa 41:29). He alone is truly Other, and thus he alone is truly Holy. All who worship something other than the true God are doomed to become like their gods: nothing, worthless, wind and chaos (Isa 41:24,29). Their lives are doomed to become as meaningless as their gods are.

An Address to the Servant (42:1-9)

God's perfect Servant. The "servant of God" theme is one of the riches strands of Isaiah's thought, and it lies right at the heart of his message as it moves to its climax in this second half of the book.

In 41:1-20 the fearful servant needed to be reassured that although Cyrus's coming meant terror for the idol worshippers, it need not cause the servant any fear (Isa 41:10, . In 42:1-9 expands on Yahweh's control of history. Just as God will bring down the Babylonian Empire through Cyrus, so he will bring justice (Isa 42:1,3,4) to the nations  through his servant. The "new things" God will do through his servant (Isa 42:9) is what the gods/idols could never declare in advance, which the Lord can do so with impunity.

The identity of this servant has been the source of endless controversy. The differences between him and the servant Israel are striking. The servant Israel is fearful and blind, yet God loves him and will deliver him so that he can be God's evidence to the nations that he is indeed God. But this Servant who only appears here in ch.40-48 and but three times in ch.49-50, is of a different sort. He is always obedient and responsive to God, his mission is to bring justice to the nations for God, and he is to be a light to the nations and a covenant to the people (Isa 49:6). In contrast to the promises of divine blessing constantly being given to the servant Israel, this servant receives no benefits through his ministry but only increasing difficulty (49:1-7; 50:4-9; 52:13-53:12). In sum, whoever this is, it is not the nation of Israel; it is another figure altogether.

The reiterated statements are that
  • this person is going to bring justice on the earth (Isa 42:1,3,4),
  • God's Spirit will be on him (Isa 42:1), and
  • his accomplishment of this end will not be through oppression (Isa 42:3).
This reminds us of the prophecies of the Messiah in Isaiah 9, 11 and 32, where we have the servant as King, while here we have the king as Servant. The idea that the ends of the earth (the islands), which could not defend the deity of their gods (Isa 41:1), will put their hope/wait for/trust in his law (Isa 42:4) is further indication that this figure is a messianic one (Isa 2:1-5).

The further description of the ministry of this Servant in 42:6-7 confirms that this is not the nation but someone who will function for the nation and indeed for the world. Where Israel was blind and deaf, captive to the powers of this world, this Servant will give sight and freedom. This ministry will be the ultimate revelation of the glory of God, which fills the earth (Isa 6:3) and belongs to no idol (Isa 42:8).

Reference: Oswalt, John N. Isaiah: The NIV Application Commentary. 2003.


Fear Not, I Am God (Isaiah 41)

"So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand" (Isa 41:10). "'For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you. Do not be afraid, you worm Jacob, little Israel, do not fear, for I myself will help you,' declares the Lord, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel" (Isa 41:13-14).

In 40:12-31 Isaiah reasoned that the greatness of Yahweh as Creator guarantees that the huge and worldwide promises of 40:1-11 will be fulfilled. This great God cannot fail to keep his promises and guard his people. In 41:1-20, Isaiah offers a second guarantee: Yahweh is also the world ruler (41:1-7), and in this capacity he is also the guardian of his own people (41:8-20).

In ch. 41-46, Isaiah seems to repeat key themes in varying ways. Then ch. 47 draws the conclusions of what has been said as regards Babylon, and ch. 48 is a call to trust and belief. The hymnic portions in 42:10-13 and 44:23 are regarded as structural indicators that bring a previous unit to a close and introduce a new one. The structure may then be 41:1-42:9; 42:10-44:22; and 44:23-47:15.


Waiting in Hope (Isaiah 40:27-31)

Both of the questions asked by the exiles have been fully answered in 40:1-26:
  • 40:1-11 answers the question, "Does God care?" (Has our sins separated us from God forever?) God will come in glory to renew the whole world (Isa 40:5).
  • 40:12-26 answers the question, "Is God able to deliver us?" (Was God not defeated by the gods of Babylon?)
How then should God's people respond? This question is answered in 40:27-31.
  1. Our despair (27).
  2. God's greatness (28).
  3. Our renewal (29-31).
In 40:27 Isaiah anticipates the attitude of the exiles. They think that they are either now outside of God's vision for them ("my way is hidden") or that God has given up on them ("my cause is disregarded"). Their complaint is that God doesn't know and/or God doesn't care.

To this Isaiah responds that to think in this way is to have too low a view of God. It is to essentially not really know who God truly is. So Isaiah reminds them of who God is in 40:28-29, dealing with the Creator's endless power and wisdom in the first verse (Isa 40:28) and his wonderful desire and ability to share that power with the "weak" and the "weary" in the second (Isa 40:29). So Isaiah speaks of both the being and the person of God.

The question in 40:28 is incredulous. How could they say such things about God when they know who he is and what he is like. God knows our situation perfectly, and he can and will do something about it. The fact is that the most vigorous things in creation ("young men") cannot keep themselves going. They are not self-generating but are dependent on outside sources for their strength. God is not like that. God is self-generating. That means that he also has abundant strength to give away to those who will wait for ("hope in") him.

The theme of trust from ch.1-39 continues in Isa 40:31. This concept of trust as waiting has already appeared three times previously (Isa 8:17; 25:9; 33:2) and will appear twice more (Isa 49:23; 64:4). To "wait" on God is not simply to mark time. Rather, it is to live in confident expectation of his action on our behalf. It is to refuse to run ahead of him in trying to solve our problems for ourselves.

Just as Isaiah called on the people of his own day to trust God to solve their problems, he calls on the exiles a century or so later to do the same thing. If they are worn out and weary, hardly daring to believe that there is any future for them, the God of all strength can give them exactly what they need at the right time, whether or "soar," "run," or "walk" (Isa 40:31).


The Incomparable God (Isaiah 40:12-26)

Isaiah 40 (Oswalt):
  1. God's promised deliverance (1-11).
  2. God's ability to deliver his people (12-26).
  3. Waiting in hope (27-31).
(Ray Ortland, Jr):
  1. God's glory, our comfort (1-11).
  2. God's uniqueness, our assurance (12-26).
  3. God's greatness, our renewal (27-31).
After expressing the tenderness of Yahweh's shepherding care (1-11) Isaiah sets the magnificence of his sovereign power and executive rule as Creator (12-26). The former expresses the attractiveness and delightfulness of his promises; the latter his irresistible power to keep what he has promised.


The God of Comfort (Isaiah 40:1-11)

God is undefeated even by our most grievous sin. The Sovereign God is never more sovereign than in the work of mercy and salvation. It is those who know they have most signally erred and strayed from his ways, who, within the blessed arena of salvation, feel most gently the warmth of his shepherding arms around them. They know for sure to be the lambs of his flock.

Isaiah 40 answers the question, "Who is your God?" God is:
  1. The God of Comfort (1-11).
  2. The Incomparable God (12-26).
  3. The God Who Makes Man Fly (27-31).


Isaiah 40 questions

  • Chs.1-39 is Trust: the Basis of Servanthood.
  • Chs. 40–55 is Grace: Motive and Means for Servanthood, for trusting God.
    • Ch. 40 is the intro.
    • Ch. 41–48 is part A, Motive.
    • Ch. 49– 55 is part B, Means.
Most students of Isaiah agree that ch. 40–55 were written to the Judeans exiled to Babylon after the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 B.C. Some, doubting that Isaiah could have written this ~150 years in advance, think that an anonymous prophet, a devotee of Isaiah, wrote it about 550 B.C. The book makes no reference to this. It seems to want its readers to believe that it is all the work of Isaiah. What might be God's possible reasons for inspiring Isaiah to do this?


The Need to Train Yourself to Trust God

TRUST GOD is the main theme of Isaiah 1-39. Isaiah had only one predominant message for his people in Jerusalem and in Judah (southern Israel) (Isa 1:1). This singular message was repeatedly given over four decades during the threat of the Assyrian invasion (735 BC to 701 BC). By God's grace, West Loop has preached through this first part of Isaiah--chs. 1-39--over the past year (from early 2015) in 40 sermons.

What is the alternative to trusting in God?

It is to trust in man, who has but a breath in their nostrils (Isa 2:22). It is truly not wise to not trust God. It would ultimately be fatal and tragic. Isaiah says bluntly that that if one does not stand firm in trusting God, he or she will not stand at all (Isa 7:9b).


A Tale of Two Kings (Isaiah 7; 36-39)

  1. Who are the two kings of Judah in Isaiah (Isa 1:1)? Who was bad (2 Ki 16:2)? Who was good (2 Ki 18:3)?
  2. What was the threat facing Judah during each king's reign (Isa 7:1; 36:1)? What year were these threats?
  3. What was the common location (Isa 7:2; 36:2)? Why do you think Isaiah mentioned this location?
  4. What was the superpower nation at the time? Who was their king (2 Ki 16:7; Isa 36:1)?
  5. When threatened what was the first response of the two kings of Judah (Isa 7:2; 36:1-2, 3-4)?
  6. What was Isaiah's challenge (Isa 7:4,9; 37:5-7)?
  7. After Isaiah's challenge, how did the two kings of Judah respond (Isa 7:11-12; 37:15-20)? What was the result (Isa 7:13-14, 17; 37:36-38)?
  • What life lesson(s) can you learn from these two kings of Judah? Comments? Reflections? Questions?
  • Does this story have a happy ending (Isa 39:1-8)? Is life black and white and so clear cut? What does 39:8 tell us about Hezekiah (Isa 2:22)? Why do you think Isaiah ends the first part of his book (ch. 1-39) with this story? 






735 B.C.

701 B.C.

Judah's king



Assyrian king

Tiglath-Pileser (2 Ki 16:7)

Sennacherib (Isa 36:1)

The threat

Aram and Israel attacking Jerusalem (Isa 7:1)

Assyria attacking Jerusalem  (Isa 36:1)

The location

Aqueduct of the Upper Pool (Isa 7:3)

Aqueduct of the Upper Pool (Isa 36:2)

King's first response

Isaiah 7:2

Isaiah 37:1-2, 3-4

Isaiah's challenge

Isaiah 7:4, 9b

Isaiah 37:5-7

King's second response

Isaiah 7:11-12

Isaiah 37:15-20


Isaiah 7:13-14, 17

Isaiah 37:36-37, 38

Lesson learned

Refuse to trust God, experience judgment

Trust God, experience victory against all odds