“In God, My Faithful God, I Trust When Dark My Road”
(Isaiah 50:4-10 – Pentecost 17 – September 16, 2018)
Isaiah 50:4-10 – The Lord GOD has given Me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him who is weary. He awakens Me morning by morning, He awakens My ear to hear as the learned. The Lord GOD has opened My ear; and I was not rebellious, nor did I turn away. I gave My back to those who struck Me, and My cheeks to those who plucked out the beard; I did not hide My face from shame and spitting. For the Lord GOD will help Me; therefore I will not be disgraced; therefore I have set My face like a flint, and I know that I will not be ashamed. He is near who justifies Me; who will contend with Me? Let us stand together. Who is My adversary? Let him come near Me. Surely the Lord GOD will help Me; who is he who will condemn Me? Indeed they will all grow old like a garment; the moth will eat them up. Who among you fears the LORD? Who obeys the voice of His Servant? Who walks in darkness and has no light? Let him trust in the name of the LORD and rely upon his God.
Dear Redeemed in Jesus Christ:
The last verse in our text says: “Who walks in darkness and has no light? Let him trust in the name of the LORD and rely upon his God.” There are times in life when the path we walk seems dark. Yes, it is true even for God’s children. We pass through times when our bright and happy days seem to have given way completely to dark and dismal ones. In such times our path is known to God. He understands what it is like to pass through days of darkness. In fact, these words spoken by Isaiah are a prophecy expressing the suffering, sorrow, and rejection our Savior Himself would feel. The way of Jesus in this world was not one of constant bright and happy days. It was the way of the cross. In our Gospel lesson (Mark 8:27-35), Jesus states that as we follow Him in this world, we take up our own cross. So we are not to be surprised when we experience dark times of suffering, sorrow, and rejection as He did.
But by Jesus’ words in our text, we are encouraged in such times to “trust in the name of the LORD and rely upon… God.” For He will sustain our life and give us the final victory in Christ. As our theme we use the words of our hymn: “In God, My Faithful God, I Trust When Dark My Road.” 1) See how the faithful God sustained His Son in the way of the cross; 2) Trust that the faithful God will also sustain you in the way of the cross.
1) See how the faithful God sustained His Son in the way of the cross
A key point in seeing how God sustained His Son in the way of the cross, when His road became dark, is found in the opening words of our text: “The Lord GOD has given Me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him who is weary. He awakens Me morning by morning, He awakens My ear to hear as the learned.”
Jesus was instructed in the Word of the Lord. This may seem like an obvious point. After all wasn’t Jesus the eternal Word of God who took our human flesh to live among us (John 1:14)? But in His state of humiliation, He made Himself needy of instruction in God’s Word. Already as a young boy, we see Jesus being prepared for His ministry and the way of the cross as He sat at the feet of the teachers in the temple (Luke 2:42 ff.). He was awakened morning by morning by His Father to listen like one being taught. Through His ministry, He showed Himself to have been given “the tongue of the learned,” always ready to give an answer from God’s Word. In John 8:28 He said: “I do nothing of Myself; but as My Father taught Me, I speak these things.”
So Jesus knew how “to speak a word in season to him was weary.” This was seen as He preached the Gospel to the poor in spirit, as He proclaimed liberty to those captivated by sin with His Word of forgiveness, as He healed the brokenhearted with His Word of comfort, and as He healed the sick and brought life to the dead with His Word of power (Luke 4:18).
But the Savior who had come from heaven with God’s Word of comfort, healing and life, needed to apply that same Word that lifts up the weary to Himself. For when His own road became dark, it was His Father’s Word that sustained Him.
Consider the darkness Jesus felt as the Word He preached was often rejected. While His words were gentle and restoring to the spiritually weary, His words were taken as hard and offensive by the proud. Many considered Jesus an evil man and a blasphemer for claiming equality with God. His enemies twisted His words, spread bad reports about Him, and plotted suffering and death for Him. How this must have wearied and burdened Him in His path.
But Jesus felt the darkness in a deeper way, as the war being waged against Him was not just by flesh and blood, but by the devil and all his “spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12). He experienced constant temptations, attacks by wicked powers in their attempt to frustrate God’s plan of salvation and stop Jesus in His tracks.
Jesus felt the darkness as He walked under the shadow of death, His path leading ever closer to that looming cross. In our Gospel lesson, He began teaching His disciples: “that the Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again” (Mark 8:31). He was going to the cross to suffer and die like a despised and rejected criminal, for the sins of the world (Isaiah 53:3-5).
The words in our text prophesied how it would happen: “I gave My back to those who struck Me, and My cheeks to those who plucked out the beard; I did not hide My face from shame and spitting.” Jesus was beaten, mocked, and spit on. It happened at the hands of a sham Jewish court and a people-pleasing Roman governor. Heaven’s King suffered deepest humiliation as He let them nail Him to a cross to die a painful death. He did it willingly, He gave Himself and did not hide; for His suffering and death was necessary to save us from our sins and eternal death.
What is it that sustained Him through it all? Day by day, His Father had awakened His ear to hear as the learned. Now that Word sustained Him in suffering. As Jesus was unjustly accused, His road overshadowed by darkest temptation and suffering, He knew His Father’s promises held true. He knew the Scripture that foretold how His Father would not abandon Him to the grave, but would raise Him in victory for us (Psalm 16:10-11).
Trusting that Word He says: “The Lord GOD will help Me; therefore I will not be disgraced; therefore I have set My face like a flint, and I know that I will not be ashamed. He is near who justifies Me.” Jesus did not turn away from the cross, but went forth in love for us, for the joy of winning our salvation (Hebrews 12:2). In His heart, the Son of Man said: “In God, My faithful God, I trust when dark My road.” And according to His Father’s Word He was justified, shown innocent of all charges. He was declared to be the Son of God with power, as His Father raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in glory (Romans 1:4; 1 Timothy 3:16).
2) Trust that the faithful God will also sustain us in the way of the cross
Seeing how the faithful God sustained His Son in the way of the cross, let us trust Him also to sustain us in the way of the cross, when we pass through dark times.
What are some ways we face darkness in life, needing God’s Word to sustain us? One way is in dealing with our day-to-day sin. Haven’t we all felt that darkness in the struggle against temptation? We lament that, though our Spirit-led nature knows God’s good will and wants to obey Him, our sinful nature leads us to wrong thoughts, words, and actions.
There is no greater darkness than that of a soul burdened with guilt. Have you ever felt horrible about the way you treated someone, the way you failed them, the way you acted so selfishly and spoke so hurtfully? Maybe we can think of ways we have failed Jesus, refusing to carry our cross when we were too ashamed to confess Him before men. What do we do with the darkness of our guilt? Who will save us from our record of sin that would sink us down in the depths of hell? Satan, the adversary, the accuser, wants to hold us in the never-ending darkness of guilt, gnashing our teeth, despairing of ever knowing God’s forgiveness and love again.
Jesus did not have to deal with the darkness of His own guilt. He is the sinless Son of God. That is why in our text, He can say: “Who will contend with Me? Let us stand together. Who is My adversary? Let him come near Me.” No accuser could convict Him of sin (John 8:46).
But Jesus did not come to put us to shame by His perfect example. He came to bring God’s Word of forgiveness to sin-weary souls. On the cross, He suffered the punishment for our sin. He felt hell’s darkness and anguish as His soul was weighed down by our guilt. Romans 4:25 says He “was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification.” This tells us that, just as surely as Jesus has been raised, God has justified us. For Jesus’ sake, He declares us forgiven, cleansed of all sin. He clothes us in the pure white garment of Jesus’ perfect life. He has made us heirs of eternal life. So even if the devil accuses us, we can say with Jesus: “He is near who justifies Me… who is he who will condemn Me?”
With Jesus as our Savior, we have that Word of God that sustains the weary. No matter how dark our path becomes, no matter how difficult the way of the cross, we still have His promise in Romans 8:31-32: “If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?”
As we take up our cross and follow Jesus, we may feel the darkness of rejection by a sinful world. There may be those who falsely accuse us, spread bad reports about us, and persecute us for the sake of Christ and His truth. It may even appear that our world is falling apart at the hands of such people. It must have looked that way as Jesus hung on the cross, too. When our road becomes so dark, let us open our ears to God’s Word for the weary. Let us trust God, our faithful God, to sustain us. With Jesus we can say: “Surely the Lord GOD will help Me; who is he who will condemn Me? Indeed they will all grow old like a garment; the moth will eat them up.” This tells us that ultimately God will protect us and punish the enemies of Christ. Jesus says in Matthew 5:11-12: “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven.”
Like Jesus, our path is at times darkened by physical and emotional trials. We may feel the darkness of physical suffering, with injury or illness. We may feel the darkness of depression or emotional strain. At times, the way may appear so dark that we see no way out, as if life will never be full again. It must have looked that way as Jesus hung on the cross, too. When our road becomes so dark, let us open our ears to God’s Word. Let us trust God, our faithful God, to sustain us. He promises never to forsake His children or allow anything to destroy us. In Jeremiah 29:11 He reassures us: “I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Even in our darkest times, when we do not know what to pray Romans 8:26-27 says: “The Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.” God understands what is in our heart, and He answers our need in a way that is for our highest spiritual and eternal good.
And like Jesus, our path in this world is at times darkened by the shadow of death. We may feel the darkness of sorrow or fear, with the loss of a loved one, or with our own coming death. When our road becomes so dark, let us open our ears to God’s Word for the weary. Let us trust God, our faithful God, to sustain us and give us the final victory. Our “life is hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3), so death can only bring us closer to Him. As Jesus passed through death’s dark vale and rose from the grave in glory, death is but a door for us into heaven’s glory. We may be standing beside a loved one in Christ grieving their death; but we have the promise that this precious child of God has arrived home in heavenly glory with the Savior, relieved of all sorrow and trouble, rejoicing with saints and angels in exceedingly great joy. And we have the promise that one day we will be with them (1 Thessalonians 4:13-17).
Have you been going through dark times? Do bright and happy days seem to have given way completely to dark and dismal ones? As we take up our cross and follow Jesus in this world, let us focus on God’s unfailing promises, His Word that sustains the weary. Let us learn of Jesus to say: “In God, my faithful God, I trust when dark my road.” In Jesus’ name, God is fulfilling all His promises, to give us the final victory and an eternally bright future in glory as His children.
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be. Amen.