August 4, 2010 Isaiah 40:2 & Isaiah 61:5-9
Isaiah 40:2 Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.
5 Strangers shall stand and tend your flocks; foreigners shall be your plowmen and vinedressers;
6 but you shall be called the priests of the Lord; they shall speak of you as the ministers of our God; you shall eat the wealth of the nations, and in their glory you shall boast.
7 Instead of your shame there shall be a double portion; instead of dishonor they shall rejoice in their lot; therefore in their land they shall possess a double portion; they shall have everlasting joy.
8 For I the Lord love justice; I hate robbery and wrong; I will faithfully give them their recompense, and I will make an everlasting covenant with them.
9 Their offspring shall be known among the nations, and their descendants in the midst of the peoples; all who see them shall acknowledge them, that they are an offspring the Lord has blessed.
Last week we heard the lessons of Matthew 25 and the parable of the Talents. The central lesson was that God gives various gifts to His children and justly expects a return of eternal profit for His investment. We are responsible for how we manage God’s goodness to us. Clearly, our life will have only earthly meaning unless we live for the glory of God and enjoy Him every day. Any other life is lived in fear and regret.
All God’s goodness to you was intended by God to be a blessing to you and others. There is never a time in our life when we can build bigger barns, lay back and say to our soul, You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry. That kind of rest is to be yours, but after you have made an account of yourself to God.
God is calling us to action, to put our hands to the plow of service, to pray for others, encourage each other to love and good works, and redeem the time for the days are evil.
The Christian life is a call to service. Like when Jesus washed the nasty feet of the disciples. His towel and his hands got dirty in ministry to others. And in the end, he with the dirtiest towel wins. If we want to be like Jesus then we have to get dirty, willing to be so close to the world so that we are accused of being the friend of prostitutes and others that society dismisses.
The parable of the talents remind us that we must be working to expand God’s kingdom with love and service to others if we expect to be rewarded when we see God.
This kind of Christian life is sadly not what you see in America today. We have a goal as American’s to retire as early as possible so we can enter the comfy years of our life when we only do what we want to do. No work, nothing unpleasant, just walk the shoreline and collect interesting sea shells. John Piper makes fun of this in his ministry called Desiring God where he asks, How will you fair when you make an account of your life and the last few decades were collecting sea shells? Or cars, or restate, or what ever you collect. When you return your talents, and you stand before God, will you say, Look at my wonderful sea shell collection! Every time we are blessed we need to think of ways we can share it with others, not stockpile it to our own satisfaction.
This is especially true of spiritual blessedness. We must not be looking for what we can get out of church, but what we can do with the blessing God brings us through Christ and His Church.
The greatest blessing we get from God the Father is the Only Begotten Son.
Colossians 1:18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.
- Jesus is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.
As the Firstborn Jesus is given the Double Portion from the Father.
- Cain was a firstborn, but he murdered Able and lost his right to the Double Portion so it fell to the second born Seth.
- Esau was a first born. But he sold his birthright to Jacob for his hunger.
- Reuben was the first born of Jacob. Jacob had 12 sons. But the Double Portion went to Joseph because Reuben did some bad things that we don’t talk about in mixed company.
- And then when Jacob was blessing Joseph’s two sons Ephraim and Manasseh, he crossed his arms and gave the firstborn rights of the spiritual Double Portion to the second born.
What is the meaning of the Double Portion?
My parents had three sons. My older brother is here this morning, Good to see you bro. Incidentally, there was an article this last week that first born children have on average a higher IQ than subsequent children. Sadly, for my elder brother, we are one of those families that break that rule. =)
Some day my parents will divide up their assets via a will. Let’s assume they will give three equal shares. One for me, one for my older brother Paul, and one for my younger brother Tim. But in biblical times, the parents with three children would divide their estate into four equal shares, and then the older brother would get a double portion. If there were only two brothers then the inheritance would be divided into three shares, with the elder brother getting the double portion. That’s how the Double Portion worked.
The purpose was to resource the Firstborn so he would have extra assets as he became the leader of the family. It was a position of prominence, of respect and esteem, but more importantly it was a place of service. He was expected to use the resources to serve the needs of the covenant family.
This is the same reason Elisha asked of Elijah for a double portion of the Spirit of God. Elijah had a school for prophets. God had many good men from which to chose a successor to Elijah. Elisha asked to be the inheritor of the blessing to lead the other prophets in speaking God’s words. He wanted to serve and meet the needs of God’s people.
Jesus meets the needs of His family as the elder brother. Through the incarnation the Only Begotten Son of God has become the Firstborn of the new creation. He holds the inheritance for God’s people. He holds the purse strings of all the Father’s goodness. All the glory of the Father is upon Christ and He sends that glory to us by the Spirit.
Romans 8:29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. God wants to mark us as family by a transformed life. Look back at our passage in Isaiah 61:7.
- God replaces our shame with the beauty of Christ.
- God lifts us up and makes us glorious: everlasting joy to those who love God.
Listen further to God’s desire toward you out of Isaiah 61:8b-9 I will make an everlasting covenant with them. Their offspring shall be known among the nations, and their descendants in the midst of the peoples; all who see them shall acknowledge them, that they are an offspring the Lord has blessed
That’s God’s intentions for you.
You and I are not deserving of this Double Portion. We are more like Cain, Reuben, and Esau than godly Seth, Israel or Joseph. Just as God declared Israel is my firstborn son, so God declares us blessed in His Son. Jesus is worthy, and Jesus blesses those with faith with the same blessing He is given from the Father. Our spiritual life is a result of our faith, not our actions. As Abraham knew, the just live by faith.
Jesus as our elder brother, blessed with the Double Portion, brings all the Father’s goodness to us.
But the story doesn’t end with our being blessed. Now that we are blessed beyond our imagination through Christ, we are called back to the same fruitful service Jesus would return if He were in our place.
John 14:12 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. The Double Portion of blessing from the Father to the First Born, to Christ, is used by our Elder Brother to help us accomplish for the Father more than humanly possible, so that one day we will stand before the Father and say, “You gave me this much, I doubled it.” On that day of reckoning, if you are faithful to use your talent for the kingdom, you too will appear as blessed as Christ. You will present back to God a Double Portion.
Colossians 1:24 Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church,
It is a mystery of glory and salvation that we are called by God to use His resources to build His church. The church of Jesus Christ is still growing according to the sacrifices and service of God’s people. We are in service with Christ making the creation more and more glorious. Redeeming the times for the days are evil.
This is our calling. This is why we are resourced with life and salvation through the blood of Christ.
May this week be lived with His grace and glory in all that we do. Amen.
 The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.