Who Can I Trust? (Sermon)
My brothers and cousins and I enjoy playing a card game called Resistance. The premise is simple. Slightly less than half the group are spies, and the rest of the group is called the Resistance. The Resistance attempts to complete some missions while the spies attempt to sabotage the mission. Here’s the catch: before the game starts everyone has to close their eyes. Once all the eyes are closed, the spies get to open their eyes and see who else is a spy.
Now the spies can work together to sabotage what’s going on, while the Resistance has to figure out who the spies are. The fun of the game is listening to people protest their innocence, and being completely uncertain who to trust. Sometimes the one who protests their innocence is innocent. Sometimes they’re not. After the game, there’s always one who can’t believe no one trusted them.
If you’re a spy, it’s fun to throw suspicion on other people. Sometimes spies will even give up other spies if it helps to sabotage the mission. If you’re the Resistance, your head is spinning wildly trying to figure out whom to trust—who’s telling the truth and who’s lying.
The game’s fun because figuring out who to trust really doesn’t matter. If you lose, oh well! But we face the same dilemma in life where the consequences are far more important. Whether it’s buying car insurance, selecting a school or choosing a retirement plan, we have to make these important decisions about who to trust. Trusting the wrong investment advisor can bring serious, long-term consequences.
Even more important is who to trust with our life. Who can I trust to protect me? Who can I trust to care for me? Who can I trust will guide me in the right way? When I don’t know where to turn, who can I turn to?
The book of Isaiah is a book about trust. If you began reading it with us this past week, you probably already noticed a number of occasions where the nation of Israel chose to trust the wrong person or the wrong thing. We find page after page filled with judgment on Israel because they put their trust in the wrong place.
We could isolate three wrong things they trusted.
First, they trusted false gods.
(Isaiah 2:8 ESV) Their land is filled with idols; they bow down to the work of their hands, to what their own fingers have made.
The land of Israel was full of idols. People carved wood into the shape of some supposed deity, built a shrine to it, and bowed down to worship it. They melted down gold and silver, put it into a mold, and then burned incense before the statue that they had made. What could a piece of stone accomplish? If you can build it with your own hands, how could it possibly protect and provide for you?
Second, they trusted unfaithful leaders.
(Isaiah 3:14 ESV) The LORD will enter into judgment with the elders and princes of his people: “It is you who have devoured the vineyard, the spoil of the poor is in your houses.”
The leaders of Israel were corrupt. They oppressed the weak and the poor. They made grand, pious statements, but their only loves were power and wealth.
Even the leaders chose unfaithful leaders to trust. When enemies came against Israel, the leaders didn’t turn to God; they made alliances with pagan kings.
(Isaiah 31:1 ESV) Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help and rely on horses, who trust in chariots because they are many and in horsemen because they are very strong, but do not look to the Holy One of Israel or consult the LORD!
Third, they trusted themselves.
(Isaiah 22:8–11 ESV) In that day you looked to the weapons of the House of the Forest, and you saw that the breaches of the city of David were many. You collected the waters of the lower pool, and you counted the houses of Jerusalem, and you broke down the houses to fortify the wall. You made a reservoir between the two walls for the water of the old pool. But you did not look to him who did it, or see him who planned it long ago.
When under attack, the nation didn’t turn to God, the One who provided for them from ancient days. Instead, they turned to their own wits. They devised a way to care for themselves—to do it on their own.
These are the reasons we find so many oracles of judgment in the book of Isaiah. God’s people had forsaken God. They had turned to false gods, to unfaithful leaders, to their own works—anywhere but God.
Who can I trust? Isaiah’s prophecy provides clear answers. We can trust God. God alone is worthy of our trust. But the prophecy goes even deeper. It focuses not just on trusting God, but on trusting God by trusting the King sent by God. Through Isaiah, God says, “You keep looking for someone to trust, and you keep looking in all the wrong places. I will send One who you can trust. I will send a King who can be trusted.”
Isaiah chapters 11 & 12 describe this trustworthy King, His rule and realm, and then the appropriate response to Him.
In the first few verses, we see a description of the King who can be trusted.
(Isaiah 11:1–3 ESV) There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit. And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD. And his delight shall be in the fear of the LORD.
The King whom God would send would be from the line of David. We see this in the metaphor of the shoot from the stump of Jesse. Jesse was King David’s father. This coming King would then be from the Davidic line. It’s interesting that it says from Jesse and not from David. At first glance, it would seem simpler to say from David. The reason he’s described as from Jesse is so that we understand He will be more like David than like a son of David. David’s sons weren’t real great. Even Solomon, the greatest of them all, ended very poorly. The King that God was sending would be much more like David—a man after God’s own heart—then like David’s sons.
He would come from the stump of Jesse. Why a stump? In the previous verses, we read of God’s judgment coming like an axe, hewing down great trees. The kingly line of David would soon experience the judgment of God. Because of their persistent unbelief, the axe of God’s wrath would fall. The mighty line of David would appear to be ended. Cut off by God.
Have you ever seen a fruit branch grow out of a stump? I’ve never seen it. When I’ve had stumps in my yard, the only thing that’s grown out of them were mushrooms. As the dead tree decayed, fungus would grow. But from the stump of Jesse a branch would grow that would bear fruit.
God would fulfill His promise to David in His own time and His own way. God promised David that a son of His—someone from His lineage—would rule and reign forever. The book of Isaiah prophecies great judgment on the nation of Israel, and his prophecy comes true. It appears that David’s line is cut off, and all that’s left is a dead stump. What about the promise of God? Did God fail? Can He really be trusted?
Even though it looked hopeless, God would fulfill His promise. He would fulfill His promise in a surprising and unexpected way. Like a fruit-bearing branch growing out of a stump, God would send a King from the line of David centuries after the dynasty had ended.
This coming King is not only from the line of David, but He will have a unique relationship to the Lord. The Spirit of the Lord would rest upon Him.
If you know your Old Testament, it wasn’t unusual for a leader, especially a king, to have the Spirit of God come upon them. Throughout Judges and Samuel, we read about the Spirit of the Lord coming upon Samson, Gideon, Saul, David and others to empower them to lead God’s people.
This King’s relationship to the Spirit is different—it’s heightened. The Spirit would rest upon Him. Seven different descriptions of the Spirit are listed. Together, they help us understand that the Spirit would fully rest on Him. It would not come and go for a specific task or purpose. The Spirit would remain with Him and be with Him in full.
Many of the qualities listed here are also found in Proverbs 1. We’ve made the connection the last few weeks between the coming Messiah and wisdom. This passage cements it even further. The Spirit would rest on Him, and He would epitomize or embody wisdom.
No wonder He can be trusted. He has the full measure of God’s Spirit, and He acts, rules and lives in perfect and complete wisdom.
The King’s description is capped off by the first part of verse 3:
(Isaiah 11:3 ESV) And his delight shall be in the fear of the LORD.
Submitting to the will of God is what brings this King delight. He enjoys nothing more than walking in perfect submission to the Lord.
Here’s the King’s description: He’s from the line of David. He has the Spirit resting upon Him. He walks in perfect wisdom. He delights to do the will of God. Can we identify Him?
Keep your finger here, but turn ahead to Matthew, ch. 1. Here’s how the New Testament begins:
(Matthew 1:1 ESV) The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David…
Turn to chapter 3. Here’s what we see about Jesus:
(Matthew 3:16 ESV) And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him;
Turn to chapter 7. Jesus has just delivered the Sermon on the Mount.
(Matthew 7:28–29 ESV) And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes.
Now, flip to the end of Matthew, chapter 26.
(Matthew 26:39 ESV) And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.”
We could turn to many more passages. This was a quick sampling. God promised to send a King who would be from the line of David, be uniquely rested upon by the Spirit, demonstrate perfect wisdom and delight in submission to Him. Can we identify Him? Absolutely. There’s no doubt that the promised King of Isaiah 11 is Jesus of Nazareth.
Now let’s turn back to Isaiah 11 and see what the rule of Jesus will look like.
(Isaiah 11:3–5 ESV) He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide disputes by what his ears hear, but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; and he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked. Righteousness shall be the belt of his waist, and faithfulness the belt of his loins.
Perfect justice will mark his rule. Even the best of earthly leaders are limited in dispensing justice. They are limited in what facts they can surface. They have to rely on what witnesses tell them, and the evidence that’s presented.
We can look at our own court system and realize that not all the evidence is presented. Not all the witnesses come forward, and those that do may struggle to testify clearly.
Jesus isn’t hampered by what his eyes see and his ears hear. The Spirit of wisdom and knowledge rests on Him. Nothing escapes His understanding. He can dispense perfect justice. The result of His perfect justice is that those who are often afflicted and mistreated will be judged with equity. The quality of their defense won’t rest on their pocketbook. Jesus Himself will judge them with fairness.
Those who do the mistreating, who take advantage of others—they will face fierce and severe justice. He will simply speak, and they will be killed.
Isn’t this great? Think about all of the injustice in our world. Think about the babies killed in the womb, the widow’s stolen retirement, the battered spouse. When Jesus rules, there will be justice. He will put an end to the affliction and mistreatment. He will defend the helpless and punish the evildoers.
Perfect justice…also, perfect peace will characterize His rule.
(Isaiah 11:6–9 ESV) The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together; and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze; their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The nursing child shall play over the hole of the cobra, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder’s den. They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain;
Jesus will restore what was fallen. In the words of Tolkien, he will make everything sad come untrue. The enmity and animosity that characterizes life in this fallen world will all be mended. The breaches will be repaired. Enemies will become allies. It will be life as it was meant to be. Life before sin.
Perfect justice, perfect peace and perfect knowledge.
(Isaiah 11:9 ESV) …for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.
Is any part of the sea not covered with water? Neither will any part of the world be ignorant of God. The King with the Spirit of knowledge will lead the world to know God.
(John 17:3 ESV) “And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”
The source of perfect peace is perfect knowledge of God. That doesn’t mean we will know everything about God. Our minds are way to small to comprehend His glory. But our knowledge of Him will be unobscured by sin. It will be undiminished by our own pride and arrogance. When Jesus rules, we will be returned to the unhindered knowledge of God that existed briefly in the Garden of Eden, where God came and walked with His people.
The rest of the chapter describes His realm—Who will dwell in the kingdom of Jesus Christ? How far will it spread?
(Isaiah 11:10–16 ESV) In that day the root of Jesse, who shall stand as a signal for the peoples—of him shall the nations inquire, and his resting place shall be glorious. In that day the Lord will extend his hand yet a second time to recover the remnant that remains of his people, from Assyria, from Egypt, from Pathros, from Cush, from Elam, from Shinar, from Hamath, and from the coastlands of the sea. He will raise a signal for the nations and will assemble the banished of Israel, and gather the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth. The jealousy of Ephraim shall depart, and those who harass Judah shall be cut off; Ephraim shall not be jealous of Judah, and Judah shall not harass Ephraim. But they shall swoop down on the shoulder of the Philistines in the west, and together they shall plunder the people of the east. They shall put out their hand against Edom and Moab, and the Ammonites shall obey them. And the LORD will utterly destroy the tongue of the Sea of Egypt, and will wave his hand over the River with his scorching breath, and strike it into seven channels, and he will lead people across in sandals. And there will be a highway from Assyria for the remnant that remains of his people, as there was for Israel when they came up from the land of Egypt.
I want you to notice three things. You need to pay attention to who is being assembled, who is doing the action and how’s it being done.
Isaiah prophesies that Jesus Christ will be a signal or a banner (v.10, 12). This is a military description. If you’ve seen a movie or an illustration depicting ancient warfare, you’ve noticed the different flags that were flown by the armies. The army marched under the banner of their leader. It was the rallying point. Jesus Himself will be the rallying point. To Him, people will flock.
But notice who will flock to Him. Verse 10 says the peoples and the nations. In verse 11, we see it’s the remnant that remains of His people. Verse 12 we see the nations and then the banished of Israel and the dispersed of Judah. Jesus will assemble His people from all the nations of the world. Some people read this merely as a restoration of national Israel. But the way He goes back and forth between nations and His People or Israel broadens this beyond national Israel. Jesus will draw the true people of God from every tribe, tongue and nation to Himself. In the words of the apostle Paul (Galatians 3), Jesus will be drawing the true “sons of Abraham”—sons by faith, not by birth—to Himself.
God’s plan has always been for the nations. He told Abraham that through his offspring all peoples would be blessed. The line of Jesus Christ included Gentiles, like Rahab and Ruth. The Psalms tell us to “declare His glory among the nations” (Psalm 96). God’s plan is global in scale. We know from Revelation, that the story ends with people from every “tribe, tongue, language and nation” (Rev. 5) worshipping around the throne of the Lamb. Jesus will draw His people to Himself from all the nations. His kingdom spans around the globe. His realm is universal.
Make no mistake—it is Jesus who will bring them. He’s the one acting…the one doing the work.
Verse 10—He will stand as a signal.
Verse 11—He will extend His hand and He will recover the remnant.
Verse 12—He will raise a signal, and He will assemble, and He will gather.
Verse 15—He will destroy, and He will wave His hand, and He will lead.
Jesus Christ acts to bring His people to Himself. He isn’t passive, and His people aren’t amazing. They’re not fantastic adventurers or brilliant engineers that work out a way to come to Him. He reaches out to them. He brings them. He accomplishes it. Not the people, but the King.
It was said of early America that the country’s greatness was not found in the leaders, but in the people. In the realm of Jesus Christ, the greatness is not found in the people, but in the Leader. He is the glorious deliverer. He is the almighty mover. He is the one who acts to bring His people into the His kingdom. No work of man could make this happen. Only Jesus Christ could accomplish it.
Finally, notice how He does it. How does He act? Verses 15-16 detail an amazing act of salvation. They use language that reminds us of the Exodus when God delivered His people from slavery in Egypt. He waves His hand and parts a river, so His people can come to Him on dry ground. He makes a highway through enemy territory so His people can arrive safely. He miraculously delivers His people from enemy territory. He destroys the enemy for them, and He brings them to Himself, where they can enjoy a glorious rest (v.10).
When Isaiah wrote this prophecy, it was all still to come. It was all going to take place in the future. Brothers and sisters, I should not need to tell you that for us this is not just talking about the future. The fullness of this is still to come, but what Isaiah 11 describes has already begun.
The Spirit-empowered, wisdom-filled, God-pleasing King from the line of David has come. He has begun the process of calling out His people from every tribe, tongue and nation. That’s why He told His disciples to be witnesses to Him in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). As His disciples bear witness and testify about Him, Jesus delivers captives from slavery and brings them into His glorious kingdom.
(Colossians 1:13 ESV) “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son,”
Those whom He has delivered, He assembles together where they are to live under His rule. They are to love justice, to practice peace and grow in the knowledge of God.
Listen, there is coming a day when Isaiah 11 will be realized in all of its fullness and glory, but it has begun already. Jesus Christ, through His disciples, is establishing His kingdom. When He left, He gave them instructions to take the Gospel—the message of the King—to the ends of the earth, and He promised them that He would return to finish it—to fully and completely establish the kingdom that will last forever. Right now, we are the “firstfruits” (James 1:18) of His kingdom rule. We are the dawning of His glorious kingdom. What God promised is coming to pass.
How should we respond to this reality? Isaiah 12 gives us the answer. It tells us what God’s people will do in the day when their King liberates them and brings them into His kingdom. Based upon what Jesus has done, this is how we should respond. We see both individual and corporate responses.
(Isaiah 12:1–2 ESV) You will say in that day: “I will give thanks to you, O LORD, for though you were angry with me, your anger turned away, that you might comfort me. Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid; for the LORD GOD is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation.”
These first two verses use singular pronouns—they are individual responses to what Jesus Christ has done. We should give thanks. Though God was rightfully angry with us, His anger turned away and He had comforted us.
This is the heart of the Gospel. Our sin, our rebellion and self-rule—trusting in everyone and everything instead of God—deserves God’s wrath. God who is holy is rightfully angry with us. Yet, Jesus Christ turned God’s wrath away from us by taking it on Himself (Isaiah talks at length about this later, and so will we). He took our punishment, so that when we turn to God by trusting in Jesus, God can forgive us.
If you’re not a Christian, I want you to understand this very clearly. We don’t meet here together because we think we’re better than anyone else. We don’t congregate to celebrate our goodness or anything we’ve accomplished. We meet together because we are grateful for what God did for us in Jesus Christ. His anger at our sin was turned away, and now He comforts us. Like us, you’re a sinner, and God is angry with you. You can’t solve that. His anger is just. But Jesus Christ died in your place—He bore God’s wrath for you, so you could be forgiven. Turn from your sin, trust in Him, and receive forgiveness.
We give thanks, and in verse 2, we trust and do not fear. Here’s the answer to our question from the beginning. Who can I trust? Look at what God has done for you in Christ Jesus. There’s your answer. You can trust and not fear.
(Romans 8:31–34 ESV) “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.”
This is intensely practical. Each day, you decide who you’re going to trust. Am I going to trust my feelings or Jesus Christ? Am I going to trust the newspaper or Jesus Christ? Am I going to trust my bank account or Jesus Christ? Am I going to trust my spouse or Jesus Christ? Anything and everything else, however noble or well-intentioned, will fail you. Jesus Christ, King of Kings and Lord of Lords, will never fail. You can trust Him and not be afraid.
What this means is that if you’re struggling with fear, it’s because you’re unwilling to trust Jesus Christ. If you can’t sleep because you’re worried about your future, you’re not trusting Jesus Christ. There is only one King who can deliver you from your fear. His name is Jesus—trust Him.
The corporate response is in verses 3-6. The pronouns change from you to ya’ll.
(Isaiah 12:3–6 ESV) With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. And you will say in that day: “Give thanks to the LORD, call upon his name, make known his deeds among the peoples, proclaim that his name is exalted. Sing praises to the LORD, for he has done gloriously; let this be made known in all the earth. Shout, and sing for joy, O inhabitant of Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.”
The corporate response—the response of the people together is pretty straightforward. We praise His name and spread His fame. We gather together to make much of this King, and we don’t stop praising Him when we leave the assembly. We spread His fame to the nations. We make known His deeds among the peoples. We let His wonderful works be made known in all the earth.
We worship and we call new worshippers. We do the opposite of the unfaithful leaders in Isaiah’s day. They called people to put their faith in untrustworthy places—they said, “Bow down before this piece of wood. Make a treaty with this pagan king. We can do this on our own.” They kept calling people to trust in something that would fail.
We boldly spread the fame of Jesus Christ out of love. We’re calling people away from trusting the wrong things, and calling them to trust the One who will never fail.
The motivation for our own worship and for calling others to worship is found in verse 3. We joyfully draw water from the wells of salvation. You can’t worship God out of duty for long. You can’t share the Gospel out of duty for long. You can’t do it. But if you regularly return to the Gospel—drinking water from the well of salvation. Your joy in Christ will motivate heartfelt worship. Your joy in Christ will motivate compassionate evangelism.
Brothers and sisters, let’s meet together each week to joyfully drink of God’s salvation in Christ. Come here, to this place, longing and expecting to taste against the refreshing truths of the Gospel. Then let’s proclaim his name with every fiber of our being. And when we leave, let’s leave with a passion and a commitment to spread His fame so that others may come and drink with us.
This sermon was originally preached at Redeemer Community Church in 2012.