Isaiah 50: “I have set My face like a flint; and I know that I will not be ashamed.’”
If you want a captive audience for a good discussion, you can’t beat an airplane trip. I wasn’t disappointed this past week. A muscular, tattooed guy named John sat down next to me on a Delta flight from Atlanta, and within the first half hour of a one and a half-hour flight we learned about each other’s children and were laughing over who had the craziest life stories. After retiring from the US Army Airborne division due to an injury, he was a prison warden for ten years until a second injury put him on permanent disability.
What really got my attention was how personable and unpretentious he was. When he sat down next to me, I was reading a book. He asked me right away why that topic interested me (it was a technical evaluation of Darwinian evolution by an agnostic attorney – very exciting). As we shared examples of the hypocrisy in our political parties, I found an easy entry to bring God into the conversation. “I find it to be the same with religion. You can find hypocrisy in different religions also.” He abruptly stopped and stared at me and asked me a direct question: “You’re not religious, are you?” At that point, I had his undivided attention.
“Yes, but I’d say I’m a Christian who believes Jesus Christ the only Person able to forgive my sins and guarantee my entry into heaven.” By this time in the conversation, John and I were being very straight-forward on many topics, so he didn’t hold back: “I think atheism makes no sense – it’s obvious something is out there. But I like picking on religious people. They can’t give me good answers to my questions.”
I rarely ever get any new questions. We talked through all of the usual ones: the reality of hell, the reliability of the bible, the problem of evil, the God of the Old Testament. John’s issue was around the one thing that I find keeps more people from examining Christianity more deeply: “Why is it that the only way to avoid burning in hell forever is to accept Jesus Christ as your Savior? That’s the deal breaker for me.”
My response surprised him: “Rejecting Jesus Christ as your Savior isn’t how a person ends up in hell.” I had his full attention. “John, people who end up in hell are convinced they do not need anyone, including Jesus, to remove the guilt they carry for the sins they’ve committed. The point of Jesus Christ coming to earth and dying on the Cross wasn’t to keep you from going to hell. It was to provide the solution to your sin problem. By rejecting His solution, do you really think you are able to solve your sin on your own?”
He changed the topic: “The most religious people I ever met were in prison, especially those on death row. My take on this is they know they will soon face death, and have nowhere else to turn. So Jesus becomes their only hope. So they turn to Him because they don’t want to go to hell.” I told him that makes sense to me: “It’s tragic that it takes many people hitting bottom before they confess they can’t fix themselves. What makes Jesus Christ so attractive is He is the only example of God acting on your behalf, to die in your place to pay for your sins. And the evidence for this is overwhelming.” His response: “What evidence?”
Our verse this week is a prophecy from the Old Testament book of Isaiah. It speaks of the Messiah who will come and subject Himself to the abuse of people in order to carry out His Father’s will. Isaiah chapter 50, verses 5-7, is one of over 30 prophecies in Isaiah alone that provide detailed clues on who to look for in history to identify God’s Messiah. Allow these verses to paint a picture of what took place in history: “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. I have set My face like a flint, and I know that I will not be ashamed.” Here is someone committed to obeying God, to the point of extreme torture at the hands of His assailants. Isaiah was written in 730AD. Who in history went through this?
We are also introduced to a practice that didn’t exist at the time Isaiah was written – scourging. Another bit of factual history prophesied beforehand to further strengthen the account. But the greatest message here is that Messiah didn’t care that all those surrounding him were ashamed of who He was. And that was because He knew His Father was not ashamed of Him, because He lived to please His Father. Who in history subjected Himself to such abuse without fighting back because He always listened to His Father?
I went through this with John and asked him this question. He listened very intently. We talked through much more in Isaiah, always demonstrating that only Jesus Christ meets the requirements. When we were finished and our flight landed, he told me it was hard to believe that Jesus could be the only way to heaven. I told him that’s because he has never examined the evidence. With Easter approaching, have you?
“The Evidence of Faith’s Substance”, Article #288 – March 24, 2018