Followers of Jesus are called to walk in the victory through faith in His name. But temptations attack us like skilled warriors, striking our most vulnerable points. There are habits, pain, and emotions that rule our minds like tyrants. Facing these enemies often leave us feeling nothing like winners. Is this how we are meant to live? Pastor Jason shares from Isaiah 49:24-26.
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*not a word for word transcript, but the sermon manuscript*
WARRIORS & CONQURERORS
Text: Isaiah 49:24-26
In November 1950, during the Korean War, UN forces found themselves encircled by the enemy. They had been surprised by 120,000 Chinese troops, and over a 17-day stretch 30,000 UN troops engaged them in the brutal cold. Despite the elements and being outnumbered, the UN troops were able to break free and retreat from North Korea before being destroyed. This battle is known as the battle of Chosin Reservoir.
Oliver Prince Smith was a general with the 1st Marine Division during this battle. He had a humorous and profound quote as his troops were on the move. General Smith said, “We’re not retreating, we’re just advancing in a different direction.” Had they not retreated, the forces would have been annihilated. But withdrawing enabled them to live and fight another day.
You and I face familiar struggles, situations, and sins on a regular basis. Sometimes we are taken by surprise, but most of our battles are the same ones. However, we know the way we are to live, that we are called unto holiness. No matter how hard we try to overcome things, it seems we always find a way to fail. Perhaps the way we find victory is to advance in a different direction. Isaiah 49 shows the way.
READING OF THE TEXT
24 Can the prey be taken from a mighty man, or the captives of a tyrant be delivered? 25 For this is what the LORD says: “Even the captives of a mighty man will be taken, and the prey of a tyrant will be delivered; I will contend with the one who contends with you, and I will save your children. 26 I will make your oppressors eat their own flesh, and they will be drunk with their own blood as with sweet wine. Then all people will know that I, the LORD, am your Savior, and your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob. (CSB)
The prophecy recorded by Isaiah is one to exiles. God’s people had been disobedient, ignored God’s law, and flaunted God’s promise as a protection for doing so. Thus, the nation was conquered by Babylon, and the survivors were led off into captivity.
Verse 24 is a question. This question needs to be read from a mind filled with despair. Your nation is prisoner in another nation, you have no army because of how powerful the enemy was that defended you. Yet, the exiles are being told they would one day be set free. A desperate and defeated heart examines reality when hearing the promise and asks, “Can the prey be taken from a mighty man, or the captives of a tyrant be delivered?”
Since verse 24 is a question offered by a conquered heart, verses 25 and 26 are the answer in response. In verse 25, God says, “Even the captives of a mighty man will be taken, and the prey of a tyrant will be delivered; I will contend with the one who contends with you.”
God tells the exiles that the strength of the warriors who are against them does not matter. The tyrant oppressing them may have power and wealth, but their power and wealth will not be enough. No one who conquers God’s people will be strong enough to defeat God. God is stronger.
Verse 26 is a continuation of God’s answer to verse 24. This verse is an explanation of how God was going to free them. The description is graphic, “I will make your oppressors eat their own flesh, and they will be back with their own blood as with sweet wine.”
While the language is intense, it indicates the divine strategy. A nation is strong when it is united, but if the people in that nation turn on each other things get ugly. Our country knows, 620,000 soldiers and 50,000 civilians died in the Civil War. Babylon was going to turn on itself, and all the might that was united in conquest would turn inward.
Verse 26 continues, “Then all the people will know that I, the LORD, am your Savior, and your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob.” The way that God’s people would gain freedom would leave no doubt as to the One responsible. And that is the point. Not only would it remind God’s people, but it would also tell the whole world “God is real.”
HOW DOES THIS APPLY TO ME?
Without a doubt, there is a physical reality to the application of these verses. The book of Revelation exists to tell us about it. No matter how you interpret it, the whole apocalyptic episode exists for one point; that point is not to scare folks straight. At the heart of Revelation is a simple message to the followers of Jesus, that message is no matter how bad it gets or dark the world becomes, Jesus wins.
Now with Revelation, as well as all the other New Testament writers, the fact is shared that followers of Jesus must endure to the end. Paul tells us to put on battle armor, even Jesus shares that we must persevere. This tells us faith can be surrendered and abandoned. Otherwise, there is no need for these reminders.
For folks like us struggling with temptations, sin, and sinful habits this physical reality gives us assurance of victory in Jesus. Our problem is can we hang on until the end? We are only human, broken living in broken in a broken world with broken rules. The wrong is impossibly strong. How can we hope to endure until the end?
Without a doubt, this passage in Isaiah has a spiritual reality that is just as true as the physical. We can find it by connecting Isaiah’s words with the words of Jesus in Mark 3:22-27. Jesus had been accused by the Jewish scribes of casting out demons because He was possessed by Satan. He responds to the scribes with this parable: “How can Satan throw Satan out? A kingdom involved in civil war will collapse. And a house torn apart by divisions will collapse. If Satan rebels against himself and is divided, then he can’t endure. He’s done for. No one gets into the house of a strong person and steals anything without tying up the strong person. Only then can the house be burglarized.” (CEB)
Jesus cast out demons from many different people, many of the stories are recorded in the gospels. By telling this parable, Jesus is telling the scribes that it is not the power of Satan at work releasing those held captive. These captives are released because Jesus went into the strongman’s house, tied him up, and took them out of the strongman’s house. The power of God is at work in Jesus! This Jesus is alive! Through the Holy Spirit, Jesus can bind the strongman that holds us captive! Neither Satan or sin, nor death has any claim on us.
Temptations that strike at us strategically, exploiting our weak points… they cannot hold us if we trust in the King of our heart. Sins that have conquered the strength of our heart… they cannot hold us if we trust in the King of our heart. Habits and dark thoughts may control our mind like a tyrant… they cannot hold us if we trust in the King of our heart.
We have been trying to be faithful and persevere by our own strength. We have tried reading our Bible and praying. We have tried self help books and watched Oprah. We have tried anything and everything in the direction of victory. Maybe we need to find victory by advancing in a different direction.
Season 1 Episode 33, "Most important question." The text for the message is from Mark 8:27-30, part 1 of a series called The Son of Man. The question we are trying to answer is "What is the most important question?"