Derek Thomas: Strength for the Weary

Lee Webb: It’s my pleasure to introduce
to you Ligonier teaching fellow, and my friend, Dr. Derek Thomas. Thomas: Thank you, Lee. Good afternoon and trust you’ve had what,
barbecue or something? And when Spurgeon, Charles Haddon Spurgeon,
had a season in his life where he had an afternoon service at about I think two o’clock or so,
and he referred to it as the roast beef and unbelief service, where folks who had eaten
too much Sunday roast beef had actually fallen asleep. This is, you know, following my dear friend
who just spoke a few minutes ago, this is a world of a difference. He was promoting and urging you to go to the
ends of the earth and at least to pray for those at the ends of the earth, and I’m talking
about my book. So there’s that, as they say. And this is hot off the press. I only saw this for the first time yesterday,
and those who have written books know they’re almost like your children. I mean, I despised my daughter this morning
who was watching and has texted me several times since. Books are a bit like children, and I remember
the first one that came somewhere in the early eighties, and this is number, I don’t know,
twenty-four or five, somewhere around there. And I enjoyed writing this one. In my dreams, I have a little mountain home. It’s got AC in it and lots of supplies of
really good coffee and chocolate, and I go there. I go there for two or three weeks, and I write
a book. Well, that’s in my dreams. I don’t have any those things, but last year
I got convicted because of the number of hats that I wear. I got convicted that I hadn’t written anything
in a while and in a rash moment with, I think Chris Larson, I made a promise I would write
a book. And here it is, promise fulfilled. It’s based on the second half of Isaiah … Isaiah. Why the second half? Well, thirty years ago I wrote a commentary
on Isaiah. I don’t think it’s in print anymore, but in
order to do that I preached through the whole book of Isaiah and you’ve got to get through
the first thirty-nine chapters. And the first twelve chapters are okay because
they contain some of the great vision, the “holy, holy, holy” vision. It’s got the Christmas, “His name shall be
called Immanuel, God with us,” and so on. And then you come to chapter 13 and all the
way to 37, and it’s all judgment on all the surrounding nations. And it’s tough to preach, and it’s tough to
hear twenty-eight sermons on judgment. And I decided that this time around I would
just look at the second half of Isaiah for this reason: that a number of folk in the
church on a pastoral level were passing through difficult seasons of their life, and some
of them were a little dejected and despondent. And I thought that they need a series, but
not six years. I’m 65, I don’t have six years in Isaiah,
but a short series of maybe ten or eleven sermons on the second half of Isaiah. And that sounds, I know that sounds wimpish,
you know, because friends of mine, they preach four hundred – I mean Steve Lawson – you know
436 messages on the first chapter of Colossians, and I don’t have time for that at the minute. And in awe of those who are able to do it,
but I chose texts, texts like, “‘Comfort ye, comfort ye My people,’ saith your God. ‘Speak ye comfortably…'” You know, when I quote Scripture from my brain,
it’s the King James. I can’t remember the ESV, but I do remember
the King James Version. Or, “He gives power to the faint, and to him
who has no might He increases strength.” Hence the title for the book, Strength for
The Weary. “I am the Lord, and there is no other. Besides Me, there is no God.” “Come, everyone who thirsts. Come to the waters, and he has no money come,
buy and eat. Come, buy wine and milk without money and
without price.” Texts like that. So the second half of Isaiah. Isaiah is seven hundred years or so before
Jesus, and he’s in Jerusalem and he’s a prophet, and he’s a prophet who moves in exalted circles. He moves in circles where the king is, and
he’s living in a really, really bad time because in the north the Assyrians have devastated
Samaria, and they’re threatening to come down to Jerusalem, and they will. But they won’t conquer Jerusalem, and chapters
38 and 39, the sort of hinge pin of Isaiah, tells us about the destruction of the forces
of Sennacherib, 186,000 of them dead on the floor one evening. Wonderful story, bedtime story. Actually, it’s a wonderful story of the deliverance
of God. How God kept His promise alive, and He defeated
this Assyrian army. But 150 years into Isaiah’s future is Babylon
and that’s bad news, because what Assyria failed to do Babylon will do, and folks like
Daniel and Ezekiel will be taken into captivity in Babylon and Jerusalem will be wiped out,
temple will be destroyed. The judgment of God will come down upon His
people. And Isaiah is in sort of two worlds. He’s in his own world where the Assyrians
are about to attack but he’s also, as a prophet, in another world where the Babylonians are
going to come, and he’s seeing life in Babylon and post-Babylon. And it looks dark and threatening. So where are the promises of God? And he’s speaking to covenant people. He’s speaking to people who love the Lord
and believe God’s promise, but everything around looks as though God has forgotten them. There are people like Job maybe in here who
have lost a great deal. Your business has crashed. Your marriage has crashed. Your children have rebelled, and who knows
where they are. You’ve lost a daughter, a son. You’re on your break between the third and
fourth round of chemotherapy, and life is hard and life is difficult, and it’s hard
to get up in the morning and it’s hard to go to bed because you can’t sleep. And you’re saying along with the audience
of this prophet Isaiah, “Has He forgotten me?” And perhaps you’re beginning to think you
know He likes other Christians that you know. He loves them, and you’re sort of happy about
that, sort of, but you can’t help but think, “God has abandoned me.” Sometimes you find yourselves in trouble because
it’s your fault. You know there is that, and sometimes you
have to confront that. But sometimes you’re in trouble for no fault
of your own. You know, there’s an incredible statement
in the second chapter of Job, you know, God and Satan are having that dialogue in Job
chapters 1 and 2, and God is saying to Satan, “You provoked Me to do something to Job without
reason, without reason.” Now, of course God never does anything without
reason. God always has a plan. He always has a purpose. Nothing is haphazard as far as God is concerned,
but it looked to the world and it looked to Job as though there was no reason, as though
God was acting whimsically. So you’re asking the question, “Why? Why has this happened?” and you’ve been asking
it and asking it and asking it, and there’s no answer, and you need a word of comfort. Not worldly comfort, but gospel comfort. The comfort of a God who makes promises and
keeps those promises and keeps them even through periods where it looks as though He’s forgotten
the promise. The second half of Isaiah contains those four
servant songs in chapters 42 and 49 and 51 and then 52 and 53. And you’ve got these four Servant Songs, and
they’re about Jesus. Isaiah is seven hundred years before Jesus,
but he’s talking about a servant, and this servant who’s going to be a deliverer and
a Messiah, and He’s going to be the restorer of God’s people, and He’s going to be the
One who ensures that God’s promise to His people will never be forgotten. So right in the heart of the second half of
Isaiah are these four extraordinary pictures of a servant who is going to come, and it’s
Jesus. When you read the Gospels really, really closely,
you get to see that Jesus shapes His understanding of His role as mediator after these four Servant
Songs. He quotes them a lot. There are bits of them that pop up in statements
that He makes over and over, “I came not to be served but to serve and to give My life
a ransom for many.” Many New Testament scholars say that’s the
heart of Jesus’ own understanding of his messianic identity. “I came not to be served but to serve and
to give My life a ransom for many.” What’s this “for many” thing at the end? Because it comes from Isaiah 53. It’s the fourth Servant Song, and He has identified
himself with this servant. At the end of the second half of Isaiah, in
chapter 65 and 66, Isaiah who is looking to the future, he’s looking 150 years into the
future to Babylon and then he’s looking 700 years into the future, and he’s seeing the
coming of the servant, and then he looks right into the end. And what does he see? And what he sees is a new heavens and a new
earth, chapters 65 and 66, a new heavens and a new earth. And it’s language that is picked up again
by Peter, and it’s language that’s picked up again by John in the closing chapters of
Revelation. It’s important to ask the question, and it’s
even more important to have an answer to the question, “What happens five seconds after
you die?” You’re dead, now what? I mean, where are you? Where is your consciousness, your self-awareness? And it’s important have an answer to that
question because I firmly believe that the moment I die I am self-aware and self-conscious,
and I’m in the presence of Jesus. To be absent from the body is to be present
with the Lord. That’s not the question that Isaiah is addressing. He’s not addressing what happens when you
die. He’s addressing another question, “What does
the end look like?” What does eternity look like? What actually is God’s promise? What is the promise of the covenant? That the promise of the covenant rooted in
Abraham is that God is going to be Lord over the whole world and not this world, at least
not this sinful world, but a new heavens and a new earth. When I first met R.C. on a formal level, and
he had invited me to speak at a conference in Seattle. And this was the first time. It was very intimidating meeting R.C., at
least if you didn’t know him, and I’m going to meet R.C.! And Vesta was there, and we were having lunch
I think, and I fell in love with this man because within minutes he asks about my wife
and my family and my children, and he said, “Do you have dogs?” and I said, “Yes, I have
Jake, and there is my dear friend David Justly, and Jake and David Justly’s dog, who are the
best of friends because he was my neighbor. And I said … I told him about Jake, and
he loved dogs. And I could tell instantly we were going to
be friends because a home isn’t a home unless there are four paws in it or eight or twelve. I’m not ashamed, I love my dogs. I can get quite emotional about my dogs. I can take my phone out, and there he is lying
and they’re in camp. They go to Camp Bow Wow, and they have a livestream
feature so I can check in anytime to see if they’re okay. I think one of them was in the sin bin yesterday. I need to check that out, and she can get
a little excited. And people ask me all the time, “Are there
dogs in heaven?” And I say, “What? Who asks these dumb questions?” Of course there are dogs in heaven because
what kind of heaven are you talking about? I’m not talking about where you go when you
die. That’s one issue. It is an important issue, but I’m talking
about what kind of existence will eternity be, and it’s not floating on clouds and plucking
harps and spirits sort of passing by. It’s a new heavens and a new earth. So what will it look like? Well like this, except for sin. So can you imagine what this world would be
like if there had been no sin, no curse. Would there have been trees in it? Yes. Would there have been mountains in it? Yes. Seas? Yes. I would say, somebody is going to say in Revelation,
it says there would be no more sea. So I’ve commentaries that say there are rivers
in the new heavens, freshwater rivers but no saltwater. No sea. So there will be trout but no salmon. And you miss … actually you miss the point,
I think. John is using imagery, and for the Jews the
sea was, the sea was not a nice place. The Jews were not a seafaring people. They had a Mediterranean coast, but most the
time it was occupied by Philistines and so they never went anywhere near it. So they didn’t do a lot of stuff on the sea,
and the sea was a place where Leviathan lived, the great sea monster. And I think that’s what John is referring
to when he’s saying there is no more sea, because the sea in the symbolic sense of a
place of threat. But there will be animals in the new heavens
and new earth. I’m certain of it. All that God has created is good, and humanity
very good. So Isaiah looks into the future, and what
does he see? He sees Jerusalem restored and a new heavens
and a new earth in which righteousness dwells and in which the promises of God are fulfilled. So the second half of Isaiah is a bit like
the closing of the book of Revelation, strength for the weary. And there are seasons of life in which we
find ourselves weary. You know, somebody asks you, “How are you?” It’s always difficult to answer. Somebody asked me out in the corridor, “How
are you?” And I thought to myself, “How much time have
you got?” I decided against it and I said I was fine,
but in truth many of us are tired. Many of us are feeling a little dejected. Many of us feel as though the sun isn’t shining
and clouds have descended, and it may be because of something personal that’s going on in our
lives at the minute, or it may be something that’s going on in our families, or it may
be you just read too much news. You watch too much CNN, and the news is bad. The news is terrible. I can only take it in small doses. I don’t have Al Mohler’s constitution who
reads it all, and it can make you doubt God’s promise. Where is God’s promise? His big promise, his macrocosm promise. His promise for Israel. His promise for the people of God. His promise for a new heavens and a new earth,
or maybe something a little less grand than that. His promise for me that He will never leave
me nor forsake me. So that’s why I wrote this little book, Strength
for The Weary. It’s hot off the press. It’s just out, and it’s in the bookstore,
and my 401(k) is totally dependent on it. So, I’m shamelessly promoting it to you. They’ve done a fabulous job. It’s in hardcover. Books can be therapeutic. Books can be like a dose of vitamins. I say vitamins. They can be just the right book for the right
time and the right season in my life, and I wrote this for those who find themselves
in seasons where they just feel tired and weary and need reassurance that God hasn’t
changed because He doesn’t change. I need reassurance that the gospel is the
same today as it was yesterday, that the promises of God are yes and amen in Jesus Christ, that
I can trust Him when the lights go out, when the floor gives way, and I feel I’m falling. I can trust Him. I can trust Him in the dark. I can put my hand down. Anyone been to some of those caves, where,
you know, they take you down on a little train into some cave a mile or so underground or
something, and there’s no ambient light? And then they put the lights out and you can’t
see the person standing right next to you. You can hear them, but you can’t see them. It’s that dark, and some of you are in that
cave but you’re all alone you think, and you put your hand down on the floor of the cave
and you feel some sand and you carefully feel, and there’s a footprint and it’s the footprint
of the Lord Jesus who’s been in that cave before you and who says in your ear, “In moments
of great pain and difficulty, I will never leave you or forsake you, and sometimes you
can’t feel My presence and then you just have to trust Me.” So, Strength for The Weary. Rush off to the bookstore. I have a minute left, but I’m done. Thank you.

2 Replies to “Derek Thomas: Strength for the Weary”

  1. March 25, 2018
    ABSOLUTELY TRUE AND BEAUTIFUL! 28 chapters of our LORD GOD'S Holy Judgements teach us about HIS Holy Character and Nature and Attributes– what pleases HIM, and what doesn't. I absolutely LOOVVEE the entire prophecy of Isaiah. He teaches us of who our LORD GOD, The Almighty, and even HIS Beautiful Son, Jesus Christ, our LORD GOD, truly is. IS?– because they're ONE! I, like many of us IN Christ, can certainly identify with Isaiah's questions of our LORD GOD'S Judgements on our lives sometimes; but by the end, it's all good, as our Apostle Paul admonishes us in Romans 8:28. Thank you, brother Thomas! Your beautiful heart and severe honesty are refreshing, and your beautiful sense of humor, contagious, and we all need more and more of those attributes in our lives as well. Thank you, LORD Jesus, and thank you, Ligonier! PRAISE GOD!

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