Bob's Sermon for Sunday, June 3, 2018


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“Passing the Lord’s hearing exam”


Isaiah 50:4-10


     Could you pass the Lord’ hearing examination? The tiny sound-wave-sensitive parts the Lord put in our heads weaken as we age. Thus hearing loss ensues with the years. Ancient people often spent their closing years in silence. Ecclesiastes describes it as: “When the sound of the grinding fades . . .” and the “bird songs grow faint.”[1] Plastic hearing aids assist many people now.

                   “Senior Swingers.

They were tripping the light fantastic,

With dance moves wild and drastic.

The couple so bold,

In decades was old,

And many of their parts were plastic.”

© Robert Blair, 2018


     Back to the Lord’s hearing exam.  Some hearing impairment starts early. We quickly learn to reject sounds we don’t like. Tiny tots can turn off perfectly tuned ears when they do   not want to behave. Parents often ask their kids: “Did you hear me?” Older people frequently turn those “off” switches, too. We seniors consider that our right and privilege.  Isn’t that what Adam and Eve did? They liked what Satan said; they “heard” him: “You didn’t hear God correctly. This won’t hurt you. You won’t die.”


     Do you recall what God told Adam? Adam you closed your ears to what I told you and instead, “listened to your wife. . .”[2] Wives generally give good counsel, but not if they urge husbands to disobey God. Whether the source is husband, wife, uncle, niece, psychiatrist, or professor, any advice that bids us stray from God’s teaching is dangerous counsel.    


     Imagine being lost and the people you ask for directions don’t know where they are.

Genesis chapters 2 and 3 tell how we human beings got started in our miserable direction. The further we stray from God in disobedience, the worse things get and the less we know what we are doing.


     Only God’s word is trustworthy. Because it is totally opposite what the world advises, few listen to God’s Word and advice. God promised He’d send a reliable person to help us know what to do. We can identify the legitimate helper. Before he sent the helper, God sent info describing how the helper would act and what the helper would say.


     God’s helper would not be an impressive figure. He would be a servant, who totally obeyed God. Because the servant would not appear imposing or powerful, he would suffer at the hands of those who refused his message. 


     In our Isaiah text, the Lord’s trusty servant speaks:  Isaiah 50:4-10 TEV “The Sovereign LORD has taught me what to say, so that I can strengthen the weary. Every morning he makes me eager to hear what he is going teach me.”   


     This is no ordinary servant. First, notice who sent him: “Adonay Yahweh,” the Sovereign Lord God. Verses 5, 6, and 9 all begin the same way. The servant was not educated at Iowa, Iowa State, UCLA, Harvard, or Oxford. God, who created the Cosmos and all life in it, taught the servant what to say.


     The Lord God taught him: So he could strengthen weary people. Do you ever get weary of life’s battles? Statistics show that there has recently been a 25% increase in suicides. Without God, life loses its meaning and purpose. Recall Jesus saying: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened”?[3] So he could help us, every morning the servant awoke ready to listen to God’s instruction.


     The servant Jesus listened and submitted to God: “(5) The LORD has given me understanding, and I have not rebelled or turned away from him. (6) I bared my back to those who beat me. I did not stop them when they insulted me, when they pulled out the hairs of my beard and spit in my face.” Though beaten, mocked and ridiculed, Jesus still   obeyed God: “Because the Sovereign LORD helps me, I will not be disgraced. Therefore have I set my face like flint,[4] and I know I will not be put to shame.”


     Jesus relied completely on God. You recognize what God’s servant Jesus endured at his mock trial: “Then Pilate took Jesus and had him whipped.” John 19:1 (TEV): “Then some began to spit at him; they blindfolded him, struck him with their fists . . . And the guards took him and beat him.” Mark 14:65 NIV.


     Jesus’ life was an obedience lesson: I recently became aware of an insight I had never considered.  I confess to being a very slow learner. Scholars have dealt somewhat but not adequately with the subject. This info helps us appreciate Jesus. It strengthens us in life’s tests and struggles.


     Consider this little-known fact. Are you aware that Jesus studied math all his life—even on the day he died? No trickery; I am stating the truth. Jesus continually studied and applied math. Jesus’ experience in Gethsemane partly illustrates his math study. After the Passover meal, Jesus took his disciples to Gethsemane.


     Gethsemane is on Mt. of Olives across the Kidron Valley east of Jerusalem. Many olive trees grew on that mountain. Jews used olive oil in baking and cooking, as a soothing medical ointment, and also in their religious ceremonies. Gethsemane means “oil press;” a facility for squeezing olives was in the area of that garden.[5]


     During the offseason, Gethsemane was probably remote and quiet, and that’s likely why Jesus often went there. Jesus wanted to pray and he asked eight of the eleven to stay at one location.  He took Peter, James, and John with him farther and said: ‘My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.’ The English word “psyche” comes from the word translated “soul.” Plainly speaking, Jesus likely meant: “Lots of things weigh heavily on my mind tonight.”


     You have been in situations where you were acutely conflicted. There was no easy solution. Every option was going to be painful. It was an excruciating time for you.


     A space scientist and his wife came to my office years ago to ask my advice. He had graduate degrees from prestigious universities. He was one of the most conscientious young men I have ever known. He was working on a top-secret project; he could not share details, but he knew that it might result in massive loss of life. He foresaw little children could suffer horribly because he participated in the design. This young space scientist was profoundly troubled and conflicted. Luke tells how deeply troubled Jesus was: “Going a little farther,” It was about a “stone throw’s distance;”[6] “He fell with his face to the ground and prayed.”


     Were you ever in such distress that you prayed face down on the ground? “But Jesus was God and he knew everything,” think many people. In taking human form, Jesus somehow limited himself. Human beings are so complex we cannot fully fathom one another. At times we do not understand ourselves. God is totally beyond human comprehension. That is why Paul wrote to Timothy:

Beyond all question, the mystery of godliness is great:

He appeared in the flesh,
was vindicated by the Spirit,

was seen by angels,
was preached among the nations,
was believed on in the world,
was taken up in glory.”

The word Paul used for the “flesh” in which Christ appeared is usually thought of as the part of us that is subject to temptation.[8]  


    The Bible gives some clues to this mystery:

·         Hebrews 4:  He “was tempted in every way we are . . .”[9] 


·         “During the days of Jesus’ life (i.e. sarx-flesh existence) on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission.”[10]


     Jesus did not go to Gethsemane that night and have a “little talk with God” and God made everything OK. This Hebrews text describes the most intense human emotions imaginable. None of us ever has or will experience what Jesus did while he lived here in human flesh. The next 15-18 hours would be crucial; that is why he asked the eleven to watch and pray. Jesus prayed, obeyed, and was ready. He completed his mission to help us all. The eleven did not watch or pray; in the crucial moments, they fled like cowards. 


 Consider some other tests Jesus faced. 

·         One fact is that he could not fully depend on anyone.

You would think that at least he would have the support of his family.

But all four of Jesus’ brothers thought he was out of his mind and they probably convinced Mary, too.[11]


·         His peers envied him and plotted to kill him.

They had a history of killing prophets and those who told the truth.[12]


·         Jesus knew he would die a violent death.

If you knew that you faced that tomorrow would you say a nice little bedside prayer and then sleep well?


·         The Father assigned Jesus the duty of fulfilling everything written about the Messiah in Law of Moses, the prophets and the Psalms.  


     How many of us have even read through the Old Testament once, let alone try to complete everything it required and foretold of Jesus? At age twelve, Jesus knew he was here to do his Father’s will. On the return trip from the Temple, the Nazareth folks traveled a whole day before they realized that Jesus was not present. “Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.”[13] But he did not stop learning when he was 21 or even at 27 when he began his ministry.


      At the start, I mentioned that Jesus studied math every day and here is the proof. 

8 Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered  and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him . . .”[14] The word translated learned here is “math” in Greek. That confirms that Jesus always studied “math.” Disciples follow to learn. In Greek disciple is “mathatas.”


     Jesus was not learning to add and subtract.[15] He “learned” to obey God in all circumstances. We can learn lots from Jesus’ “math” lessons.[16] All his life, Jesus obeyed God. Recall his tri-prayer: “Not my will, but yours be done.”


     God took Jesus “to obedience school.” Arithmetic means to count. Mathematics = learning and obeying. The Greek word “mathatas” disciple is from the same word stem.

All his human life, God gave Jesus “obedience” tests. He was the pioneer of our salvation; he tasted death for all of us.


     He learned obedience through suffering. It was a life-long test for him.,If Jesus had not kept learning obedience, and not obeyed, we would have no life and no hope.  


1.      I pray that we can first better appreciate what Jesus did and said.


2.      Second, keep studying the “math” of obedience to God not to any human idol.


      3.      Every day--watch and pray that we do not fail our “math” tests.


Just after he explained the parable of the sower, gave these sober warnings:“Therefore consider carefully how you listen. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what he thinks he has will be taken from him."[17]

(21) “He replied, ‘My mother and brothers are those who hear God's word and put it into practice.’"[18]


4.      Jesus is calling you today; are you listening and obeying?



[1] Ecclesiastes 12: 4 NIV

[2] Genesis 3:17 NIV

[3] Matthew 11: 28 NIV

[4] Luke 9: 51 NIV: “Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem” where he knew he would die.

[5] On the opposite side of Mt. Olives was the village, Bethany; “House of figs.” Bethany is a lovely name, but I wonder how many Beths know what their name means. 


[6] Luke 22:41

[7] 1 Timothy 3:16 NIV

[8] Greek - sarx

[9] 4:15  TEV

[10] Heb. 5:7 NIV  

[11] Mark 3:20,21, Matthew 12:46-50, John 7:1-5

[12] Luke 11:51

[13] Luke 2:52 NIV

[14] Hebrews 5: 7-9 NIV

[15] The word “arithmetic” applies to calculating numbers. Greek “Arithmon” and “arithmos” appear in Revelation 13: 18:This calls for wisdom. If anyone has insight, let him calculate the number of the beast, for it is man's number. His number is 666.” NIV

[16] Mathimatikos means disposed to learning.


[17] Luke 8:18 NIV

[18] Ibid, verse 21


Bob Blair

PO Box176

Cleghorn, IA 51014




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