/ Jeffrey A Stivason

The God Who Saves

In Isaiah 63 we find a familiar word used twice. It’s the word hesed or lovingkindness. I say it’s familiar because we run across it in many different places in Scripture. It is a word pregnant with meaning and so translators often heap word upon word to give its sense. For example, it is sometimes translated as covenant faithfulness, loyal love, steadfast love to name a few.

But notice the text of Isaiah 63. Reflecting on the notion of hesed, the prophet is compelled to pull into his service words like goodness and compassion and abundance in order to describe it. But if we could boil it down to a single idea hesed is a word synonymous with covenant. It has to do with God’s gracious faithfulness toward His people.

And yet, for all of that, this text is not so much about the blessings as much as the Bless-er. In other words, this text has more to do with the One who is faithful to bless rather than the blessings He bestows. Now, having this background notice three things in this text with regard to God – the One who grants blessing upon blessing.

His Identity

First, notice the Identity of God in Isaiah 63. And if we look carefully, we notice that God is set forth in these verses as triune. In other words, all three persons of the Trinity are here in these verses. For example, in v. 7, Isaiah says, “I will make mention of the loving kindness of Yahweh.” Now, look over to v. 16. There Isaiah says, “You, O Yahweh, are our Father.” Clearly, God the Father is in these verses.

But notice also the Holy Spirit is mentioned no less than three times. He is in verses 10, 11, and 14. He is described as the Spirit of the Lord. Now, it seems fairly clear that the Father and Holy Spirit are here but what about the Son? Notice verse 9. There we find what is described as the “angel of His presence.” This is a reference to the Lord Jesus.

Perhaps you are thinking that this is a stretch. So, let’s look at this reference to the “angel of His presence” for a minute. The word “angel” is the word for messenger or representative. And the word “presence” is the word face or countenance. So, we might literally read the verse like this, “the angel (or messenger or representative) of his face or countenance.” Now, whose face is “his face?” Whose face are we talking about? The answer to that is fairly simple. It’s the face of Yahweh. This is the angel or representative of Yahweh’s face. A visible expression of His countenance. We might say that this countenance is not His countenance but a mirror image of His countenance.

This, brothers and sisters, is the Lord Jesus. Listen to what the author of Hebrews writes of our Lord, “And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature.” Or as Geerhardus Vos translates it, Christ “is the effulgence of his glory and the very image of his substance.” In other words, Jesus is not simply God’s representative, Jesus shares the very nature of the Father. What is more, because He is very God of very God, He may be said to be the very effulgence of the Father’s glory. Thus, the Triune God is entirely interested in us to the saving of our lives.

His Interest

And this leads us to the second thing I want you to notice. I want you to see the depth of God’s interest in us. We see it in verse 9, “In all their affliction He was afflicted, and the angel of His presence saved them; in His love and in His mercy, He redeemed them.  And He lifted them and carried them all the days of old.” Now, these verses are clearly speaking of the Exodus. But the Exodus was never an event in and of itself.

The Bible and especially the New Testament brings us along that we might understand that the Exodus was always meant to tell a greater story. We are to see through the blood of the Passover lamb to the lamb that was slain before the foundation of the world. Thus, as is clear from our text, the “angel of His presence” truly saved the Israelites as they looked to Him through the promises. But it is only in the Lord Jesus who is the exact representation of the Father’s nature and effulgence of His glory that we see just how much He was afflicted for His people.

Brothers and sisters, the depth of His interest runs all the way to the cross where He didn’t simply carry us He carried our sins and bore our iniquities that we might have life.

His Faithfulness

And this leads me to the third thing I want us to notice. I want you to see the extent of His faithfulness. Even though He bore up His people, they rebelled against Him. But notice this, despite grieving His Holy Spirit, the Spirit led them to their rest. Now, here is the thing to notice. The Spirit of God leads us to rest despite ourselves. Israel contributed nothing to their salvation. Israel’s greatest need was not geographical restoration or political savvy or military brilliance. Israel’s greatest need was deliverance from her own sins. And it was that very thing which was pictured in the Passover lamb and is fulfilled so beautifully in Christ wherein we find rest.

Jeffrey A Stivason

Jeffrey A Stivason

Jeffrey A Stivason (Ph.D. Westminster Theological Seminary) is a pastor (Grace RPC, graceingibsonia.org) and NT professor at RPTS in Pittsburgh, PA. He is also editor at placefortruth.com.

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