Rely on God, Not Yourself.


  • Listen to Jesus (4-6)
  • Trust in God’s Help (7-9)


Sermon Transcript

Good morning! For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Tim. I’m one of the pastors of Citylight and it’s my privilege to open God’s word with you this morning. Would you pray with me?




How good are you at predicting the future? Just for fun, I looked up some popular predictions from the 1900’s about what the world would be like in 2020. Here are a few of my favorites.


In 2020, “no one will drink coffee or tea anymore.” ~ Nikola Tesla

In 2020, “houses will fly and be able to relocate themselves”  noted author Arthur C. Clarke

A 1951 issue of popular mechanics predicted in 2020 “we’ll all own personal helicopters”

And “no one will ever have to clear a dinner table again”

And my personal favorite a 1967 issue of The Futurist magazine predicted “Live-in apes will clean our houses and take care of the gardening”


We all know how completely unpredictable the future is. This fact should make us stop and think about how amazing it is that the book of Isaiah contains highly specific future predictions that became reality.


Isaiah was a biblical prophet writing in and around 700BC. In this section of the book Isaiah is writing to encourage God’s people during their exile. Incredibly though, God’s people wouldn’t be exiled for more than a century after he was writing. More amazingly, throughout his writings, Isaiah paints a detailed portrait of a man who God would send to redeem his people from their sins. Here are just a few of the descriptions Isaiah gives about this man.


He would be born of a virgin, from the line of David (Isaiah 7:14). God’s Spirit would rest on him (Isaiah 11:2). He would have a ministry in Galilee (Isaiah 9:1-2). He would speak in parables (Isaiah 6:9-10).  He would be called a Nazarene (Isaiah 11:1) In his ministry, he would heal blind, lame, deaf, diseased, and brokenhearted people (Isaiah 29:18-19, 61:1-2). He would even raise the dead (Isaiah 26:19). Yet despite all this, He would be widely rejected (Isaiah 53:1,3). He would be spat on and struck (Isaiah 50:6). He would be accused, but he wouldn’t open his mouth to defend himself (Isaiah 53:7). He would ultimately be considered a criminal and killed alongside criminals. (Isaiah 53:12) He would be buried in a rich man’s tomb (Isaiah 53:9). Through his death, He would be a sacrifice for our sin (53:7).


Every one of the prophecies I just mentioned, and as many as 110 in total just in the book of Isaiah were all fulfilled in one man, Jesus Christ who walked the earth 2000 years ago. These fulfilled prophecies are one of the many reasons we trust God’s word and confess Jesus as Lord.


I hope this raises your level of anticipation as we dive into our passage this morning because this morning, Isaiah is writing this prophecy not just for Israel, but for you and me. These verses provide comfort you and for me when the future seems dark.


Our passage is the 3rd of 4 poems in Isaiah referred to as the “servant songs”. That is they’re lyrics written in the first-person voice of the coming messiah, who Isaiah calls “the servant.” The songs progressively reveal the identity of Israel’s coming deliverer who we know to be Jesus Christ. This song is short – only 6 verses long from verse 4-9. Isaiah then chimes in to help us understand the big idea of the song by interpreting it for us in verses 10-11. He says:


10 Who among you fears the LORD

and obeys the voice of his servant?

Let him who walks in darkness

and has no light

trust in the name of the LORD

and rely on his God.


11 Behold, all you who kindle a fire,

who equip yourselves with burning torches!

Walk by the light of your fire,

and by the torches that you have kindled!

This you have from my hand:

you shall lie down in torment.

Isaiah 50:10–11 ESV


The big idea this morning from our passage is this: Rely on God (verse 10) not yourself (verse 11)


Verse 10 — “Do you feel like you’re walking in darkness? Like you look to the future and it feels like there’s no light at all? Do you wrestle with major decisions in your life, and you’re not sure what to do? Do you feel stuck or isolated? When you feel this way, Rely on God.


Verse 11 — a counter balance warning, “Those of you who don’t feel stuck, you don’t feel like you’re in the dark, you can see the path in front of you, you’re pretty sure what to do… is that because you’re trusting God, or because you’re trusting yourself? If you’re walking by the light of your own torch, trusting in your own way, you may seem like you’re headed the right direction, but God himself will oppose you. Don’t trust yourself like that!


Rely on God, Not Yourself. We’ll have two points, both of which help us understand how to do that.


  1. Listen to Jesus (4-6)
  2. Trust in God’s Help (7-9)


First, Listen to Jesus


The first lines of the song go like this:


4 The Lord GOD has given me

the tongue of those who are taught,

that I may know how to sustain with a word

him who is weary.

5 Morning by morning he awakens;

he awakens my ear

to hear as those who are taught.

6 I gave my back to those who strike,

and my cheeks to those who pull out the beard;

I hid not my face

from disgrace and spitting.


The song begins with the Servant reflecting on the relationship he has with God. He’s a devoted student, being taught by his master.


God is teaching him to do something interesting — To sustain the weary with a word. Now I’m already tempted to stop right here and reflect… how many of us, I wonder, are weary? Could you use a good word this morning? Where do you go when you need to be sustained? Who do you turn to when you need a good word?


The Servant not only has a trained tongue, but a disciplined ear. Morning by morning the master awakens him, and he listens dutifully. Through daily listening, he learns the will of his master and he obeys at great personal cost. He is beaten, mocked, spat upon and disgraced. But he doesn’t turn back. He could have prevented it, but he gives his back. He could have kept his beard, but he gives his cheeks. He could have hidden his face, but he endures the spit.


Who is the servant? It can’t be Israel. The devoted, listening, and obedient servant is a brutal contrast to Israel. Just a few verses before this Servant Song, the Lord is lamenting over Israel’s closed ears and disobedient heart.


No, Not Israel, certainly not Cyrus the King of Persia, not Isaiah, not you or me. There’s only one person in history who fits this description. Jesus is the suffering servant. He’s the only son of God, who grew in wisdom and stature. He said “For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment—what to say and what to speak.(John 12:49 ESV).


Isn’t it an amazing thing that the Son of God should learn anything while he walked the earth? The author of Hebrews says this of Jesus: “Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered.” (Hebrews 5:8 ESV)


While he was on earth, Jesus practiced the daily habit of listening to the Father. Morning by morning he listened and learned the will of God. When God willed him to suffer for you, and for me, he courageously obeyed.


The contrast is real. Israel suffered as a direct result of their disobedience. Jesus suffered for his obedience. It’s not just real, it’s a chasm. Jesus is everything Israel could never be. What about you and me? The contrast is just as real isn’t it? If we’re honest… the chasm is just as deep


How is your listening habit? Is your face set to obey God regardless the personal cost? When you’re weary, where do you run for a ‘good word’?


The Lord says, “listen to the servant” – listen to Jesus. He has words to sustain you, and to sustain me. A New Testament author says this “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son….” (Hebrews 1:1–2 ESV)


God says when you’re weary, when you’ve been disobedient, when you’re groping about in the darkness and you don’t know where to turn, morning by morning, day by day, whether you face great hardship or great blessing, listen to my Son. Listen to Jesus.


Apply – How do we listen to Jesus?


First, stop listening to yourself.


One way you can tell who you rely on – who do you listen to?


I often listen to myself. At any given moment, if you could hear my inner monologue, I doubt you’d say “wow, what a good word for my weary heart.” How is your inner monologue? Aren’t we filled with doubt, legalistic striving, pride, shame and the like? We wrestle with constant sin and temptation. Paul Tripp says “no one is more influential in your life than you are, because no one talks to you more than you do.”


{ Best Buy Illustration }

I recently was feeling somewhat burned out and I had some Best Buy gift cards because my family loves to give them to me for Christmas and birthdays. I was really looking forward to the trip because I might get some new headphones I’d never otherwise buy for myself. On the way, I passed by McDonalds and said to myself “you know… some fries would be amazing right now… maybe I’ll feel a little better if I had some fries.” No! I keep driving. “Good decision.. I don’t need the fries”. Next I feel thirsty and I think “you know what, I’m going to stop at Giant and grab something to drink, maybe get a snack” so I’m walking through Giant and thinking “what am I doing? I don’t need a snack, I’m wasting time” so I grab a drink, check out and go back to my car. Next, I go to SAKS off 5th because I think “you know my shoes are a little worn out, it would feel awesome to get some new shoes”. 70% off sale! Yes! No shoes my size on sale. No! What am I doing, I don’t really need shoes! This isn’t helping. So I finally get to Best Buy, spend 15 minutes looking at headphones I wanted, and turn around and leave because I can’t pull the trigger. I don’t care if I’m using a gift card, they’re too expensive! I don’t need these. I go home more weary than I was when I left.


My inner dialog just took me on a whole journey. . I had to come home, talk to Sarah, confess my emotional need to the Lord, and get a good word from him. The next morning, much more sober minded, I used my gift cards to order the headphones online and went about my day.


What was going on? I was weary! I was tired! Don’t hear something I’m not saying – Look, when you’re weary, go ahead and get yourself something to eat, go ahead and get some sleep, go ahead and go for that run. I’m just telling you – you don’t have a weary word for you. It’s not your job to meet your own needs. I don’t know how you grew up, if your needs were met or not, but I grew up thinking no one was going to meet my emotional needs except me. Acting on that single thought is the source of an enormous amount of regret in my life. What about you?


We tend to have these emotional junk drawers in our lives. You know, that habit where we just throw every negative emotion at it. Maybe it’s food. Or porn, or procrastination, Netflix, social media. I scroll and I tell myself I’m decompressing. Am I decompressing? Then why am I just reading words after words after words? I’m weary, I need a word. What is your need today? Your need points you to Jesus who has a word for your weary heart. Slow down, stop listening to yourself and you may be able to hear it, especially if you turn to where you can find it. Stop listening to yourself.


Second, commit to morning by morning time with Jesus and his word.


We’ve said a lot the past few weeks about taking time out to listen to God through his word. Morning Bible reading is a habit that will completely transform your life because you will daily have your ear awakened to God’s will for you, and daily be feeding your heart the freeing words of Jesus. Whatever he has to say to you, he will say through his word, and it will bring life. One time after a particularly hard teaching, Jesus asked his disciple Peter if he was going to leave him.


Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life

(John 6:68 ESV)


My advice if you struggle here is two-fold. First, try to view God’s word more like food than a to-do list. If you see the morning quiet time as a task to check off your list, you’ll be susceptible to unnecessary guilt or you’ll pat yourself on the back for going through the motions. The scriptures often refer to themselves with food metaphors. If you can come to view them more in that category, you’ll come to see just how starved you are for a word from Christ. You skip a meal, you don’t generally think “I’m such a bad person, I skipped a meal” – but you do feel hungry. Some of us might be spiritually so used to being hungry, we’ve forgotten what hunger feels like. Pray for spiritual hunger, and view the scriptures more like food for your soul.


Second piece of advice here is to just pick something you do every day. What is it that you do “morning by morning” and bring God’s word into that. Most of you probably never forget to make coffee. Morning by morning, my light roast French Press awakens me. Start by leaving a Bible open to the Psalms next to your coffee setup. Coffee stains look good on bibles anyway. Just pause and read it every morning and think about it while you sip your coffee. Maybe graduate into sitting down with it for a little bit. Build from there.


Third, test everything you hear from others by his word


I’m tempted to move on, but I don’t think this is belaboring the point. We live in an unprecedented era of messages from others that are attempting to persuade us. Did you know the average American sees between 4,000 and 10,000 ads every day. We say “they don’t effect me” – and I’d just like to point you to this fact – that the global advertising industry is expected to be a $1 Trillion industry by 2025. I’ll say this – someone thinks they can influence you and they’re willing to bet a lot of money on it.


We feel like we’re faced with two options. Wall ourselves off from the world. It’s like “ad block, mute the commercials, get off social media” maybe not a terrible strategy. The other one is we learn to tune out anything that sounds persuasive and become hyper suspicious of all authority.


I want to present a third way. Test everything you hear by his word. What if we tested the value of an authority by the qualifications Christ gives us for authority in 1 Timothy 3?


1 Timothy 3:2–7


Qualifications for Overseers


[2] Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, [3] not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. [4] He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, [5] for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? [6] He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. [7] Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil. (ESV)


What if we said, “is this person I’m listening to someone God thinks I should trust?” Are they “faithful to their spouse”, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable? Are they hospitable? Able to teach? Not given to alcohol or substance abuse, non-violent, gentle, non-quarrelsome.


Or do they love money, love arguing, love speaking in an abusive way?


Look I know there are complexities – I’m not saying your doctor needs to be elder qualified. But she should probably also not be a drunkard, so I think we could do better with who we’re trusting and how high our bar is. Character matters. Who are you listening to? Test what you hear by his word so you can learn to hear the gentle word of Christ through those God surrounds you with in the church. Then you’ll learn to listen to Jesus.


Rely on God, Not Yourself. Listen to Jesus.


And Finally, Trust in God’s Help


Let’s look at the second half of the song together


7 But the Lord GOD helps me;

therefore I have not been disgraced;

therefore I have set my face like a flint,

and I know that I shall not be put to shame.


8 He who vindicates me is near.

Who will contend with me?

Let us stand up together.

Who is my adversary?

Let him come near to me.


9 Behold, the Lord GOD helps me;

who will declare me guilty?

Behold, all of them will wear out like a garment;

the moth will eat them up.

(Isaiah 50:7–9 ESV)


Look at that phrase “The Lord God Helps Me” – later so you don’t miss it “Behold!” the Lord God Helps Me. Wow. How would things change if I just believed that?


Jesus says God helps him therefore he has not been disgraced. People set out to disgrace him, but God helped him. They set out to discredit him, but God helped him. They spit on him, God helped him. They hung him on a cross, God raised him from the dead.


Oh yes, people said what they said, and they did what they did, but in the eyes of the one who matters, he was not disgraced, he was helped. They condemned him, God vindicated him. That word means he was declared innocent and demonstrably shown to be without fault – to be in the right. No adversary can come close. He’s above every accusation. They mocked him with a crown of thorns. But God gave him the name above every name. He was made the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. With God as his helper he knows he will not be put to shame. God is on his side.


Now this is great news for those who look to him for a word. Jesus’ word for you today is therefore. His blood paid the price for your sin, therefore God has declared you innocent of guilt. He was obedient therefore your disobedience can be forgiven. No one can declare you guilty.


We need his help. You and I, we wouldn’t fare so well in that courtroom. How would you hold up against accusation?


You ever see one of those TV court shows? There’s a woman up there with like a binder and a bunch of super organized papers who is like “this guy rammed his motorcycle into my house and caused $5,000 of damage and then he just took off. Here’s video of him doing it. Here’s his instagram where he brags about doing it” you know… and on and on. Then it pans over to the guy who got there late, his papers are all out of order, he’s clearly caught redhanded and he’s just up there, no lawyer, by himself – I’ll be representing myself today — you just know – that guy has no chance. As some of you say, he’s caught in 4k.


One day you and I will stand in front of the judge of the universe and account for everything we ever said, ever thought, ever did. All our enemies human and spiritual will bring every charge they can come up with against us. Who is going to represent you? Will you trust in yourself in that day?


There is one who will vindicate you. When you say “I trust in Jesus” you can say “therefore” and what comes after that is incredible news. “I trust in Jesus” therefore I am forgiven of my sin”. “I trust in Jesus” therefore I am not ashamed. The Lord God helped me, therefore I am no longer guilty of my sin, but I’ve been declared righteous in his sight.


Our helper has a good word for us this morning. He speaks of God’s everlasting love.


[31] What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? [32] He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? [33] Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. (ESV)


I can give you three steps to listen to Jesus, but I can’t give you three steps to trust him. All I can say is you don’t have to meet your own needs. He loves taking care of you. You cannot help yourself, but he has sent Jesus to be your help. Your God has a good word for you. Listen to him, trust in him. Rely on him, not yourself.


Let’s pray.