God’s Satisfaction & Ours
10 Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him with pain.
When you make his life an offering for sin,
he shall see his offspring, and shall prolong his days;
through him the will of the Lord shall prosper.
11 Out of his anguish he shall see light;
he shall find satisfaction through his knowledge.
The righteous one, my servant, shall make many righteous,
and he shall bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore I will allot him a portion with the great,
and he shall divide the spoil with the strong;
because he poured out himself to death,
and was numbered with the transgressors;
yet he bore the sin of many,
and made intercession for the transgressors.
The history books tell us that when Alexander the Great got to India that he sat down and wept because there were no more worlds to conquer. He has taken possession of the known world of his day, and it was not enough for him.
Someone asked Nelson D. Rockerfeller, according to legend, how much money does it take to satisfy a person?” His answer was, “Just a little bit more.”
Solomon writes three millennia ago, “The eye is never satisfied with seeing, nor the ear with hearing… death and destruction are never full, and the eyes of a man are never satisfied.”
Buddha looked out at all the misery in the world. And diagnosed its cause. We want more than the world can give. Our appetites are so big that nothing can satisfy us. The only way to happiness is through the cessation of desire. If we do not want anything, we shall not lack anything. Our eyes are bigger than our bellies and bigger that all reality. The only way to contentment is through desire-less-ness. If we do not want, we shall not want.
Is that the solution? To desire less? I am not sure we are intended to be such anemic creatures that we are to be devoid of all desire. We are not called to be aesthetics, rejecting life and all its pleasures. Buddha may be somewhat right in his diagnosis of our problem, even if he did not find the right answer. We are hard to satisfy. And therein lies much of human unhappiness.
1. The Satisfaction of the Sovereign God
But there have also been persistent rumors throughout world history that God is hard to satisfy.
The religions of the world have all tried to devise ways of satisfying God. Of pleasing him. Religion is always an attempt to make God happy. That is why it is filled with sacrifices and offerings. Religion is always the attempt, sometimes refined and sometimes crude, to get God off our backs, bought off by our good gifts or our good deeds.
Listen to the Prophet Micah as he speaks to this attitude within Israel:
With what shall I come before the Lord
And bow myself before God on high?
Shall I come before him with burnt offerings
With calves a year old?
Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams
with ten thousand rivers of oil?
Shall I give my firstborn for my transgressions
The son of my body for the sin of my soul?
That is what the nation thought. The prophet comes back thundering his response:
He has shown you what is good.
What does the Lord require of you?
Do justice. Love kindness. Walk humbly with your God.
The audience of Amos the prophet had the same problem with people trying to please God with gifts. God speaks through his prophet:
I hate, I despise your feasts
I take no delight in your solemn assembles
Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings
I will not accept them.
The offerings of your fatted animals
I will not look upon.
Take away from me the noise of your songs
I will not listen to the melody of your harps.
Instead, let justice roll down like waters
And let righteousness flow like an everlasting stream.
And yet the history of religion indicates that we never cease to want to please God. We feel we must satisfy his expectations. We must do good things just to satisfy him, and to take away his threat of judgement.
But it is interesting when Isaiah tells us the story of the suffering servant, he also is concerned with what pleases God. He writes, “It pleased the Lord to bruise him.” And then he says, “The pleasure of the Lord will prosper in his hands.” Then the prophet says, “He shall see the travail of his soul and shall be satisfied.” Strange words. God is pleased or satisfied with what Jesus did.
But God was not pleased, because he was sadistic. He was not pleased because he thought a bit of pain is good for us all. He was not pleased with the deed, but he was pleased with the Son’s willingness to do whatever it took to help us in our grave need. He was pleased at the outcome. He was pleased over the results from that terrible event. But this passage in Isaiah never tells us to try to satisfy God. Jesus is the one who satisfies the Father.
But I need to digress on the word “satisfaction” for a few moments. There are some that say the death of Christ was to satisfy the requirement of justice. Some have said it was to satisfy God who was angry at us, and so this act calmed him down and made him happy. Oh no! God did not need pacifying. He did not need to satisfy some requirement of the law. The Bible never talks in that kind of language. God, looking at his Son’s life of obedience and his death on our behalf, is pleased with his Son and pleased with the results.
2. The Satisfaction of the Saints of God
But something else needs to be said about this word “satisfaction.” What God does at the cross in not to satisfy Himself even, never mind justice, or his sense of justice. His intention is to be the satisfier, not the satisfied one. The sacrifice of His son takes place, not to satisfy himself, but to bring a satisfaction into our lives. Listen to the clear words of Isaiah again:
“For He was wounded for our transgressions”, not to satisfy his honor.
“He was bruised for our iniquities”, not to satisfy his sense of justice.
“His punishment was intended to bring us peace”, not to pacify himself
“By his wounds we are healed”. They were not intended to redirect God’s anger away from us.
Jesus died, less to satisfy God, but to bring satisfaction into our lives.
Do you know the story told of the young man who was the butt of too many jokes and treated by too little respect. He was a bit on the awkward side and so was constantly put down. The village had a tradition of getting together at the Christmas season to give gifts to each other. As the gift giving activity progressed each person received one or more gifts. But our young friend had not been given anything. As the gift giving progressed he became increasingly despondent. Until finally there was only one gift left. It was actually the biggest and best wrapped package under the tree. Each child had focused its eyes on that one gift throughout that evening. Then our sad young person was startled as the largest gift was lifted up before the crowd and his name was called out. He wasn’t sure he had heard right. His name was called again. He ambled to the front shaking with excitement. He had not been forgotten after all! He sat down with the gift, and began with fevered fingers, to tear off the ribbon and the paper. Then he opened the top flaps of the box to see it packed to the brim with coloured strands of shredded paper and tinsel. With delight he plunges his hands into the packing paper and it went flying. Then he reaches into the remaining tinsel to retrieve his gift. But as his hands grope inside the box his joy turns to puzzlement and then to despair. He lifts his head out of the box, his eyes flooding with tears, and lets out the cry, “It’s empty! Its empty!” And he runs from the room crying while the crowd erupts into laughter. Great joke! Terrible tragedy.
The story is a parable. We are like that young man, spending our lives looking into empty boxes. We were sure there was more to life, and the package promised so much. But we ended up very unsatisfied with what we got.
Solomon the wise had spent much of his life looking into empty boxes, fame, wealth, power, sexual pleasure, music, fine food, and expansive properties. And then he writes in the book of Ecclesiastes, “Whatever I desired, I did not hesitate to try. I did not hold back from any pleasure. But then I looked and saw that it was all vanity. Emptiness, Futility.” And like the young man with his head in the box, Solomon too cried out, “Emptiness of Emptiness. Everything is empty.”
Jeremiah had detected that too. “We have dug for ourselves cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water.”
The conclusion is: we want too much. We shall be forever wanting more, only to find out it wasn’t what we were really looking for.
St. Augustine knew the problem. After a life time of looking in all the wrong places he writes “You have made us for yourself, and we are restless until we rest in you.”
Blaise Pascal, one of the world’s greatest mathematicians wrote, “There is a Christ shaped void in each one of us that only God can fill.”
They are right. When God created us, he created us with a catch. We were overbuilt to be satisfied with anything less that God himself. We have been built with hungers for air and food and drink and sex and security.
But there is another appetite that is as big as eternity that nothing that God has created can ever fill. He made us for fellowship with Himself, and no other thing and no other person can ever satisfy that. It is why we are frantic in our search for bigger and better pleasures. The hunger will not go away and will not be satisfied with anything less than all the fullness of God.
Let us turn in our hymnals to hymn #531,
1 All my life long I had panted
For a draught from some cool spring,
That I hoped would quench the burning
Of the thirst I felt within….
2 Feeding on the husks around me,
Till my strength was almost gone,
Longed my soul for something better,
Only still to hunger on….
3 Poor I was, and sought for riches,
Something that would satisfy,
But the dust I gathered round me
Only mocked my soul’s sad cry….
4 Well of water, ever springing,
Bread of life, so rich and free,
Untold wealth that never faileth,
My Redeemer is to me.
Hallelujah! I have found Him
Whom my soul so long has craved!
Jesus satisfies my longings;
Through His life I now am saved.