Archive for the ‘Isaiah’ Category
I printed the manuscript below for this sermon on Isaiah 3:1-4:1. The audio takes about 22 minutes or so-I am becoming much more efficient in my preaching. In this sermon, I follow on the heals of last week’s sermon which dealt primarily with trusting God. In this sermon, what I did was take that to it’s next step: What will we do when all vestiges of visible strength are removed? It is terribly important to remember that the prophet is speaking to God’s people specifically and not the population in general. Doing this makes the prophet’s message even more significant to people in our generation who believe that we can plunder God glory for our own ends. Israel plundered God’s glory and made their sin and shame their glory instead. As I conclude, it must not be this way for the church.
You can listen here: Plundering God.
Or use the inline player below.
Other download options are available through feedburner and archive.org.
Always for His glory!
Friends, here is part three of my series from Isaiah’s Gospel. In this sermon I discuss the inevitability of people being drawn up the moutain of God. What I noticed, and what is ironic, is that the ‘people’ of the nations say, ‘Let us go to the house of the God of Jacob…’ but the ‘house of Jacob’ has to be implored by the prophet (in verse 5) to even walk in His light. This is extreme irony. Why do the people of God seem to miss so abundantly what the ‘peoples’ do not? I will post the audio later in a Skycast. Thanks for stopping by. jerry
1 This is what Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem:
2 In the last days
the mountain of the LORD’s temple will be established
as chief among the mountains;
it will be raised above the hills,
and all nations will stream to it.
3 Many peoples will come and say,
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD,
to the house of the God of Jacob.
He will teach us his ways,
so that we may walk in his paths.”
The law will go out from Zion,
the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
4 He will judge between the nations
and will settle disputes for many peoples.
They will beat their swords into plowshares
and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation will not take up sword against nation,
nor will they train for war anymore.
5 Come, O house of Jacob,
let us walk in the light of the LORD.
I think the problem here is that people simply did not believe the prophet. I think the problem we have in our day is that people still do not believe the prophet. He begins chapter 2 the same way he began chapter 1 which leads me to believe that chapters 1 & 2 are somehow intimately linked together. Chapter 1 told us about all the syncretism and idolatry and wasted worship of the people of Israel-the children God had reared, tells us of their soon destruction and rebuke at the hand of God. Hear the Word. Hear the Word. Listen to God. But no. Chapter 2 tells us of the same people, the same prophet, the same God but it doesn’t tell us of the people’s victory, or their redemption, or their restoration. It tells us instead of God’s victory and the establishment of God over and above all idols, gods, and rulers. God will destroy all those hindrances and establish Himself as the only rightful Person to be worshipped. Isaiah 1 tells us of the wayward Israel; Isaiah 2 tells us of the Victorious God. Isaiah 1 tells us of the way things are; Isaiah 2 tells us of the way things will be. The question is, when is the ‘will be’?
In his book Above All Earthly Pow’rs David Wells writes, “The conquest of sin, death, and the devil and the establishment of the Rule of God do not await some future, cataclysmic realization. It has, in fact, already been inaugurated although its presence is quite unobtrusive…Thus it is that, in the period between Christ’s two comings, ‘this age’ and ‘the age to come’ coexist. As a result, eschatology, or the penetration of God’s future into the current time of sin and death, is light that floods across a number of New Testament doctrines. Certainly in [doctrines of salvation], everywhere there is the ‘already/not yet’ tension that the present of eternity in time creates-or, more accurately, that the presence of Christ’s victory that is already present amidst fallen human life creates.” (208)
Isaiah said, “In the last days…” By this I am fairly certain he is saying that the establishment of the Lord’s Mountain will not conclude the last days, it will not be the dénouement of the last days, but it will happen in the midst of the last days. Could be that a large part of our problem, a significant reason why we have to be called to ‘walk in the light of the Lord,’ is because we are looking to far away, not close enough, for God’s established mountain. Perhaps when we least expected it the Kingdom came upon us. Isaiah here is saying: In the last Days God will break in and establish his rule. In the last days God’s rule will take effect. In the last days-and there will be many or few days after the establishment-in the last days God will make himself fully known when His mountain is raised above all other mountains and thus renders them insignificant.
I think that time is now. I think that we are living in the last days. I think that the Mountain of God has already been raised up. I think all nations are already streaming to that mountain. It may not seem to be so, as Wells says, it may be unobtrusive. We may not see it fully or completely or realize all of its powerful effect, but it is. Jesus said:
“The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all your seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and perch in its branches.” “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into a large amount of flour until it worked all through the dough.”
This Mountain will be established by God. It will render all other mountains insignificant, meaningless. They will appear at once for what they already are: small and lackluster. But if God’s Mountain has been established in these last days, then why is it people don’t see it for what it is? You know what I mean? We humans are strange like that. We settle. God’s mountain is grand, massive, magnificent and we settle for hills and mounds. And why don’t God’s people acknowledge this mountain’s grandeur? Mostly it is the people of God who miss the greatness of the mountain God established.
Why aren’t people streaming to it the way the prophet says they will? I think it is because people don’t like the rather upside down nature of it. People will stream up to the mountain-well, how do we stream up? I think this is God’s way of saying that this Kingdom of heaven will mark a complete reversal of the way things are and of what people expect. People expect ease. People expect gravity and the least resistance. People expect a grand city-and what do they get instead? They get narrow paths. They get against the grain. They get not a city, but an ugly old tree covered dirt and rock mountain. This is a reversal. This is not what people expect. People expect a Kingdom with pomp and glory and sparkles. Instead we have to climb the mountain. But whether we get there or not, the temple of the Lord is there. And his mountain will be established as the only place where worship can rightfully, joyfully, and significantly take place. All other worship, worship on any of the lesser mountains is idolatry and meaningless and, I believe, justly punished.
And this will be for the people too. This is a vision Isaiah had concerning Judah and Jerusalem but he does not stop there. He says this will be for the nations, the people of the world. In other words, worship at the mountain of God is the past, present, and future of all humanity not just of a particular nation. At his Name every knee will bow and every tongue confess. The invitation is extended to all: Come up the mountain, worship the Lord. And it is the people who will respond: Come, let us go the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob.
There will be no other gods to speak of. There will be no other mountains of interest. There will be no other places to go.
But Zion, Jerusalem, will have an appeal that is not based on any national identity. The appeal of Zion will be for other reasons. People will be going up to the house of the Lord not because a particular nation has subdued and subjected all of God’s enemies or because they have been exalted by God. Look what the prophet says will be the magnet that draws people to Zion: The Mountain of the LORD, the house of the God of Jacob. He will teach us. We may walk in His ways. The Word of the Lord. He will judge. He will settle disputes. He will bring peace. The attraction of Zion is not political or anything particularly appealing about a national identity.
The appeal of Zion is YHWH himself! The appeal of Jerusalem is not Jerusalem, but God! The appeal of the Mountain of the Lord is the Lord. The appeal of Law and Word is that it is God’s Law and Word. The appeal of the peace is that it is God’s peace. The appeal of the justice is that it is God’s justice. You see we are not looking forward to that day or place or that way because of anything inherently wonderful about all that goes along with it. We look forward to that day, to that place, to that mountain because we look forward to God. The people were not going up to enjoy the view, they were going up to meet God. Something tells me that would be enough.
You understand, the reward here is God. Even eternal life, whatever that means, is not so much about eternal or life. It is about God who gives eternal and life and inhabits them both. It is about God being our God and us being his people. It is about the dwelling place of God being among men. Even now, if we take the last days in the temporal sense of their meaning, even now our reward is not eternal life, or blessings now, or hope, but Christ. He is our reward because honestly, what is eternal life if there is no God? What is life now if there is no Christ? Do you understand?
I noted a couple of things here about this going up to the mountain of the Lord. The first thing I noted is that this will be a place or a time or among a people who will honor his Word. It is the Word of the Lord that will prevail in matters of justice and dispute for people. It is the word of the Lord that will govern and dictate the terms of peace we seek. It is the word of the Lord that will end all wars. I wish that we were that people now. Look again. The people who are going up the mountain are hungry for God’s Word, for God’s law, for God’s teaching, for God’s ways. These are people who are no longer content with the unfaithful words and laws of people. These are people who desire something more, something lasting, something real, something permanent. Would that we had such a hunger now.
I also noticed that Isaiah had something to say about war and peace. We live in a world that is full of war and violence. And we have people working around the clock and on every side saying, Peace, Peace. End the War. End violence. Rebuke politicians who start them and send unfortunate sons to fight them. What we don’t realize is the enmity that exists and that because of this enmity wars will be fought and continue to be fought because people are trying to forge peace upon a world that is simply incapable of having peace. Terry Briley noted, “Rather than disarmament resulting in peace, God’s peace will result in disarmament.” But you see war is simply a symptom of enmity. It reveals the real conflict going on in the world.
If the world really, really, really wanted peace, well, here’s the solution: To the Mountain of the Lord. But I think a case can be made that since the world doesn’t seek God the world probably doesn’t really want peace.
So the prophet ends on a rather strange note: Come, house of Jacob, let us walk in the light of the Lord. Why end here? Well, I think it is because Israel wasn’t currently doing that very thing. Consider this from Deuteronomy 4:5-8:
See, I have taught you decrees and laws as the LORD my God commanded me, so that you may follow them in the land you are entering to take possession of it. 6 Observe them carefully, for this will show your wisdom and understanding to the nations, who will hear about all these decrees and say, “Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.” 7 What other nation is so great as to have their gods near them the way the LORD our God is near us whenever we pray to him? 8 And what other nation is so great as to have such righteous decrees and laws as this body of laws I am setting before you today?
Israel had a special obligation to lead the way. But I also sense here the prophet’s frustration with his people. Come house of Jacob, let us walk in the light of the Lord. In other words, what are you waiting for? The same goes for us. What we learn in these verses is that even now the Worship of God prevails, even now the Word of God prevails, even now the rule of God prevails. So what are you waiting on? What are you waiting for? Why are we lagging behind? Why are we content to linger in the darkness? Why are we content to disregard the light of the Lord for some other false illumination?
If this is how the kingdom of God works, unobtrusively, and this is the current and the future of things-what are we waiting for? Why do we lag behind while others move on ahead of us? Come let us walk in the light of the Lord. He has already given us the light what are we waiting for? Jesus said, “Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself….Then Jesus said, ‘You are going to have the light just a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you. Those who walk in the dark do not know where they are going. Put your trust in the light while you have the light, so that you may become children of light.”
Come, let us walk in the light of the Lord.
Soli Deo Gloria!
This is the text of last Sunday’s sermon. I have been reading and re-reading Isaiah’s sermons since June 23 of this year. The depth is overwhelming. What struck me though is where he chose to begin his sermons (or, at least what his editors chose as the first sermon in this collection). The first complaint is that Israel (Judah) does not know her God. Everything else, chapters 1:4-66:24 follows this announcement that the people to whom God has revealed himself do not know Him–at all. If the church accepts Isaiah as canonical and thus must make application of his words to the church, then he is also saying the church does not know God either. This has to change.–jerry
Isaiah 1:1-31: Knowing God: Isaiah’s Call For Reformation
2 Hear, O heavens! Listen, O earth!
For the LORD has spoken:
“I reared children and brought them up,
but they have rebelled against me.
3 The ox knows his master,
the donkey his owner’s manger,
but Israel does not know,
my people do not understand.”
Several years ago, DA Carson wrote a book on prayer he titled A Call to Spiritual Reformation. It is 230 pages of very heavy theology and exegesis concerning they why and what of prayer. In order to introduce his subject matter, he spends several pages surveying the landscape and investigating several things that the church, Christians in general, are missing or needing.
In fact, his first chapter is titled “The Urgent Need of the Church.”
Well, there are a lot of things he surmises the church needs.
- Personal morality-holiness. “Our culture,” he writes, “is heating up and destroying us.” But this is not our greatest need.
- Perhaps it is a need for a ‘combination of integrity and generosity in the financial arena.’ Nope, that’s not it either.
- Could it be that we need more evangelism and church planting? But Carson writes, “evangelism-at least the evangelism that has dominated much of the Western world-does not seem powerful enough to address our declension.”
- Perhaps, he suggests, we need more disciplined, biblical thinking.
- Then again we could need vital corporate worship. The need to be involved in politics and policy making also ring bells.
But none of these things ranks high on Carson’s list of things that the church needs in order for spiritual reformation to take place. Instead, Carson writes this:
There is a sense in which these urgent needs are merely symptomatic of a far more serious lack. The one thing we most urgently need in Western Christendom is a deeper knowledge of God. We need to know God better.
When it comes to knowing God, we are a culture of the spiritually stunted. So much of our religion is packaged to address our felt needs-and these are almost uniformly anchored in our pursuit of our own happiness and fulfillment. God simply becomes the Great Being who, potentially at least, meets our needs and fulfills our aspirations. We think rather little of what he is like, what he expects of us, what he seeks in us. We are not captured by his holiness and his love; his thoughts and words capture too little of our imagination, too little of our discourse, too few of our priorities.
In the biblical view of things, a deeper knowledge of God brings with it massive improvement in the other areas mentioned: purity, integrity, evangelistic effectiveness, better study of Scripture, improved private and corporate worship, and much more. But if we seek these things without passionately desiring a deeper knowledge of God, we are selfishly running after God’s blessings without running after him. (15-16)
I sense this is a great problem we are facing in the Church still. The pressure is felt more acutely in some ways and places. There’s always the pressure of keeping up with the church down the road and sometimes, in some churches, that pressure causes great compromise in the way things are done and the things that are said.
I sense that this lack of knowledge of God is still the main problem we face. Oh, I don’t mean the simple lack of knowledge as in facts and figures-although that is a problem too. But the fact is that Carson is right! We spend so much time on the extra-curricular nonsense that really fail to get at the heart of God. His solution is, of course, that we should be praying.
As I read through Isaiah 1, several times since June 23, I noticed that these words preface the entire book of Isaiah: I reared up children, but they rebelled; my people do not know me. What a sad, sad state of affairs this is. To bring this into our own context, I would ask: Do we know our God?
I don’t mean: Do you know God in the sense of, ‘have you heard of God?’ I mean, do you really, deeply, truly know him? Do you have inside of you a unquenchable hunger and thirst for God? Do you seek first His Kingdom and righteousness? Is he your first and last thought each day? Can you say with the apostle, “I want to know Christ-yes the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead”?
Paul wrote to the Colossian Church:
For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. 10And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, 11being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully 12giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. 13For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
But he also said something like this:
33Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable his judgments,
and his paths beyond tracing out!
34″Who has known the mind of the Lord?
Or who has been his counselor?”
35″Who has ever given to God,
that God should repay him?”
36For from him and through him and to him are all things.
To him be the glory forever! Amen.
Or according to the Westminister Shorter Catechism: What is the chief end of man? Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever. In other words: to know him!
But the Israelites didn’t know God. They didn’t make time to know him. What then of all that follows in chapter 1:4-23? It is my contention that these things Isaiah talks about in those verses are not the reasons why Israel did not know God but rather these are the consequences of Israel not knowing God. And you can see that it was a rather dreary list of consequences.
Let’s look at them ever so briefly.
- Verses 5-6: There was a great deal of physical suffering among the people. Beating. Wounds. Welts. From top to bottom, there was no soothing their wounds. How much of our suffering is because we really do not know God?
- Verses 7-9: They were economically and socially falling apart. They were desolate and their cities laid waste.
- Verses 10-17: This is probably the most damning of all the consequences: Their worship of God was meaningless. But listen, how can we worship the true God in any meaningful way if we don’t know the God we are worshiping? How can we understand and know what he prescribes if we have spent no time in his presence? If we have not gone out of our way to be involved with him, to walk with him, to know him…how can we properly worship? Oh, don’t make this mistake: They had all the forms right. They knew the right moves, the right steps. They had all the motions down pat, but there was no meaning to any of it. Any of us can go through the motions. Here’s the trick: Do you go away from worship sometimes feeling like you have just gone through the motions? Do you ever have a sense that things are just not right? I suspect that the days when we feel that way it is because we have settled for mere ceremony and motions instead of moving from a hunger for God. Blessed are those who hunger for righteousness, they will be filled.
- Verses 18-20: They were a people who paraded their sins around. Scarlet, or deep red, is not a color easily missed. They were stained greatly with sin because they didn’t walk with the Lord.
- Verses 21-23: Look at all the rest. There was no justice and they tolerated murderers-those who defile the image of God by destroying those made in His image. Their offerings were worthless. They were cheats-watering down water. Their silver was impure. And they tolerated rulers among them who would do nothing about any of this. Do you think we have leaders among us, do you think we tolerate leaders-and I remind you that the prophet here is talking about God’s people and that if this is so then he is also talking to the church!-do you think we tolerate leaders among us who look like these ones Isaiah is saying they tolerated? I think we do and I think the reason so many in the church tolerate these shameless, greedy rebels among them is because, again sadly, they do not know God.
This was quite a fix these Israelites had gotten themselves into through the years. It is a rather embarrassing fix, to be sure. But God did not turn his eye blind or his ear deaf to it. I think it would be easy to assume that the God of the Old Testament is angry and filled with rage, but that is simply not the picture I see: Scattered throughout Isaiah, over and over again, are these little advance signs-little pictures of grace and hope. We see the same in chapter 1. God does not turn an eye blind to the unscrupulous, recalcitrant, rebellious human: Instead, he enters into it and sets about fixing the disaster we create.
We are good at rebelling and creating messes. God is better at repairing completely what we wreck.
He will purify his people. He will restore justice. He will avenge himself against his enemies. He will deliver Zion. He will take away their faithlessness and shame. The prostituted, Sodom and Gomorrah will once again become the City of Righteousness and the Faithful City! God is going to set straight all the crookedness. God will return the City to its state of purity and righteousness and glory; a place where He can put His Name.
You see this was about God’s glory too. The people suffered mightily, yes, but also I think God suffered. The city on the hill, the people of God, the light of the world had become little better than Sodom and Gomorrah, little better than a prostitute, less than barnyard animals, the scorn of the nations, a habit for murderers and disgrace and idolatry. The people to whom God had revealed himself did not know God and, as a result, no one else did either. There are mighty consequences that ripple throughout the land when those who should know God fail to do that very first, primary thing.
I’m glad Isaiah began where he did, that is, by pointing out that what he said had an historical context during the reigns of four different kings. What this tells me is very simple: These kings who were supposed to be the guardians of God’s Name among the people had failed. They had allowed the nation to slide, run headlong, into this decrepit state. What this tells me is that we cannot count on kings and leaders to do what must be done; it also tells me that these men could do very little to revive Israel and get them out of the funk they were in. This is exactly why the end of the chapter says, over and over again, “I will…I will…I will…I will…I will…” and all of the ‘I’s’ refer to God.
You see we have this problem: We don’t know the God who has made himself known. And it is going to take nothing short of his intervention, again, to get us fixed. And he did just that: For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten son. How did God do all these things spoken of by Isaiah? He sent Jesus of Nazareth who announced the in-breaking of God’s kingdom, with power. He began to turn people’s hearts back to God. It was through Jesus that God began to undo all the stupidity of man.
On the other hand, we learn what the church is to be like also. We are people who are to know God. When we know God-when we truly, deeply, know God-when He is our daily pursuit-then everything else will fall into place. Suffering minimized. Faithfulness accentuated. Worship made meaningful because we know whom we are worshiping. Sin cleansed because there is no sin among us. Not tolerating corrupted leadership. A place of righteousness. You see, when we learn about who God is, and what God expects, then we begin to understand who and what God expects us to be.
So the question I leave you with today is this: What is your daily pursuit? What is your daily ambition? Are you seeking first God? If God called court right now: Hear me, you heavens! Listen, earth! What would God say about us? Would he say we are people who know Him? Or would he say we are people who do not understand? I guess a lot of that has to do with what we want Him to say, doesn’t it?
Soli Deo Gloria!