Tag: The Holy One of Israel

God Wins

Isaiah 66:15-24

We saw in last week’s text that God Rules; he has given away none of his authority over his creation or creatures. Many people don’t believe that; in fact, the majority of people in the world give their allegiance and worship to a (little g) god other than the God of the Bible. They certainly are not convinced that a god they don’t believe in is going to ultimately win. And, to make matters worse, they have no clue what God’s final victory will mean for them.

Christians have issues, too. They may be convinced that Christ and his people win out in the end, but many don’t live like it. They lack the conviction to face each day as Henry Wadsworth Longfellow:

“God is not dead, nor doth he sleep; the wrong shall fail, the right prevail, with peace on earth, good-will to men.”

Even when we have that confidence, we too often focus on the near term – today, tomorrow, next month – wanting to know God’s timing, impatient because he hasn’t come yet. Not a new issue: Isa. 21:11 “Watchman, what time of night is it?” Matt. 24:3 “Tell us, when will these things be?” Acts 1:6 “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” A wise man once said: “Though God is never behind His time, He seldom comes at ours.” Pink

The solution: be attentive to what the Bible says, don’t try to figure out what it doesn’t say, rest on promises God has given for our encouragement. In our text, God promises through the prophet: to deal with sin and rebellious sinners once for all; to save repentant sinners from all over the world; to provide a perfect environment and inheritance for his people for all eternity.

A. he comes in judgment v.15-18

how: unstoppable furious anger (15)

especially in NT period, don’t like to talk about God’s anger

Paul doesn’t get out of 1st chapter of Romans without declaring: the “wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men”.

God’s holiness requires it – he can’t view man’s sinfulness and sinful actions, then go “meh”; must do something about it

fire’ is defined as a motif of the unapproachable, deadly holiness of God. Chariots, an earthly manifestation of destructive power, are symbolic of the irresistible power of the holy God acting in judgment. Motyer

fire does two things: consumes or purifies

here, it is unrighteous, rebellious sinners who will be consumed by God’s righteous anger

who: the divine Warrior (16)

the one who will deliver his people from their enemies

not only at the end that judgment comes on God’s enemies

Christ identified that way in Rev. 19:11-16

has carried out that mission at other times, too: e.g., Josh. 5:13-15

against whom: idol-worshipers (17)

worship of anyone / anything other than true God is rebellion

Paul again, describes idolatry: Romans 1:22-23, 25Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man – and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things. …[they] exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever.”

agnostic (sissy atheist) and atheist have a god: self, elevated to position belonging to God alone, qualified to decide the “God question”

when people cease to listen to God’s word, it is not that they believe nothing, but that they will believe anything.

once more, Romans 1:28And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting.”

why: all will see the glory of his (18)

justice in punishing his enemies

God has perfect knowledge – works and thoughts

punishment meted out will precisely suit crime committed against God

grace in saving his children

those gathered out of the nations to worship – Rev. 7:9-10

“After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, saying, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!””

according to his grace we:

are accepted in the Beloved

have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins

in order that we should be to the praise of his glory (Eph. 1:6-7, 12)

B. he sends to the nations v.19-21

those who “escape” – survivors (19)

true worshipers preserved by God from destruction

sent out

to a destination – the nations, not the neighborhood

cross-cultural ministry

with a purpose

that the nations might hear of God

that they might worship the true God, give him glory

guaranteed success in missions (20)

ones sent out to the nations used by God to bring more worshipers to his sanctuary

those who go about God’s work God’s way will achieve God’s intended results

God’s promise through later prophet – Mal. 1:11For from the rising of the sun, even to its going down, My name shall be great among the Gentiles; In every place incense shall be offered to My name, And a pure offering; For My name shall be great among the nations,” Says the Lord of hosts.

missionaries / pastors are effective in work of evangelism and church planting – not because they’re good salesman

poster child for “Reluctant Missionary” understood it’s because “Salvation is of the Lord” (Jonah 2:9) and God keeps his promises

no more Jew and Gentile – all will be priests (21)

“some of them [Gentiles] for priests and Levites”

just as animal sacrifices found fulfillment in Christ, old priesthood superseded by something better

something not possible even for average Israelite accessible to all in covenant community

here is “kingdom of priests and holy nation” God promised to Moses (Ex. 19:6)

1 Pet. 2:9a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light”

not only a better covenant of which God gave the sign (v.19), has better privileges

those who love and obey God (Ex. 19:5) able to serve in his presence

God not only victorious over idolatrous enemies, has victory over all that prevents fellowship of man with God, man with man

C. he makes all new v.22-24

new home (22)

promise of enduring home and posterity

all that of necessity brings this age and universe to an end will be gone from new cosmos

true worship (23)

no idolatry, no innovation, no imperfections in future worship

will be true and continual and face-to-face – in God’s immediate presence

full understanding (24)

what God has graciously done for his children

no question as to who has had the victory

no question as to what he has won – perfect, glorious eternal life for his people

D. the king on a donkey

more than 700 years after Isaiah – king arrived in Jerusalem

riding a donkey, not a horse – coming in peace, not to make war

was indeed the right king, right time, right message

don’t be fooled by meekness: Zech. 9:9; Matt. 21:4-5

he’s a winner!

God’s perfect plan meant first Advent was necessary but so, too, a second Advent

“…we turn with relief to the declaration of the New Testament which formed the very hope and song of the Early Church, the declaration which states that He Who has come will come, that the first Advent was indeed preparatory, and that the consummation of its meaning can be brought about only by another coming, as personal, as definite, as positive, as real in human history as was the first.” G. Campbell Morgan

Heb. 9:28so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation.”

he had victory first time over sin and death

future victory over all enemies assured at his first coming

at second coming will finally subdue all his enemies

all those who are in Christ will share in his victory

their present is secure, future assured because of their union with him

joy and thanksgiving for what Christ has achieved begins now, continues for all eternity

have promise that closes the NT: “He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming quickly.” Amen.” (Rev. 22:20)

may our response be the one that closes the verse: “Even so, come, Lord Jesus!”

God Rules

Isaiah 66:1-14

Holiness does not consist in mystic speculations, enthusiastic fervours, or uncommanded austerities; it consists in thinking as God thinks, and willing as God wills.” John Brown, Nineteenth-century Scottish theologian

What does that have to do with our text and the principle that “God Rules”? When we think as the world thinks and desire what the world desires, we forget who is in charge. And what he requires. God is the “Holy One of Israel”, thrice-holy as attested by Isaiah in chapter 6, high and lifted up. Our holy God demands that we be a holy people. That we worship him and live for him and depend on him now and forever. And he requires that we do it his way, if we are to receive his promised blessing.

To the extent we think like the world, we convince ourselves that man is in charge – you know the line Timothy McVeigh quoted, “I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.” God doesn’t think that way. Whether it appears like God is in charge or not, he rules. If you are his enemy, that’s a source of incredible frustration. If you are his child, that truth provides immeasurable comfort and confidence.

It means we don’t have to guess or try to figure out by trial and error how to please God in worship. It means we shouldn’t be discouraged when we see how things are going in the world – those aren’t problems, they’re opportunities for God to work and be glorified. It means we need not fear the future but can rejoice confidently in what God has stored up for us.

A. worship v.1-4

place (1)

God, the Sovereign Ruler of the universe; He chooses where he will meet with his people, not other way round

He isn’t obligated to be present just because it’s a place devoted to him; certainly can’t and won’t be confined to one sanctuary on man’s say-so

place of worship that has known God’s presence in past may forfeit it; he will not bless where he is not honored

people (2)

God does not accept worshipers indiscriminately – he has made all things, deserves worship from all

but… looks favorably on those who fit his definition of true worshipers

humble – opposite of proud; having a sense of God’s awesome greatness, beauty and holiness, of own personal insufficiency and sinfulness

contrite in spirit – brokenhearted over sin; our own, not our neighbor’s; coming to worship with a keen sense of need, not a feeling of accomplishment

submissive to his word / authority – have a holy reverence for God, desire to please him that causes them to love God’s smile and tremble at his frown

perversion (3)

will not accept worship from those who do right thing with wrong spirit

offer right kind of sacrifice but with bad heart

sing hymns, recite along with everyone Lord’s Prayer, harbor ill-will toward brother or sister

God equates it with breaking his commands, worshiping idols

not just unacceptable to God, it’s downright offensive

will not accept worship from those who do their own thing to please themselves

decided to worship God in own way, expecting God to accept it

we’ll do this or that and call it worship – God, Jesus, the Bible in there a few times; feels good to us, like worship, God’ll be cool with it

don’t need church, can worship God in my special place by myself; I feel close to God, he must be there

God calls that “abominations”, will not accept it; remember Nadab & Abihu

God’s way of dealing with transgression may have changed, basic rules haven’t; God still decides

punishment (4)

what they most feared, hoped to avoid by their false worship – God makes sure they experience it

willful rebellion exacts painfully high price, especially when it comes to worship

just because God doesn’t strike people dead today like previously doesn’t mean he’s pleased

means he’s longsuffering and patient, calling and speaking to people, urging them to worship him his way

B. the world v.5-9

enemies ashamed (5)

in this case it’s God’s enemies, the faithful remnant’s countrymen – friends and neighbors

those who have persecuted believers for the cause of the Gospel

same kind of attitude as those passing by the Cross, soldiers, first thief: Luk. 23:35-39

prove to us you’re really God

the godly, pursuing holiness by faithfulness to God’s Word – the object of God’s special care

those who persecute the godly – the object of God’s special attention / punishment

opposition punished (6)

whether in society at large (the city) or within organized religion (the temple)

God will deal with his enemies

even though it might look like they’re winning

just because we don’t see God moving doesn’t mean he’s sleeping

he’s promised to make all things right in his way in his time

God’s delay is opportunity

for evil people to add to their evil and eventual judgment

for God to conquer his enemies by making them friends – conversion

sudden reversal (7-8)

when it looks like God’s people are at point of extinction, God will do the impossible

Christ will build his church – will grow by leaps and bounds

not dependent on time – if you bring 2 people and I bring 2 people then 4 people will know; if we bring 2 people and they bring 2 people then God’s family will grow

besides the ones God brings!

when God works in his church results are unexpected, mind-blowing even

clearly a “God thing” (9)

ever start a project, not finish it? ran out of time, material, interest, wasn’t coming out like you thought?

never happens with God – never starts something he can’t or won’t finish

the church Christ said he’d build: will be completed

no shortcuts, no missing pieces, no last-minute substitutions, no adjustments to building plans

God’s purpose can not and will not be frustrated

will be obvious when it’s all done that God did it

C. the future v.10-14

rejoicing (10)

even though: church isn’t in best shape, enemies of Christianity seem to be winning – public schools, Supreme Court, other levels of government here and abroad

God says rejoice, be glad, rejoice for joy

he’s got it under control and gives cause for joy to his people

each person who comes to faith in Christ – one more victory for Christ and his church, one more loss for Satan – cause for believers to rejoice

each new true church planted, faithful translation of the Scriptures, pastor or missionary commissioned to serve in Gospel ministry – cause for joy

knowledge that Christ will win final victory for his people, bring them safely home – great cause for joy

here’s a test: somebody asks you how’s it going; do you respond “wonderful; God is so good, have so much to thank him for”? If not, you need an attitude adjustment, change of focus: God first and his blessings, then where he has placed you to serve him.

nourishment (11)

God provides nourishment for his people – drink deeply with delight

no lack, no need to hold back, enough for every one and every need

your soul a little parched, undernourished? Supply for your need is here – God present among his people when they worship and serve him

look everywhere else – you won’t find satisfaction for your soul; only found in God, serving and loving him

we’re just like babies – unable to nourish themselves, dependent on someone else

God promises to supply all our needs, not stingily, but according to his riches in glory

and he’s committed to providing that supply only through his Son, Lord Jesus

only as we are joined to him by faith that we tap into that nourishment

peace (12)

world is full of turmoil, conflict; so are families and so is the church

it ought not so to be!!

those who are at peace with God should be at peace with each other

if we’re not at peace the fault is ours, not God’s

he extends peace like a river

not a shower, not a stream, not even a fountain – a river

sufficient for all situations

comfort (13)

experiencing discouragement? trials? hurts? fears?

God will comfort

just as tenderly as best mother in the world

intensely focused and individual

hurting one receives full and exclusive attention

victory (14)

both friends and enemies will know God has won

his friends by display of his power

his enemies by display of his righteous anger

Who can count on God’s blessing?

him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, And who trembles at My word” (2);

“You who tremble at His word” (5)

“His servants” (14)

Does that describe you? If not, no time like the present. If yes, take comfort from truth that God rules. And,… willingly because we love him submit to his leading. Humbly surrender all we have and are to his use.

God Creates

Isaiah 65:17-25

Thread runs through Scripture from about Genesis chapter 3 onward: deliverance. Bible uses various words, emphasizing God’s actions / individual experience – deliver, save, redeem. We tend to put all into one bucket: salvation. Bible speaks much of being saved or delivered from – reminds us something happened: the Fall, its consequences, and Curse that immediately followed. We know from Scripture the ultimate consequence of the Fall for the unrepentant – death, followed by eternal condemnation in the lake of fire. Think through some what-if’s:

=> salvation means only from death and hell, everything else stays the same (bodies, sin, cosmos); blessing or curse?

=> only from death, hell, sin (not its consequences), rest the same (bodies, cosmos); blessing or curse?

=> all that plus new bodies, same place and conditions to live in forever; blessing or curse?

For salvation / deliverance to be blessing not curse, must include everything corrupted by sin that will be part of believer’s eternal experience. Puts benefits of what Christ accomplished by death, burial, resurrection in different light, doesn’t it, when consider entire scope. His sacrifice purchased redemption for his people and heavens and earth. Paul writes Rom. 8:21the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.” God has it covered – our salvation is complete and will be genuine and eternal blessing, with no remaining trace of sin and its curse to spoil our endless enjoyment of God.

For that to be achieved, God’s got a lot of work yet to do! Promised deliverance of a remnant, salvation for the nations in first part of chapter. But what about all the rest? Their condition, their circumstances, all things necessary for them/us to experience blessing of eternal life. God continues response to Isaiah’s prayer, revealing more of what he, the covenant Lord, intends to do for his covenant people.

Side note: several places in Bible where what authors try to describe goes beyond words and ability to express. Paradigm shift is so radical requires new ways of thinking to fully comprehend. e.g., Paul’s attempt to discuss resurrection in 1 Cor. 15. Post-resurrection bodies sorta kinda like, continuous with, but not really…. Same for Isaiah. How we think about young/old, life/death, relationships within created order will be fundamentally different in new heaven/earth from what they are now. Also, if things about Isaiah’s description are murky, must understand them in light of Scripture that has more clarity.

A. new cosmos v.17

already new creatures “in process” (2 Cor. 5:17)

don’t need NT to get that, at least a little – first half of chapter makes clear distinctions between saved and lost

new creatures need new home

can never experience absolute full joy / blessing with constant reminders of sin around

can never experience fullness of God’s presence in sin-corrupted environment

intermediate state not ultimate destiny

at death, bodies go into ground and souls to Lord’s presence (2 Cor. 5:6-8), awaiting Christ’s return and resurrection

the in-between: better than now, not best

man is made for bodily existence

still have memories, connections with earthly life

but,… if John is right (Rev. 21:4), also v.19 – no more tears, sorrow or crying, then…

cause for such must be removed – everything wrong with present universe

eventually, even memories of things that would distress will be superceded

God will have ideal people in ideal universe

holy God will have holy people in holy place, his divine purpose includes all means to that end

B. new joy v.18-19

God’s people rejoicing in his new creation (18)

joy in what God will do begins now – based on hope (confidence) in him

means we shouldn’t dwell in past; hope in future should fuel our passion for holiness and making disciples

worship is foundation for joy

enhanced by fellowship with other worshipers

part of worship is rejoicing in what God creates

giving him glory for his glorious work

a work of such incredible proportions only God could perform it

same kind of language as Genesis and first creation

saints will see God’s ultimate purpose in its fullness

giving him glory for joy we experience because of what he has made

especially when he has made it for our joy

God rejoicing in his people (19)

nothing any longer in God’s people to cause him grief

nothing any longer to cause his people grief

God rejoices in them and with them

approving and reveling in his own handiwork

other prophets give further light on God’s rejoicing:

Zeph 3:17He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.

C. new life v.20

death will have no more power

death is sad fact of life – millions die before born, many more at very young age; no age or stage of life immune

no longer true in new heaven / new earth

no one will die in infancy, no one’s life will be cut short

someone 100 years old considered just a child

if no death, or its power, then no more aging process

if in this life our “inward man is renewed day by day” (2 Cor. 4:16), in the next life our entire person will enjoy that experience of daily renewal

sin will have no more presence

inmate in max-security may be able to go visit another cell undetected (Cumberland County Jail)

will never happen in new heavens / new earth

will be no sin, no sinners, only redeemed and purified saints

but if a sinner managed to get in unnoticed… if managed to live there under the radar for 100 years…

his sin eventually do him in – would be cursed, condemned, cast out

isn’t simply that sin not present there

will never be tolerated

nothing allowed that will disturb joy of redeemed in eternity

D. new conditions v.21-25

no curse (21-22b)

frustration of having to work for benefit of another

building for other people to enjoy

raising food for other creatures to enjoy (think pests and predators, too!)

curse – laborious toil, thorns, thistles, sweat – removed from new creation

no longer too little time (22c)

as old as the trees:

“many trees in the bristlecone pine forest of the White Mountains (California) that exceed 4000 years of age, and are still growing!” (USDA website) Oldest single tree – Methusaleh, estimated 4,843 years old. Allowing for minor calculation errors – sprouted immediately after the flood.

no more “make-work work”, no need for do-overs (22d)

labor will be to good purpose, will have substantive result

outcome of labor will suit God’s purpose

disaster, calamity, trouble out of the picture (23)

curse – pain of child-bearing and raising – removed from new life

how many times have you heard: “I wouldn’t want to raise children today, in this world”

circumstances that cause physical, emotional and spiritual pain no longer exist

all generations will experience only blessing

no need/delay (24)

God will provide for need even before it is articulated

God will be so near – no “delay” in communication

even in new life: creatures still dependent on God; God still faithful to supply

no danger (25)

no more predator / prey relationships

The story is told of a Russian named Ivanovich who visited the Moscow zoo for the first time. To his amazement, he found a little lamb sharing the cage with a big fierce bear. Ivanovich expressed surprise to his guide. The guide smiled and said, “That is peaceful coexistence.” When Ivanovich shook his head in a doubtful way, the guide explained, “Of course, we have to put in a fresh lamb every morning.”

no more bloodshed

no more injury or destruction

no more danger from the Serpent

curse not lifted from him

all traces of sin and its corrupting effects along with result of God’s curse erased from heaven and earth as God makes them new

All possible only because of redemptive work of Christ – one Savior, one sacrifice – sufficient to purchase our salvation, accomplish redemption of his people in full. Nothing overlooked, nothing held back:

Heb 7:25-27So he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.For it is indeed fitting for us to have such a high priest: holy, innocent, undefiled, separate from sinners, and exalted above the heavens.He has no need to do every day what those priests do, to offer sacrifices first for their own sins and then for the sins of the people, since he did this in offering himself once for all. NET

Best part of it all: enjoying our Savior’s presence, to be near him, experience his smile, hear his voice, feel his touch. That “will through the ages be glory for [us]”.

God Answers

Isaiah 65:1-16

Isaiah prayed passionately, fervently for his people the Jews. Not unlike pastor praying passionately, fervently for America – you’ve sent hurricanes, floods, wildfires, blizzards, economic hardship; we’re sinners and we’ve sinned but we’re turning back to you, we need your help. Haven’t we suffered enough?

The answer not especially welcome, not what “every-Jew” expected – was basically “no”; in fact, for many there is no hope. Was true for Jews as for all mankind, God will not save everyone – he declared that purpose to Isaiah. Also true that God would not completely abandon or destroy them all either. When it’s question of destiny, God deals in specifics, at individual level. Put very simply: ticket to heaven not refundable, transferable, shareable. Parents can’t share with children/grandchildren; members of church family can’t share with/transfer to others; citizens in a nation can’t get in under an umbrella policy that covers everyone.

It’s a question of identity: are you called by name God has given, or by name of own choosing? That was question for Jews in Isaiah’s day as God prepared to give them dose of own medicine.

A. Israel not entirely saved v.1-7

Gentiles vs. Jews (1-2)

Gentile miracle (1)

God promised through Moses:

Deut. 32:21They have made me jealous with false gods, enraging me with their worthless gods; so I will make them jealous with a people they do not recognize, with a nation slow to learn I will enrage them.” NET

would reveal himself, his truth to Gentiles, people not even looking for him

see Rom. 10:19-21

happened with proclamation of Gospel to Gentiles after Pentecost

something Jews should have expected

God’s patience (2)

“not fair” you say?

God pursued – by written word, by prophets, by provision

patiently for generations, centuries

hard circumstances, “give us one more chance”

God does, they go back to old ways

didn’t really want God, wanted pain relief

nature of Jews’ rebellion (3-5a)

once again, out of habit, wilfully and with informed consent

try to satisfy God-itch with own solutions

just like own culture – more religious/spiritual-sounding than any other time in history

hear it constantly in language, even has own priesthood (those w/claim to knowledge & authority)

who are authorities?? – science, psychiatrists, financial wizards, the state

in case of Jews – gods of own definition

safe alternative to Yahweh

standard that can be achieved by self-effort

God’s evaluation (5b)

smoke in his nose

not pleasant – nice wood fire

more like smoke from incessantly burning garbage dump

in a word: OFFENSIVE, kind of stench makes you want to vomit

and response (6-7)

God is committed to action

his time, his way, in perfect justice

those who have wilfully turned away, done their own thing

will pay in full for sinful actions

“not fair” you say?

Father required Lord Jesus to pay in full for his people

can he expect any less of those who reject Christ?

B. Israel not entirely cast off v.8-12

the remnant (8)

God surveys – in midst of pervasive rebellion and idolatry, a faithful few

will not destroy nation, as he had others, for sake of remnant

vineyard basically unproductive, but…. here and there clusters of good fruit

vine allowed to grow (for a time) for sake of good clusters

result of God’s moving (9)

no thanks to individual genius that remnant exists

God who stirs up his people

brings to life

causes to seek him, worship him, the one true God

establishes as residents in his holy place

another contrast: remnant vs. rebellious (10-11)

promised peace and rest for remnant (10)

former desert will become rich pasture

safety, rest, nourishment

former place of trouble given new purpose

doorway to hope (Hos. 2:15)

hope for future and destiny

earthly Canaan a faint shadow of heavenly Canaan

downpayment on future fullness – realization and experience of spiritual blessings reserved for time after Jesus’ return

promised frustration for rebellious (11)

stage a party, guests of honor don’t show

“who prepare a table for Fortune and fill bowls of mixed wine for Destiny” HCSB

instead of inviting living God who can see, hear, speak, move – call on impotent idols

surprised no one answers? shouldn’t be

clean living and perserverance good things, empty gods when they become the standard

God justifies his treatment of rebels (12)

God destines rebels for destruction

“not fair” you say? “my god isn’t like that” you say? then your god isn’t God of the Bible

these are the charges:

God called, they refused to answer

God spoke, they refused to listen

willingly did what they knew to be evil

willingly chose what they knew displeased God

C. to each his own v.13-16

to rebellious: what they have earned; to his servants: what “the Servant” earned for them

contrast could not be more profound

those seeking God will be satisfied – those seeking satisfaction will be frustrated

cursing for the rebellious

hungry and thirsty – shame – sorrow and grief of heart – name a curse word – destruction

may have everything world considers important, yet have soul that is shriveled and dying

may be trying to kill pain with alcohol, drugs, work, relationships, possessions, suicide

none of that will nourish their soul, fill the God-shaped void they have

blessing for true servants

nourished and satisfied – joy and gladness of heart – a new name – true worship

may have nothing world considers important, yet have soul that is content and vibrant, alive to God and his ways

In Revelation God’s people are promised food, drink, and table fellowship (Rev 2:7, 17; 3: 20; 21:6; 22:2, 17). As there, so also here, those still in their sins will be excluded from the joy of it all; and their name will be a byword among God’s people for the curse of God. Expositor’s Commentary


Your life empty? Are you hungry and thirsty for love and to be loved? Are you frustrated and without joy, perhaps without real purpose or direction?


Seek after God. Listen to him when he calls you. Respond to him when he speaks. Take hold of his outstretched hand and don’t let go. Delight in him and you will be blessed beyond your wildest dreams.

Are you one of the believing faithful remnant? Safe and secure in your Heavenly Father’s tender keeping? Consider blessings you experience right now – fellowship with God and his people, joy and contentment unknown to so many, your name written on palm of God’s hand (Isa. 49:16), taste of what true worship is really like. All that is real but only tiny helpings – full course meal with unlimited servings comes in heaven. Thank him for his blessings, ask for more…..of Him – greater sense of his presence, fuller experience of his fellowship, more of his glory to show through you. God has done and given much already – don’t be satisfied with yesterday’s helping; continue to delight in him, draw close to him that you may experience more of him and his goodness.

Hear Our Prayer

Isaiah 63:15-64:12

The work of prophet not easy – true prophet of God often unpopular both for what he said and what he did. He might be object lesson of what God intended to do – called to dress funny, act funny, give his kids funny names. Always called to relate faithfully, accurately message God had given for his people. In Isaiah’s case, God gave insight into his ministry – harder Isaiah tried, harder and more resistant people would become. By most measures of success, Isaiah’s efforts for Jewish people would look like colossal failure.

Don’t know who Isaiah had for stenographer, if even had one. Primary work was proclaiming – a preaching prophet along with contemporaries – Amos, Hosea, Micah. Yet wasn’t only preacher; was pastor as well – heart for his people comes through even written record of his ministry. Present text case in point: without fanfare Isaiah transitions from preaching to praying. Publicly leading God’s people in prayer, calling on covenant God to see their predicament, move in answer to their pleading. Isaiah both interceding and instructing: praying on behalf of his flock, at same time modeling fervent prayer for them to learn and imitate.

A. look v.15-19

see our predicament (15a)

Moses instructed to pray this way (Deut. 26:15) “Look down and bless”

Hezekiah prayed (2 Kings 19:16) “see and hear the words of Sennacherib”

Isaiah prayed from perspective of people in captivity, great need

don’t hold back (15b)

we don’t see you moving

know you’re zealous for your people, tender and compassionate

why are you restrained from helping?

Abraham & Jacob can’t help (16a)

need goes beyond their ability even if present

patriarchs have no greater investment in your people than “Father” does (2x)

even though rebellious and sinful, truly repentant can still approach Father

You’re our only hope (16b)

covenant Lord is, always have been, always will be people’s only Redeemer, protector

from everlasting, actually before creation (Eph. 1:4) committed to our redemption

don’t leave us in our sins (17)

you’ve given us what we asked for – wasn’t good for us

you must come back to us if we are to come back to you

Your cause is at stake (18)

not just your people who have experienced hardship

very cause of God under attack: no respect for your house, who and what it represents

no fear of you in any sense – moral, ethical, spiritual, physical

remember us, we’re your people (19)

it feels like you’ve abandoned us

we’re your ancient people, not like all our neighbors

you chose us, basis of love, not size

distinguished from all those not called people of God

you have vested interest, you must remember, you must act!

B. come v.1-5

tear open the heavens (1)

we want to see, hear, experience you

don’t send angel, more prophets, you come

deal with your enemies

want more than just your power, want you

make it plain who you are (2)

show that you are true God

remove all hindrances to progress of Gospel

crumble mountains, burn brush, dry up rivers

move in such a way no one has any excuse not to recognize you

overwhelm us with your majesty (3)

you came down, met with Moses on Sinai

people frightened, overwhelmed, thought they might die (Ex. 20:18-19)

were in total awe of you and majestic glory

you even showed Moses your goodness (Ex. 33:19)

do it again – surprise us by your awesomeness when and where we don’t expect it

reveal your truth (4) cf. 1 Cor. 2:9

there’s never been another God like you, one who actually intervenes

even our eyes and ears can’t perceive you unaided

we long for you to come – reveal your plan

help us to understand your plan of redemption

but what about us? (5)

you fellowship with one whose joy / delight is to please you

you reveal yourself to one who remembers you, puts you first, recognizes your fingerprints

meet wayward children with welcoming / forgiving arms

but that’s not us

we’ve sinned, …repeatedly …continually …for a long time

we need savior to deliver us

as sinful as we have been, is that possible?

C. restore v.6-12

we’re sinners by nature and deed (6)

not just that we’ve sinned – we’re sinners

that’s who we are; what we do, too

makes us unfit for your presence – unholy – and you’re holy

compared to you, your works

our deeds are embarrassingly disgusting, hardly fit even to be buried

we don’t have anything to clean them up with

the sanctuary’s empty (7a)

worship isn’t important any more

serious prayer neglected, too

people just aren’t interested in spiritual things

don’t care about spending time with you

you’ve lengthened the leash (7b)

you don’t restrain us any more

you let us go, to feel consequences of our sin

but wait, …we have a relationship (8)

you’re our father, …craftsman, …creator

you brought us into being

you made us who we are – people who have your fingerprints all over them

not just individuals, a people, a covenant community, a church you’ve formed

you can’t abandon us now, we need your sustaining help

don’t be angry, we’re your children (9)

don’t remember our sins

remember we belong to you

we need your compassion – all of us

the place of former blessing is now a desert (10) the place of worship is unusable (11)

cities of Judah, area of Zion, Jerusalem, even the temple

places you promised to bless and inhabit desolate, unfit for your use

everything we hold dear has been taken away or destroyed

how can you possibly hold back? (12)

have we suffered enough yet?

has your reputation suffered enough yet?

please don’t hold back, don’t keep silent any longer

please hear and answer our prayer; at end of v.12, Amen.

How could God possibly relent? show his people mercy? show us mercy? Only by looking to time when God did come down. When child was born, son was given. The virgin conceived, her son was indeed “God with us”. That one satisfied requirement of perfection, keeping covenant conditions in place of fallen sinners who can’t. Also satisfied God’s demands of justice on behalf of those who broke his covenant. By grace, God can credit repentant sinners with a perfect righteousness, make that righteousness real in their lives.

Gospel isn’t only for people who need to trust in Jesus. It’s for those who already have trusted him for salvation, need daily forgiveness and cleansing from sin. who need daily measures of God’s grace to help them be obedient children. Pray as the prophet prayed, plead with God to be merciful, to act on behalf of his church and children. that God’s enemies would be overcome – graciously brought out of darkness into Christ’s kingdom. May God’s grace be a moment-by-moment reality in our lives as we keep short accounts with him.

Our Great Savior

Isaiah 63:1-14

Live in dangerous world. Didn’t used to be that way, wasn’t that way by design. Began as co-operative relationship between all parties involved: man and woman, animals, forces of nature, even God. Mankind give mandate to act as God’s second-in-command, manage created world to maximum productivity. Then sin reared ugly head, all that changed. In moment when God declared curse on serpent, ground, world has turned into war zone. Ones who started out friends became enemies. Earth resisted man’s attempts to manage it. Later on, animal kingdom no longer easily approached by men; in some cases, wouldn’t want to try!

No great surprise that man turned into key player in conflict. 1st generation – killed wife’s reputation; 2nd generation – killed his brother (Gen. 4:8); 5 generations later – writing songs to celebrate violence (Gen. 4:23-24). Didn’t stop with Cain and Abel or even Lamech; continued on, names you easily recognize – good guys, bad guys, nice nations, evil ones. Animosities that continue to this very day. In every age and generation, God has always had his people. As he promised, they’re involved in the conflict too (Gen. 3:15), one that includes greatest enemies: sin & Satan.

Not getting better, not getting safer. Seems the evil people do is even greater, more in-your-face. True on individual level, also national and international as well. Persecution.org has annual “Hall of Shame”, 11 countries where Christians at greatest risk of persecution. Iraq ……………..Iran ……………..Egypt …………..Nigeria…………Eritrea………….Somalia………..India ……………Pakistan……….North Korea…………China …………..Vietnam….. Could easily become discouraged, think situation is hopeless if didn’t have the Bible. Enemies of God’s people are great; not a single one we can overcome. Given scope of task, must have a great Savior if we are to have hope.

A. great work v.1-6

prophet looks, coming from direction of Israel’s ancient enemy Edom – a warrior (1)

gets attention even from a distance

bright red garments – fit for royalty – striding powerfully and confidently

who can this be?

one with authority to speak, power to save

why are clothes all red? (2)

evidence of work Warrior has done bringing judgment to his enemies – complete victory over them (3)

glory displayed in defending his people, subduing enemies

just as much as in delivering his people from captivity

God is glorious in justice and in grace and mercy

remember v.1 – if God is truly righteous, then must punish evildoers

also important: those crushed in winepress deserve their punishment, obstinately rebellious until bitter end

a hard truth, one in which God takes no pleasure, neither should we

God’s salvation far more than simple extraction from danger; includes eliminating danger (4)

fireman saves child, Marine saves injured buddy – danger still exists

building continues to burn; enemy only temporarily neutralized

possibility or likelihood of future harm still remains

OTOH, God’s plan mandates full & final removal of all danger to his people

achieves complete freedom for his people

from sin and sinfulness

from effects of sin

from sinners who would cause his people harm

only one engaged in this work – the Divine Warrior (5)

no other with sufficient interest

not in this kind of work

average sinner still in sin most interested in making pain go away, hassle/frustration stop

desire goodies God could provide but not interested in God and his ways

only after deliverance that we “get it”

with proper skills

to understand enemy

to know winning strategy

with necessary qualities (6)

good to overcome evil

purity to overcome sin

power to overcome all enemies

B. great love v.7-10

Great Savior makes plain what he is about – great work he must accomplish; prophet responds in praise

many good things and great faithfulness (7)

hear all the words – breaks out in doxology – confident God will win

what you can remember quickly enough to thank God for

brings more to mind, and more, and more

never-ending display of love and mercy toward his people

every last bit of it undeserved – bestowed on those who were his enemies at the start

Rom. 5:8 But God proves His own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us! HCSB

demonstrated in context of family relationship – my people, children (8a)

God committed to relating to his people as Father

redeeming out of world into family

expecting children to bear family resemblance, behave as family members

no better setting in which to show love

came himself, didn’t send an agent (8b, 9b)

“he became their Savior”; “the Angel of his Face saved them”

“the angel in whom his face is made clear” E J Young

“Not an ambassador, nor an angel, but he, the Lord delivered them, because of loving them.” LXX (9b)

God himself, in person of Lord Jesus, “the exact representation of his being” (Heb. 1:3)

best expression of his love: “he loved us and sent his son” (1 John 4:10)

to do for his people what they couldn’t do for themselves

what none other than God incarnate could accomplish

feels his people’s pain (9)

God in his essence, being, God-ness is immutable, unchanging; pure spirit, not subject to mood swings

at same time: God not distant, remote, disconnected from his people

he is sympathetic, compassionate, relational

he is moved by prayers and predicaments of his people, responds to them in their need

=> because of love and compassion he redeemed and sustains

exhibit A of sustaining: 40 years wandering in desert

all other times he has carried his people when they could not carry themselves

“a love that won’t give up” (10)

even in face of rebellion

not the Father’s love, the love of Holy Spirit; hmm, think on that one

cannot grieve one who doesn’t love

all three Persons of Trinity

active in redemption – see in v.9-10

love those who are God’s – 1 John 4:10; Eph. 5:25; v.10, Eph. 4:30

continues to show his love through correction

Heb. 12:6The Lord corrects the people he loves and disciplines those he calls his own.” CEV

because he loves: he restrains, draws back, corrects, fights against their foolish rebellious choices

does not allow his people to self-destruct in sinful rebellion

C. great name v.11-14

don’t forget God’s great works of the past, his purpose in performing them

everlasting name

removing all obstacles to safety, rest, holiness (11)

gave a shepherd and his Spirit

brought through seemingly impossible situation – Pharaoh and Red Sea

giving direction – internal and external (12-13)

guiding in a specific path

spiritually & morally – by his Spirit

physically – by his shepherd

=> God’s purpose: when remembering great wonders of past, would think of them as things God accomplished

glorious name

true rest comes from Holy Spirit

rest = settledness, security, peace

denied to those who oppose God

intended to be lot of those who settled Canaan

promised those who come to Christ – Matt. 11:28-30

God’s goal his glory, even in dealing with his people

does what He does for his people

for their good (Rom. 8:28-30) especially in their salvation

for his own glory – that he might receive all praise

God’s enemies and our enemies are great and powerful and many. Are absolutely determined not to lose the battle. God is greater, more powerful, will eventually have final and total victory over all his foes. Is God’s patience, desire for more sons and daughters adopted into family that postpones Great Day. Has God demonstrated himself a great savior to you? Give him the glory! Speak of him to others. Live for him in front of others. Show by your life of holiness the overwhelming greatness of God.

Is that not yet a reality in your life? Do you have yet to experience the transforming power of God’s Spirit? release from captivity in sin? Turn to our Great Savior, the Lord Jesus, in faith believing he is the only one who can save you. Repent of your sin, seek God’s forgiveness, be reconciled to him and become his child. Then you can sing of your redeemer, of his wonderful love to you, how he has set you free from your sin.

Give Him No Rest

Isaiah 62:1-12

Prophet Isaiah lived before blogs, Twitter, on-demand publishing. Time and environment where anyone with library card can write to potential audience of billions. Isaiah primarily a preaching prophet; what we have in 66 chapters – sermon transcripts. Possible exception chapter 6, personal testimony. 40 years of prophetic preaching ministry distilled into 1292 verses, 36120 words (in English). Key points and principles Holy Spirit directed him to record for future generations.

Covered broad range of cultural / theological issues: nation incredibly blessed by God; patient forgiving God; people steeped in rebellion and idolatry; remnant of believers graciously protected and preserved; deliverance from captivity, salvation from sin, future blessing beyond description. It’s all there. Looking far into future, Isaiah saw glory of God at work among redeemed people. Saw fulfillment of promises God had made; promises for our age and age still to come.

Easy to think: God promised deliverer; he came, declared his identity, completed his work, went back to heaven, end of story. Now both God and we just hang on till the end. Not exactly. Gen. 2:2 tells God “rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done.” Doesn’t mean God’s been on vacation for few thousand years. Jesus said, “It is finished” but he’s not on holiday either. Work of creation, work of redemption completed, yes. But, more work to do. No rest even for God, just yet. If you are genuine child of God, think as we work through text how much of this applies directly to you, describes what God has done in your life.

A. no rest v.1-2a

the means

loud proclamation

his word going forth – public preaching / teaching of Gospel

man’s rules & regs governing speech no barrier to God – God speaks, will be heard

ongoing activity

no relaxing, no diminishing of intensity until goal is achieved

the end

glory of his people

righteousness and salvation

Holy One of Israel determined to make his people holy

and witness to the nations of God’s great acts of deliverance

no such thing as secret service Christian

God intends world to see, take notice of what he has done

B. new name v.2b-5

name in Bible/Jewish culture more than label (2b)

usually given by one with authority – this case, God himself

often reveals much about individual – e.g., various names for God

new name replaces old name and its associations

change of nature and character (3)

crown – sign of royalty

important: crown of beauty/glory

God doesn’t work to minimums, close enough for gov’t work

all God does is work of art, beauty, displaying his glory

diadem – sign of sovereignty

his people will show his rule over their lives

what they do, how they live explainable no other way

in the hand of the Lord – not on his head

work is not completed, …yet; still adding jewels to his crown

translation note – v.4 better expressed this way:

“You will no longer be called Deserted, and your land will not be called Desolate; instead, you will be called My Delight is in Her, and your land Married.” (HCSB)

change of status (4)

from “deserted” to “delighted in”

formerly ignored, now object of special attention …in a good way, way of blessing and nurturing

change of relationship

from desolate, alone, neglected, unfruitful, without hope for future – to protected, provided for, surrounded by family

radical change

one in whom God delights, over whom God rejoices

God has done the work, made the difference, accomplished the change necessary

delight and rejoicing are genuine, not company face put on for show

but….. not everyone meets necessary conditions for God to delight in them

means there’s more work to do – work God must do – but not do alone

C. new work v.6-10

pastors (6a)

watchmen on the walls

protect and encourage those within by proclaiming truth, warning of danger

must be alert – to ones inside slacking off, ones outside sneaking up

petitioners (6b-7)

“You who put the LORD in remembrance, take no rest, and give him no rest” (ESV)

Paul said “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17)

God never tires of reminders of his promises

keep on without resting until

the work of building the church is complete

individually and corporately

at home, in families, here with brothers and sisters

unreached people; work of our missionaries; labors of sister churches

preparation (10)

make the place ready; enlarge the tent; remove the roadblocks; make the destination obvious

do what it takes so the sanctuary is big enough for all the worshipers

promised blessing (8-9)

guaranteed promise: sworn by his power

so long as God is God and is omnipotent, what he promises will be done

those who labor with God

enjoy his presence – receive his blessing – give him praise for what he has accomplished

D. divine results v.11-12

look who’s coming (11b)

salvation – deliverer

the one of whom prophet spoke in Isa. 53:10-12 – would see his seed, prolong his days, see the labor of his soul and be satisfied.

look who’s with him (11c)

“the Messiah is here described as coming to his people, bringing with him a vast multitude of strangers, or new converts, the reward of his own labours, and at the same time the occasion of a vast enlargement to his church.” J A Alexander

look what God has done (12)

holy – made his people like himself

redeemed – paid the penalty to redeem them from sin

desirable – made them desirable to himself and others

loved – restored to loving relationship

all brought about by what Suffering Servant accomplished when “he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors”

Whew! Guess we need to get busy. God doesn’t sleep, our job to give him no rest. At every possible opportunity, must be pleading with God, reminding God, praising God. If not happy with forward progress of Gospel in the world, where to look first? People of God – are they doing the work God has given? Basically God is saying here: if you want me to build my kingdom, build my church, pray continually and fervently and persistently that I do it. Expecting Christ’s church to grow without prevailing prayer is like expecting Sally to win a race on square wheels. She might eventually get to the finish line but not in 1st place.

May God stir up in us desire for fervent prayer; may we do our part, in prayer for work of the Kingdom at every possible opportunity. May we give God the praise as we see him work in answer to our prayers.

Beauty for Ashes

Isaiah 61:1-11

Spoke last week of Wordless Book and its colors. How those colors relate to book of Isaiah. We think of those colors and principles initially with personal connection: my heart, I know, washed me, I’m told, I’ll walk, I read and pray. Isaiah’s message directed not to individuals but the nation; a nation steeped in sinful rebellion, out of which God would preserve a remnant. Yet the nation was made up of individuals. God would indeed deliver nation from captivity in Babylon. At the same time, promised deliverance for those who were captive in sin. Work of Suffering Servant know from Isa. 53 was work accomplished by Suffering Savior on Cross of Calvary.

But Isaiah doesn’t end with deliverance from Babylon, or even redemption from bondage in sin. Looks beyond simple context of Jesus’ first coming to what comes after. Remember view through telescope – includes near, far and what’s in between. Told in Chapter 60 to “rise and shine”; it’s a new day, actually new age in world history. The Son has arrived, has come with a mission – begin in time and space the process of restoration – rolling back the curse, restoring what was lost in the fall, and of course, ultimately more; far more.

What is character of time of “light and glory”? What makes it that kind of time? Easy to think of the gift of eternal life beginning when we cross the Jordan. Certainly begins a different phase of life but not the beginning. Jesus’ words in John 5:24

“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.

Believer’s eternal life begins at the new birth, moment of conversion; important that there be ongoing signs of life for duration of earthly existence. Bible picture of true believer is not of one who makes profession of faith then flat-lines until they die and miraculously squeak through the pearly gates. In our text, given number of guiding principles about foundation and character of believer’s life. Prophet tells us something dramatic will happen: an anointed one will appear on the scene with a particular ministry; others will follow him to continue his ministry; results of their ministry will cause great rejoicing in the church.

A. ministry of Christ v.1-3

read passage, ask question same as Ethiopian about another passage: does prophet say this of himself, or someone else (Acts 8:34)

follow-up question: is it about social justice, political prisoners, economic inequities, access to healthcare, or something else

people of Isaiah’s day may not have had definitive answer; we do: Luke 4:16-21 Lord Jesus claims to be fulfillment

not once but twice; John the Baptist – are you the Promised One? Jesus stated “that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have the gospel preached to them” – evidence of his identity.

more to Jesus’ ministry than miraculous acts of healing; necessary to confirm he was sent from God but… (1-2)

central theme was proclaiming the gospel, good tidings; Mark begins account of Jesus: “Jesus went into Galilee and proclaimed the gospel of God.” (Mark 1:14)

gospel truth that brings healing to brokenhearted

gospel key to liberating captives, that opens door of sin’s prison house

gospel news tells of year of Jubilee – time when liberty, release from debts proclaimed to all (Lev. 25:10)

in order to deliver, Christ had to deal with oppressor – sin, Satan, death; then captives would be truly free

comfort and strengthen those who mourn (3)

again, remember Jesus: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” (Matt. 5:4)

much misery and suffering in world; in good old days, too

what do we mourn – loss of something: of value, importance, that we hold dear, or, despair of ever having

particular emphasis here – mourning over sin, wasted years, squandered opportunities, broken fellowship

promise of the Gospel: those who repent (turn from) sin, turn to God as only one who can save will receive:

forgiveness and restoration – crown of beauty instead of ashes of repentance

cause for joyfulness and joy itself – oil of joy

attitude of worship and thankfulness – garment of praise – outward, visible, obvious

identification as enduring testimonies of God’s grace – trees – pointing to God – that he may be glorified

B. ministry of his people v.4-9

pronouns change from first person to second and third

One acting in v.1-3 began the work, now others must carry it on

Lord Jesus is cornerstone but he builds his church on foundation of apostles and prophets

Master Builder uses means, human instruments to continue work of Gospel ministry

Jerusalem rebuilt after return from captivity, people of God are built up from their sin-ravaged past (4)

once more, picture of God’s people include Jews and Gentiles, side by side, serving together (5)

middle wall of partition removed (Eph. 2:14) – full freedom of access to God regardless of gender, heritage, social status

all of God’s people are priests in this new (read, present) age of redemptive history (6)

not just descendants of Aaron, not even all Jewish believers – all the redeemed

only mediator necessary is Lord Jesus, also our high priest

all God’s people have privilege of offering sacrifices: bodies (Rom. 12:1); praise (Heb. 13:15); spiritual sacrifices (1 Pet. 2:5)

no longer shameful condition (7-8)

captivity/slavery to wrong master is shameful

whether Israel captive in Babylon

or people enslaved to sin and Satan

good master blesses servants with honor

in this case – promise of honor and blessing beyond this life – everlasting joy, everlasting/permanent covenant

blessings given will never be lost – have been earned for them by Lord Jesus

those united to Christ by faith participate in blessing; not one with Christ, no claim to blessing

promise to Abraham – “in your Seed all families …will be blessed”; Paul tells us that means “in Christ” (see Gal. 3:16, 29) – “if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”

Gospel progress among the nations (9)

Abraham’s seed, the heirs, are tasked with proclaiming message of promise to nations by Word and deed

character of life of Christ’s servants obvious to those around

known as descendants of Abraham, acknowledged as blessed of the Lord

same Spirit that is on Christ – v.1 – poured out on his servants; he (the Spirit) will produce fruit. Gal. 5:22 “the fruit of the Spirit is…”, not sometimes, not might be, is

remember promises of verse 3: God’s people must demonstrate they have received them, are living on them, declaring them to all who will listen

if you turn from reliance on self, …etc., turn to God in faith believing…., he will do this

deal with your sin and shame – forgive and restore fellowship

remove your filthy fig leaves – dress you in righteousness of Christ

fill emptiness of your soul and life with himself

make you a trophy of his grace that he may be glorified

that’s good news which must be lived and proclamed unashamedly to men, women, boys, girls

C. the church rejoices v.10-11

great rejoicing (rejoicing I will rejoice) over what God accomplishes (10)

joy of God’s people is in him because

he has saved them

he has declared them righteous and is making them righteous

he has brought them into close relationship – bride and bridegroom

joy of God’s people is in him because

he has saved others

he has declared others righteous and is making others righteous

he has brought others into close relationship – bride and bridegroom

accomplished as God works (11)

through his people

to advance Gospel throughout world

by his Spirit

to bring about conversion at hearing of the Gospel

Lord Jesus’ declaration that he would build his church (Matt. 16:18) not first time promise was given; it’s a covenant promise that began in Garden, was given further scope and meaning to Abraham, final full revelation given in New Testament. His church not yet complete, why we’re still here.

Lord Jesus didn’t begin his ministry 2000 years ago with idea that it eventually would peter out for lack of support. Intended it to be carried on until every last square foot of planet where there are ears to hear has been blanketed with the Gospel. Requires faithful servants, absolutely sold-out to their Master, holding nothing back, who sacrifice everything for His sake. BTW, applies to all his servants, not just select few.

Let me put it another way: if you were hauled into court today on charge of being “servant of Christ”, would there be sufficient evidence to convict you? Would witnesses from among family, workplace, community, as well as church be able to go beyond opinion, offer solid evidence and convince a judge beyond reasonable doubt? And when the judge renders verdict, would God agree with it?

That is sort of servant Lord Jesus desires to do his work. Those who will carry a credible message of forgiveness and salvation and hope to corner store, local school, professional building, inner city mission, around the world. Will be true of us when beauty of Jesus is seen in us. May that be true of us.

Light and Glory

Isaiah 60:1-22

Colors are important in life: navigation on air, land and sea. Red/green: air – high/low; land – stop/go; sea – right/left. Highlighters help to identify patterns. Color clothes tell us whether baby is boy or girl. Are indication of person’s health and perhaps mood. Can’t forget the Wordless Book:

My heart was black with sin / until the Savior came in; His precious blood I know / has washed me white as snow; And God’s Word I’m told / I’ll walk the street of gold; To grow in Christ each day / I read my Bible and pray.

We could use those colors to code Isaiah’s prophecy, too. Black for chapters 1-39; addressing Israel’s sin and coming judgment. Red for chapters 40-53; Holy One of Israel adds to his name – title of Redeemer. White for chapters 54-59; declares effects of redemption applied to God’s people. Gold for chapters 60-66; describes light that would come, glory associated with it. As Isaiah with eye of faith looked through his glass at that glory, two events and their outcomes blended together: Lord Jesus’ first coming for redemption, second coming for judgment. From Isaiah’s viewpoint this age merges into the next with no clear dividing line.

v.10 pivotal verse – explains paradigm shift from darkness of judgment to light of glory: “in My wrath I struck you, But in My favor I have had mercy on you.” Tide turned not because people smartened up, started doing it right. Was because of God’s mercy; true for all mankind in all situations – because of God’s mercy, his gracious compassion that any see the light. This chapter full of light and glory – absolutely, without exception has all its source in Lord God, the Holy One of Israel (9). It’s his glory, the Lord who must be praised, his name that is lifted up, his city where his glory is focused and concentrated.

A. the glory of the Lord (1)

a new day – Son rise has come (1)

Isaiah declares with absolute confidence (prophetic perfect): Light has come, glory has risen

not told to “look within themselves” for light; people had no lights, oil, matches, bulbs, batteries

only way would have light is from another source: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)

darkness dispelled (2)

“a cloud of ignorance and sin so dense and obscure that no light can penetrate” Barnes

no area of world, no segment of humanity exempt from darkness of sin

one light can penetrate – the Lord and his glory

did indeed come into the world – “the true Light which gives light to every man” (John 1:9)

great attraction (3-4)

nations will see light and by God’s power be drawn to it (3)

those from far away or who have wandered far away – brought back to the light

world will serve the church (5)

Zion rejoices over increase in population

God works all things, including affairs of pagans, for good of his people

intends to “gather together in one all things in Christ” (Eph. 1:10); “has made Christ head over all things to the church” (Eph. 1:22); has been working toward that end from the beginning “to the praise of his glory”

B. the praises of the Lord (6)

unselfish worship (6)

response to seeing the light and glory of God:

get close

devote all to him, starting with most precious, without reserve

tell the story: proclaim good news of the Gospel

praise the Lord for greatness and goodness

acceptable sacrifice

God responds to true worship:

accepts the sacrifice (7a)

even from, of all people, descendants of Ishmael

Kedar, dark or black skinned, commonly known as Arabs; second son of Ishmael, claimed ancestor of Muhammad

glorifies the house (7b)

beautify his already beautiful house; add glory to already glorious

Jewish church was glorious, church that spans globe geographically and culturally far more so

C. the name of the Lord (9)

from a distance (8)

geographically – beyond the horizon

theologically – “off the reservation”, steeped in idolatrous worship

from a “difference” (9a)

different family – Gentile

different allegiance – devoted to the world

worshiping – lifting up the name of the Lord – with their substance as well as spirit

drawn to God by name – the Holy One of Israel (9b)

worshiping not just any God – Memorial Day prayers, other public prayers even in the church

particular God – Holy One of Israel – revealed in Bible, not other holy books – goes by name YHWH

when church experiences what Paul wrote about: “to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations” (Eph. 3:21), when God glorifies his church, people are drawn to her.

D. the City of the Lord (14)

resident “aliens” (10)

once again God makes it plain – church is bigger than Israel; includes Israel, for sure, and far more. Remember covenantal promise to Abraham – stars and sand.

“there’s a wideness in God’s mercy / like the wideness of the sea” – extends to all nations

place of continuous growth (11)

“converts from all parts shall be always coming in, and the gates of the church will stand open always to receive them; they will be welcome, come as many as will; there will be no objection to them, no hinderance of them; ministers and people will gladly embrace them; see Isa 26:2 and likewise of the capacity of the church to receive them; for though they will be continually coming in great numbers, yet still there will be room; the gates will not be shut upon them, as unable to receive more; place will be given for them to dwell in; her tents will be enlarged; the curtains of her habitation stretched out; her cords lengthened, and stakes strengthened; so that though she breaks forth on the right hand, and on the left, there will be room for them all.” John Gill

enjoying God’s protection (12)

no casualties inside the church

no survivors outside the church

glory throughout (13)

even lowliest place, footstool, will be honorable and glorious

again, because God makes it so

called God’s City because he and his people dwell there – the church (14) (Heb. 12:22-24)

promise to Solomon – “I have consecrated this house which you have built to put My name there forever, and My eyes and My heart will be there perpetually.” (1 Ki. 9:3)

declaration of Paul – “you are the temple of the living God.” (2 Cor. 6:16)

“it is the most desirable place that can be to live in, which is the city of the Lord, which He owns, in which He dwells, in which religion is uppermost.” Matthew Henry

the place of God’s blessing and favor

the joy of generations (15)

when God blesses in way promised, for the long term

generation after generation experience joy of redemption and restoration

knowledge of the Lord…your Savior and Redeemer (16)

people of God will know who delivered them

knowledge of experience, instruction and relationship

characterized by peace and righteousness (17-18)

theme of God’s city – Salvation and Praise

salvation initiated by God is key to citizenship in his city

continual praise is natural behavior of citizens who have experienced his salvation

those who are at peace with God and have received Christ’s righteousness

an everlasting light (19, 20)

no darkness in this dwelling of God’s people – either of day/night or good/evil

God is light and glory and his city takes on his character – pure, righteous

inhabited by a righteous people (21)

those dissatisfied with own unrighteousness

desiring true righteousness

living righteously before God and in his strength

in God’s time (22)

sent the Light into the world in his time

gives awakening light to individuals in his time: “Thine eye diffused a quick’ning ray, I woke – the dungeon flamed with light! My chains fell off, my heart was free, I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.” Charles Wesley

Is that true for you? Has God released you from prison house of sin and are you following the Lord Jesus? Once God has given us the Light he expects us to walk in it – live and think and choose according to God’s rules, not our desires. As you walk in that light, thank and praise the Lord for his grace, doing for you what you could not for yourself. And then tell the world about it- they need to know God’s truth, be released from bondage and brought out of their darkness in sin, and be brought into his marvelous light.

Separation, Sorrow and Salvation

Isaiah 59:1-21

Things started out well: perfect place, perfect creatures and people, perfect relationships all around. Perfect communion between man and God, man and woman, man and the rest of creation. No hostility in act or thought, no deception, nothing hidden from sight, no conflict; no sense that something good and necessary was missing from human experience. Then all changed: disobedience, shame, guilt, accusation, blame. Closeness, intimacy, communion lost in a moment of time, never to be fully regained during life. Not content to give sole credit to Eve for what he had lost, Adam pointed finger at God, too. “The woman you gave me”.

What was it that moved Adam to such an outrageous response to God’s questions? Most important thing in Adam’s experience had been wrenched away, pulled out by roots, leaving wounds, scars, empty hole in place God had designed to be center of life. Except that’s not entirely accurate – wasn’t God who uprooted himself from intimacy with Adam and Eve; they tore themselves away from God. Then tried to fill in hole with themselves. Problem was, didn’t work. Adam was left with keen awareness of utter loss, immediately angry and frustrated with own inability to solve problem.

Since he couldn’t fix it, maybe it wasn’t his fault. Maybe he didn’t move away from God; perhaps was God that moved. Must be it: lack of response from God must be God’s fault. Too busy, too much to look at, too many things to listen to, too far away to reach, that’s why Adam couldn’t hear God or see God or sense his caring presence. That model with minor variations what generations of Adam’s descendants have followed. It’s what encourages people to ask “Where was God on 9-11?”; “If There’s a God, Why…?”; “If God is Good, How Come…?”; “How Could God Allow the Great Tsunami?”

Isaiah called his contemporaries on their wrong way of thinking; bluntly set them straight on true nature of the problem. Made clear what needed to change, one source of their only hope for change.

A. separation v.1-8

you’ve blamed it on God

he’s powerless (1a)

he’s inattentive (1b)

dumb things to think; it is God after all, if that were true, wouldn’t be God.

Were right to suspect a problem, blaming it on wrong person

real separation

it’s real, black and white, night and day kind of separation (Gen. 1:14, 18) (2a)

without change, outside power, impossible to bring the two together

God has hidden himself, not allowing himself to be found, refusing to hear pleas with intent of acting (2b)

people need to hear truth: problem is sin, not sickness

5 times Isaiah calls problem “iniquity”, willful and purposeful planned acts of disobedience against God. (2,3,4,6,7)

sin a whole body experience

hands, fingers, lips, tongue (3)

mind (4)

feet, thoughts (7)

sin leaves trail of wreckage behind

hurtful (3a), malicious (3b), unjust (4), violent (6b), destructive (7c), dishonest (8b) toward others

mankind’s attempts to make it all better fail to deliver (6a)

don’t even make it up to standard of fig leaves – best they can achieve is spider webs

only one way to fix – get to the root, deal with the sin; that’s what corrupts and defaces and frustrates everything else.

Often is a process – doesn’t happen all at once. Begins with

B. sorrow v.9-15a

over consequences (9-11)

I don’t like my life, I want things to change.

takes more than wave of magic wand to bring someone far from God close to him.

often begins with life getting reeeaaalllly painful, hopeless, fearful

recognition that all of own efforts lead to dead ends

everything going wrong; everything touched breaks, ends in disaster (9a)

no light, only darkness (9b)

no sense of direction (10a)

no strength or energy to move on (10b)

complete frustration – harder you try, worse it gets; at the end of rope (11a)

utterly hopeless, but still haven’t identified / acknowledged real issue (11b)

basically good fellow on road to conversion, suddenly contracted typhoid fever. Soon face to face with death: “I found fear in me for the first time, and when I faced leaving this world and entering an unknown realm, pangs took hold of me, such as I had never felt before. Thank God my parents were not there to take that fear from me. Thank God that human sympathy did not blind me to eternity.” Rees Howells, Intercessor

over sin (12-15a)

I don’t like my sin. Now we’re making real, substantial progress. Situation no longer hopeless.

not only being sorry for consequences; it’s godly sorrow that has led to repentance (2 Cor. 7:10); evident in true confession

repentance – change of mind, way of thinking about previous behavior; confession – agreeing with God about sin

not minimizing: transgressions – sins – iniquities (12)


real guilt – “sins testify against us” (12a)

right object – sins are against God, rebellion and revolt (13)

right source – “from the heart” (13d)

real lack – righteousness / godliness is far away (14a)

C. salvation v.15b-21

judgment first (15b-18)

God won’t / can’t overlook sin (15b)

even though sinners are helpless (16a)

cannot provide worthy intercessor for themselves

God graciously provides his own intercessor, later revealed as Lord Jesus (16b)

God makes first move to deliver (16b)

operates on basis of his character: righteous, desiring to deliver, executing justice (17)

deliverance requires battle against sin; Divine Warrior takes field and thoroughly conquers enemies (18)

eventual deliverance from penalty of sin does not relieve of all consequences

truly repentant who turn to Christ in faith will be delivered from penalty of sin

1 John 5:13I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.

cannot expect deliverance from natural results of sinful behavior – “way of transgressor is hard” (Prov. 13:15, KJV)

poor health, prison, hardship and loss

possessions, relationships, employment

God may graciously choose to restore; can’t count on country song getting played backward

then deliverance (19-21)

results of great work God has done

fear (obedience) of the Lord from east to west (19a)

recognition of the Lord’s glory (worship) (19a)

natural response from one delivered from bondage in sin – love, praise and worship deliverer

security for all those marching under his banner (19b)

doesn’t matter what enemy or what tactics; God delivers those who are his

redemption applied to the repentant (20)

nothing here about self-help / 12-step / power of positive thinking programs

redeemed have responsibility to do all in their power to please God

at same time depending on God for strength and grace to please him

promise of Spirit and Word (21)

new covenant and its promises not limited to Jeremiah and Ezekiel – here in summary form

promises are to all those who turn from their sin, those who are spiritual descendants of Jacob

Spirit and word granted in fullness to Lord Jesus first – upon you, in your mouth

participation in covenant blessings only available through Lord Jesus

empowering, sanctifying of Holy Spirit

fullness of wisdom and knowledge – in Christ “are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” Col. 2:3

covenant promises address more than simple quality of life issues

focus not on circumstances, how God might change them

emphasis on individual – guided by God’s Spirit, instructed by God’s Word

effect of covenant relationship – metamorphosis of individual

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. 2 Cor. 5:17

Does your life need to change? More to the point, do you need to change? Is there one thing or whole bucket full of somethings separating you from God? Follow example given in our text:

change your mind, way of thinking

agree with God about your sin, call it what it is

acknowledge guilt and need for God’s forgiveness

ask God to give you a desire for Him

depend on God to change you and help you do what is right

Here’s what Lord Jesus promises:

Matt. 11:28Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

John 6:37 the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out.

1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.