Title: Court is in Session
Text: Isaiah 1.1-9
Goal: to understand Isaiah and what he is doing in writing his book.
Good morning… Here’s what I want I’d like to accomplish this morning:
- My goal is to look at the outline of Isaiah and get some direction for where we’re going at W.E.B.S.
- 2ndly, I hope to set the tone of the book within the preface of Isaiah from within the context of the entire book.
- I’m hoping some of you here would see the beauty of this book and desire to be a part of this study on Wednesday evenings.
- I’ve chosen to leave Mark for this morning, because I just haven’t had any time to present an introduction. I’m not used to the new time on Wednesday evenings. And 2nd, this opening section in Mark has moved me, and I want you to be moved with the same sort of passion.
As a way of introduction, let’s review 1.1: 1The vision of Isaiah the son of Amoz, which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah.
- The Vision
- Of Isaiah
- Concerning Judah & Jerusalem
- In the days of Four Kings
Transition: let’s begin 1st with …
- The Vision (1)
exp.: Note 1st, the vision is singular; he doesn’t record visions, but rather a vision. So this book is to be observed, studied and understood as a ‘vision’ from God. It is not a collection of visions.
2nd, a vision isn’t something God shows Isaiah, or any of the prophets for that matter. It could be and at times is; however, it isn’t necessarily seen. Many times, a vision is what God says to Isaiah. Cf.: 21.2; 29.11;
3rd, this vision isn’t chronological. I believe this creates problems for some – but not for me. I see Isaiah as his memoir – a collection of sermons and messages and stories, which have been put together systematically and not chronologically. He presents his point and then, illustrates it with a story.
4th, the vision of a prophet was powerful and amazing.
ill.: Listen to O. Palmer Roberston in his book, The Christ in the Prophets:
Inadequate evidence makes it impossible to affirm that a vision of the Almighty was essential to every call of a prophet. But in the cases of Isaiah and Ezekiel, the manifestation of God in his glory formed an integral part of their call and commission as prophets of the Lord. Jeremiah asserts that the false prophets have not “stood in the council of the Covenant Lord” (Jer. 23:18 NIV), implying that he has undergone that awesome qualifying experience (see also 1 Kings 22:19-23). The exalted vision of divine majesty played a vital role in the summons of many of the nation’s prophets, and this visionary experience could not fail to have strong impact on the prophet.
The word of God comes “with the strength of [God’s] hand” upon him (Isa. 8:11). Cramps seize the loins of the prophet like those of a woman in labor, and twilight becomes a horror to him (21:3-4). After receiving his vision, the prophet was exhausted, lay sick for several days (Dan. 8:27), and his “natural color turned to a deathly pallor” (10:8 NASB). When he heard the message from the Lord, the prophet’s heart pounded, his lips quivered, decay crept into his bones, and his legs trembled (Hab. 3:16). On receiving his call, the prophet sat overwhelmed by his vision for seven days (Ezek. 3:15). These words do not describe merely hyperpsychic experiences, for they consistently result in the most exalted of human utterances that give all glory to one and the same creator God.
t.s.: Now, I’d like to turn our attention to the 2nd part of this opening statement: The Vision Of Isaiah.
- Of Isaiah (1)
exp.: Who was Isaiah?
- He was the son of Amoz, who was brother to the King – Uzziah or Amaziah.
- Isaiah: lit.: The Lord Saves. We could spend so much time on what his name means; but suffice it to say for now… The Lord Saves. This idea of salvation comes out in his book:
t.s: Let’s look at the purpose of his vision…
- Concerning Judah and Jerusalem (1)
exp.: Isaiah was a prophet of the Southern Kingdom. Indeed, during his tenure, the Northern Kingdom will cease to exist. The conqueror will pull within 8 miles of Jerusalem after annihilating the Northern Kingdom. Judah will toy with the idea of trusting in Egypt and Assyria; some kings will – other will not!
- In the days…of the kings (1)
exp.: Here is my guesstimate: His dates are from 740 (the year Uzziah died) to 689 BC – According to tradition, and I don’t know how accurate that is, Isaiah was sawn in half at the command of Manasseh in 689 BC during the waning years of Hezekiah. The writer of Hebrews was probably referring to Isaiah in 11.37 because of rabbinic tradition concerning his martyrdom.
Transition: let’s begin to look at the outline of the text:
- Chapters 1-39 – Book 1: Looking for the coming perfect king in the line of David
- Chapters 40-55 – Book 2: Looking for the King who would be the Servant (suffering servant)
- Chapters 56-66 – Book 3: Looking for the eschatological King – the Savior and great Avenger
As for our outline, we will follow J. Alec Motyer. Motyer puts chapters 38-39 with the 2nd book. Understandably so, he aligns Hezekiah’s fatal choice with the change of book 2. Here is our outline for book 1:
- 1-5: Preface
- 6-12: The Dying King and the ‘Holy One’ the King of Israel.
- 13-27: The Lord hasn’t abandoned his plans; he is going to accomplish them in the Messiah.
- 28-35: Presented in a series of denunciations. Even though God’s people fail and see the help of outsiders, God will accomplish his purposes: a king will reign. After unfaithful kings, Hezekiah comes to reign and he trusts in God. God then proves his trustworthiness and delivers his people in a most miraculous way.
- 36-37: The story as played out and fulfilled prophecy. They trusted in God and He delivered.
Transition: It is all very interesting, but I want to get to our text this evening, so let’s look at this first section: the Preface, chapters 1-5. Specifically, this morning, we’ll begin with 1.2-9; What is Isaiah saying and what are we to understand of ourselves?
Answer: 1.2-9 deals with sin. Here is what it all boils down to as we begin. God has made a covenant with Israel, his children, which they have entered into with him. Yahweh is a covenantal God. And we enter into relationship with him by covenant. That hasn’t changed. So with this in mind, let’s look at the text in outline form.
I. The Arraignment: SIN (2-9)
exp.: I love the way he sets this up
The Summons: “Hear, ye, Hear, Ye!”
2 Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth;
for the Lord has spoken:
The Charge: Sin and Rebellion
“Children have I reared and brought up,
but they have rebelled against me.
The Charge Illustrated:
3 The ox knows its owner,
and the donkey its master’s crib,
but Israel does not know,
my people do not understand.”
The Charge Repeated: Sin and Rebellion
4 Ah, sinful nation,
a people laden with iniquity,
offspring of evildoers,
children who deal corruptly!
They have forsaken the Lord,
they have despised the Holy One of Israel,
they are utterly estranged.
The Charge’s Necessity: Repeated attempts at Reconciliation on God’s part have been rebuffed: Not only has she sinned, Not only has she rebelled; Furthermore, Israel has repeatedly refused Discipline and resisted against God’s work to bring them back into a right relationship with Him!
5 Why will you still be struck down?
Why will you continue to rebel?
The whole head is sick,
and the whole heart faint.
6 From the sole of the foot even to the head,
there is no soundness in it,
but bruises and sores
and raw wounds;
they are not pressed out or bound up
or softened with oil.
7 Your country lies desolate;
your cities are burned with fire;
in your very presence
foreigners devour your land;
it is desolate, as overthrown by foreigners.
8 And the daughter of Zion is left
like a booth in a vineyard,
like a lodge in a cucumber field,
like a besieged city.
Deferred Adjudication: She has sinned through her rebellion. She has refused repeated attempts to be reconciled with her God. And Yet, God has not destroyed her; God has remained faithful to keep a remnant!
9 If the Lord of hosts
had not left us a few survivors,
we should have been like Sodom,
and become like Gomorrah.
Now, it would be the defenses turn to speak. Really what can he say? What would the opening arguments of a defense be?
t.s.: Let’s take a moment and look at…
II. The Grounds for the Charge (Deut. 28-29)
exp.: Turn to Deut. 28; Conditions of the Covenant have been set in Deut. 28; the Covenant is quite simple: Blessings for Obedience; but Curses for Disobedience! So, they enter the Promised Land;
- The cycle of Judges; 1 Samuel 12.19-25; he has repeated over and over again what they have done throughout their time of being led by Judges. Now, they have a king; the covenant is remembered;
- The cycle of Kings; Hundreds of years pass – day after day, week after week, month after month, decade after decade, century after century after century – and the story remains the same: the people prove themselves to be unfaithful.
app.: and so the charges are presented…
t.s: Now, that’s the quick message. There is, however, a much richer look at this passage. I’ve entitled this last section…
III. The Richness of God’s Righteous Charge against his children (14-20)
exp.: rd v 2; He is God! He created all that there is! Nothing was created that has been created that was not created by him! And, to begin this charge, he summons creation to bear witness of the charges.
ill.: (Motyers) In the Old Testament the heavens and earth are frequently summoned
(i) as witness to an oath (e.g. Dt. 4:26);
(ii) as witness for the prosecution when the Lord charges his people (e.g. Ps. 50:4ff.);
(iii) to rejoice when the Lord’s greatness is declared (e.g. as king, 1 Ch. 16:31; as Saviour, Ps. 69:34–35);
(iv) to express abhorrence of Israel’s sin (e.g. Je. 2:12).
Thus, the created universe is always on the side of its Creator. The Creation in relation to the Creator perfectly reflects the way the relationship should be between God and man. So what we see here is this call to witness this charge.
You might see them as witnesses who proclaim what the relationship is supposed to look like.
exp.: his charge reads: I have reared – they have rebelled!
ill.: rd v 3; How many of you are ‘dog’ people? What does your dog do when you come home after leaving them there for a long time? Animals know their masters. They treat strangers differently.
In v 4, he explains the charge: their sin! Isa. 59.1-2:
59 Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save,
or his ear dull, that it cannot hear;
2 but your iniquities have made a separation
between you and your God,
and your sins have hidden his face from you
so that he does not hear.
Now, even in this charge we can see the great mercy and compassion toward his people, Israel:
List 1st, the terms of endearment; nation, people, offspring, children; List the words that describe either sin or rebellion: sinful, iniquity, evildoers, corrupt, forsaken (they are not forsaken; rather they have forsaken), despised (they are not despised, but rather they have despised), estranged (their choice, Not God’s – remember the covenant? They didn’t do their part).
In v 5-8 we see God’s continued attempt to restore them into a right relationship with him. They have been disciplined severely:
- It appears foreigners have abused her at the Lord’s leading.
Discussion: it is sometimes hard to see what God is doing and what God is allowing. How can we know the difference between punishment, discipline and God at work, doing something that will glorify him or bring us growth? Is there a difference between the suffering one endures for the sake of disciple brought about by disobedience.
Of v 5, Motyer writes: The form of the question requires it to be translated, ‘Why, seeing that you will be beaten again, do you rebel again?’ Sin is not only unreasonable (2b) but also unreasoning, unable to draw proper conclusions and make appropriate responses. It is blindness to what God is doing (cf. 5:19). pā·šǎ (paw-shah; rebellion) emphasizes stubborness rather than wilfulness (cf. verse 2; see Ho. 4:16). Stubborn, Stiff-necked; These people are so stubborn, that they will lay there, beaten and bruised; their cities in ruin, their fields empty. And yet, subborness will not let them repent.
V 6-7; again, metaphors, illustrations to describe their condition because of their stubbornness; if your body lay in this condition – physically speaking, what would you do?
ill.: I know America is not Israel. Israel’s covenant is not ours. Still, I can’t help thinking that we as a nation are headed for disaster. We cannot think that we are immune from the effects of sin.
V 9: Sodom & Gomorrah! Sin has its effect; Repeat that so I know you heard me: Sin has its effect! 1st, when we sin and 2nd, from Adam; Do you understand? We’ve been affected by the sin of Adam, as it has affected the whole earth; and we experience the effects of sin, when we willfully, stubbornly reject the teachings of the Lord and live life our own way.
But, here’s the beautiful part of the story: no matter how bad it gets, God is still faithful to stay his hand, to slow the effects, in order that a remnant might remain. Had he not slowed the effect, they would have been wiped out. As America embraces sinful behavior as a lifestyle, As America devalues marriage – to the point that it really has no meaning anymore; as America blurs the lines of gender – to the point that gender doesn’t exist anymore, as America thumbs its nose at God – we cannot think for one moment that God will continue to bless us.
Conclusion: Notice how nicely Isaiah bookends, sandwiches, brackets this passage: Isaiah begins and ends with an emphasis on the Lord; He who created, calls upon creation as his witness; and concludes w/ The Lord of Hosts… I used to think that hosts was the angel army of God. And it can be! But it isn’t just that. Hosts represents anything and everything. In terms of creation, it refers to everything God has made. Think back to v 2; it is saying the same thing: He is sovereign over everything, because everything that is – He Created! So, you have these bookends – scholars call it an inclusio.
So what, Pastor, that’s them! What has that to do with us? That’s a good question! What good have we done, if all we do is gather information and puff ourselves up with knowledge?
- God is perfectly righteous in making all of these decisions. He is perfectly just in his actions. He is the creator. He is God. He is Sovereign. Before you say a word; before you make a move, let that thought resonate in your mind; close your eyes and listen to this reading – Psalm 8:
1 O Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory above the heavens.
2 Out of the mouth of babies and infants,
you have established strength because of your foes,
to still the enemy and the avenger.
3 When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
4 what is man that you are mindful of him,
and the son of man that you care for him?
5 Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings
and crowned him with glory and honor.
6 You have given him dominion over the works of your hands;
you have put all things under his feet,
7 all sheep and oxen,
and also the beasts of the field,
8 the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea,
whatever passes along the paths of the seas.
9 O Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
- If you and I are Christians, then: We have entered into a covenant agreement with God. We should therefore, live our lives in obedience, too. The covenant isn’t the same as Deu. 28; however, it is a covenant just the same! Look at these similarities
- We’re the people of God. We are the people of God, called by his name, called from the dark and delivered from shame. One holy race, saints everyone, because of the love of Christ, Jesus, the Son. We’re the people of God. We’ve been grafted into the vine.
- Being called “Christians” we then have an obligation to live our lives as he taught us. With the mouth we confess Jesus is Lord and with the heart we believe he God raised Jesus from the dead. There is the internal aspect of our conversion, yes, but there is the external, too. Jesus is Lord, means we no longer are Lord. What he says, goes. Period. So, we live our lives worthy of this calling we’ve received – Christians.
- Sin still separates us from God. Yes, we’ve been forgiven; however, when we choose to live in sin, the relationship suffers the lack of fellowship with God. Too much of that and it just might be that we’re not saved. I don’t mean you lose your salvation by any stretch of the imagination. I mean you were never saved to begin with! Someone who chooses to live in sin and reject Jesus as Lord isn’t saved. Remember, its duality? You can’t be a Christian inwardly only – that doesn’t match the word of God. Some people get very defensive with me about this because of this. But I believe the entire counsel of God’s Word points in this direction. Some people say you only have to say the words of a sinner’s prayer and wha-lah! You’re saved! No. I don’t believe that to be what Paul means when he says in his testimony: 19 “Therefore, O King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, 20 but declared first to those in Damascus, then in Jerusalem and throughout all the region of Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds in keeping with their repentance. You and I can’t have it both ways: say the sinner’s prayer and live like pagans.
- We cannot live in sin and expect God’s blessing. We don’t represent all of the U.S. But the U.S. is our home here on earth. We’ve been given the standard. It is our duty, as Christians and as Americans to raise the standard high – and to live out that standard in a public way. We must not endorse sinful behavior as an acceptable lifestyle. What God has called sin and rebellion, we must acknowledge is sin and rebellion. What just might stay God’s hand in destroying the U.S. is a righteous wave of believers holding high the standard of God in the public arena. I look at our younger generation and I’m encouraged in many ways. I see godly young men and women rising up to meet the challenge. Let’s raise the standard – bear the message of hope for a lost and dying world… that…
- God is merciful. God is patient with us. God’s tenderness is evident in the way he still treats us. He won’t always be. So, won’t you take advantage of the day and commit your life to Christ?