Second Reformed Church

Monday, July 02, 2018

"Have Faith" Sermon: Isaiah 8:9-22

“Have Faith”
[Isaiah 8:9-22]
July 1, 2018, Second Reformed Church
            Last week, we saw that Isaiah’s second son, Maher-shalal-hash-baz, was born and is given that name because the name means, “the slaughter [of Israel] will come soon.”  We may remember Isaiah’s first son, Shear-jashub, bears the name that means, “a remnant will return.”  Isaiah names his children to reflect the prophecy that God gives him.
            And we saw Isaiah condemn King Ahaz and Judah for not trusting – for not being satisfied – with God’s provision of their daily needs.  And so, the Assyrians will turn against King Ahaz and Judah and punish them as well.
            Yet as Isaiah continues to speak, we hear that glory will not go to the Assyrians.
            “Be broken, you peoples, and be shattered; give ear, all you far countries; strap on your armor and be shattered; strap on your armor and be shattered. Take counsel together, but it will come to nothing; speak a word, but it will not stand, for God is with us.”
            God’s word to the Assyrians – as it is given before Judah – another reason for them to trust God – is that Assyria will be broken.  Assyria will be shattered.  Even as they strap on their armor, it will be shattered.  It is said twice for emphasis, indicating they will be completely shattered.  All of their plans of destruction for Judah will come to nothing.
            God says that the glory of the disciplining of Judah will not go to the Assyrians.  God will allow the Assyrians to do what they want to do as the discipline of Judah – to attack and kill and take many into captivity, yet God will punish the Assyrians for murdering and stealing and going against the people of God.
            What the Assyrians did was evil – attacking Israel – and eventually Judah – slaughtering them and taking them into captivity.  Yet, God righteously used their evil to do the good of disciplining Israel and Judah.  But God will not let the Assyrians’ sin go unpunished.
            And we may think. “Wait a minute, didn’t God want them to attack Israel and Judah?  How can God then go and punish them?”
            God did not force the Assyrians to attack – it is what they wanted to do – God just did not restrain them – He allowed them to follow after the sin they wanted to commit.  So the sin is totally on the Assyrians’ part.  God did nothing wrong.  God was not morally obliged to restrain their sin.  However, once they did sin, in order to be just, God did have to punish their sin.
            We may remember Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery, which was a sin.  But there was another reason Joseph is sold into slavery, and that is not a sin – it was for good, as Joseph tells his brothers, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today” (Genesis 50:20, ESV).  Joseph rose to be the second in command over Egypt and saw to the saving of that nation and many others during a seven-year famine.
            So, one effect can have both a good and an evil cause at the same time.
            God tells the Assyrians not to strut around about their conquest of Israel and domination of Judah, because God is going to shatter them.  In a very familiar way, in 612 B.C., God allows the Babylonians to conquer the Assyrian Empire.
            The Assyrian Empire will not stand.  Why?  “God is with us.”  Immanuel!  Although the Savior has not been born, God is still with them.  God promised to save a remnant – and for the sake of His promise to those people – the remnant who would believe – God took down the Assyrian Empire.
            The glory of what the Assyrians did – the punishment of Israel and Judah, would not go to them, but to God Who ordained this to happen, saving a remnant, and sending the promised Savior.
            Second, fear the Lord and trust Him.
“For the LORD spoke thus to me with his strong hand upon me, and warned me not to walk in the way of this people, saying: ‘Do not call conspiracy all that this people calls conspiracy, and do not fear what they fear, nor be in dread. But the LORD of hosts, him you shall honor as holy. Let him be your fear, and let him be your dread. And he will become a sanctuary and a stone of offense and a rock of stumbling to both houses of Israel, a trap and a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. And many shall stumble on it. They shall fall and be broken; they shall be snared and taken’”
Isaiah turns to the people to tell them what God tells him – don’t walk in the way of the people.  Don’t be like the people of Judah.  Don’t believe what they believe or do what they do.
God tells Isaiah not to believe the people’s cry of “conspiracy.”  The commentators are not sure what this conspiracy refers to – or if it is just a general principle – and that’s how we can consider it:
Have you ever heard a rumor or part of a story and gotten all wound up about “what it must mean?”  Have you ever listened to “the experts” and gotten all wound up over something, only to find that they were wrong?
During the Gulf War, I kept hearing people argue that Saddam Hussein is the anti-Christ and so on and so forth.  I remember being on a trip to upstate New York to work on a pipe organ, and back in the room I was reading the Bible – somewhat shaken by what people were saying – wondering if this could really be it.
It wasn’t.
If you go on the Internet, there are all kinds of unsubstantiated stories that could get you all wound up. 
But that’s our fault – we don’t check to see if we have the whole story and if it is true.  And we suddenly don’t believe God when we see things on the TV.
            God says, “Don’t buy into what everyone is saying.  Don’t get all wound up.  Don’t be afraid because of what people are saying.”
            If you want to know what you should be doing when world leaders meet, glorify God – show Him to be Who He is to others.  Pray to Him about what is going on.  Pray for the world leaders.  Be in awe of God.  Be afraid of not being pleasing to Him.  Be faithful and obedient to Him out of the love you have for His Son, our Savior.
            Something might happen!  So, out of love for God and your neighbor, tell other people Who God is and the salvation that is only through His Son, Jesus; be faithful and obedient to God and all He has said.  And you will be fine.  You might get killed, but you will be fine.
            What does that mean?
            What if “the little rocket man” drops the bomb?  Proclaim the Gospel, be faithful and obedient and remember what Jesus says:  “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28, ESV).
            Don’t forget:  Immanuel.
            Paul writes, “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31, ESV).  Of course we must remember this says, “if God is for us” – when we sin, God is not for us in that moment.  If we are one hundred percent sure without any doubt or possibility of being wrong – especially in the things of God – God is for you. If you pray that God’s will is done in a given situation, God is for you.  If you pray that God will be glorified in your life, God is for you.  And so forth.
            If we are centered on God – on having faith and being obedient, then He will become a sanctuary for us – a sacred place where God is Immanuel – with you – with us.  If we believe in Jesus Alone for salvation, we are united with Him – He is our sanctuary – He is the sacred place into which no evil can come.
            However, if you don’t really believe – no matter who you are or what your heritage is or how long you have been a member of the church and how much time and money you have given – God says you – like both houses of Israel – Israel and Judah – who rejects God by and large – you will stumble on this rock, and you will fall, and you will be broken, snared, and taken.
            Paul, speaking of Israel’s unbelief, writes, “Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works. They have stumbled over the stumbling stone, as it is written, ‘Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense; and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame’” (Romans 9:32-33, ESV).
            Notice, the stone over which people stumble is a person.
            Peter explains:  “As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it stands in Scripture: ‘Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.’ So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe, ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,’ and ‘A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense’ They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do” (I Peter 2:4-8, ESV).
            In other words, if you fear the Lord Jesus and trust in Him for your salvation, He will become for you the sacred space and a union with Him.  If you reject Him, He will be the rock that beats you down and wounds you and sends you to your just end.
            Fear the Lord and trust Him.
            Third, hope in the Lord and hold to the testimony.
            “Bind up the testimony; seal the teaching among my disciples. I will wait for the LORD, who is hiding his face from the house of Jacob, and I will hope in him. Behold, I and the children whom the LORD has given me are signs and portents in Israel from the LORD of hosts, who dwells on Mount Zion. And when they say to you, “Inquire of the mediums and the necromancers who chirp and mutter,” should not a people inquire of their God? Should they inquire of the dead on behalf of the living? To the teaching and to the testimony! If they will not speak according to this word, it is because they have no dawn. They will pass through the land, greatly distressed and hungry. And when they are hungry, they will be enraged and will speak contemptuously against their king and their God, and turn their faces upward. And they will look to the earth, but behold, distress and darkness, the gloom of anguish. And they will be thrust into thick darkness.”
            God tells Isaiah to bind up and seal the Word of God – to keep it and teach it to God’s disciples.  And Isaiah says he will hope in the Lord, and the children the Lord gave him – whether he means his two sons or all those who believe in the Savior – they stand against Israel in the Name of God and as witnesses against Israel.
            Yet the people will not repent – no, they will ask Isaiah to go to the mediums and the witches and the fortunetellers to ask the dead what they should do.  And God furiously asks if they should not inquire of their God, rather than to ask the dead about the living? Not to mention that contacting the dead and all kinds of witchcraft are forbidden and the death penalty is prescribed for those who practice such arts.
            God proclaims where they should seek their answers:  “To the teaching and to the testimony!”  The Word of God.
            “Oh, well, yes, the Bible is all very nice, but this is the twenty-first century, we need to go to science and psychology and our fortune cookie from lunch for the answers we need.”
            It’s true, the Bible does not have the elemental formula for water, but it does have everything we need to know for life and salvation in it.  If you want to know how you are to live as a child of God, all the answers are in the Bible.  If you want to know how to become right with God, the One and Only Answer is in the Bible.
            Science and psychology have very useful information and answers – and I, for one, and very thankful for the advances we have.  But, when the question is asked, “Is it right for a brother to marry his sister?”  God says, “no.”  So there is no need to seek any further voice – living or dead.
            When God tells us that Jesus is the Only Way to salvation, there is no need to spend a quarter of a million dollars to hire an inter-faith specialist to see if there might be equally valid answers to the question of becoming right with God in other religions.
            “To the teaching and to the testimony!”
            Specifically regarding the issue of salvation, Paul says that Jesus is the One and Only Way, and he has this to say about those who suggest otherwise:  “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed [damned to Hell]. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed [damned to Hell]” (Galatians 1:8-9, ESV).
            Hope in the Lord and hold to the testimony. 
            If I get swept out to sea while I’m on vacation and never return, believe that the Bible is the Whole Word of God – it contains everything you need to know as far as how to live in the way that is pleasing to God and how to be made right with God through Jesus Alone – hold to this testimony!  And hope in God – believe all the promises that have been made and look forward, believing with strong assurance that these things will all come to pass, just as God has promised.
            And reject anyone who says anything different.  Stand up to them and say, “here is what the Lord says!”
            Do you remember what God tells Isaiah about his preaching and how the people will respond to it?  They will not listen – they will put their fingers in their ears and say, “la, la, la, la, I can’t hear you!”
            And God says that if they do not abide by the Word of God, it is because they have “no dawn.”  A curious expression.  What happens at dawn?  The sun comes up – the light dispels the darkness – this is a figurative way of saying they will be in darkness – spiritual darkness.
            And when things go wrong for them, they will shake their fists at their king and God and blame them:  “I’m a good Christian.  I’m not religious, but I’m spiritual.  I go to church twice a year – more for funerals and weddings – and I throw a buck in the plate.  I don’t believe the Bible is true for today, but I believe there is a life-force that guides the universe.  I’m a good person.  Why aren’t I getting what I want out of life?  The President or the god-force must be doing something evil that’s messing with my karma!”
            They will see distress and darkness and the gloom of anguish, and God will thrust them – forcefully push them – into thick darkness.
            Jesus says, “I tell you, many will come from east and west and recline at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 8:11-12, ESV).
            And in a parable, “And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ For many are called, but few are chosen” (Matthew 22:12-14, ESV).
            And, “For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 25:29-30, ESV).
            Those who never believe in God and the Savior He sent will be cast into darkenss, because they have no dawn.  Darkness is the absence of light, and Jesus is the Light – He is the dawn.
            But if you are part of the remnant and have faith, you will hear Jesus say this:  “Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matthew 25:34, ESV).
            Let us pray:
            Almighty God, You Who Alone are worthy of glory, help us to be strong in our hope in You and the salvation Your Son has accomplished.  Fill us with God the Holy Spirit that we would fear You and follow You, holding fast to all that You have said.  For Your Son, Alone, is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Sunday, July 01, 2018

July Sermons

D.V., my preaching schedule for the month will be:

Isaiah 8:9-22 “Have Faith”

Guest preacher: Tom Larkin

Guest preacher: Bill Galloway

Isaiah 9:1-7 “A Child Is Born”

Isaiah 9:8-10:4 “Time to Decide”

Join us at 10:30 AM for worship.