Sunday, March 18, 2018
“How It Will Be”
March 18, 2018, Second Reformed Church
Thus far, we saw the prophet, Isaiah, present God’s case against the sin of Judah – the case for sending the Babylonians against Judah to punish them for their sins and take them into captivity.
“The word that Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.”
In this morning’s text, Isaiah delivers the vision of the Word of God that he saw about how it will be for Jerusalem and Judah in the latter days. This is a vision that would comfort and encourage the captives in Babylon while they lived out their years of exile. It is a vision that would encourage them not to despair about the future of God’s people (Calvin, 91). It is a vision of the fulfillment of God’s salvation of the remnant He promises to save.
“It shall come to pass in the latter days”
The question we need to ask as we begin our look at this text is when are “the latter days”? What time period is God talking about?
In the Old Testament Jewish understanding, there are three time periods in history: the Old Testament, the coming of the Messiah, and the latter days. The New Testament understanding embraces what is taught in the Old – as we should expect – and just adds a fourth period – or divides the third into two, so the understanding is: the Old Testament, the coming of the Messiah, the latter days, and the second coming of the Messiah.
Peter, James, Paul, Luke, and the author of Hebrews all state that they are living in the last days. The last days or the latter days is the period of time between Jesus’ first coming and His second coming. We, like the New Testament authors, are living in the last days – we are living in the latter days, which means that what Isaiah prophesies here is happening right now.
First, God is exalting the worship of Himself.
“that the mountain of the house of the LORD shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be lifted up above the hills; and all the nations shall flow to it,”
“The mountain of the house of the Lord” is where Jerusalem is built: Mount Zion.
When Isaiah tells us that it shall be established as the highest of mountains and lifted about all the hills, is he saying that there will be an extreme change in the topography of the earth? Currently, Mount Zion’s elevation is just over 2,500 feet, but that pales to Mount Everest’s over 29,000 – and there are 108 mountains that are over 23,000. Is Isaiah saying that Mount Zion will rise up into the air an additional 27,000 feet?
No. When we consider the worship of the ancient world, we see that it was common to believe that the gods lived on top of the mountain – or on top of the hills – and so we have the gods of Mount Olympus, and so forth.
So, let us look at what Isaiah is saying as symbolic – the mountain will not physically grow taller but the worship of the One and Triune God will grow in triumph and worship over all of the false gods. The truth and the reality of our God will become greater and greater in the understanding of humanity. How many people worship Odin, or Zeus, or Mars in the modern world? Far, far fewer then in the ancient days. How many more understand that there is One God Who exists in Three Persons and sent His Son to incarnate, live, die, and rise to be the Savior of all those who will believe? Exponentially more!
The author of Hebrews writes, “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,” (Hebrews 1:1-3, ESV).
In the first coming of Jesus, God revealed the fullness of His salvation plan, fulfilling much of the Old Testament prophecy. This began the last days, and saving belief in Jesus will continue to expand as the Holy Spirit convicts and converts people, until the last day, “so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:10-11, ESV). As all of humanity walks before the throne of Jesus, every person shall confess that Jesus is God the Lord and Savior.
As Isaiah says, the nations shall flow up the mountain to worship in Zion – as though a supernatural magnet is drawing nations to Zion! Not the nation, not a nation, but as God intended from the beginning, the Gospel would be sent to the Jews first, and then to every nation in existence, so God will be worshipped by every type of person in existence. As God promises Abraham:
“I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies, and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice” (Genesis 22:17-18, ESV).
Paul explains that God works through the Jews to reveal Himself and His salvation and to secure Himself glory and worship: “They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen” (Romans 9:4-5, ESV).
And so, all the nations have come to hear that Jesus is God the Christ, and they are streaming up Zion to worship God. And the knowledge of the salvation of Jesus continues to grow throughout history, and God is all the more greatly magnified, as He triumphs more and more greatly over all the false gods.
And we might hear this and be a little puzzled, because it doesn’t seem like the true worship of God is growing in our area – it doesn’t seem like it is becoming more and more clear to more and more people that Jesus Alone is the Savior. So, what’s going on?
God is saving His people in His time and by His plan. God is Sovereign and is not shaken by what happens in one place or another. So, we are to be obedient and trust Him.
God is exalting the worship of Himself.
Second, God is teaching many His Law, and they will obey.
“and many peoples shall come, and say: ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.’ For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.”
In response to the revelation that Jesus is God the Savior, many nations will stream towards Zion to worship, and as they do, they will call out to others – they will encourage others to join them – to come with them to the house of the God of Jacob.
What do we tell others about coming to worship? What would you say if your friend invited you over for 11 AM on a Sunday morning?
“Oh, I can’t come over till later, I have to go to church.”
“Ok, but I can’t make it till about 12:30, I’m going to church – that’s my thing – it makes me feel good. And I want to make sure I can get some cookies and cake and check out the sale tables. You just wait for me.”
Or, “Thanks, I’d love to come over. But first, why don’t you come with me to church? We gather together as brothers and sisters to worship God and hear what He has to say and how we can live it out to please Him and have joy in our lives.”
We are told that the nations will receive the Gospel and respond with joy and bring their friends and neighbors along to hear the Word of God and to do it. There will be an urgent joy about being in the presence of God and sitting under His Word.
This has happened in larger groups in the Reformation and in the first Great Awakening. It may happen to you on one day and not the next. I remember when something like this happened and I was in attendance, Rev. Iain Murray was preaching. It was past 9 PM – his allotted time to preach was over, and he said that he had more, but out of respect for the schedule and our sleep, he would stop, and as a man, some three hundred of us in attendance called out together, “Preach, brother!” God the Holy Spirit was there and moved us to an urgent joy in hearing the Word of God preached.
May we have an urgent joy to be under the reading and preaching of the Word of God, and to bring along all those we can – knowing that there is One Savior.
And that’s not all, of course: God says believers were urgently joyful to worship and to bring others along to hear the Word of God and to obey it – to live it out – to be the people God has called us to be and to do what He has commanded.
Does God’s Word excite you? Do you want to know what He said and to live it? Do you want others to know? Are you concerned for their salvation? Do you love them that much? Do you believe that surely?
And God says that as these people come up to Zion to hear the Word of God and know the Savior and learn how to be obedient, and as they bring their friends and family and they hear the Word of God and learn how to live it out, they return to their everyday lives and tell others!
This is a normal response, as we read:
“And as Jesus passed on from there, two blind men followed him, crying aloud, ‘Have mercy on us, Son of David.’ When he entered the house, the blind men came to him, and Jesus said to them, ‘Do you believe that I am able to do this?’ They said to him, ‘Yes, Lord.’ Then he touched their eyes, saying, ‘According to your faith be it done to you.’ And their eyes were opened. And Jesus sternly warned them, ‘See that no one knows about it.’ But they went away and spread his fame through all that district” (Matthew 9:27-31, ESV).
We cannot keep quiet when God the Holy Spirit stirs our hearts and enflames us with the love of Jesus. We desire that others know Him and be saved.
And this is the command of Jesus, as well:
“Then he said to them, ‘These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.’ Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, ‘Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things’” (Luke 24:44-48, ESV).
God is teaching many His Law, and they will obey.
Third, God reigns over His people in peace.
“He shall judge between the nations, and shall decide disputes for many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.”
The first thing we need to notice here is that this text is not about the final judgment where Jesus receives some to Himself and sends others to eternal torture in Hell. No, this is about Jesus’ reign now in history between His first and second comings.
The author of Hebrews writes, “But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet” (Hebrews 10:12-13, ESV).
When we see the expression “at the right hand,” we are to understand this to mean that Jesus has the same authority that God the Father has. Jesus is ruling – He is governing – He is sovereignly reigning over all of Creation right now and forevermore.
And we might ask, “Well, wasn’t He reigning over everything from the beginning?” The Son of God has been reigning from eternity past, but He has only reigned in His incarnate human body since “the last days.”
Jesus is sovereignly reigning over us and all of Creation right now. And He and the Father have sent the Person of God the Holy Spirit – to indwell us – to guide us and lead us in being one together as the Church. It is in this way that He judges and settles disputes now, as we are guided by the Holy Spirit, knowing what God has said and how we are to love our brothers and sisters – we do not argue and dispute with each other like the world, but we settle our disputes within the bounds of the Church.
Rather than attacking each other with swords and spears and other instruments of violence when we are at odds with each other, we are known as a people who work together for the good – for our common advantage. And in this cultural context, the swords and spears are refashioned into agricultural instruments.
Paul writes, “From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:16-21, ESV).
This is the Doctrine of Reconciliation. Just as Jesus has reconciled us to God the Father, we are to be reconciled to each other. We are not to seek to injure or go to war with one another, but rather, we are to seek the mutual friendship of one another in Christ. The Holy Spirit unites us in Christ. We are one people who seek first and foremost to love and obey God and then to love our fellow Christians that the world would be drawn to our Savior and we would have joy.
God reigns over His people in peace.
Two hundred years before Judah was taken into captivity and eight hundred years before this came to pass, God gave Judah this hope – for hope it will be – and so it is:
God is exalting the worship of Himself.
God is teaching many His Law, and they will obey.
And God is reigning over His people in peace.
Let this be our hope and our reality as we spread the Gospel.
Let us pray:
Almighty God, we thank You for the indwelling of God the Holy Spirit and ask that He would help us to desire to hear and read Your Word and to hear it preached. Help us to obey You and to bring others to hear about Who You are and what You have done to save a people for Yourself. And help us to be a people who are known for our love – especially of our brothers and sisters, so the world will wonder what is going on and come to hear Your Word. May you be glorified in all these things. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Friday, March 16, 2018
On Isaiah 2:3 – “Two points must be stressed. First, God and God alone can teach the truth, for He alone is the source and foundation of truth. Hence, those who proclaim the Word of God must exercise supreme care that what they preach is the Word of God. This can be accomplished only when the messenger basis his message squarely upon and makes it consonant with the Word of God, the Bible. When the minister preaches, God must be heard. Secondly, this passage teaches that what unbelievers need above all else is teaching or doctrine. What blinds the understanding of men is ignorance and ignorance can only be dispelled by truth. Hence, the missionary and evangelistic activity of the church must be doctrinal in character.” -- E. J. Young, The Book of Isaiah, vol. 1, 105.