Sunday, July 25, 2010

Isaiah 24-25: Judgment saves!

Isaiah - Orthodox Church of America icon
Opening thought: The purpose of chemotherapy is to kill, but to kill in order to preserve life. If you have ever undergone chemotherapy, you might feel for a while like you are going to die or that you are under some kind of judgment, but the purpose of that chemo is to keep you alive.

If left to grow, the cancerous areas will kill you. If the cancer is destroyed, then you have a greater chance at a longer and more productive life. In a strange way, cleansing judgment on the cancer would bring the saving of life. Today’s lesson from Scripture is about this kind of irony, that in God’s judgment is salvation.

Contextual Notes: Isaiah’s focus now shifts, as he looks beyond the immediate future in the life of the kingdom of Judah (chs. 1-12) and the judgment coming on the surrounding nations (chs. 13-20). In each section, Isaiah's main themes are that judgment is coming, but there is a Messiah who saves. Now Isaiah sees the divine judgment in a broad, general way (chs. 24-27).

Scholars call chapter 24-27 the Isaiah Apocalypse, paralleling it with the Revelation. Isaiah’s message is that history moves purposely toward God’s intended goals. Judgment on all the nations will come (ch. 24) and the Lord will triumph over all (ch. 25). He will raise the righteous (26:1-19), and exalt Israel in the last days as he promised from the beginning (26:20-27:13).

The two chapters before us today teach us that God is the Judge of the whole world, and he will punish sin (ch. 24). We can praise God because his judgment on the nations means the salvation of Israel and the triumph of God over evil (ch. 25).

With irony we don’t hear much these days, Isaiah declares that the coming judgment means salvation (24:17; 25:9). Often God must destroy our illusions of man so that he can see the reality of God.

Pray and Read:  Isaiah 24-25

Key Truth: Isaiah wrote Isaiah 24-25 to teach Israel that the Judgment is coming, cleansing the earth of evil, and salvation is coming, overcoming death.

Key Application: Today I want to show you what God’s Word says about judgment and salvation.

Sermon Points:
  1. Judgment is coming, cleansing evil (Isaiah 24)
  2. Salvation has come, overcoming death (Isaiah 25)
Exposition:   Note well,

a.   Note on Isaiah’s Apocalypse: Some who call these three chapters Isaiah’s Apocalypse claim that apocalyptic literature was not developed until after the Exile, and therefore this passage could not have been written by Isaiah. There are some problems with their argument here. First, there is no sharp distinction between prophetic and apocalyptic literature. Prophecy looks at the end time-future with an historic focus on specific nations and peoples, while apocalypse is less specific, painting broad strokes of cosmic significance. The problem is that Isaiah 24-27 has elements of both forms and cannot be placed squarely in either category. Its mixture of elements and lack of full-tilt apocalyptic flavor points instead to an older, pre-exilic, Isaianic authorship.
b.   24:1-6: Universal judgment: The coming judgment affects everyone, whatever their social status or portfolio (24:2). Wealth and position cannot protect against God’s punishment of sin. The Earth’s surface will be twisted and ruined (24:4), perhaps by drought (24:7).
c.   APPLICATION: It is futile to look for security in this world when this world itself is totally vulnerable to God’s coming judgment.
d.   24:5: Everlasting covenant: While some see this as the covenant with Noah not to destroy the earth with a flood (Gen. 9:11-17; Isaiah 24:18; cf. Gen. 7:11), it is much more. The covenant with Noah was the last one with the Gentile nations. That covenant implied human moral responsibility. It makes human beings responsible to God to account for shed blood (9:4-6). Therefore it is not the OT Law of Moses. These are natural moral laws God set in place to govern life, expressed in the human conscience, embedded in human nature. Paul refers to it in Romans 2:12-16.
e.   The curse rests on all creation (Rom. 8:19-21). Man has broken God’s holy covenants governing the family, morality, preservation of life, and true worship. All have sinned. All are covenant breakers. Yet God is faithful to his Noahic and Abrahamic covenants by preserving a remnant.
f.    Things that defile the land: Defilement is . The Bible tells us that several things defile the land. Ezekiel 3:18-20
                i.    Idolatry B Exod. 20; 34:5-14; Lev. 19:31; 18:10-12; Deut. 12:2-3; 18:10-12; Judges 2:1-3; 1 Kings 14:15ff; 15:11-15; 2 Kings 17:9-13; 23:3ff; Jer., 7:21-26, 30 (witchcraft); 16:18
              ii.    Bloodshed  B Gen. 4:8-12; Num. 35:33-36; Psalm 79:1-3 (martyrs); Isa. 59:2-3; Jer. 7:6; Hab. 2:12; Jer. 22:17
            iii.    Sexual immorality  B  Lev. 18, esp.:24-25, 28, 30; Jer. 2; 3:1-10; 7:6
             iv.    Breaking covenant  B  Isa. 24:4-6; Jer. 3:1. Also bribes/ covenant: (Exod. 23:8; Deut. 16:19; Psalm 26:10); cursing the House of God: Psa. 74:7
               v.    Injustice or Oppression B Prov. 23:11; Amos 1
g.   24:14-16a: Praise: The praise is uttered by the survivors of judgment, and are redeemed Israel and believing Gentiles. Revelation also intersperses great praise with terrifying visions of judgment. They raise a song celebrating his glory just as Moses did (Exod. 15:1-18). The redeemed of Israel praise his glory.
h.   24:20-22: The Great Tribulation. 24:23: The Millennium
i.    24:21-23: Punishing the powers: The Hebrew word seba’ is used of both heavenly bodies and angelic armies (1 Kings 22:19; 2 Chron 18:18). Here spiritual beings, fallen angels, demons are being punished (2 Pet. 2:4; Rev. 19:20-21; 20:10). The entire cosmos, the heavens and the earth, the visible and invisible are being judged and cleansed. Then the Lord will reign (Millennium) gloriously (24:23) John saw this same vision in Rev. 4:10; 5:8-14.
j.    APPLICATION: The dark world of the spirit realm is interested in the power that is involved with human governments, and demonic forces are influencers in those governments. This passage (24:21-23) tells us that. God’s judgment will cleanse all the cosmos, the heavens and the land. But our worst enemy is not the devil. We are your own worst enemy. Our first parents, Adam and Eve, brought sin into this cosmos, and we have two options: cleansing through judgment or cleansing through repentance. This is why we need to repent on the basis of Ezra 9, Nehemiah 9, and Daniel 9, standing in the gap on behalf of the land (Ezekiel 22:30), asking forgiveness for the sin of me and my people for corporate sin of our people and our nation. We have plenty of sin in our nation. Are you asking the Lord to forgive us for our sin as a people? Are you identifying with that sin and asking the Lord to turn his wrath from us? It is our only hope.
a.   25:1-5: Isaiah celebrates the ‘already but not yet’ victory of the Lord in his triumph. The righteous are to look forward to the downfalls of the capitals of the world’s kingdoms, the centers of political and economic power, where tyrants rule.
b.   25:3-4: The strong and ruthless (v. 3) will serve the poor and needy (v. 4). Because the poor sought refuge in God prove wiser and more righteous than the strong who rely on their own strength.
c.   25:6:-8 Marriage Supper of the Lamb: All obedient nations (24:14-16; 25:3) are invited with the Jews to a banquet on Mount Zion (24:23).
d.   25:7-10: Triumph – What does the Lord’s triumph mean for us? The death shroud destroyed (v. 7), and all who trust him will praise him and be glad in his salvation (v. 9). God’s judgments are terrible, but the result of judgment is cleansing, release, joy, and salvation.
e.   25:8: death shroud – Death is personified here (as in Hosea 13:14), and in this part of the world, Death swallowed its victims. Here, the Lord swallows up Death. The swallower is swallowed. Paul takes the idea in 1 Cor. 15:55 and runs with it.
f.    1 Corinthians 15:54-58: 54When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: "Death has been swallowed up in victory." 55"Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?" 56The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 58Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.
g.    The Lord will wipe away all the tears (Rev. 7:17; 21:4).
h.   25:9-11: Then God’s people respond with thanksgiving and confidence in His power. Isaiah bursts out in praise as he reflects on the great salvation and permanent establishment of God’s kingdom (24:21-23; 25:6-8; 26:1-6). Here Moab is an example of the nations God judges, and its name is similar to the Heb. Word for enemy.
i.    APPLICATION: The Lord has swallowed up death in victory. It has no sting now IF you are in Christ. Are you in Christ? Do you know him as your personal Lord and Savior?