Sunday, August 01, 2010

Isaiah 26-27 - Darkness before Dawn

The coming of dawn in eastern North Carolina
Opening thought: It’s darkest before the dawn. Have you ever heard that? I’ve stayed up all night a few times. Have you? A time or two I was working to the last minute to finish a term paper. Many times we were up with a refluxed baby. A couple of times I was on a transoceanic flight, and one of those times it was because the lady next to me kept waking me up with her wig falling off on me.

But I remember well the first time I tried to stay up all night. I was about 12 or 13 years old. Daddy was helping Mr. Billy Abercrombie up above Laurens, SC, cook a pork hash all night down behind his house at one of his barns, and Daddy let me go with him. I remember them cutting meat and putting it in the huge black pot and crying while they cut onions, helping them unwrap and toss in the pot dozens of sticks of butter and pouring in huge cans of black pepper and a case of yellow mustard. And slowly stirring that pot with a boat paddle all night while the men split wood to keep the fire burning.

We just sat and kept the fire going. And waited. And waited. It seemed like the night to me at 12 or 13 that the night would never end. And it seemed like the longer the night went on, the darker it got. Every hour it seemed the darkness would crowd us in around that black wash pot, and there was no light except from the embers cooking the hash. I found out that it really is true that it is darkest before the dawn. Well, almost. I finally crawled up in Daddy’s green 1966 Ford truck and went to sleep about five that morning. When I awoke about seven thirty, men and trucks were lining up at the Mr. Billy’s barn to buy his quarts of hash.

This passage of Scripture today is about the darkness and the dawn, and the darkness of night seems to get darker and darker, but the dawn is coming, and though it is true that it is darkest before the dawn, ironically, the darker it gets the closer we are to the dawn. That’s the hope of this passage today. Isaiah says, “My soul yearns for you in the night, and in the morning my spirit searches and looks out for you” (Isaiah 26:9). Nowhere in Scripture is a better example of comfort provided in difficult, dark days by considering the future.

Contextual Notes: Isaiah has shifted his focus beyond the immediate future of Judah (chs. 1-12) and the coming judgments on the surrounding nations (chs. 13-20). Isaiah now unveils secrets of the End (chs. 24-27). Scholars call chapter 24-27 the Isaiah Apocalypse, paralleling it with John’s Revelation. History is moving purposely toward God’s intended goals. Judgment on all the nations will come (ch. 24) culminating in the Lord’s triumph (ch. 25) through the Resurrection of the dead (26:1-19) and the rise of Israel and her Messiah in the last days as he promised from the beginning (26:20-27:13).

Pray and Read:  Isaiah 26-27

Key Truth: Isaiah wrote Isaiah 26-27 to teach Israel how to find peace in the darkness through trusting in the Rock of Ages, the fact of his historical bodily resurrection, and the promise that a repentant remnant will return to the Land of Israel to fulfill his covenants with Abraham, Moses, and David through the person and work of the Messiah.

Key Application: Today I want to show you what God’s Word says about trusting God through the darkness, for joy will come in the Resurrection morning.

Sermon Points:
  1. In the darkness, trust in the Rock of Resurrection (Isaiah 26, esp. v. 4, 9, 19).
  2. In the darkness, sing of a Repentant Remnant (Isaiah 27, esp. v. 2, 6, 13)

Exposition:   Note well,

a.   Isaiah 26:1 – “In that day.” The end-time Day of the Lord, and here it is a bright day following the darkness of divine judgment. The punishment that God brings on the Earth cleanses the world of sin. His triumph is the vindication of His people and their release from oppression.
b.   Isaiah 26:1 – “this song” – In contrast to 25:5 and “a strong city” in contrast to Moab in 25:10-12.
c.   Isaiah 26:3-4, 12 – Perfect peace. One of Scripture’s most beautiful promises of the peace of the person who trusts in God. The secret? Trusting Him. Trust him. (Phil 4:4-7).
d.  Isaiah 26:5-6: A tale of two cities: Jerusalem and Assyria/Tyre (ch. 23) (military/financial oppression). The message for the present is that the worn out people of Judah should put their trust in the Lord who will one day lay low the other city, that of the oppressor.
e.  Isaiah 26:7-9 – Righteousness / judgments: Every time we see tzedek (righteous) and a root of shaphat (judge) so far in Isaiah, the passage is a reference to the Messiah. We see it at 1:27; 5:7, 16; 9:7; 11:4; 16:5 and here at 26:7-9. Each time Isaiah gives us more information on the Messiah to come. Here Isaiah uses the personal name of God, YHVH. This is incredible! This coming Messiah is the same God who spoke to Moses in the burning bush!
f.  Isaiah 26:7 – The way of the righteous. God is described by the Hebrew word yasar, upright. The path is level and smooth because the Lord is upright and righteous. Our Lord Jesus has gone ahead and made the way of righteousness smooth and level for us by purchasing our freedom and giving us the Holy Spirit to comfort and counsel and teach us.
g.  Isaiah 26:8 – Walking while waiting. Notice that in the OT that waiting is to look forward expectantly with hope, but it is not a passive waiting for the believer. Waiting must be demonstrated by walking in His ways and following hard after him. The way to wait for God is to be actively committed to doing His will and doing it.
h.   APPLICATION: Are you waiting on the Lord? Are you sitting and waiting or actively waiting? God takes us as individuals and churches through periods of isolation where our main focus should not be doing something for the King, but letting the King work in us individually and corporately. Are you still serving him while you wait on your next assignment? You should be. Your gratefulness for what He has done for you should motivate you to serve him with joy (26:19).
i.   Isaiah 26:8-9 – Yearning for Christ. The words here to describe our desire for the Lord are strong words. In verse 8, “your name and renown are “the craving of our life breath.” In verse 9, My soul deeply desires you; in the morning my spirit searches for you, is on lookout for you, seeks you out.”
j.    APPLICATION: Are you seeking the Lord like that? If not, why not? Ask the Lord to give you that kind of craving for him.
k.  Isaiah 26:10 – Irresistible grace? Grace is God’s kindness and compassion displayed to those who do not deserve any good from Him. Everyone lives and breathes at the virtue of God’s grace. Every good thing comes from his loving hands. But contrary to what many of my Reformed friends insist, grace is not irresistible. Many who grab the gifts refuse to acknowledge the Giver. The appropriate response to grace is to accept it, yes, but also to acknowledge  God and place our trust in him.
l.    Isaiah 26:10-20 – Note the national problem (v. 10-11). They go on sinning even when confronted with the grace of living in an upright land. Verse 12 is the intercession for the land because (1) our government and those we serve and work for cannot help us (v. 13-14) because they all die. But the Lord can bless the nation (v. 15) even though our intercession is so feeble it comes to nearly nothing, barely whispering a prayer or bringing forth only wind (v. 16-17). (2) We cannot bring forth salvation for ourselves, much less the nations (v. 18), but (3) the Messiah CAN birth salvation through bodily resurrection (v. 19). Right now, however, we see God’s wrath (Rom 1:18-21) as the blood cries out from the ground (Gen. 4:10). But the blood of Jesus cries out greater things – mercy (Heb. 12:24)!
m. APPLICATION: Our nation is in a mess. Our global geopolitical future is uncertain. But through our feeble intercession we understand that our government cannot help us. Our financial sector cannot save us. Our employer cannot save us. We cannot even save ourselves, much less fulfill our command to take the message to the nations (Matt. 28:18-20), but the Lord, the Rock, our bodily Resurrection, can provide us with salvation, and he did it one morning while the dew was still on the roses! (1 Cor. 15:52).
n. Isaiah 26:19 – Your dead will live:  Isaiah here at 26:19 is drawing out the implications of 25:8 of the defeat of death.
o.   No resurrection theology in the OT? Some say that this is only a figure of speech of the idea of resurrection – that Hebrews had not evolved in their theological understanding to the point of having or using an idea of resurrection from the dead. These mixed up scholars actually attribute Israel’s understanding of resurrection to the pagan Egyptian Book of the Dead! They act as if the Hebrews, and Isaiah in particular, who penned this inspired Script were not as advanced as we the modern readers who obviously have advanced past Isaiah’s primitive time of thinking. Such a foolish thought not only denigrates the integrity and inerrancy of the Scripture, it also makes us hypocrites, for why would we study this document for theological instruction if we had advanced beyond such a primitive teacher’s abilities?
p.   Actually there could be no figure of speech at all if there were no genuine understanding and belief in bodily resurrection in the first place in ancient Israel. The ancient Jews understood bodily resurrection, and the text here proves they did. In fact, Job, which gives ample evidence of being the oldest written book in the Bible, talks about bodily resurrection (Job 14:1-15; 19:25-27; 33:23-28). The OT writers understood resurrection the same way the New Testament writers did (Acts 7; 1 Cor. 15). In fact, the NT writers went for teaching and understanding of Jesus’ resurrection to these very OT passages of Scripture (Luke 24:44).
q.   APPLICATION: Are you still trusting in someone else to save you? Do you think the government or your employer or your financial institution is going to help you out? Let me tell you a secret. Despite what their marketing department tells you, they are not in the game to help you. They are in the game for themselves, because they know they do not have the resources to fix all the problems out there. They need a Savior as much as you do.
r.    Can’t save self - And haven’t you lived long enough to figure out that you will never have everything figured out? Or are you still young enough to know everything? You cannot figure out your relationships, your money, your time, even the difference between your wants and needs. How are you supposed to think about saving yourself or helping someone else find salvation (Matt. 28:18-20)?
s.   One man on one morning saved everyone when he got up from the dead and brought salvation to all. Do you have a personal relationship with him? If not, why not? Salvation is a no-brainer. You trust in the Rock of Resurrection and you receive life eternal and blessings of contentment in this life.
a.  Isaiah 27:1-11 – Promises of the Future: Because of the Rock of Resurrection, we have here a number of promises for the Goalpoint of time. First, our enemy the devil will fall (27:1; Rev 12:7-10). Second, happier days are coming (27:2-11). Third, a repentant Remnant will return to Israel in the last days.
b.  Isaiah 27:2-6 – Isaiah takes up the song of the vineyard again from 5:1-7. In chapter 5, the people cannot handle the vineyard, so in chapter 27 the Lord takes over. Note that he waters his vineyard (27:3; John 3:5; 4:14), that he desires reconciliation with us, desiring that no one would perish (27:4; 2 Cor. 5:17-22), though anyone who opposes him he fights (27:4b). But he wants to see peace through repentance, and salvation to sinners (27:5; 19:25). Isaiah is looking forward to the future return of Israel to the Land, Eretz Yisrael (11:10-12; 14:1-3; 7:3-a fulfillment of the name Shear-Yashub – shuv-return/repent). Israel will take root with its Messiah (6:13), bud and blossom (4:2; 11:1), and fill the world with fruit (19:16-25).
c.  Isaiah 27:7-11: Right now, though, northern Israel must be punished to end its idolatry (27:9), because they are a people now without understanding (27:11; 6:9), but not as her enemies will be destroyed (27:7-8). Isaiah will deal more intimately with idolatry in chap. 28. Israel will forsake idolatry at the End (2 Kings 18:4; 23:12; Deut. 7:5). One day their guilt will find atonement in the Holy One (27:9) and worship in purity on Mount Zion in Jerusalem (27:13).
d.  Isaiah 27:12-13 – You, O Israelites – There will be a trumpet/shofar blown (Zech. 9:14; 1 Thess. 4:16-20; Rev. 8:6-12). This trumpet awakens Israel to return (shuv – to repent, to go back). The trumpet’s sound is the symbol of the end of man’s rule and the beginning of Christ’s reign (Rosh Hoshana and the Feast of Trumpets; Lev. 23:23-25). The trumpet’s most important work was done on the Day of Atonement (Lev. 25:9) announcing liberation and restoration, symbolizing in later Jewish worship the substitution of the ram for Isaac in Gen. 22:13.
e.   Israel will be gathered up, one by one,” and return to Jerusalem and the Promised Land (27:12-13). A partial fulfillment of this prophecy came in 539 B.C. at the time of Daniel when the Jews returned to the Land specifically from the regions of the Euphrates River and the Wadi-al Arish in Egypt, fifty miles southeast of Gaza City (Gen. 15:18; 1 Kings 4:21; 2 Kings 24:7). Judah was exiled to Babylon, but some of the Jews in disobedience to God fled Judah to Egypt (Jer. 40:1; 43:7). Isaiah prophecies (712 BC) return from these places of exile about 175 years before they happened (539 BC). But this is a partial fulfillment. The NT extends this Trumpet call as gathering the elect (Matt. 24:31), calling the dead to life (1 Cor. 15:52; 1 Thess. 4:16), and the full investiture of Christ as King and his total and eternal domination of the world (Rev. 11:15).
f.    ILLUSTRATION: In the darkness of the Philippian prison, Paul and Silas sang, and the earthquake that came broke open prison doors and set the jailor and his family free, likely the first converts of the church at Philippi (Acts 16:16-40).
g.   APPLICATION: God has a remnant among Israel. God is not finished with Israel. Do you want to know how to gauge the timetable of the End Times? Israel is the gauge. Watch them. Did you know that in 2009, more Jews made aliyah than in any year since Israel was founded in 1948? God is on the move, and he is moving toward a goal point. Watch Israel. Don’t worship or blindly follow everything the State of Israel chooses to do, but watch the people of Israel and you will have a good idea of where we stand in regard to the end times. He is calling his people home, and the Land has been set aside for them, no matter what nation or group of nations say (Psalm 2).

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