Sunday, August 22, 2010

Isaiah 30-31: The Holy One of Israel

Isaiah in the Temple
Pray and Read:  Isaiah 30-31

Contextual Notes: Beginning at chapter 13, Isaiah has focused on the coming judgment of God against the nations surrounding Israel and Judah (13-23), all the nations (24-27), and now Israel and Judah (28-31). In chapters 30-31, God’s obstinate people stubbornly continue seeking foreign alliances rather than trusting the Lord (30:1-7). They even pressure the prophets to say only what they want to hear rather than what the Lord’s Word (30:8-11). Refusing the Word of the Lord will bring their downfall (30:12-13). Yet even in all this, God longs to be gracious to Israel (30:14-26) and shatter their enemies (30:27-33).

But Isaiah must instead focus on the situation at hand regarding the political push to ally with Egypt against Assyria. Isaiah pronounces woe on those who would rely on Egypt (31:1-3), yet God in his grace will shield Jerusalem even in their misplaced trust (31:4-9). God kept his promise. In the reign of Hezekiah, Assyria devastated Israel, invaded Judah, but Jerusalem was saved by divine intervention (Isaiah 36-39). Just as God acted in grace then he will in the future keep his other promises. The present may be dark, but the future is bright for the Jews. God’s prescription for salvation remains the same: repentance and trust in Him (30:15).

Key Truth: Isaiah wrote Isaiah 30-31 to teach Israel to trust the Holy One of Israel alone.

Key Application: Today I want to show you what God’s Word says about trusting God in a narrow place.

Sermon Points:
  1. The Sin of Rebellion (Isaiah 30:1-14)
  2. The Way of Salvation (Isaiah 30:15-26)
  3. The Warfare of Worship (Isaiah 30:27-33)
  4. The Warfare of Repentance (Isaiah 31:1-9)
Exposition:   Note well,

1.   THE SIN OF REBELLION (Isaiah 30:1-14)
a.   30:1-7: After a vision of the Messiah’s reign (29:17-24), Isaiah presents here the third Woe! (29:1; 15). He calls them obstinate children heaping sin upon sin. Jesus’ teaching had this central theme of repentance and reconciliation with the Father (Luke 15:11-32).
b.   30:2 With Assyria threatening Judah, the councilors urge the king to seek the protection of Egypt (2 Kings 18:9-21). Egypt’s shade is more properly shadow, in the shadow of their protection. The only one who offers protection is the Rock eternal (26:4). All Egypt has to offer is disgrace and shame (30:3, 5). There will be no help from Egypt (30:7; 49:4).
c.   30:8-12: Their rebellion: (1) Israelites refuse to follow God’s instructions (30:9; Deut. 28:1, 15). Listening is central to the life of the believer. (2) They want a religion that imposes no obligations or restrictions. They want God’s blessing, but they want to live outside the boundaries of holiness (30:10-11; Galatians 5:13-26). (3) They chose to trust man rather than God. They chose by the logic of war, confrontation, and power, the oppression and deceit of Egypt (30:12) rather than the Lord’s protection. The wall they built looked strong, but it is cracked and bulging, and would fall in a crash (30:13-14). Faced with a threat, the solution is not to attack or flee, but to trust in God. Trust is the key to peace (5:15; 7:9; 26:4; Matt. 11:28; Mark 5:36; Heb. 4:3-6).
d.   ILLUSTRATION: 30:10: Tell us pleasant things: You wouldn’t want your doctor to only give good news. You cannot treat a serious illness unless you diagnose it. Otherwise it could kill. It is the same with God’s words through the prophets. Their warnings may not be pleasant, but there is hope if we listen and take them to heart.
e.   APPLICATION:  We cannot live any way we want and expect God to bless it. The whole idea of being a Christian means that we give control of our lives over to Christ, his will and his ways. I have heard Christians say, “Nobody is going to tell me what to do. I’m going to do what I want no matter what anyone says.” That is rebellion. Samuel put it on the same level as divination or sorcery (1 Sam. 15). I once had a deacon tell me that he didn’t think it was right to leave church feeling bad about himself. It was my job to make him leave church feeling good about himself, he said. When a congregation or a person demands preaching or teaching that simply affirms them and their self esteem and their prejudices, they are on a path of rebellion.
2.   THE WAY OF SALVATION (Isaiah 30:15-26)
a.   30:15: Salvation. Yasa’ is the term for salvation in Hebrew, usually used for physical threat. The NT emphasis on salvation from sin and evil spiritual powers is not common in the OT, but it is present (see Psalm 45:14; 79:9; Ezekiel 37:23). The concept is applicable in the spiritual and material realms. Salvation is happens when (1) a person or a nation is in danger, suffering harm, or needs outside help; (2) a deliverer, a savior acts to relieve the distress, and (3) there is a change for the sufferer that brings relief. In this passage the salvation is from national enemies. The deliverer is God. The enemy is Assyria. Only by turning to God and appealing to Him for help will Judah have hope. Relying on Egypt, or on any other savior, is to reject God and all hope.
b.   30:16-18: So if they prefer to run to Egypt rather than trust the Lord, God will let them run. Only Jerusalem will remain because of God’s grace (30:17; 1:7-8; 2 Kings 18:13; 19:15-20, 35). But the Lord longs to be gracious to them if they will just place their trust in him.
c.   Similarities with Beatitudes (Matt. 5:1-11): Drying of tears (30:19; Matt. 5:4; see also Isa. 25:8; Rev. 21:4). Hunger and thirst (30:20; Matt. 5:6). Fellowship with God of those who seek purity (30:20b-21; Matt. 5:8). The connection with the Beatitudes, the idyllic situation of 30:23-25, and the cosmic upheaval of 30:26 all suggest more than Hezekiah’s day, but of a future perfect deliverance at the Lord’s return (Rev. 21:1-4, 23).[1]
d.   APPLICATION: How do you run to Egypt when you are in a tight place? What is your Egypt that you trust rather than the Lord? Is your Egypt your credit line? Is it your spouse? Is it your children? Is it alcohol? Is it a pastime that you submerge yourself in? You must rely on Christ and trust him in the tight places. He is your Savior. He longs to be your comfort and your salvation. Will you let him?
3.   THE WARFARE OF WORSHIP (Isaiah 30:27-33)
a.   30:27-28 – Isaiah turns from the vision of the future to God’s intervention against Assyria – now that Hezekiah has turned to God rather than Egypt (2 Kings 19:19, 35). Four images of judgment on Assyria emphasize the seriousness of what is coming: fire, flood (Gen. 6-9), the sieve of destruction, and a bit in the jaws.
b.   30:29-32: Worship warfare: The Lord invites worship as he intervenes on their behalf. He is the Rock on which they must lean (26:4). Jeremiah will denounce those who rely on flesh rather than the Rock (Jer. 17:5). Cloudburst (the Flood: Gen. 6-9); hail (one of plagues on Egypt Exod. 9:13-35).
c.   30:33 – Topheth: This is the district in the Valley of Hinnom near Jerusalem where idolatrous Jews burned their young children alive as votive offerings to pagan gods. The king of Assyria’s final destination: a fire pit, deep and wide (30:33; lake of fire Rev. 20:10, 14; 21:8).
d.   APPLICATIONWorship is often the warfare. Are you in the midst of an attack by the enemy? Your best weapon may be worship. Worship the Lord. Ask him to go before you and deal with the situation. It worked for King Josiah in 2 Chronicles 20. The principle is “Worship before warfare before work.”
4.   THE WARFARE OF REPENTANCE (Isaiah 31:1-9)
a.   31:1 – Fourth Woe! On those who will not seek help from the Lord but prefer an alliance with Egypt (29:15). Isaiah speaks of the horses and chariots of Egypt, subtly reminding them of the end of those that tried to cross the Red Sea (Exod. 14:28; 15:1, 19). Military power is worthless when compared with trust in the Lord (31:1; 1 Sam. 17:45-47; 2 Chron. 13:3-18; 20:1-24). Human wisdom seeks an ally. God’s wisdom seeks justice.
b.   31:3 – Men and Not God: Today too the choice exists between relying on the flesh or on the Spirit. We need to make wise choices in where we place our trust. Flesh and spirit are set in opposition and developed by Paul in Galatians 5:16-28. Both denounce all compromise with sin. Alliance with the wicked exposes one to the risk of sharing their fate (31:2b).
c.   31:4-9 – God is not impressed by numbers and noise (Exod. 4:10-12; 1 Sam. 16:7). God both shields and delivers. He ‘passes over’ (Exod. 12 – Passover) and rescues. But the people must return to him in repentance (31:6), and he will bring miraculous intervention. Repentance will result in His spiritual warfare in the heavenlies accomplishing his purposes on the ground. (31:8-9; 37:36-38).
d.   APPLICATIONPaul writes about the difference between operating in the flesh and in the spirit in Romans 8. Operating in the flesh never works. It never comes out right. It never honors God. It never makes you look good in the end. Operating in submission to the Holy Spirit will always protect you, will always give you the way of wisdom, will always honor the Lord, will always end in righteousness.

[1] Edouard Nsiku, ABC, 831.