Sunday, March 20, 2011

Isaiah 64 - The Potter and the Clay

The ClayMaker !Image by nanda_uforians via Flickr
Contextual Notes:
The prophecy of Isaiah focuses on one Royal, Priestly, Suffering, Divine Son of David. For 39 chapters He is the King coming to judge sin, then beginning at chapter 40, He is the comforting Servant who through suffering, dying, and rising (53), fulfills all God’s covenants (54-55), transforms our future from our present sinfulness (56) through repentance (57), and makes us like Himself (58).

Though sin destroys relationships with God and others (59:1-15a), the Redeemer’s intercession (59:15b-21) gives us the hope, honor, transformation (60) of a relationship with the Redeemer Himself in wedding robes of righteousness proclaiming favor, prosperity, and joy (61). The Bridegroom (61:9-10) calls his delightful bride, his people, (62:1-5) to watchman intercession for Messiah’s purpose (62:1-7), people (62:8-10), and proclamation (62:11-12).

The watchman sees Someone coming: Who is it, robed in splendor? He is the righteous and mighty, the compassionate and kind Savior (63:1-14), and the zealous and mighty Redeemer (63:15-19). He comes with the grace of God (64:1-5a) over the severity of sin (64:5b-7) through the power of intercession (64:8-12).[1]

Key Truth: Isaiah wrote Isaiah 64 to teach Israel the grace of God over the severity of sin through the power of intercession.
Key Application: Today I want to show you what God’s Word says about the Redeemer’s work.
Key Verse: Isaiah 64:8
Pray and Read:  Isaiah 64 (by sections)

Sermon Points:
1.   Learn the grace of God (Isaiah 64:1-5a)
2.   Learn the severity of sin (Isaiah 64:5b-7)
3.   Learn the importance of intercession (Isaiah 64:8-12)

Exposition:   Note well,

1.   LEARN THE GRACE OF GOD (Isaiah 64:1-5a)
a.   Isaiah yearns for God to act (64:1-3), but is so terribly aware that His people continue to sin. How can God save a people whose righteous acts are like filthy rags in God’s sight? (64:4-7). God is not just a moral governor. He is like a Father to his people. In His love and grace the Lord will save those who appeal to his mercy (64:8-12).
b.   63:16 – “You, O Lord, are our Father.” This is an awareness of a personal relationship with the Lord that Paul expresses in Romans 8:15.
c.   64:1 – In 63:15, the Lord is asked to look down from heaven, but in 64:1 he is asked to rend the heavens and come down.
d.   64:1-3: Isaiah’s use of fire and judgment has been common (1:31; 9:18; 10:17; 30:27, 30; 33:14; 65:5; 66:15).
e.   64:3 – cf. Luke 23:30; Revelation 6:16f.
f.    64:4 – cf. 1 Corinthians 2:9; Matthew 13:17
g.   APPLICATION: Until we know God as “our Father” in a personal relationship, he will not be real to us, nor will we be bound to him permanently. Romans 8:15 says that by the Lord Jesus we receive a spirit of sonship that does not make us a slave again to fear but causes us to cry out, “Abba, Father.”
2.   LEARN THE SEVERITY OF SIN (Isaiah 64:5b-7)
a.   54:6 – “All of us” is similar to 53:6. The uncleanness is being legally unclean (Leviticus 5:2; 7:19). Even their righteous acts are “filthy rags,” literally a “garment of times,” or a menstrual cloth. Our sins sweep us away (Psalm 1:1; Job 27:21). This human effort to save is fruitless and filthy (Ephesians 2:8-10)
b.   64:5-7: Sin’s nature: The modern critic says, “How can God judge so brutally? How can he trample men like grapes?” But Isaiah says, “How can we be saved?” These verses contain a complete description of the impact of sin on human beings.
                i.    First, sin is habit-forming: We continue to sin against God’s ways (64:5)
              ii.    Second, sin arouses the anger of God and directs it against us (64:5)
            iii.    Third, sin is defiling, making it impossible for us to approach Him (64:6)
             iv.    Fourth, sin so corrupts our character that even the best we can do is fouled by base motives (64:6)
               v.    Fifth, sin is destructive, shriveling us up from within and creating circumstances that sweep us away (64:6)
             vi.    Sixth, sin alienates us from God, creating a distaste for the Lord that keeps us from calling on His name (64:7)
           vii.    Seventh, sin causes God to hide His face from us and to judge us (64:7).
         viii.    In view of all that sin has done to us, it is no wonder Isaiah cries out, “How then can we be saved?” The answer is in verse 8.
c.   ILLUSTRATION:  James 1:14-15
d.   APPLICATION: Sin appears attractive at first, but it spoils soon. There is no future in walking in sin. There is only heartache, broken relationships, and hurt. Sin is a severe taskmaster. Leave it and walk free. Repent and receive Christ’s freedom.
a.   The Art of Priestly Intercession: In 64:7 we see that in sin there was no prayer going on, no one who would “lay hold” of the Lord in importunity as Jacob did at Peniel (Genesis 32:22-32). Now in 64:8-12 the prophet or the watchmen cry out in submission (64:8), then in appeal (64:9), then in advocacy (64:10-12).
b.   64:8 –A turn in thought, “And now” or “Yet” God is our Father (43:1). The figure of the potter (literally “the one who forms us”) has been used at 29:16 and 45:9. The thought is of 63:16 of redemption.
c.   64:9 – The people pray because prayer is the prerogative and privilege of those for whom the Lord is Father. They entreat him (“Be not angry”). Do not remember iniquity in the full measure of punishment in which it is due (54:7, 8). The prayer asks God to pay attention and consider that they are his people and in the relationship of covenant.
d.   64:10 – Verses 1-11 show a nation in need of revival. Note the contrast between the cities of Your holiness and the house of our holiness (v.11). The Temple has gone from the house of the Lord’s holiness to the house of our own holiness. Not good. The intercession reminds the Lord not to forget his covenant and to reclaim the cities of Judah. Cf. 6:11-13.
e.   64:11 – From cities to Jerusalem to the Temple, note the narrowing focus. The worship of God has become a desolation. If what is in view is the historical burning of the Temple (Jeremiah 52:13), then this is a prophecy, but Isaiah may be using a figure to express the terrible condition of worship into which the people had fallen.
f.    64:12 – Would Messiah not show mercy? (49:15-16; Exodus 34:6; Jeremiah 31:20). These verses are answered in the next verse.
g.   ILLUSTRATION: The Koreans are importunate prayer warriors. They pray so loud and with such fervency as a group that they must have a prayer bell to tell them when the time for prayer has ended.
h.   APPLICATION:  God’s people must come to the place of importunate prayer. The word intercession means to “go between,” i.e., to stand before God, pleading with him on behalf of others, just like what a priest does. Intercession is prayer that focuses on others, not yourself. Intercession is a priestly work, the work to which Isaiah was called in chap. 6 when he saw the High Priest upon the Throne. As believers, we are called to the priestly work of intercession. We are called to intercede for the salvation of our loved ones and friends and coworkers, to call them back from sin to repentance, the first step in evangelism. We are called to intercede for our community and our nation, for God’s mercy and grace to fall upon us, to call us back from sin to repentance, the first step in revival. We are called to intercede for the nations, for the Lord to call them from their sin into the Kingdom of the Son He loves, the first step in missions. When we pray fervently as this, we begin to have a proper sense of our sin and come to repentance.

[1] Note the weaving of intercession with the Messiah. Isaiah 59 focuses on sin; Isaiah 60 on the Redeemer’s intercession. Then in Isaiah 61, the Messiah speaks and makes royal proclamations. In Isaiah 62 there is a call for watchmen in intercession. Then in Isaiah 63 the Messiah comes like a Warrior from the battle, dressed in the priestly wedding robes splattered with blood. Then Isaiah 64 is a watchman prayer of intercession. In Isaiah 65 we see the Redeemer’s intercession in response. Then in Isaiah 66 is the Glory. So the Messiah and intercession take us from sin (59) to glory (66).