Sunday, April 10, 2011

Isaiah 66:1-16 - Peace Like a River

Enoree River near Yarborough's Mill, SC
Opening thought:
The Yarborough’s Mill section of the Enoree River in South Carolina used to be the place I went to recharge my batteries. Enoree, I grew up hearing, means, “river of muscadines,” but I don’t remember hearing in what language. The area around Yarborough’s Mill is a fall line, and the rocks make tubing and fishing and sunning and swimming a lot of fun. One place was a natural cold water whirlpool where I would sit for an hour sometimes when the summer pushed temperatures into the high 90s. There I learned about peace like a river. Peace like a river is what this passage is about today. See Isaiah 66:12? Isaiah prophesies about that Peace who is a person in our passage today.

Contextual Notes:
Isaiah prophesies about 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 coming Comforter, the Servant who will suffer, die, and rise again (53), fulfilling all His covenants (54-55), transforming our sinful present into a glorious future (56) through repentance (57), to make us like Himself (58).

Sin destroys relationships with God and others (59:1-15a), but the Redeemer’s intercession (59:15b-21) provides hope, honor, and transformation (60) of a relationship with the royally, righteously, priestly, matrimonially robed Redeemer Himself, who proclaims favor, prosperity, and joy over his people (61), then calls his bridal people (62:1-5) to be watchmen intercessors for Messiah’s purpose, people, and proclamation (62:6-12). Immediately the watchmen see coming the Warrior, righteous and mighty (63:1-6), the Savior, compassionate and kind (63:7-14), the Redeemer, zealous and mighty (63:15-19). His grace (64:1-5a) overpowers sin (64:5b-7) in response to watchman intercession (64:8-12).

At chapters 65-66 we reach the grand climax of Isaiah’s prophecy – the Messiah’s response to the intercession of the watchmen – the wondrous promise that God will one day create a new earth and heavens as the home of the righteous. And the End-Times will bring Messiah’s fellowship for the humble (66:1-6), Messiah’s joy in the future (66:7-11), and Messiah’s peace on Judgment Day (66:12-16).

Key Truth: Isaiah wrote Isaiah 66:1-16 to teach Israel that the Messiah is coming back to bring fellowship for the humble, joy regarding the future, and peace on Judgment Day.
Key Application: Today I want to show you what God’s Word says about the Peace for believers in the End-Times.
Key Verse: Isaiah 66:12
Pray and Read:  Isaiah 66:1-16

Sermon Points: The End-Times will bring
1.   Messiah’s fellowship for the humble (Isaiah 66:1-6)
2.   Messiah’s joy in the future (Isaiah 66:7-11)
3.   Messiah’s peace on that Day (Isaiah 66:12-16)

Exposition:   Note well,

a.   While it would go too far to say that the last chapter of Isaiah is a summary of the book, it, like Revelation, does touch on and wrap up major themes: denunciation of hypocritical worship, the restoration of Jerusalem, God’s intervention as a judge and savior, and salvation for Israel and the nations.
b.   The chapter starts with a theme from the beginning: the call to sincere worship (Isaiah 60:1-6; 1:10-20). He looks toward the contrite of heart with favor (Isa. 57:15; 61:1). The beginning of the chapter marks a clear change in the age. Now Isaiah has turned to the end of times, the Millennium and eternity.
c.   ILLUSTRATION: At the dedication of the Temple, Solomon made it clear that God cannot be confined to one place (1 Kings 8:27: 27 “But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain You. How much less this temple which I have built!). Favor does not come from going to a consecrated place. God stressed to Solomon that people must come to him by humbling themselves (2 Chron 7:14: 14 if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.).
d.   God, the Creator, extends the offer of fellowship to the humble who are responsive to His Word (66:1-6). The where is less important than what – the question is about the nature or quality rather than the locality of God’s dwelling. The sacrifices of Isa. 66:3-4 happened in the Temple, but the offerers were hypocrites, often pretending a reverence they did not feel, a condition condemned by the law of Moses (Exodus 20:13; Leviticus 11:1-7). They complained that he did not hear them. Now he complains that they neither hear nor obey him (Isaiah 66:4; 6:9). The people were committing murder and making these unclean offerings to idols.
e.   Isaiah 66:5 –They mock the true worshipers and ask for a sign to prove they are genuine (66:5). But the sign they get is not what they were seeking (Isa 66:6; 38:7-8; Matthew 12:38-42). The religious persecute those who in humility seek the Messiah (Acts 22:1; Matt 10:22; John 15:18; 17:14; 1 Thess 2:14). They cannot stand their presence, because they dwell in the presence of the Lord, and their sin smells more strongly in His presence (2 Cor 2:15-17: 15 For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. 16 To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life leading to life. And who is sufficient for these things? 17 For we are not, as so many, peddling the word of God; but as of sincerity, but as from God, we speak in the sight of God in Christ.)
f.    ILLUSTRATION: Jesus illustrated this truth in the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector (Luke 18:9-14). Real worship is not ritual. It is adoration of the Lord in Spirit and in truth (John 4:21-24).
Enoree River near Musgrove's Mill, SC
g.   APPLICATION: Is your heart moved in worship, or are you just going through the motions? Do you find yourself going through the motions, but the motions are meaningless to you? Then you are not worshiping. How do you fix that? First, confess any sin the Lord brings to your mind and ask his forgiveness. Ask the Lord to fill you fresh with His Holy Spirit. You might be physically exhausted. You need some sleep and quiet. You might be mentally spiritually exhausted. Open the Word of God and begin to read, asking the Lord to minister his filling to you. Put yourself in an environment of worship, whether it be a small group study or worship time, a CD of worship music in the style you prefer that plays while you sit before the Lord or drive home from work. He promises in Isa. 65:17 to make all things new. And that newness comes, Paul says in 2 Cor 5:17 when we are reconciled to Him. The way to be reconciled to him is to humble yourself, submit yourself, become his child.

a.   Zion is told to rejoice, confident that all her troubles are but birth pangs, and soon she will give birth to a glorious future (66:7-11). Isaiah earlier spoke of Jerusalem as a bride (Isa 62:4-5, 12). Now she is a pregnant woman. She will not have long labor before the nation is born (Isa 66:7-9; Gen 3:16; Matt. 24:7-8: 7 Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. 8 All these are the beginning of birth pains.” Rev 12:4b-5: And the dragon stood before the woman who was ready to give birth, to devour her Child as soon as it was born. 5 She bore a male Child who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron. And her Child was caught up to God and His throne). Suddenly the Jews will be allowed to return to Jerusalem, marking the end of misery and the beginning of rejoicing and prosperity (Isa 66:10-13; 62:5, 10; 65:18-19).
b.   ILLUSTRATION:  This Scripture was fulfilled in the Lord’s birth and in 1948 with the establishment of Israel after two millennia of diaspora. Israel was born again as a nation-state in a day.
c.   APPLICATION: For the believer, the End-times are something to look forward to. They are a time of joy. A time of celebration. A time of great reunion. A time of great enjoyment. Are you ready for the end-times? The Messiah has provided for you great joy. Jesus said, “Matthew 25:21: His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’ Peter encourages us in 1 Peter 4:13: but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy.

a.   God will bless his land with peace and comfort His children in the day He executes judgment on sin (66:12-16).
Enoree River near Musgrove Mill, SC
b.   Isaiah 66:12Peace like a river: The image is of a steadily rushing river, never lacking supply, without interruption and spreading out widely. Thus God will bring shalom – peace, security, abundant prosperity, wholeness, and welfare. The Gentiles will come like an overflowing stream (Isa. 9:7; 48:18; 52:7; 54:13; 57:19; 60:17). The river is a symbol of the overflowing presence of God (Isa 33:21 -   21 But there the majestic LORD will be for us A place of broad rivers and streams, In which no galley with oars will sail, Nor majestic ships pass by 22 (For the LORD is our Judge, The LORD is our Lawgiver, The LORD is our King; He will save us. cf.; Isa 41:18; 43:19).
c.    Jesus spoke about this powerful peace and provision of His presence in John 7:38: He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” (Jer. 17:8; Psalm 1) But there is more to this River. We see it first in Eden (Gen 2:10), but it reappears in Revelation 22:1-2: And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.
d.   66:13-14 -- The comfort of a mother (Isa. 60:4; 40:1). Do not lose the significance of the ‘ish, a full grown Man receiving comfort from his mother. Isaac brought his bride Rebekah to his mother Sarah (Gen 24:67). Micah received a blessing from his mother (Judges 17:2). Bathsheba advised her grown son Solomon (1 Kings 2:19-20). And Mary comforted Jesus on the Cross, and he provided for her (John 19:25-26: 25 Now there stood by the cross of Jesus His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus therefore saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing by, He said to His mother, “Woman, behold your son!”).
e.   66:14a: And those who saw it rejoiced: Simeon and Anna in the Temple (Luke 2:25, 28-32, 36—38) as a firstfruits of those who rejoice in the comfort and power of the Messiah.
f.    While God brings salvation and blessing to his servants, he also brings judgment on the wicked (66:14). We are repeatedly told he will come with fire (Isa 66:15-16). Fire can be a symbol of cleansing and purification (Prov 17:3; Matt 3:11; 1 Cor 3:12), but here it is a symbol of the destruction of God’s enemies (Matt 3:12; Mark 9:47-48).
g.   Everyone will be judged (Isa 66:16), but he will deliver the faithful ones, who will not just be Jews but will include people of all tongues and nations (66:18)
h.   ILLUSTRATION: Fire is the image of punishment for God’s enemies. Apologies to Rob Bell.
Invitation: Do you have that peace that flows through you? Do you know the safety and provision of the Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you through great trials and fill you with himself in the midst of trouble? You can have that peace today, both now and provision for the End. Will you receive Him right now?