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Isaiah 28-35: The Sins of Man and the Grace of God Print E-mail
Isaiah
Sunday, 30 November 2008

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For the past few weeks, we have seen Isaiah speak much about judgment and much about hope. The main thrust of chapters 13-35 is a call to trust in the Lord and not in man, be they nations or kings or armies or whatever. After the failure of Ahaz to trust the Lord, the prophet Isaiah has been giving us reason after reason to trust in the Holy One of Israel. Next week, when we look at the actions of King Hezekiah, we will see if he listens to the prophet or follows in the footsteps of so many of the kings before him.

Thus, this morning we are bringing Isaiahís long appeal to trust in the Lord to a close. The first six chapters of our text contain six woes. Isaiah continues to teach us about the cost of rejecting the Lord and trusting in men. Yet, at the same time, we also see him teaching us about Godís grace toward His people. Isaiah has made it clear over and over again that those who persist in their sin and rebellion against God will face judgment, just like their enemies. But those who repent and put their trust in the Lord can take comfort in the fact that the Lord will rescue them and defeat all their enemies. We are seeing in this the prominent Biblical theme of an Israel within Israel.

In other words, even though national Israel was considered Godís people, it was only those who put their faith in the Holy One of Israel that were truly Godís people, an idea that Paul will pick up on in his letter to the Romans. In order to be a part of Godís people, one must trust in Yahweh. Even though Isaiah is addressing the nation (particularly Judah) in these chapters, he is also calling for personal trust and obedience by the individuals of that nation. In thinking about this, I want us to consider some of the evidence of manís sin against God, while also looking at some evidence of His grace in these chapters. We will start with manís sin.

Evidence of the sins of man

Isaiah seems to single out some different groups in these chapters to point out their sins. Of course, he continues to speak to the people and general (and we will consider this as well), but he points to some particular people and their sin against the Lord. So, what do we see?

First, the leaders were full of wine and pride. Look at 24:1-8. Isaiah is here addressing the leaders of the northern Kingdom of Israel. Instead of ruling faithfully and trusting in the Lord, they were consistently getting drunk which caused them to stumble in giving judgment. Their drunkenness was setting them up for judgment, which may have already occurred by the time Isaiah was writing this. In verse 14 he turns his attention to Judah.

Look at 14-18. Isaiah is basically warning the leaders of Judah that if they continue to act like the leaders of Israel, then they too will be judged. He sarcastically mocks them and speaks of them making a covenant with death so that it will not come for them. Yet, the Lord reminds them that He is the One who has laid a sure foundation in Zion. They think that they can survive without Him. They think that they can eat, drink, and be merry. But the Lord will have none of it. Their drunkenness and pride will not be tolerated. I should note at this point the Bibleís clear teaching against drunkenness. This is clearly a sin. Likewise, leaders should be extra careful when it comes to alcohol, as Paul points out in his qualifications for elders and deacons (see 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1). The leaders in Israel were sinning against the Lord with their drunkenness and pride.

Second, the people were denying Godís knowledge and sovereignty. In chapter 29 we read about the coming siege of Jerusalem, pointing to the coming Assyrian invasion (see ch. 36-37). After speaking of this in verses 1-8, we read of more of the peopleís sin in verse 13. Look also at verses 15-16. The people thought that they could Ďget awayí with their rebellion against God. They thought that they could go through the motions to keep Him happy, but secretly hide the intentions of their heart and perform unknown deeds in the dark.

Of course, this is silly. It is absolute folly to think that we can hide anything from the Sovereign Lord. He knows you this morning. Right now, He knows what is going through your head and through your heart. You have never, nor will you ever, fool Him. He is the King over all and there is no sin that we will ever Ďget awayí with. Thus, we should stop trying and come clean. Confessing our sins to the Lord is not telling Him what He doesnít already know, but merely agreeing with what He has already decreed, namely that our actions are sinful. He knows all and we need to come to terms with that fact, or face what the people of Isaiahís day were facing: coming judgment.

Third, the people, along with the leaders, were trusting in men instead of God. Again, this has been a major theme of this entire section of Isaiah (ch. 13-35). In this passage in particular, Isaiah is warning them about trusting in Egypt. Why Egypt? Because they were the only nation who might be able to help them against mighty Assyria (at least from a human standpoint). But Isaiahís tells them that trusting in Egypt is foolishness. Look at 30:1-5. Egypt is a people that cannot profit them, that brings neither help nor profit, but shame and disgrace. Unfortunately many would not listen to Isaiah. Look at 30:8-11. They were so set in their ways that they no longer wanted to hear true prophecies. Instead, they wanted smooth things. They did not want gloom and doom, sin and judgment. They wanted ease. They wanted comforting words from men rather than true words from God. What an exchange!

Isaiah goes on. Look at 31:1-3. Judah was trusting in Egypt because they had chariots and horses. They had many men and a strong army. Yet, in trusting Egypt they were forsaking the Holy One of Israel. When we think of all this, it might be easy to criticize their foolishness. I mean trusting in horses and chariots over God? Thatís about as crazy as trusting business strategies to grow a Church instead of obeying Godís word. This could be our Egypt. Just like Judah, we want to survive and succeed as a Church. Yet, are we willing to trust the Lord by following His Word or are we going to look to the world and trust in their advice? I pray that we will learn from Judahís mistakes and put all our trust in the Lord.

Fourth, the women were complacent in their work. Isaiah addresses another particular group in 32:9ff. Look at verses 9-11. The women in Judah were enjoying the easy life. They were not busying themselves with work, they were enjoying doing nothing. Yet, the Lord tells them that in little more than a year the grape harvest would fail and they would be in serious trouble, since their lives depended upon faithful harvests. Now you may be thinking to yourself: ĎAh, laziness is not that big a deal, right? The Lord doesnít really expect us to work hard does He?í Well, actually yeah. We are called to labor faithfully, whether we are working the factory job, or the corporate job, or the ministry job. The Lord expects us to work hard. We are warned over and over again in the book of Proverbs against laziness and complacency. We are instructed to work hard. So avoid this sin by laboring faithfully at whatever the Lord has called you to do.

Evidence of the grace of God

As we said to begin, the Lord is not just promising judgment for those who fail to trust Him. We also see His promise of grace as well. And we should note at this point: the only hope that Israel had was the grace of God. They had sinned as a people and as individuals. Thus, they were desperate for the grace of God. What evidence of Godís grace do we see in these chapters? Let me mention just two major categories.

First, the Lord will punish the enemies. Part of the Lordís grace for His people is that He will give them victory over all of their enemies. Remember the siege of Jerusalem that we mentioned in chapter 29? Look how it will turn out in verses 5-8. Even thought the siege will come, it will not prove ultimately successful. Rather, the Lord will defend His people. The coming enemy is identified in 30:29-33. Look at that with me. The Lord is going to defeat the Assyrians. The leaders were looking to Egypt, but it is the Lord who will defeat His peopleís enemies. Finally, look at 31:8-9. Again, it is not the Egyptians who will rescue Judah from Assyria. In fact, Assyria will not be defeated by the sword of man. No, it will be the swift sword of the Lord that will defeat mighty Assyria.

We will see this prophecy fulfilled in our passage next week. All of this talk of God defeating His peopleís enemies culminates in the judgment of the nations in chapter 34. Look at 34:1-2. We have seen such predictions before in the book of Isaiah. The Lord is not just going to judge Assyria or Egypt. No, He will judge the nations. He is the Lord over all and He will stand as the judge over all. As we have seen in weeks past, what is one of the reasons the Lord will do this? For the sake of His people. Look at 34:8. The Lord will take up the cause of Zion, the cause of His people, and bring judgment on their enemies. Thus, we see His grace evidenced in His punishment of His peopleís enemies.

Second, the Lord will persevere a righteous remnant. The Lord will punish individuals for their sin and will show grace to those who repent and trust in Him. What specifically will He do for the this righteous remnant?

First, He will meet their needs. Look at 30:18-26. The Lord will show His people grace by providing for their daily needs. Just as Jesus taught us to pray for our daily bread, we can trust that the Lord will be faithful to provide. This doesnít mean that we will never miss a meal or always eat steak, but we can trust the Lord to meet our needs.

Second, He will raise up a King. Look at 32:1-5. The Lord is going to raise up a King that will not be given to drunkenness. He will raise up a leader who will firmly trust in the Lordís plan. He will raise up a ruler who will rule with righteousness and put an end to injustice. Who is this King? Is it Hezekiah? No, we will see his shortcomings in chapter 39. So, who then? It will be the true King of Israel, Emmanuel, God with us, the God-man, Jesus Christ. He is the coming King who will faithfully rule over His people. We sit under His reign even now and long for the Day when every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.

Third, as we already said with the King, the Lord will establish justice and righteousness. Look at 33:5-6 and 13-22. The Lord, through the sending of Jesus, is establishing a Kingdom of righteousness, which will be fully known when Christ returns.

Finally, He will transform their mourning into rejoicing. Chapter 35 is a beautiful description of Godís grace toward those who trust in Him. Listen to Isaiahís words this morning as we come to a close. Such a description makes me want to be certain that I am numbered among the ransomed of the Lord. Thus, I plead with you to repent of your sins, turn from your trusting in man and living for pleasure, and put all of your faith and trust in the work of Jesus, the righteous King, who came and died in your place that you might be reconciled to God. His grace has overcome the sins of all of those in Christ. May you be found in Him. Amen.

 ~ William Marshall ~

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 17 December 2008 )

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