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Isaiah 60-66: Tremble at My Word Print E-mail
Isaiah
Sunday, 25 January 2009

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It is hard to read the final chapters of the book of Isaiah and not conclude that he is closing his book with some predictive prophecy. What he writes in these chapters point to the future. Some of this has already been fulfilled with the coming of Christ and some of it still remains to be fulfilled. In light of this, let me begin with a question this morning: what is the purpose of predictive prophecy? Of course, it could be argued that predictive prophecy can have several purposes, which in one sense is true. Yet, can we identify at least a general over-arching purpose for predictive prophecy? I would contend that predictive prophecy is often given to encourage a faithful present response. We often look at predictive prophecy and immediately ask questions about when and how and details. I think that this approach is unfortunate. Rather, we should look at these passages and ask: what impact do these prophecies have on me presently? How do they encourage me to live right now?

Another theme that we see throughout the prophets (and the Scriptures) is the call to remember what the Lord has done in the past. How many times do we see the biblical writers in the Old Testament calling Israel to remember what the Lord has already done for them? Of course we need to ask the purpose question of these passages as well, namely why is Israel called to remember? I think that the answer to this question is remarkably similar to the answer given for predictive prophecy. In other words the passages that call us to remember what the Lord has done and the passage that speak of what the Lord is going to do are both calling us to a faithful response in the present.

I want us to see this point as we walk through our passage this morning. Within these final chapters Isaiah speaks briefly of what the Lord has done in the past and extensively of what the Lord is going to do in the future. The purpose of both of these sections is to call Godís people to a faithful response in the present. Letís begin by looking at what he says about the past.

Past (63:7-14)

After describing the future for a couple of chapters, which we will consider in a moment, we see a call to remember the past in 63:7-14. Look at that with me. Again, as we see so often in the Old Testament, Isaiah is here recounting what the Lord did for Israel in bringing them out of Egypt. He rescued, or redeemed, them and even though they rebelled and would not at first go into the land of Canaan, He led them through the wilderness and brought the succeeding generation into the land that He had promised to Abraham. Isaiah wants to keep the work of the Lord in the past ever before the people of Israel. Why? In the context of these chapters I think he knows that it will serve to keep them humble. How does Godís redemption of Israel from Egypt serve to keep later generations humble? Their redemption is a constant reminder of the glorious grace of God in their lives. They would be nothing but slaves in Egypt if it were not for the Lord. They would have died off in the wilderness if He had not shown them mercy and been faithful to His promises to Abraham.

Humility is not something we have naturally. We see repeated warnings against pride in the book of Isaiah (and in these chapters). What is one of the greatest weapons that we have been given to fight against our pride and arrogance? Remembering Godís gracious redemption. If you will take time everyday to remember who you were before Christ and what He has done to accomplish your salvation and if you will meditate on the fact that you earned or deserved none of it, then you will be well on your way to humility before the Lord. Isaiah calls Israel and us to humility by remembering our past redemption.

Future (60:1-63:6, 65, 66:6-24)

As we have already noted, the great majority of these chapters is spent on future events. More particularly, it is spent on the coming salvation of Israel and Godís people. Let me highlight some of the prominent ideas brought out in the text.

First, we see the nationsí involvement in this future redemption. How are they involved? A couple of ways. First of all, they will bring their glory to Israel. Look at 60:1-7. They will bring their wealth and their resources and give them to the people of God. Godís people will no longer be scattered among them, but they will be restored. This speaks of the justice that God will bring to His people. He will right all of the wrongs and He will exalt those who have humbled themselves before Him. John speaks of this as well in the book of Revelation. In describing the New Jerusalem, he writes: By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into itÖthey will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations (21:24-26). Second, and related to the first, in one sense this will be judgment of the nations, but in another sense, we see that every tongue, tribe, and nation will be represented among Godís future people. Isaiah continues to teach that Godís people will be more than just Israel.

Second, we see the coming Servantís involvement in this future redemption. Look at 61:1-3. Isaiah speaks of the coming One who will be anointed by the Spirit of the Lord and will usher in the year of the Lordís favor, and the day of vengeance of our God. We read to open our service from Luke 4 where Jesus is at the synagogue in Nazareth. He takes the book of Isaiah and reads part of these verses and says something astounding: Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.

Any further questions about who the Annointed One of the Lord is? Jesus is the One that the book of Isaiah has been pointing us to. He is the One who was born of a virgin (7:14). He is the Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace (9:6). He is the shoot from the stump of Jesse (11:1). He is the Suffering Servant who will bear the sins of Godís people (52:13-53:12). And He is the Annointed One (61:1-3). All of this points us to Jesus of Nazareth. He is the promised Savior that is pointed to in the book of Isaiah. He is the One who will usher in the new heavens and the new earth (see 65:17-25).

The future salvation will be great and glorious, no doubt. Yet, as Isaiah has done again and again, we also see the promise of a future judgment as well. After continuing to describe the glory of the coming redemption in chapters 61 and 62, the grim reality of judgment is faced in 63:1-6. Look at that with me. Isaiah once again describes the terror of the coming Day. He describes a Warrior coming off of the battlefield with His garments stained with the blood of Godís enemies. Who is this Warrior? He is the same one who is mighty to save, who we know as Jesus Christ. It is at this point where we begin to rub up against a mystery in the Old Testament. In one sense, you could read these chapters and conclude that the coming Savior/Warrior will come and immediately redeem Godís people and judge Godís enemies. This is what many expected and why they stumbled over Jesus.

Did you notice earlier in Luke 4 that Jesus stopped quoting from Isaiah 61 before it mentioned the day of vengeance of our God? That part of the prophecy has not fully been fulfilled yet. Yes, the Savior and the Warrior are One, namely Jesus Christ. But this does not mean that all would be accomplished in just one Advent. No, just as we meditate on every Christmas, the New Testament makes it clear that there will in fact be two Advents. The first has already come: the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Christ for the sins of Godís people. The second, which will include the terrible judgment described in Isaiah 63:1-6 is yet to come. John speaks of this as well (see Revelation 19:11ff). We need to note as well what Isaiah says in 66:24. The judgment that will fall upon those who remain in rebellion to God will be eternal. Isaiah tell us that their fire shall not be quenched, a sobering thought indeed.

After looking at Isaiahís glorious description of the coming salvation and his terror-filled description of judgment, we can return to my original question: what are we supposed to do with all of this? Why does he call us to remember the past and be aware of the future? The answer lies in the present.

Present (63:15-64:12, 66:1-5)

In the midst of these descriptions, Isaiah records a prayer for us in 63:15-64:12. This prayer is a cry for mercy and deliverance from God. It is a humble prayer that recognizes our sinfulness. Look at 64:6. What the ESV translates as polluted garment is literally Ďmenstrual clothí in the Hebrew. I donít think I have to go into details for you understand what he is referencing. And what does this describe? All our righteous deeds. There is no room for boasting, no room for pride or arrogance before the Lord. No, we can only be humbled by such a description. Even our good deeds are tainted and polluted. Our only hope is the Lord, that He will, in spite of us, act on our behalf and cause us to walk in true righteousness. In Christ, He has done just that. He has paid for our sins, declared us righteous, and given us the strength to live righteous lives through faith.

We see this call to humility in 65:1-5 as well. Look at verses 1-2 with me. Why call us to remember the past? Why tell us of the glorious redemption and fearful judgment to come? Simple: to humble us and cause us to tremble at His word. And isnít this a theme that runs throughout the pages of Isaiah? Whether it was Ahaz, who responded poorly, or Hezekiah, the call of Isaiahís ministry was to be humble before the Lord and trust Him in all things. That same call comes to us today. We are to be those who tremble at the word of the Lord, those who humble themselves before Christ our Savior, those who trust in the Holy One of Israel.

Remembering our past redemption and the future promises should serve to humble us before the Lord. We were wicked, undeserving sinners, whose righteousness was filthy before the Lord and He saved us by sending His Son to die in our place. The truth that Jesus is coming back as the Divine Warrior to spill the blood of His enemies and send them to eternal torment should fill us with holy fear (and a clear sense of urgency to tell others). Likewise, the truth of the coming redemption should free us from being distracted by the stuff of earth and call us to joyous obedience of all that Christ has commanded. As we come to the Table this morning, may we remember our past redemption and our future hope so that we might live faithful lives in the present that bring honor and glory to God. May we tremble at the Word. Amen.

~ William Marshall ~

Last Updated ( Tuesday, 10 February 2009 )

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