Isaiah Part 1 – When the Smoke Settles – Isaiah 26:1-5
Last week we thought about angels. This week we need to think about prophets. The root word for the Greek words angel, evangelist, evangelize, and gospel is the same. It is the Greek word “angel” or messenger. The word “prophet” is somewhat similar.
A prophet is a “mouth” for God. Think of a spokesman. They share or bring a message on behalf of someone else. I think of a mouthpiece. A prophet is used as a tool to express the thoughts or intent of someone. The mouthpiece is a good analogy. Do you know what a mouthpiece does for a wind instrument? It helps make the sound. It cannot do anything on it’s own. The mouth piece needs the musician. Likewise, a biblical prophet does not speak on their own accord. God uses the prophet to share a holy message with an audience.
A biblical prophet shares God’s will. They remind people of the law. Prophets exhort, warn, and pronounce divine judgments. They can also foretell future events.
I like to think of God as the greatest musician with the most amazing song. He uses prophets as instruments to broadcast the message of His song in the world. Each of God’s instruments, His prophets, can have a different tone just like different musical instruments, BUT they must relay a message from God.
What is Isaiah’s tone? How would you describe his message?
Some call him the fifth evangelist. What do they mean? Some call the book of Isaiah the Old Testament gospel. What do they mean?
Evangelist? Someone sharing a good message? Gospel? Good news? Does Isaiah really share something good?
As we look through the first thirty-nine chapters of Isaiah, you will see dark clouds on the horizon. You will see a ton of destruction. The tone of this book can be frightening and downright scary.
At times, the terms evangelist and gospel are hard to attach to this book. It really does seem like Isaiah is a foreboding prophet of ominous despair and impending doom! It makes me think of a middle school kid playing the Star Wars Imperial March on the tuba!
Don’t get stuck there. Is Isaiah judgmental? Yes. Is it tough to hear at times? Yes.
We need to think about the context for just a moment before we drown in despair of Isaiah’s judgment on the nations. I want you to think about the relationship between prophets and kings in the Bible for just a few moments. We need to back up and see where Isaiah is coming from and why he is speaking with such a judgmental boldness.
Deuteronomy 17:14-20 – Do you remember what is going on here? God is laying down the law about kings. What does he say? (READ PASSAGE). How did that work out for the Israelites? Did setting up kings like all the nations go well?
1 Samuel 8:4-22 – Do you remember what is going on here? The Israelites reject God as their king. God gives them EXACTLY what they ask for and allows them to set up a king like all the other nations! READ verse 18! The people refused the voice of Samuel and still demand a king despite the CLEAR WARNING!!
Think about Samuel’s farewell address in 1 Samuel 12. READ 1 Samuel 12:14-15, 19-25 – What is going on? What is Samuel’s exhortation? How do the people respond?
The establishment of the Israelite monarchy and the prophetic vision of God’s spokesmen go hand in hand. As the kings came and went, Samuel set up a school of prophets. These prophets kept the kingdom in check.
God warned Israel about setting up kings to rule the nation. God reminded the people about the past, present, and future through the prophets. The prophets reminded the king and the people about what God had done for them in past. Prophets called them to obey God in the present. Prophets exclaimed a true portrait of the future – rewards for righteousness, punishment for sin, and ultimate victory only under God’s rule.
The prophets were regulators. As the Israelites cycled out of control under the lordship of earthly kings, the prophets were gauges and controls sent by God to hold the people accountable to the holy standards of God. Prophets were meant to keep the kings in check.
How many good kings were there in Israel? What about Judah? Seems like number is 8 out of 40 total, does that sound right to you?
So, remember Deuteronomy 17, 1 Samuel 8, and 1 Samuel 12. The Israelites got what they asked for, and Isaiah was sent to the people to warn of the impending doom.
There is a rhythm in the book of Isaiah. As you read it, pay attention. There is a holy cadence. There are downbeats and upbeats. There are majors, minors, sharps, and flats. You will find diminished, seventh, and even strange dissonant chords. It a holy symphony of prophetic visions. Like a symphony, it can be hard to listen to and understand. Anybody here listen to symphonic music for pure enjoyment? Maybe a few, but I doubt it for most.
As you hear God use Isaiah as a mouth, spokesman, mouthpiece, or instrument, remember there is an overarching point. There is a crescendo, and at the point of climax there is good news. It may take while to get there. The path to the climax may be difficult, but if you stick with it, it really is a good message!!
Lamentations 3:25 states: “The LORD is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him.”
Clearing the Lot
I have to be honest. Sermon preparation is a struggle for me. Truly a labor. This sermon was no exception. I sat in my office begging God to give something to say. I kept my nose in the book of Isaiah for hours this week, but it just didn’t seem like I could figure out what God wanted me to say.
All I could think about was stumps. Yep, you heard me right stumps. I was truly stumped this week!
Last weekend, I had the pleasure of helping Roy Roberts on his property. He is clearing a lot and taking down a significant number of trees to make room for a house. There were all kinds of trees out there – tall, short, fat, skinny, old, young, dead, beautiful, ugly, healthy, and diseased. I truly had a great time. I enjoy sweating and working hard. It helps me sleep at night!
As I read Isaiah this week, I couldn’t help but to think about taking down trees. It seemed like God was cutting everybody down – Judah, Jerusalem, Israel, Ephraim, Assyria, Babylon, Moab, Damascus, Cush, Egypt, Tyre, and Sidon. The whole earth was being judged, and everyone got the smack down. Everybody was punished and brought to ultimate destruction.
To be fair, there are tons of allusions to redemption, deliverance, and grace in Isaiah, but there is a ton of destruction going on too! God is dropping kings and their kingdoms left and right! I finally realized what God was doing!!!
He is dropping trees! He is clearing the lot!
READ Isaiah 2:12-19
Has anyone here ever built a home? Anyone here ever have to clear a lot in order to build that dream home? Then you know what I am talking about. If you want to build a home, then you have to clear the lot. You have to bring down the cedars, the oaks, the poplars, the maples, and the hickory trees. Sometimes you have to move the hills and mountains too! Sometimes you have to tear down what was built there before you!
God must clear the wooded lot of pride, arrogance, and idolatry. The hills of sin must be leveled. The mighty mountains of sin must be brought low. If you want to pour a good foundation, all the obstacles and strongholds of iniquity have to be destroyed.
The sad truth in Isaiah is that God had to drop Israel too. He had to cut them down. That hurts. Their nation had made a home in the foreign forests of false hope and idolatry. Israel felt that they knew how to build a kingdom better than God. They failed, then they got felled.
Assyria and Babylon destroy the Israelites.
God left a stump. A burnt stump. Isaiah’s message of hope starts with a burnt stump.
READ 11:1-5, 10-11 (EXCITING)
Rebuilding and the Message of Hope
Remember, God does not see how you and I see. We cannot fully comprehend God or His actions. A burnt stump. I am hopeless. A burnt stump. I am distraught and filled with doubt.
A burnt stump. God uses a burnt stump to make a STRONG CITY with walls and bulwarks made from SALVATION.
READ chapter 25 – Pay ATTENTION to verses 7-9
READ chapter 26:1-15
God rebuilds his kingdom. He first clears the lot totally, then takes a burnt stump and starts anew a small shoot from lineage of Jesse. This new kingdom is open to those who have been patiently waiting on Him and expecting Him. His kingdom is open to all the faithful from any nation. God enlarges the borders of the land and welcomes all to come in.
His faithful proclaim, “O Lord our God, other lords besides you have ruled over us, but your name alone we bring to remembrance. They are dead, they will not live, they are shades, they will not arise; to that end you have visited them with destruction and wiped out all remembrance of them.”
Learn It the Hard Way
Have you ever had to learn something the hard way? Israel did. I have learned quite a few lessons the hard way too. What about you?
You and I have a few things in common with the Israelites. The one thing I want to focus in on right now is our desire for a king.
We ask for kings (not literally). We expect kings. We demand kings to rule over us.
We make alliances and covenants with things other than God – everyday.
Dreams, passions, spouses, children, jobs, education, bank accounts, stuff – everyday they rule us if we are not careful.
If we are not careful, those things can grow up into mighty hardwoods. If we are not careful, they become tall mountains of pride and arrogance.
I must be clear. I am not saying all those things are inherently evil or bad. What I am saying is that it is wrong to allow those things to rule us and become our kings. There is only one true KING. Remember, “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Put Him in charge, and those things are fine.
However, if you seek shelter and solace in your dreams, passions, spouse, children, job, education, bank accounts, or stuff, then God is going to clear the lot. What will you be left with?
Once again, His faithful proclaim, “O Lord our God, other lords besides you have ruled over us, but your name alone we bring to remembrance. They are dead, they will not live, they are shades, they will not arise; to that end you have visited them with destruction and wiped out all remembrance of them.”
I want to boldly proclaim something today…
God is going to clear the wooded lots of this world to make room for His kingdom.
For those that can withstand and wait it out, God makes a wonderful city fortified with salvation.
To the young – DON’T fall into the trap like your parents and me. Clear out your heart and mind TODAY. Put on Christ in baptism TODAY. Make Him your lord and king TODAY. He is much better than any other earthly king this world offers, I promise. Don’t let your friends rule you. Don’t let fun rule you. Let Christ rule in your hearts and minds.
To the Christians – Wait on the Lord and don’t be discouraged. Remember, God will clear the wooded lots of pride, arrogance, and idolatry. The hills of sin will be leveled. The mighty mountains of sin will be brought low. All the obstacles and strongholds of iniquity have been destroyed. All earthly kingdoms will be brought low and be leveled. Christ is victorious!! Isaiah proclaims the good news of the Messiah!
But, if something else or someone else other than God is your king, watch out. God is going to clear the lot. Those kings will fall. They can’t be trusted. Return to the REAL KING NOW!
To the non-Christian – You may not believe me, but God reigns. He is the REAL DEAL. He is the REAL KING. Everything else is a fake. Everyone else cannot be trusted.
To you all – When God starts clearing the lot, when the trees start falling, when the mountains are leveled – where will your shelter be? Where will you take shelter? I hope you don’t have to learn this lesson the hard way.
If you turn to Him, He will offer shelter. If you seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, He will offer shelter. Isaiah 26:1-2, “We have a strong city; he sets up salvation as walls and bulwarks. Open the gates, that the righteous nation that keeps faith may enter in.”
As I close, I want to look at Isaiah 25:7-9, “And he will swallow up on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations. He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the Lord has spoken. It will be said on that day, “Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us. This is the LORD; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.”
If you don’t know salvation, the gate of God’s strong city has been open wide for you today. Will you enter in? God offers shelter as those trees start falling.