Isaiah: Prince of Prophets—“Payday on the Way”

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The 1st chapter in Isaiah’s prophecy begins with a serious call of repentance to a rebellious and disobedient People of God. Israel has played the harlot and worshiped foreign gods even while going-through-the-motions of offering sacrifice and ritual to the true God. The result is that God has become—humanly speaking—nauseous of Israel’s feigned worship. “Stop bringing meaningless offerings! Your incense is detestable to me. New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations— I cannot bear your evil assemblies. Your New Moon festivals and your appointed feasts my soul hates. They have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them. When you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide my eyes from you; even if you offer many prayers, I will not listen. ... ” (Isaiah 1:13–15, NIV)

But God is merciful, and, if they shall repent and come to Him in faith, He shall forgive them. “Come now, let us reason together,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.” (Isaiah 1:18, NIV)

Chapters 2-5 are Isaiah’s second sermon to the nation. (Although we’ll only look at chapters 2-4 this evening). In chapter two, the prophet contrasts what God intended Israel to be (2:1-5) with what she actually has become (2:6-4:1), and what God will me of her in the future (4:2-6). The progress of Isaiah’s sermon is from the ideal to the real, and back to the ideal.


            1. the first part of Isaiah’s sermon is one of great hope, in which Zion's Glorious Future is foretold
                1. as the prophet opens his message, you can almost hear his listeners shouting, “Amen, and amen”, “Preach on brother Isaiah, preach on”
            2. Isaiah says that a time is coming—in the last days— when wonderful events will transpire


            1. 1st all the nations of the earth shall flock to Jerusalem to worship the True God in His sanctuary
              • “In the last days the mountain of the LORD’s temple will be established as chief among the mountains; it will be raised above the hills, and all nations will stream to it.” (Isaiah 2:2, NIV)
                1. in the ancient world, many of the surrounding cultures believed that their god’s lived and reigned from high mountain peaks
                2. using that symbolism, Isaiah maintains that the mountain of the Lord’s temple will be seen as the true place of worship for all peoples—not merely the Jews
                3. Isaiah is proclaiming, Our God rules! and every tongue shall confess Jehovah as the One, True and Living God


            1. 2nd men will want to learn the ways of God and Israel shall teach them
              • “Many peoples will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.” The law will go out from Zion, the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.” (Isaiah 2:3, NIV)
                1. under the Old Covenant, the Israelites made pilgrimages to Jerusalem three times a year
                2. but in the future the entire world will go there and in that day Jehovah’s instruction will go forth from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth
            2. Jerusalem will be The Anointed One’s capital city where he will judge the grievances between nations and peoples, and peace will reign throughout the earth
              • “He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.” (Isaiah 2:4, NIV)


            1. the question, of course, is Isaiah’s vision a vision of Israel’s near future or distant future?
                1. the key is found in verse two when Isaiah proclaims, “In the last days ... “
            2. the phrase describes a distant time from the perspective of the prophet and is an example of what has been described as "prophetic foreshortening"
                1. this means that events far removed in the future are spoken of as if they were close at hand
                  • ILLUS. If you’ve ever been driving toward the mountains, you’ve seen this phenomenon. You see what looks to be one long continuous range of mountains, but in reality you’re looking at a series of mountain ranges that appear close together, but actually are far apart.
            3. many conservative scholars believe—and I agree with them—that Isaiah is describing the Millennial Kingdom of our Lord established at his Second Coming
              • “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” (Revelation 21:1–5, NIV)
            4. vv. 1-5 represent God’s glorious future—and ultimate—desire for Israel


            1. the glorious future hope of Zion (Jerusalem) is tempered, by Isaiah's message concerning Zion's Inglorious Present
                1. as Isaiah opens his message you can almost hear his listeners shouting, “Amen, and amen”, “Preach on brother Isaiah, preach on”
                    1. they like what they hear
                    2. Jerusalem will be the spiritual capitol of the world
                2. as he continues to preach, the tone of the message suddenly changes
                    1. now Isaiah begins to hear weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth
                3. Isaiah’s message has become a condemnation of Israel’s sins of which there are many
            2. the condemnation is so acute that God announces His rejection of His people
              • "For you have rejected your people, the house of Jacob, because they are full of things from the east and of fortune-tellers like the Philistines, and they strike hands with the children of foreigners." (Isaiah 2:6, ESV)
            3. disobedience always has consequences


            1. the nation is filled with extraordinary wealth (v. 7)
                1. gold and silver are abundant
            2. the land is filled with extraordinary political and military power (v. 7)
                1. horses and chariots—instruments of military might and political muscle—keep the nation safe
            3. the land is also extraordinarily filled with idiolatry (v. 8)
                1. the result is that Israel has imported fortune-tellers and intermarried with pagans who have introduced their detestable worship to the people of Israel
            4. the consequence is that God has cut them off from Himself
                1. Isaiah spoke to a people who were rich and powerful and told them why they were headed to ruin
                    1. they listened to occult diviners rather then prophets
                    2. they practiced foreign rites
                    3. they worshiped foreign gods
                    4. they strutted proudly around and wondered why God was displeased
                2. the situation had become so desperate that Isaiah could only raise the terrifying curse: Do not forgive them (v. 9)
            5. God will no longer be a blessing to Israel, but a terror (vv. 10-22)
                1. to escape, they shall hide in caves, and if it were possible, would hide under the rocks!
                  • "Enter into the rock and hide in the dust from before the terror of the Lord, and from the splendor of his majesty." (Isaiah 2:10, ESV)
                  • "And people shall enter the caves of the rocks and the holes of the ground, from before the terror of the Lord, and from the splendor of his majesty, when he rises to terrify the earth." (Isaiah 2:19, ESV)


            1. another consequence of the nation of Israel’s disobedience will be a lack of qualified leaders and the consequent collapse of society
            2. God is going to remove from Jerusalem all that is essential to keep a society functioning
                1. He will remove support and supply
                    1. bread and water—the bare necessities of life—will be gone
                2. He will remove the mighty man and the soldier, the judge and the prophet, the diviner and the elder, the captain of fifty and the man of rank, the counselor and the skillful magician and the expert in charms
                    1. leading men in the military will be gone
                    2. political, religious, and commercial leaders will be gone
                    3. entertainers and healers will be gone
                3. this pronouncement was literally fulfilled when the Babylonians attacked, decimated all of Judah’s cities, and deported the bulk of Israel’s upper-crust, and elites back to Babylon
                  • "and Jehoiachin the king of Judah gave himself up to the king of Babylon, himself and his mother and his servants and his officials and his palace officials. The king of Babylon took him prisoner in the eighth year of his reign and carried off all the treasures of the house of the Lord and the treasures of the king’s house, and cut in pieces all the vessels of gold in the temple of the Lord, which Solomon king of Israel had made, as the Lord had foretold. He carried away all Jerusalem and all the officials and all the mighty men of valor, 10,000 captives, and all the craftsmen and the smiths. None remained, except the poorest people of the land." (2 Kings 24:12-14, ESV)
            3. this lack of leadership would result in incompetent individuals seeking and gaining positions of authority over the remnant of Jews who remained in Judah
              • "And I will make boys their princes, and infants shall rule over them." (Isaiah 3:4, ESV)
                1. the dearth in leadership will be so bad in the nation that if someone is wealthy enough to own a cloak, they will be pressed into service as a leader
                  • "For a man will take hold of his brother in the house of his father, saying: “You have a cloak; you shall be our leader, and this heap of ruins shall be under your rule”;" (Isaiah 3:6, ESV)
            4. anarchy will reign in the nation
              • "And the people will oppress one another, every one his fellow and every one his neighbor; the youth will be insolent to the elder, and the despised to the honorable." (Isaiah 3:5, ESV)


            1. in the next section of Isaiah’s sermon, the real housewives of Jerusalem are singled out for recrimination
                1. pride had led these women to walk with their noses in the air, assuming superiority over others
            2. but God is going to humble them
              • "The Lord said: Because the daughters of Zion are haughty and walk with outstretched necks, glancing wantonly with their eyes, mincing along as they go, tinkling with their feet, therefore the Lord will strike with a scab the heads of the daughters of Zion, and the Lord will lay bare their secret parts. In that day the Lord will take away the finery of the anklets, the headbands, and the crescents; the pendants, the bracelets, and the scarves; the headdresses, the armlets, the sashes, the perfume boxes, and the amulets; the signet rings and nose rings; the festal robes, the mantles, the cloaks, and the handbags; the mirrors, the linen garments, the turbans, and the veils. Instead of perfume there will be rottenness; and instead of a belt, a rope; and instead of well-set hair, baldness; and instead of a rich robe, a skirt of sackcloth; and branding instead of beauty. Your men shall fall by the sword and your mighty men in battle. And her gates shall lament and mourn; empty, she shall sit on the ground. And seven women shall take hold of one man in that day, saying, “We will eat our own bread and wear our own clothes, only let us be called by your name; take away our reproach.” (Isaiah 3:16-4:1, ESV)
                1. disgrace would result from trusting wealth and prosperity rather than in God
                    1. instead of striking hairdos covering their heads, scabs will, and ultimately baldness
                    2. instead of expensive cloths coving their bodies, their nakedness will be exposed
                    3. instead of expensive jewelry adorning their wrists, and ears and foreheads there will be bare skin
                    4. instead of the oder of expensive perfume, will be the stench of rottenness
                    5. because war has taken a frightful cost on the ranks of young men, the women remaining in Judah will be so desperate for male companionship and support that seven women will plead with one man—any man—for attention
            3. trusting in wealth and prosperity will ultimately lead to a lack of liberty when the Babylonians came sweeping over the nation
            4. here is Israel’s actual condition, and it is not a pretty one


            1. Isaiah began his sermon by clarifying God’s desire for Israel
                1. it will become the spiritual capitol of the world
                    1. the people shout Amen and Amen
            2. Isaiah continues his sermon by revealing the corruption of Israel’s society and her disobedience to God
                1. because Israel has worshiped other God’s, because Israel has trusted in herself and others rather than God, judgment is impending
                2. “Amens” have turned to “Oh my’s”
            3. Isaiah concludes his message by revealing that God is determined to have His name glorified among His people
                1. God does not leave His people without hope
                2. God has a marvelous future planned for His people


            1. "The Branch of the Lord shall be beautiful and glorious" - 4:2
                1. here is a reference to The Anointed One of Israel
            2. "In that day", I believe, refers to the end of days when Christ comes in power and authority to establish His Millennial Kingdom
            3. for the remnant of Jews alive in Israel in that day they will be blessed of God, and many will turn to Israel’s true Messiah
                1. God Himself will reside among His people
                  • "Then the Lord will create over the whole site of Mount Zion and over her assemblies a cloud by day, and smoke and the shining of a flaming fire by night; for over all the glory there will be a canopy." (Isaiah 4:5, ESV)


            1. At the End of Days, God’s Glory Will Be Vindicated, All Men Will Confess That Christ Is Lord, and God Shall Be Worshiped in Spirit and in Truth
              • “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” (Revelation 21:1–5, NIV)
                1. this is the ultimate and glorious hope that the prophet speaks of in Isa. 2:1-5
                    1. God will be our sufficiency—not personal riches, not religious ritual, not unreliable alliances,
                    2. God will be our peace—only when God rules will men beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks
            2. God’s Judgement Always Begins at the House of the Lord
              • “ ... if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. For it is time for judgment to begin with the family of God; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God?” (1 Peter 4:16–17, NIV)
                1. when God’s people are disobedient, God holds us accountable
                    1. Israel never got away with her idiolatry and disobedience
                    2. neither can the Church
                2. God’s accountability over His Church is exercised in two ways
                    1. the hardships of life that are the Lord’s discipline
                      • “Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father?” (Hebrews 12:7, NIV)
                    2. the winnowing fork of judgment that is the persecution of the church by the godless
                3. the result of God’s judgement upon the church is often the removal of our influence upon the culture around us
                  • ILLUS. When Jesus speaks to the Church as Ephesus in His Revelation, he tells the church to repent. They have forsaken their first love—Jesus Christ. If they do not repent He threatens them: “ ... I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.”
                4. as with Israel, when God judges His church, it may well lead to ...
                    1. a dearth of relationship—God has written Ichabod across the door posts of many churches
                    2. a dearth of leadership—is it possible that the reason some denominations have decided to ordain pedophiles and homosexuals to the ministry is because God’s judgment is upon them and He is no longer raising up godly leaders?
                    3. a dearth of liberty—the Church in America used to have a prominent and preeminent place in our culture, but now has been taken to the laundry by the godless and Christians are no longer free to pray or exercise their faith in public places
            3. We Frequently Get the Leadership We Deserve
                1. one of the reasons for God’s judgement upon the nation of Israel was a political leadership that was corrupt, greedy, unjust, and sacrilegious
                    1. they were using their position to feather their own nests
                    2. the result was judgment
                      • ILLUS. One of my favorite quotes is by President James Garfield. Writing about the upcoming Centennial celebrations of America’s first 100 years as a nation, he said: "Now more than ever the people are responsible for the character of their Congress. If that body be ignorant, reckless, and corrupt, it is because the people tolerate ignorance, recklessness, and corruption. If it be intelligent, brave, and pure, it is because the people demand these high qualities to represent them in the national legislature. . . . [I]f the next centennial does not find us a great nation ... it will be because those who represent the enterprise, the culture, and the morality of the nation do not aid in controlling the political forces."
                2. here is a cry for Christian involvement in the political process if ever I heard one!
            4. God Does Not Abandon His People
                1. this is the great truth of Isaiah 4:2-6
                  • “Then the LORD will create over all of Mount Zion and over those who assemble there a cloud of smoke by day and a glow of flaming fire by night; over all the glory will be a canopy. ” (Isaiah 4:5, NIV)
                  • “What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.” (2 Corinthians 6:16, NIV)
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