Isaiah: Prince of Prophets—“Can You Hear Me Now?”
You’ve seen the commercial, "Can you hear me now? Good!" In 2001 Verizon Wireless hired 50 people to travel the country and test the company’s cellular network. They each average 100,000 miles a year, going to places, and testing the Verizon network. In 2002 Verizon hired thirty-four-year-old Paul Marcarelli of New York City to be the “personification” of those 50 testers. And yes, those are his own glasses! He became simply known as the “Test Guy” and in the Verizon commercials you would see him, on his cell phone, in a variety of places and situations testing the Verizon network. And of course there is always a connection, and it is ‘good’. Now the phrase, "Can you hear me now?" has become part of our cultural vocabulary.
Certainly it’s a question that God was asking of Israel. His people had not listened to God. As a result the nation has made a political alliance with Egypt. Isaiah refers to it as a covenant with death and the grave. Because Israel has refused to listen to the Lord, the God who swept away David’s enemies will now sweep away David’s kingdom.
What Isaiah’s scoffing opponents did not realize was that God was getting ready to do a “strange work”: He would use Israel’s long-time enemies to fight against His own people! Just as a farmer has different tasks to perform and must adapt himself to each task, whether plowing or threshing, so God must do the work that is necessary to bring about His eternal purposes. He knows just what tool to use and when to use it. God’s ultimate purpose is not to destroy His people, but to get them to listen to Him!
And certainly, this is what God wants from us. God is asking the question: “Can you hear me now?” Hopefully He can say “good!” Do you hear God talking? It’s an important question. But how does God talk to us to-day, and what does He want us to do? Our key verse for this evening is: "Listen and hear my voice; pay attention and hear what I say." -- Isaiah 28.23
Let me offer five ways that God ‘speaks’ to us. Now, when I use the word speak, what I’m meaning is that there are a number of ways that God has chosen to reveal Himself to the world: To reveal His character, His attributes, and His will.
I. GOD SPEAKS THROUGH CREATION
- “For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.” (Romans 1:19–20, ESV)
- “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard.” (Psalm 19:1–3, ESV)
- according to these two passages, all men have evidence of God, and what their physical senses can perceive of Him their inner senses can understand to some extent
A. GOD REVEALS HIMSELF IN A GENERAL WAY THROUGH WHAT HE HAS MADE
- in the Romans passage, the Apostle Paul says that there are certain things that can be known about God by observing the created world around us
- he writes in v. 19 that they are plain–literally clearly visible and in v. 20 that they are clearly perceived
- what are these invisible attributes that can be clearly seen through His creation?
- his eternal power
- his divine nature
- as a result of this natural revelation, men are without excuse
- the Scriptures both assume and declare that the knowledge that God is universal
- no person, therefore, can plead ignorance of God, because, entirely apart from Scripture, God has revealed Himself and continues to reveal Himself to man
- ILLUS. While ministering in Lystra, Paul told his Gentile audience about the God “who made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and all that is in them.” He went on to explain that “in the generations gone by [God] permitted all the nations to go their own ways; and yet He did not leave Himself without witness, in that He did good and gave you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness” (Acts 14:15–17).
- according to the Psalmist, even though Creation does not speak audibly in words, its message (voice) goes out to the ends of the earth
- this message from nature about the glory of God reaches all nations, and is equally intelligible to all peoples
- ILLUS. What normal person does not look at the Grand Canyon and say "Nice job, God"
II. GOD SPEAKS THROUGH CIRCUMSTANCES
- the Bible says that there is a reason for everything under the sun
- “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28, ESV)
- ILLUS. When it came to knowing God's will, George Muller (1805-1898), an English evangelist and philanthropist, was remarkably and humbly gifted. Here's how George Muller set out to ascertain the will of God on a daily basis: 1) I seek at the beginning to get my heart into such a state that it has no will of its own in regard to a given matter. Nine-tenths of the trouble with people generally is just here. Nine-tenths of the difficulties are over come when our hearts are ready to do the Lord's will, whatever it may be. When one is truly in this state, it is usually but a little way to the knowledge of what His will is. 2) Having done this, I do not leave the result to feeling or simple impression. If so, I make myself liable to great delusions. 3) I seek the Will of the Spirit of God through, or in connection with, the Word of God. The Spirit and the Word must be combined. If I look to the Spirit alone without the Word, I lay myself open to great delusions also. If the Holy Ghost guides us at all, He will do it according to the Scriptures and never contrary to them. 4) Next I take into account providential circumstances. These often plainly indicate God's Will in connection with His Word and Spirit. 5) I ask God in prayer to reveal His Will to me aright. 6) Thus, through prayer to God, the study of the Word, and reflection on what is happening around me, I come to a deliberate judgment according to the best of my ability and knowledge, and if my mind is thus at peace, and continues so after two or three more petitions, I proceed accordingly. In trivial matters, and in transactions involving most important issues, I have found this method always effective.
III. GOD SPEAKS THROUGH OUR TRIALS AND OUR PAIN
- trials happen–they are a part of life, not an aberration in life
- “In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 1:6–7, ESV)
- He is saying "I love you right where I found you; but I love you too much to leave you there!"
- ILLUS. Christian author and lecturer C.S. Lewis called pain, "the megaphone of God." In his book The Problem of Pain, Lewis wrote: “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world”
- unfortunately, that is exactly what Isaiah has been preaching to the people of Israel and they have not listened!
- "Save me, O God! For the waters have come up to my neck. I sink in deep mire, where there is no foothold; I have come into deep waters, and the flood sweeps over me. I am weary with my crying out; my throat is parched. My eyes grow dim with waiting for my God.” (Psalm 69:1–3, ESV)
- it was through his grief and pain, the Job learned the most about God and his faith in that God
IV. GOD SPEAKS THROUGH HIS WRITTEN WORD
- the most important place to ‘hear God speak’ is through the sixty-six books of the bible
A. THE BIBLE IS AUTHORED BY GOD AND REVEALS GOD TO MEN
- "For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” (Romans 15:4, NIV)
- Baptists have historically believed that the Bible has God for its author, salvation for its end and that it has truth without any mixture of error for its matter
- we believe this because the Scriptures themselves maintain that they are inspired by God alone
- “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:” (2 Timothy 3:16, KJV)
- the word inspiration in the Greek is theopneustos, and literally means God-breathed
- through the guidance of God’s Holy Spirit, the writers of the Bible wrote exactly what God wanted us to know
- God used each writer’s unique writing style and vocabulary, but the true author of the Bible is the Holy Spirit
- you might say those men and women who penned the Bible are really holy ghost writers
- it is completely true from Genesis 1:1 through Revelation 22:21
- how do we know that it is true?
- “Paul, a servant of God, and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God’s elect, and the acknowledging of the truth which is after godliness; 2 In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began;” (Titus 1:1-2, KJV)
- “As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:10-11, NIV)
- ”For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12, NIV)
- but it is powerful only if we believe it, claim it, and use it
B. THE BIBLE IS INFALLIBLE AND WILL NOT LEAD MEN ASTRAY
- “The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul. The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple. 8 The precepts of the LORD are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the LORD are radiant, giving light to the eyes. 9 The fear of the LORD is pure, enduring forever. The ordinances of the LORD are sure and altogether righteous. 10 They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb. 11 By them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.” (Psalm 19:7-11, NIV)
- if the Bible is God’s true revelation, then that means it is an infallible document
- what do I mean by the word infallible?
- I’m glad you asked, let me explain it to you!
- it means that the Scriptures will do what they are designed to do—lead men and women, boys and girls—into a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ
- ILLUS. When we say that the Bible is infallible, we are maintaining that it is without error since it is inspired by the Holy Spirit. Charles H. Spurgeon, a great English pastor, wrote of the Bible: “The Bible is a vein of pure gold, unalloyed by quartz or any earthly substance. This is a star without a speck; a sun without a blot; a light without darkness; a moon without paleness; a glory without dimness. O Bible! it cannot be said of any other book that it is perfect and pure; but of thee we can declare all wisdom is gathered up in thee, without particle of folly.”
- in its passages and through its pages, you will meet the living Lord
- “Search the scriptures; for . . . they are they which testify of me.” (John 5:39, KJV)
C. THE BIBLE IS AUTHORITATIVE FOR OUR LIVES
- ILLUS. A captain was on the bridge of his ship during a dark and stormy night when he noticed a light dead-ahead on a collision course. He had his signal officer dispatch a message to the light in question, “Alter your course ten degrees south.” The reply from the light came back, “Alter your course ten degrees north.” The captain had a second signal sent, “Alter your course ten degrees north. I am a captain.” But the light sent a signal back, “Alter your course ten degrees south. I am a seaman third class.” By this time the captain is becoming annoyed. He had a third message dispatched, “Alter you course ten degrees south. I am an Aircraft Carrier.” The reply came, “Alter your course ten degrees north. I am a lighthouse.”
- the Bible is authoritative for our lives
- it warns us of dangerous behaviors and guides us safely through life
- ILLUS. Mark Twain once said, “Most people are bothered by those passages of Scripture which they cannot understand; but as for me, I have always noticed that the passages in Scripture which trouble me most are those which I do understand.”
V. GOD SPEAKS THROUGH HIS SON
- "In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. 3 The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven." (Heb. 1:1-3 , NIV)
- in the gospels, we see that God chose to speak through His Son, Jesus Christ
- the disciples would have been foolish to say, "It's wonderful knowing you, Jesus, but we really would like to know the Father."
- one of the disciples, Philip, made this very statement
- "Philip said, "Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us."" (John 14:8, NIV)
- "Jesus answered: "Don't you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. . ." (John 14:9, NIV)
A. TO HEAR THE WORDS OF CHRIST, IS TO HEAR GOD SPEAK
- when Jesus spoke, the Father was speaking through him
- "Don't you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work." (John 14:10 , NIV)
- "But I have greater witness than that of John: for the works which the Father hath given me to finish, the same works that I do, bear witness of me, that the Father hath sent me." (John 5:36, NIV)
VI. GOD HAS SPOKEN, ARE YOU LISTENING?
- I tell you all of this to get to the application of this evening’s message
- God has spoken, are you listening?
- when your heart is bent on following only after your own desires and designs, it is hard to hear what God says
- when your affections for Christ have grown cold, it is hard to hear what God says
- when you neglect God’s word whether written or spoken, it is hard to hear what God says
- the Parable of the Sower in Matthew 13:3-32 is a parable all about hearing
- in it Jesus talks about four kinds of hearers . . .
- there is the apathetic hearer v. 19
- this is the person who hears the Word but is not prepared to receive it nor understand it
- do you let the Word of God go in one ear and out the other?
- there is the superficial hearer vv. 20-21
- this is the person who receives the Word temporarily but does not let it take root in his heart
- do you just accept what is said without making specific, personal application?
- there is the preoccupied hearers v. 22
- this is the person who receive the Word, but lets the world choke it out because they are so focused on it
- if you want a good example of a preoccupied hearer, just try communicating with a teenager while they are listening to their favorite music or watching their favorite TV show
- then you’ll know how God must feel when He’s trying to get your attention
- there is the productive hearer v. 23
- this is the person who receive the Word, understands it, attempts to put it into practice and as a result brings forth spiritual fruit
- ILLUS. Many years ago, my Pastor, Martin Brocket, said “A Bible that's falling apart probably belongs to someone who isn't.”
God Has Spoken, Are You Listening?