Messages of Hope in Isaiah, Part II (Inscription 54)
Trust God’s Correction
Hebrews 12:7-11; Isaiah 49:14-16
June 19, 2011
Happy fathers day!
· I love that our Fathers Day is well attended.
Scripture reading: Heb 12:7-11
Getting a spanking from God
We are continuing our series on finding hope in Isaiah. What does that reading have to do with that?
Q Have you ever felt like God was giving you a good sound spanking?
Q Have you ever felt like you have done something to tick God off, and you don’t even know what?
In February, we had gotten our tax return and I was excited to pay down some debt – I wasn’t even going to spend it! Then our transmission goes out and wipes all of that out and then some. I remember briefly thinking, “Do you hate me?”
Suffering is harder for Christians than atheists because we believe in a sovereign loving God.
· Hebrews said, “endure hardship as discipline,” which means it isn’t always discipline, but it can always be used that way.
Accepting God’s love
The reason I am preaching this sermon today on Father’s day, is that I want you to see God’s father heart of love, not just in spite of his correction, but through it.
It is vital we understand this as we read through the prophets and even more so as we go through life, or else we will see God as a cruel and vindictive God who won’t give us our binky back.
· Unless you see God as a loving God, you will always doubt his correction and his plan.
Your life will be a yo-yo – when things are going well, you will believe that God loves you, but when they go poorly you will doubt it.
Back in Isaiah
As Isaiah opens (c 740. BC), Judah was in its golden days, prosperous, free, but godless, idolatrous and unjust.
They worship foreign gods, cruel gods who demanded infant sacrifices and worship that corrupted the soul and drove them away from the True, Life-giving God.
· God was trying to save them from cruel gods.
So Isaiah is sent to warn God’s people that trouble was on the horizon. (1-39)
It’s basically God counting to 3. Because he is loving and doesn’t want to punish, he does delay (2, 2 ½, 2 ¾), and they kind of obey, but then disobey.
· But 200 years later God finally does get to three and punishes his people through exile
His punishment was harsh – he used the Babylonians to remove his people from their land and exile them to Babylon. The temple was destroyed and they were without hope, filled with great anguish:
Psalm 137:1-9 By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion. 2 There on the poplars we hung our harps, 3 for there our captors asked us for songs, our tormentors demanded songs of joy; they said, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!” ... 8 O Daughter of Babylon, doomed to destruction, happy is he who repays you for what you have done to us-- 9 he who seizes your infants and dashes them against the rocks.
The hardest part of parenting
After all this, Judah asked, “How can a loving father inflict such pain on his children? Is he really loving?” And we ask the same question.
Q It’s Father’s Day, so let me ask the dad2: What is the worst part of being a parent?
It’s not the changing poopy diapers, as unpleasant as that is (story of Sarah’s).
· It’s disciplining your kids.
That’s not just the punishing, but the whole grueling process of correcting them, raising them to be obedient children of God and healthy, functioning adults.
Worse even than discipling our children, and that would be the regret of failing to do so, to raise them to be selfish, undisciplined, lazy adults.
Proverbs 19:18 18 Discipline your son, for in that there is hope; do not be a willing party to his death.
As a child I read Asope’s Fables, and one stuck out to me more than any other, about a young boy named Ramu.
One day Ramu stole a book from a classmate. Instead of punishing him, his mother praised him, saying, “That was very clever”. Later he stole a cloak, and again she praised him. On and on it went and he grew into a man, stealing things of greater value.
Finally, Ramu was caught and sentenced to death. As he was being lead to his death, his mother followed him, wailing and beating her breast. He asked to speak to his mother one last time, privately, in her ear.
He was allowed to, and leaned towards her, but instead of whispering, Ramu bit her ear clean off. The crowd was shocked, but he shouted, “It is because of my mother that I am going to be hanged. She did not punish me when I first stole, but rewarded me and encouraged me to do it again and again.”
· Pleasant story, isn’t it? No wonder it seared itself in my memory!
A truly loving father
Q If all this is true of us as parents, how much more true is it of our Heavenly Father?
Remember the words of Jesus:
Matthew 7:9-11 9 “Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11 If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!
If then we, though we are evil, know how to lovingly discipline our children for their good, how much more does God discipline us out of his love?
The second part of Isaiah prophetically speaks forward to the nation in the midst of their punishment.
· If punishing my children is the worst part of parenting, holding them afterwards is the silver lining.
This part of Isaiah is filled with both warnings and encouragements. God is saying to his people, “I love you, this is for your good,” but they don’t believe it.
Isaiah 49 begins with great promises of restoration...
NIV Isaiah 49:14-16 14 But Zion said, “The LORD has forsaken me, the Lord has forgotten me.” 15 “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! 16 See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me.
If you are a parent, remember that moment when you first held your child, before they turned into the little monsters they can be, quite and precious. Remember that tenderness and connection.
· If you don’t have kids, think of your new niece or nephew.
Now imagine dropping the baby in the dirt, and never thinking of her again. God says that is more likely to happen than he would forget about your or stop loving you.
· You have never been out of his mind; he’s even tattooed your name on his hands.
DOUBTING God’s love
We all struggle with this at some time, typically when things are going poorly. Here is what the Bible calls us to do: Think about the cross.
· God came down and struggles with us, that is the proof he loves us.
Romans 5:8 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
But for some of you, this is not a passing doubt, but ongoing fear that God does not love you. This requires ongoing heart surgery, not “pick me up.”
not like your dad
This can be so hard for many of you because you have such lousy examples. Finding hope in God’s correction requires that we know his character.
There is all the difference in the world between a loving father spanking his child after he ran out into the street and a drunken man smacking his kids around.
But some of you think God is bi-polar, loving one moment and abusive the next. The same God who died on a tree for you is the same one who corrects you. He is not like your earthly father.
Maybe your father was cruel and unpredictable. Unknown triggers sent him into a rage, and when you read of God’s wrath in the Bible it is your childhood all over again.
Or maybe your mother’s discipline revolved around how she looked to others. I knew a family that never disciplined their children at home, but out in public she was yanking them around trying to get them to behave; I could see the confusion in their eyes.
· God is none of those things; he disciplines out of love.
è If this is an ongoing struggle for you, I want to encourage you to talk to Josh Krause.
But is it worth it?
Even if we intellectually believe this, all this, in the moment, it can be so hard to believe that is will be worth it. Like Judah, it just seems impossible that the suffering will be worth the payoff.
But it was effective. By almost losing their identity as God’s people, they never treated it with such contempt.
· Granted, self-righteousness became an issue, but that is another story.
But that is conclusion to the story. At this point in Isaiah, they were in the midst of their exile and they could not imagine how this could be part of God’s love.
· While you are in the midst of it, all you have is faith – faith in God’s character and his goals.
Hebrews 12:10-11 Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.
God’s goal, like ours, is to see his children grow up into the full stature of the best that we can be.
Don’t let it be wasted
Q We also ask: Will it be worth it?
That is up to us: One of the hardest things I’ve done was taking Grace’s pacifier away, and there was no way I would give it back lest that suffering be wasted.
· Don’t let that suffering be wasted.
Now he uses many different tools to bring correction:
This is kind of the Dr. Phil thing, “How’d that work for you?” Sin is sin because it is destructive, and God wants to save us from that destruction.
But sometimes the consequences are not obvious enough, God has to use something else to get our attention.
· This is the punishment Judah faced – there is no consequential tie between idolatry and exile.
We do the same thing with our kids. Skipping dinner and eating dessert has consequences, but not ones our kids will be able to appreciate soon enough, so we impose other punishments.
3. Teaching moments
But there are also teaching moments: Things happen that aren’t because of sin, but just happen, yet God can use them for our benefit.
· These are all different ways that God brings correction.
Q How do we know which one is which, not to place blame but to fix it?
We cannot assume that when we are suffering it is the result of sin, but sometimes it is.
Q Was this suffering was self-inflicted?
· No friends: Self-centered?
· Poor: Lazy?
Q Is there something in your life you are hiding from God?
Q What do those who know me best say?
This is where mutual mentoring groups are invaluable because most people blame everyone else. It is good to have people who know you well enough to know the truth and love us enough to tell it to us.
Learn what you can, when you can
If it’s not correction or you just aren’t sure, then treat it as a teaching moment. Don’t make the mistake of Job’s friends of needing to pin it on something, just learn what you can:
1. What you can learn or how can you grow?
2. How can you lean into God and become more dependent on him during this?
3. How can you lean into your community help?
4. How can God use your suffering to help others?
The enemy would love to use suffering to drive you further from God, but God would use it to drive you closer to him. God can make even our suffering sweet if it drives us to him.
A Clear Call
End on a somber warning:
Q Is it possible to love your kids fully, to discipline them properly and still have them go off the deep end?
Of course it is. That is the most terrifying part of being a parent. In the same way, God can pursue you, use correction, try to bring you into his arms, but you still flat out refuse.
What it means to be a Christian is to turn to God, to accept his love and forgiveness.
NIV Isaiah 55:6-7 Seek the LORD while he may be found; call on him while he is near. 7 Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts. Let him turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on him, and to our God, for he will freely pardon.
He will pursue you your entire life, but sooner or later you will no longer be able to seek him. He will pursue you to the grave, but no further.
Hell is our word for the place where all the rebels to the end “get” to endure an eternity without him.
· PPT: Please text Janna, her service is almost over: 333-4505
Q & A
· Talk to someone about God’s love and acceptance.