Isaiah08 Restoration to holiness2
Restoration to holiness: The object and substance.
“May the favour of the Lord our God rest upon us; establish the work of our hands for us – yes, establish the work of our hands.”
Call to worship
Let us worship the Lord.
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commands that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impose them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.
Grace to you from God our Father, and from Jesus Christ our Lord, multiplied by the Holy Spirit.
Doxology: Hymn no 40 : “God the Lord is King” Tune 92 (verse 1,2)
Invocation and the Lord’s Prayer
Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations. Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God. Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. (Psalm 90: 1-2, 12). Hear the prayer of your people, gathered here in the Name of your beloved Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
The Lord’s Prayer
Hymn No 246: “Crown Him with many Crowns”
Hymn: “Watch your eyes”
Scripture Reading: Hebrews 12:14-28
Prayer of Adoration and Confession
Holy, powerful and loving God of our Saviour Jesus Christ, we adore You. The heavens praise your wonders, O LORD, your faithfulness too, in the assembly of the holy ones. For who in the skies above can compare with the LORD? Who is like the LORD among the heavenly beings? In the council of the holy ones God is greatly feared; he is more awesome than all who surround him. O LORD God Almighty, who is like you? You are mighty, O LORD, and your faithfulness surrounds you. (Psalm 89:5-8)
Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; love and faithfulness go before you. Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you, who walk in the light of your presence, O LORD. They rejoice in your name all day long; they exult in your righteousness. For you are their glory and strength, and by your favor you exalt our horn. Indeed, our shield belongs to the LORD, our king to the Holy One of Israel. (Psalm 89:14-18)
Father, forgive us our trespasses. You say in your Word that the one You esteem, is the one who is humble and contrite of spirit, one who trembles at your Word. Sacrifices acceptable to You are a broken spirit, and a broken heart. We are sorry that we have sinned against You. With remorse and regret we acknowledge the shame of our rebellion and sin before You. We are broken before You. We beg for forgiveness. We are mindful of the ultimate sacrifice of our Lord Jesus on the cross in order to bring about salvation and righteousness. In his Name we pray for forgiveness.
We thank you for the promise in your Word.
”If we confess our sins, You are faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9). We accept your forgiveness in Jesus Christ.
Declaration of pardoning
“If my people would but listen to me, if Israel would follow my ways, how quickly would I subdue their enemies and turn my hand against their foes! (Psalm 81:13-14)
Hymn No 390: “Come let us sing of a wonderful love”
Offering and Dedication
Prayer of intercession
Scripture Reading Isaiah 1:21-31
Hymn 562: “Master, speak, for I am listening”
Dear Brother and Sister in the Lord,
God sent his prophet Isaiah to his people with the message that affairs between them and God were not right. Israel broke covenant with the Lord. The result was that God, because his holiness and righteousness demanded it, had no other alternative but to call his people to account. This account is presented as a court case between God and his people. They were called to reason with God (verse 18). But, as we have seen in the first section of this chapter, they had nothing to offer for their reconciliation to God, He offered his mercy of forgiveness. He promised to wash them as white as snow, and whiter than wool.
Now once again this picture stands before us. Israel was called to be God’s bride. She chose to rebel, and became a prostitute. Her relationship with God is described in terms of impure metal, containing dross; or as diluted wine, of no value. Her leaders became adulterators themselves, leading the people away from God, instead of to Him.
And now God’s holiness and righteousness called for judgement. The purpose is to restore his people to holiness. We need to know that once again there was nothing they could offer to reconcile themselves to God. It was God who took the initiative to restore and to sanctify.
Judgment: the Object
Who executes judgement?
Let’s turn to verse 24. Note that in your translation the word Lord appears twice in that verse. The first time is with a capital “L” and lower-case letters to follow. In the second instance the word Lord is spelled with all the letters in capitals. There is a significant reason for it.
The first “Lord” is the translation for the Hebrew “Adoon”. This means one who is the supernatural master over all, a title of the true God (Ps 114:7). He is master, lord, i.e., one who exercises control or authority over what He created.
So when God called his people to account, He wanted them to know who He is: He is, first of all, the supernatural master over all. He has authority over them.
The next time “Lord” appears in this text, it refers to the God of the covenant. It is of course the same God, but it expresses the special relationship between God and Israel. This is the name God used to describe Himself with as He revealed Himself to Moses. He is the “I AM”. He is the rescuing, saving God who made and covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; the One who remembered his people and saw their distress; the One who brought them out of slavery; the One who gave them his law to live by to distinguish them from all the surrounding nations as God holy people.
The mighty One
The God who called his people to account is not only the master of the universe, He is not only the God of the covenant, He is also JHWH Seba’ot: He is the Master Commander of all the heavenly hosts. Everything bows at his command, because He is all-powerful. The Greek translation of the Old Testament, the Septuagint, uses a word describing one with overwhelming power.
The powerful One
The Lord wanted his people to have no doubt about who the One was who called them to account. The master of the universe; their covenantal God; the Commander-in-Chief of the universe. He also adds another name: ‘abir – which is a title of the true God, with a focus on his strength and ability.
But more than that, He is the Mighty One of Israel. And now images of the power of God springs into mind. Look at Psalm 89:
O LORD God Almighty, who is like you? You are mighty, O LORD, and your faithfulness surrounds you. You rule over the surging sea; when its waves mount up, you still them. The heavens are yours, and yours also the earth; you founded the world and all that is in it. You created the north and the south; Your arm is endued with power; your hand is strong, your right hand exalted. (Psalm 89:8-13)
So great is your power that your enemies cringe before you. All the earth bows down to you; they sing praise to you, they sing praise to your name. Come and see what God has done, how awesome his works in man’s behalf! He turned the sea into dry land, they passed through the waters on foot— come, let us rejoice in him. He rules forever by his power, his eyes watch the nations— let not the rebellious rise up against him. Selah (Psalm 66:3-7)
Such is the God who calls his people to account. Such is the God who wants to restore his people to holiness again. Such is the God who wanted to make his people what He intended them to be right in the beginning: a kingdom of priests, a holy nation into whom He imparts his laws and decrees to be different from all other peoples.
Such is the God who speaks to you and me this morning. And God has business to do with us. He calls us to account. And my dear brother and sister, a humanistic worldview would leave us with the impression that faith is irrelevant to life; that faith is something we contemplate only on Sundays; that God is only an idea which has no contact with reality.
But let us contemplate the God of the Word this morning. You do believe there is not other God but the God of the Bible, don’t you? Now this awesome God created the universe. That’s fact. This all powerful God destroyed the world once in a worldwide flood; that’s fact. This God of the covenant called and rescued his people out of Egypt, that’s fact. This powerful God of the heavenly realms lead his people on dry land through the Red Sea; that’s fact. This holy God called Israel to be his holy people as He made the mountain to tremble and burn. This powerful God destroyed the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to rubble because of their wickedness; that’s fact.
This same God, who is alive and never changes, call us to covenant responsibility. This God of history is the God who promised to be with his church – He is here today. This God wants you to live in a covenant relationship with Him everyday.
And now this same God calls us to account. And the very first word used uttered as announcement of the judgement upon Israel (and on us as God’s new Israel) is “Ah!”. There’s another word for this: “Woe!”
This word is used to describe disaster. When God in his holiness calls his unfaithful bride, who polluted herself in prostitution, who has become like diluted wine, or useless silver, whose leadership committed spiritual adultery, one can only expect disaster. Even more so if we take into account what the Lord declared: “I will avenge myself on my foes and enemies!”
This word avenge has the meaning of getting even. Fearful are the words of Ezekiel 5:
Therefore as surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, because you have defiled my sanctuary with all your vile images and detestable practices, I myself will withdraw my favor; I will not look on you with pity or spare you.
A third of your people will die of the plague or perish by famine inside you; a third will fall by the sword outside your walls; and a third I will scatter to the winds and pursue with drawn sword. Then my anger will cease and my wrath against them will subside, and I will be avenged. And when I have spent my wrath upon them, they will know that I the LORD have spoken in my zeal. (Ezekiel 5:11-13)
The implication of the meaning of the word avenge is to find relief from sorrow. It means that God had pain in his heart about the sin of his people. His holiness could not tolerate the sinful state of his people. His righteousness therefore called from judgement. The burden of sorrow and woe had to be taken away.
The question is: will it be the same as with Sodom and Gomorrah? Will it be as with the Pharaoh and his army?
No, even worse! “I will turn my hand against you!” says God. “I will thoroughly purge your dross.”
But there is something very beautiful in the terms “turn my hand” and “purge”. First of all it says: I have not forgotten you. “Turn” means turn back with the idea of making amends. It’s the same word for repentance. It means to turn back with the implication to restore. God says his holiness demands righteousness. His holiness cannot excuse or turn a blind eye to sinfulness. His turning his hand against us, is an act of restoration.
The meaning of purge is to refine; to become morally pure and without moral blemish through a process of testing or trial. This is an act from God. It is an act of mercy and grace. God is faithful to his covenant of grace. How will we ever understand this!
How can the most holy God who will never tolerate sin satisfy his holiness when He deals with a nation that by grace had it all, but then prostituted itself to become a harlot?
“Woe!” There is only one way. Judgement! His holiness demands justice and penalty upon sin.
But who will survive the punishment of God’s judgment? No one! Unless God Himself turns back; unless God Himself repents; unless God Himself purges the dross. Unless God stoops down and pay the penalty.
And so He did. And on that day the mountains shuddered, the sun darkened. On that day Jesus Christ became unrighteousness as He took our sin upon Hi and took the full penalty of God wrath upon our rebellion. One that day the curtain ripped open and by his righteousness we gained entrance into the presence of the most holy God.
Now we may call this God, Master of the universe, this Lord, the God of the covenant, this Commander-in-Chief of the heavenly hosts, this omnipotent God who rescued his people by his power, our Father.
Brother and Sister,
May I take you to Isa 45:9?
“Woe to him who quarrels with his Maker, to him who is but a potsherd among the potsherds on the ground. Does the clay say to the potter, ‘What are you making?’ Does your work say, ‘He has no hands’? (Isaiah 45:9)
May I urge not to quarrel with your Maker? Disaster awaits you if you do. In stead, bow before Him. Yield your life to Him who is almighty, yet gracious enough to forgive an restore. Amen.