The people found hope, strength and identity in chasing an endless array of political alliances. To say that there is no hope, surface level identity or strength in worldly pursuits is not true. They do, however lack that capacity to provide true, deep soul satiating satisfaction that is sustainable. Their endless pursuit of idols and alliances kept them energized. “You were wearied with the length of your way, but you did not say, “It is hopeless”; you found new life for your strength, and so you were not faint.” (Isaiah 57:10 ESV). It is frightening that God would allow man to find satisfaction – even if it is fleeting – apart from Him. This is the Passive Wrath of God. The people’s faith was revealed but what caused them to fear – man. Though they had outward signs of allegiance to God – their hearts were revealed by what they feared, what they wanted and what they looked to to provide them with protection, significance & salvation. God said, “let your idols deliver you.”.
“You journeyed to the king with oil and multiplied your perfumes; you sent your envoys far off, and sent down even to Sheol. You were wearied with the length of your way, but you did not say, “It is hopeless”; you found new life for your strength, and so you were not faint.
Whom did you dread and fear, so that you lied, and did not remember me, did not lay it to heart? Have I not held my peace, even for a long time, and you do not fear me? I will declare your righteousness and your deeds, but they will not profit you. When you cry out, let your collection of idols deliver you! The wind will carry them all off, a breath will take them away. But he who takes refuge in me shall possess the land and shall inherit my holy mountain.” (Isaiah 57:9–13 ESV)
It seems to be a consistent theme in scripture that man forgets God. This is because we choose autonomous self rule instead of the surrendered rule and reign of the Almighty. This seems to still be an issue in my own heart. God save me!
Let us remember and reflect on the reason that we have for rejoicing in this New Year. The words of Isaiah 52:13-53:12 were spoken around 680 BC and are about the Exalted Sin-bearer. The substitutionary atonement of Christ is at the core of the Christian faith. Remember Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf.
1) He was beaten beyond recognition. 52:14
2) He provides salvation for many nations. 52:15
3) He was not born into majesty, had no distinguishing external features or privileged in any way. 53:2
4) He was (and still is) rejected by men (our minds are naturally blinded by sin). 53:3
5) Acquainted with sorrows & grief (how could the Creator not be sorrowful at the abject depravity and rejection of His creation?). 53:3
6) He bore our sins, yet humanity did not understand or desire His sacrifice. 53:4-5
7) He was pierced for our transgressions and it is by His sacrifice that we are spiritually reconciled to God. His suffering addressed the wicked root of our terminal disease – sin manifested as autonomous self rule. 53:5
8) Like stupid and helpless sheep, we all have gone our own way – no one sought Him or saw need for His sacrifice. Despite our ignorant, hard, rebellious hearts, God laid the punishment due to us on Him – the innocent lamb of God. 53:6.
9) He did not complain, despite the cosmic inequity of His sacrifice on our undeserving, unwanting, unbelieving behalf. 53:7
10) He was wrongly condemned by unrighteous, oppressive, godless judgement. 53:8.
11) He was condemned as a common criminal, yet He was totally morally pure – the only acceptable sacrifice for sinners. 53:9
12) It was God’s will to crush His son under the weight of sin and His wrath; God makes and meets the demands to make us holy. 53:10
13) His suffering was not only physical, but also a soul level despairing. The holy, unstained, pure, omnipotent Creator experienced sin and His father’s associated wrath. For the first time in all of eternity, God turned His back and withdrew from His Son. Jesus experienced pain, suffering, despair, hopelessness, rejection and death on our behalf. 53:10
14) His suffering and punishment became an offering for our guilt, cosmic justice was served. 53:11
15) His perfect sacrifice will make many righteous. 53:11
Get involved in the Dadiya Translation Project and help bring the bible to the Dadiya people in their own language. $26/verse – contribute now! Make checks to Fellowship Bible Church (note Dadiya Translation Project), PO Box 7123, Little Rock, Arkansas 72223, Attn: Finance Dept.
“So for the sake of your tradition you have made void the word of God. You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said: “‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’”” (Matthew 15:6–9 ESV)
Have we made our own traditions and religious preferences on par with the doctrines taught in the scriptures? This is the same thing that the religious elite did in the first century. Are we going through the motions externally, but worship is absent? It is easy to look good on the outside by our mechanical obedience to a list of dos and don’ts, but God is after our hearts!
“They lift up their voices, they sing for joy; over the majesty of the LORD they shout from the west. Therefore in the east give glory to the LORD; in the coastlands of the sea, give glory to the name of the LORD, the God of Israel. From the ends of the earth we hear songs of praise, of glory to the Righteous One. But I say, “I waste away, I waste away. Woe is me! For the traitors have betrayed, with betrayal the traitors have betrayed.”” (Isaiah 24:14–16 ESV)
What produces worship? Worship is produced when we see God for who He really is. When we see God in majesty, we worship. Men need Majesty. The best auditorium, song selection, band, lighting, vocalists are all powerless to produce authentic worship. Give people the pure, unadulterated majesty of God and they will worship – wherever they are! Show them who God really is and they will worship!
“For the LORD spoke thus to me with his strong hand upon me, and warned me not to walk in the way of this people, saying: “Do not call conspiracy all that this people calls conspiracy, and do not fear what they fear, nor be in dread. But the LORD of hosts, him you shall honor as holy. Let him be your fear, and let him be your dread. And he will become a sanctuary and a stone of offense and a rock of stumbling to both houses of Israel, a trap and a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. And many shall stumble on it. They shall fall and be broken; they shall be snared and taken.” (Isaiah 8:11–15 ESV)
The people of Judah are afraid of surface level threats because they have no fear of God. They have such a low view of the majestic grandeur of the Creator that they are easily shaken by what is going on around them. We should not fear what others fear, nor dread what others dread for our eyes are fixed on the transcendent majesty of the King of all the earth. He is our strength, protection, hope, salvation and strength. God promises to preserve a remnant of faithful, loyal disciples while the remainder of the people remain stiff-necked and complain against God while they are taken in to exile. A patient trust in God characterizes those whom are part of the remnant. Is our faith really in God, or is it in other things – surface level things that distract us from full devotion? “I will wait for the LORD, who is hiding his face from the house of Jacob, and I will hope in him.” (Isaiah 8:17 ESV)
God’s people had no influence over their neighbors in spreading the glory of God because their lives were saturated with the same practices and allegiances as their neighbors were. Instead of their hearts and lives being set apart, they were set on the same things as their neighbors. The had mixed the religious rites and practices in with theirs; “their land is filled with idols; they bow down to the work of their hands, to what their own fingers have made.” (Isaiah 2:8 ESV)
What is an idol? An idol is not necessarily a statue that we bow to in worship. An idol is anything that we ascribe ultimate allegiance to. It is the thing that we feel like we must have in order for life to work. Often times, idols are good things that we have turned in to God things. Things like children, financial success, athletics, marriage, hard work, friends & relationships. This is not a new problem, the Hebrews wrestled with it and many of us do today. Paul summarizes our propensity for preferring created things over the Creator of all things like this, “they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever!” (Romans 1:25 ESV). What are you worshiping as ultimate? Really?
“When you spread out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood.” (Isaiah 1:15 ESV).
Isaiah 1:10-20 highlights the hypocrisy of the Hebrews. God had setup the sacrificial system and all of its facets to produce repentance and tender hearts toward God and ultimately flowing out to others. It was intended to produce dependance and piety in the people. The people no longer pursued God, but rather went through the motions in an effort to manipulate God and place him in their debt. God utterly rejected their worship because their hearts are far from Him. Though they went through all of the religious motions, God ignored them because their hearts were far from Him.
“Why will you still be struck down? Why will you continue to rebel? The whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint.” (Isaiah 1:5 ESV)
Not even the most difficult circumstances will bring them to repentance. Depravity reigns. Even the decimation of their land and being overthrown by foreign invaders has moved them to repentance (7-8).
“If the LORD of hosts had not left us a few survivors, we should have been like Sodom, and become like Gomorrah.” (Isaiah 1:9 ESV)
It is only by God’s power and grace is a remnant left in Israel.