Isaiah 44 The LORD, Who Makes All Things

Isaiah 44    Visions of God’s Greatness                                 WC McCarter
          The LORD, Who Makes All Things

Today we continue our look at the greatness of God in Isaiah’s book.

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Blessings Will Be Poured Out (1-5)
Now, if only the people of God will listen, they have no reason to be afraid. Judgment is coming to an end, and God is ready to pour out blessings once again. A time of restoration is coming. Even after judgment, there is a remnant of God’s people that remains, and their identity has not changed. They are stilled called Jacob and Israel. They are still God’s servant. They are still chosen. This is repeated to them twice in the first two verses. The word “Jeshurun” at the end of verse two means “Upright One.” Although they have been rebellious as a nation, the righteous remnant still belongs to God.

Verse two makes clear that the Lord: (1) Made Israel, (2) Formed Israel from the womb, (3) Will help Israel, and (4) Chose Israel. The Lord God is the one who brought Israel into existence as a people. From before the foundations of the world, God had chosen these people, and, in doing so, He became their Helper.

The Lord, through Isaiah, uses hyperbole here to make sure that the people realize that He can and will help them. Although their situation could be likened to a thirsty man or a dry desert land, God will pour out floods of blessings upon those whom He has chosen. In doing so, He will pour His Spirit on the people. Too many people today associate great wealth, or reputation, or some other selfish satisfaction with the blessings of God. God couldn’t care less about those things. In fact, the Lord would rather you have less of those things so that you would be forced to rely on Him each and every day for all things and so that He would receive all the glory for your life. The blessings of God should be associated with the presence of God Himself, the Holy Spirit. For example, your greatest concern for your children and grandchildren should not be to leave them a great financial inheritance. Your highest concern for your children should be to leave them a spiritual inheritance, that they would know the one, true, and living God and that His Spirit would dwell in them richly. That is exactly what the Lord’s promises Israel in verse three.

To whom do you belong? Whose name do you claim? One of the great Stone-Campbell emphases was/is claiming the name of Christ alone. We are Christians only but not the only Christians. We have decided to simply be known as Christians. Why? The name that we bear is the name that marks us out as chosen by Christ, saved by Christ, united with Christ, belonging to Christ, and submitting to the lordship of Jesus Christ. Do you claim His name? If so, what does that mean? Are you striving to honor the name that you profess?

The Lord, the King of Israel (6-8)
There are many titles for God declared in this paragraph including: (1) Lord, (2) King of Israel, (3) Israel’s Redeemer, (4) Lord of Hosts, (5) First and Last, (6) God, and (7) Rock. We must preserve the uniqueness of our God. He is not simply “God” in the generic sense. Although atheism may be slightly increasing in our country, most people still believe that there is some god even if they are agnostic about that “higher power.” As Bible-believing Christians, we need to hold firm to the whole truth about God. He is not simply “God” but all of these other designations as well. We are talking about a particular God; the only true and living God, the God of the Bible, the God and Father of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. The so-called gods of the world religions are not God. In an age of religious pluralism, we must make clear who we are talking about. For example, Christians and Muslims do not worship the same God. (And, by the way, not all roads lead to heaven).

The titles “Redeemer” and “King” both refer to God being responsible for all of the needs of His people. Redeemer refers to God’s next-of-kin status. He has taken it upon Himself to be responsible for Israel’s day-to-day needs. As King, He will be responsible for their protection and their overall well-being. For God to be “First and Last” means that he “does not derive his life from” anywhere else, and He is “the end, supreme, totally fulfilled” God of the universe (Motyer, 344). All things begin with Him and end with Him. History belongs to Him.

As “Lord” and “God,” He is Almighty and Sovereign. He can do all that His people need for Him to do. He can forgive, save, restore, heal, and so much more. The name “Rock” refers to something real and not imaginary; weighty and not light; changeless, stable, and reliable. Apart from God there is no saving action. Apart from God there is nothing to rest upon. There is no other God, there is no other Rock besides Him.

The Uselessness of Idols (9-20)
The absurdity of idols is now given a lengthy comment, which tends to be highly sarcastic (and rightfully so). Right up front the Lord says that idols are only images, they are useless, they profit nothing, and they bring shame to a man and his companions. There would be no other so-called gods, if people did not make them (Motyer, 345). But the people that make them have no purpose in life. They have not found the meaning of life. They are ignorant of the truth and wander aimlessly all of their days. No, Americans do not build little statues to worship, but those without Christ dabble into this-and-that all of their days looking for meaning and purpose. They want a reason to live, so they immerse themselves in work, or they distract themselves with kids/grandkids, or they buy one thing after another, or pick up one hobby after another. The list could go on and on of those things that people do to find meaning in life. Those things can be wonderful, but only if they are put in proper, godly perspective. The point of Isaiah 40 is that finding meaning only in those things absurd. Those things are useless as gods. Why would you care to gain the whole world if you are going to lose your own soul? There is only one who can give you meaning in life because He is the Maker and Giver of life. He is the one who brings genuine understanding and joy in work, kids, and hobbies. There is no shame in Christ. He justifies all those who come to Him by faith, and He will vindicate His people on Judgment Day.

Idolaters thought that they could shape something that would become supernatural from only their human strength. How can a mere metal-worker, who is only human – he grows hungry and thirsty and needs rest for his weariness – how can he create something that will be powerful? It is all absurd.

They also cut down trees for their own use. With part of the lumber they build a fire to cook some bread, with another part they cook some meat, some of the wood keeps them warm in the cold, and with the remaining part they craft themselves a god. And that is the literal language of the passage. The idolater doesn’t even choose the best of the lumber to form his idols. He only uses what is leftover, the remainder, the rest of the load. How senseless and silly are idolaters! From one tree they eat, they warm themselves, and they create a god to worship. This fact is almost as humorous as the man who worries about the possibility of his idol teeter-tottering if it is not crafted correctly!

There is no knowledge, understanding, genuine seeing, or honest consideration of the true and living God apart from God working salvation in you. The Lord must convict you of sin by the Holy Spirit if you are to be saved. The wind of the Spirit must blow your way for you to realize your desperate situation and cry out in repentance. How else do you explain the absurdity of idolatry and other human behaviors? People are in the dark. Where there is no light, there is no understanding. Where there is no understanding, foolishness and absurdity prevail in the human heart.

Verse 20 takes us back to verses 14-17 and 19 about the idols being made out of trees. “He feeds on ashes” is a humorous but sad reality: “both ash and god are the products of the same thing” (Motyer, 349). The substance that is burned for warmth and turns to ashes is the same substance as the false gods.

You Will Not Be Forgotten (21-23)
The Lord calls to His people’s remembrance six certainties: (1) He formed them, (2) Israel is His Servant, (3) He will not forget them, (4) He blotted out their transgressions and sins, (5) He redeemed them, and (6) He glorified Himself in them. These certainties tell us more of who this God is that we are discussing. Some of these are repeated from earlier, but they still echo with beautiful truth. How wonderful it is to hear God say, “I will not forget you.” Our God is not a forgetful God. From eternity past, He has never forgotten a thing. Of course, God hasn’t forgotten their sins, but as quickly and easily as a wind can blow away even thick clouds, the Lord blots out Israel’s transgressions and sins.

A wonderful chorus of praise is contained in verse 23. The Lord’s works are worthy of praise. So, the heavens, the earth below, the mountains, and forests are all commanded to sing of what the Lord has done. While pagans bow down to chiseled wood, the trees of the forests are commanded to bow down and worship the Lord of heaven and earth. Why is the Lord worthy of this kind of global praise from creation? He is worthy because He has redeemed Jacob and glorified Himself in Israel. He has not forgotten them. God should be highly exalted for His work of salvation. Of course, His ultimate goal, the climax of the plan of redemption was the coming of Jesus Christ. His laying down His life for us was the Father’s decisive act of blotting out humanity’s sins, for those who will come to Him by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Lord, Who Makes All Things (24-28)
As Israel’s “Redeemer,” God has made Himself the “next-of-kin.” He is responsible for her care, protection, and livelihood. The language of God “forming” Israel “from the womb” is that of being involved even before they ever existed as a people. He planned, prepared, and brought about the nation. Not only has the Lord brought about the nation of Israel, but the Lord makes clear that He has made all things single-handedly. He says that He stretches out the heavens “all alone” and spreads abroad the earth “by Myself.” There is no mixing words here. He alone is the Maker of all things. He is the one-of-a-kind Maker, Stretcher, and Spreader of everything.

The Lord also sees to it that the folks who are wise in their own eyes are frustrated, driven mad, turned backward, and made foolish. On the other hand, the Lord guarantees the words of his servants and messengers. What was the primary message that He wanted proclaimed at that time in history? The prophets were to declare the promises that Jerusalem would be inhabited once again and that the cities of Judah would be rebuilt. The Lord would make certain that the word delivered by His messengers came to pass.

While the Lord had chosen Babylon to be the agent of His divine discipline of Judah, they, too, would be punished for their sins. Although Babylon was a mighty world empire, appearing as vast and deep as a great sea, the Lord would say, “Be dry!”, and Babylon would be shriveled up to nothing. We may think back to the great Exodus from Egypt when all obstacles were taken out of Israel’s path including the Red Sea which the Lord parted and the people crossed on dry ground. It would be Persia who would rise up as the next great world empire led by King Cyrus who is mentioned in the last verse of the chapter. Cyrus the Great of Persia would pass a decree that the exiles could return to their homeland and rebuild the Temple of their God. The Lord made this known through His prophets long before it took place. He made the decree, and He made certain its fulfillment. Once again, we see that our Lord is the one who raises up kings and nations as well as bringing down kings and nations. He is the Sovereign over all the world for all of history.

Conclusion and Christian Application
There is so much that can and should be said in response to these great truths in the forty-fourth chapter of Isaiah. The Lord speaks first hand throughout to declare His ways, His purposes, and His promises. Let me say from a post-Calvary perspective that God has formed us as a people as well. We, as Christians, are the chosen people of God. He has poured out His blessings and His Spirit on us because we have put our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. He is our Redeemer, our King, and our Rock. Our eyes have been opened to the absurdity of humanity’s condition. We have come to the realization that we are poor in spirit but that God forgives our sins on the basis of Christ’s atoning death on the cross. God has not left us in our sins. He has remembered us. He is worthy of all our praise, adoration, and trust. We serve the God who reigns on high and holds all of the nations for all of history in His hands.

Isaiah 40 The Everlasting God

Isaiah 40              Visions of God’s Greatness                       WC McCarter
The Everlasting God

Have you come to hear a word from the Lord? I hope that you have and that you do every week. Yes, the Lord will use me to declare His message, but my continual prayer is that I will allow the word of God to speak for itself.

Let’s not focus this morning on what is happening in the culture, but let’s set our minds on what is not happening in the church: We do not have a true vision of God’s greatness. We are caught up in self-help concepts instead of the doctrine of God. Isaiah 40 is not a vision in the sense of what we have seen in chapters two and six. Although, it is a picture of God, a vision that we should grasp of God’s greatness. As we work through our passage today, you will notice two things: (1) God is the Creator/Ruler of all things, and (2) God can be trusted to take care of His people.

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Comfort for Jerusalem (1-2)
Although judgment must fall on the unrighteous, there has been and always will be a people of God, and He comforts His people. The reference of this passage is to the Jewish captives in Babylon, the people of God outside of the land that God had promised them. It is sad, depressing, and prospects are bleak. The word that will be delivered to them may not be well received. Yet, through the miserable circumstances, God speaks, and He no longer speaks a word of judgment but one of hope and restoration. God’s mercy and grace are never far from those who are willing to repent, turn from the evil ways and trust in Him. That was true for the Babylonian captives who thought they would never be saved from their captors, and the same is true for us today.

The grammar conveys that God is continually saying, “Comfort.” The Lord certainly makes unbelievers uncomfortable (and even believers who need it), but the Lord offers comfort to those who belong to Him who are in need of it. “Speak comfort” should literally read “speak to the heart” meaning the inner most parts of the people. It is fear that grips the heart. It is depression that grips the heart. Hopelessness eats at the soul. So, the Lord says, “Speak to the heart.” It is the heart that needs a word from the Lord. It is the heart that needs to hear words of hope, restoration, and comfort.

“Warfare” refers to a period of distress; the Babylonian captivity will come to an end (43:14). “Iniquity is pardoned” rests upon the promise that the Servant of the Lord will bruised for the sins of the people (52:13ff). The Lord does not allow His people to suffer forever. Yes, He does discipline His people when they fall into sin, but those who persevere, trusting in Him, will be restored.

The Glory of the Lord (3-5)
Things may not be in the best shape now, but the Lord is coming. Some have said that this refers to the people’s return to Jerusalem from Babylon, but the language is more of a town going out to prepare the way for a dignitary to make his way to town. The Lord’s messenger announced His coming, and the people were tasked with making the way easy and quick to navigate.

The Lord delights in making His glory known in dire circumstances. He uses the weak and lowly things to reveal His glory. Why does He do this? He does it this way to make clear that it is He who is acting; it is He who is most glorious.

Of course, we know that the New Testament uses this paragraph of Scripture in reference to the preparatory work that John the Baptizer did before the Lord Jesus Christ came on the scene. He was the prophet who began to teach the people to repent because the Kingdom of Heaven was at hand. The Lord was going to make His grand entrance onto the scene. Of course, as is common with the Lord, Jesus was meek and lowly. He was not what mankind expected. The Lord chose to reveal Himself in flesh and blood, move into the neighborhood, live in poor conditions, and be crucified on the cross. No one automatically thinks, “Glorious!” when they see Jesus on the cross.

The Word of Our God (6-8)
We are told twice in this paragraph that we are like grass. The preacher says in verse six, “All flesh is grass, even the flowering grass.” Then, verse seven, explains how that is so. Just as grass withers and flowers fade, so, too, are all people. The fact that grass is short-lived serves as a great illustration, especially for us at this time of year. We are already seeing the grass begin to fade away as the seasons change. It will not be long and it will all be brown and dead. Like grass, we are here one day and gone the next. We do not live forever. We are not dependent upon ourselves. God is the giver and taker of life. He alone is the everlasting God. We are physically fragile. I often meditate on the reality that our physical lives are fragile. On the one hand it seems as if it is very difficult for someone to lose one’s life, but, on the other hand, it seems almost too easy. We are also morally fragile. We are susceptible to the wiles of the devil, the fallenness of this world, and our own selfish desires.

Let me assure you of something, people come and go. Like grass, we spring up for a time and quickly die. Yet, the word of God stands forever. When God speaks, the matter is settled for eternity. The everlasting God speaks everlasting words.

Behold Your God (9-11)
There’s nothing more assuring than knowing that God is here. Verses nine through eleven are just as much a valid promise for us today as it was for the people of God 2,700 years ago. Verse nine makes clear that what is about to be said is worth proclaiming. This message is worth sharing.

Jerusalem is pictured here as a preacher who hears the message and runs to tell other towns the announcement. This is a message that is worth announcing. This is a message that must be proclaimed.

Creation Does Not Compare (12-17)
Have you ever seen someone that does his/her job so well that you have said, ‘He does that effortlessly’? Well, you could say the same of God in relation to His creative activity. God is the sole Creator of all things, and He almost effortlessly makes sure that all things work well.

Most of ancient mythology said that the gods, even the creator-god, had to take consul from other gods, but our God, the true and living God, works with unaided wisdom.

We could combine all of strength of all the nations, and they would not compare to the God of heaven and earth. God is unique in dignity. All of our wealth combined is as a drop in the bucket in comparison to Him. All of our strength combined does not rival the Lord’s. All of our wisdom is like dust on the scales in comparison to the weightiness of our God.

Let us also take note that, yes, the Lord is delighted by our praise, and it helps to make His glory known, but the Lord does not need our worship. Under the Old Testament law, the chief form of worship was the sacrifice of animals. Here, in verse 16, the Lord makes clear that all the trees of Lebanon and all of their livestock is not sufficient for a burnt offering. That worship, although the Lord may have accepted burnt offering in the past, does not do justice to His unequaled importance and value.

Humanity has great value in the eyes of God. It is only in comparison to God that we are seen as less than flattering. We are the chief, the crowning jewel of God’s creation, made in His image and likeness, but in comparison to Him, we are nothing.

Idols Do Not Compare (18-20)
To assure folks that idols are nothing, it is discussed how the Lord is the Creator of all things, and idols are only a creation of humanity. The Lord created man, and man has created idols. Idols do not even compare to humans, much less to God. You can see how far removed false gods are from the real thing. God is the Creator of all things while idols are only made from the substances of God’s creation.

The only “value” that an idol can have is in the cost of the materials used to craft it. Even a poor man will have an idol crafted, and it will only be worth the few cents that he can pay to have it built.

Governments Do Not Compare (21-24)
The questions of this paragraph could be asked in another way, Where in the world have you been to not know these things? People have great value in the economy of God, but in comparison to God, we are only like grass and grasshoppers. In the same way that you pull back the shades of your bedroom windows in the morning God stretches out the heavens like a curtain.

God rules absolutely. God is supreme in authority. Governments are nothing compared to Him. He is the one who raises up princes and judges, and He is the one who brings them down. Whatever power or authority that they may exercise or claim for themselves is nothing because ultimately they are puppets on strings that God controls. There is nothing done that is not under God’s sovereign rule. Do you remember what Jesus told Pilate? He told him that he would have no authority if it was not given to him from above. The Lord would soon bring down the Babylonian Empire with the might of the Persians. He would raise up Cyrus as a mighty king. The Lord is sovereign over the nations.

Creator of the Ends of the Earth (25-31)
Notice in verse 25 that the Lord is called, “The Holy One.” No one and no thing compares to Him in anyway, especially His moral perfection. He alone is “The Holy One.”

God is the Creator of all things making Him more than able to do all that needs to be done for His people. If God knows all things, sets all things in order, and there is not one more or one less star in the sky than what He has ordained, then how is it that He could ever be accused of forgetting His chosen people?

If we think that God does not hear or answer our prayers, if we think that He is distant, if we even think that He is too great to care, then what we need to learn or relearn is the doctrine of God. We are His people. We know the truth. We should never doubt the Lord’s willingness or ability to come to our aid. He does not need a back-up plan. What He purposes comes to be. What He has done before, He can do again. What He has said before is still valid today. He is the Everlasting God.

I have figured out that when the Lord taught about child-like faith, He was not meaning that to be exactly like a child. For example, have you ever met a child who automatically knew what it means to be patient?

Conclusion and Christian Application

What the people of God need, what a church needs is reliability, consistency, and stability. I have been convinced that is part of my job. I want you to know that I am here week-in-and-week-out, year-after-year. I’m not going anywhere. You can count on me. But my steadfastness is nothing compared to the Lord. What you need is to lean on the everlasting arms. I will do my best, but I am far from perfect. I am going to let you down from time to time. Yet, the Lord will never let you down. You may think that He is slow, but He is not. You may think that He is silent, but He has spoken. You may think that He is too busy, but He is all-resourceful. Lean on Him because He is the Creator of all things. Lean on Him because He nothing compares. Lean on Him because He is the only one you can truly count on.

Isaiah 6 The Lord Sitting on a Throne

Isaiah 6:1-13      Visions of God’s Greatness                                 WC McCarter
The Lord Sitting on a Throne

To continue our counter-cultural series, we will be in one of the most famous visions in all of the Bible, Isaiah 6. Of course, many things are stressed in this vision including God’s kingship, exaltation, glory, judgment, and more, but the main focus of the vision is God’s holiness. In a culture, even among Christians, that has lost its understanding of the holiness of God, we must repent and turn back to the truth of Scripture. In this vision, we will have to notice what is seen and what is said.

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Vision (1-4)
The opening line of the chapter makes clear that this is an historical timeframe. The year that King Uzziah died was 740 B.C. We are talking about historical people, places, and events. Uzziah was a decent king for the kingdom of Judah in the South. He came to rule at the young age of 16 and reigned for 52 years. We are told that he did what was right in the sight of the Lord. He sought the Lord and was prosperous. His fame spread and he became exceedingly strong until the day his arrogance motivated him to go into the temple to burn incense on the altar. The Lord struck him with leprosy which made him an outcast until the day he died. A king who started so well ended in ruin. It was the year that this king died that Isaiah had this vision of the Lord. The message we can take from that historical note is a resounding one: an earthly king was dead, but Yahweh, the King of heaven and earth, still reigns! Even in this hour of death, the Lord still has a word of new life (Motyer, 75-76).

Isaiah states that he saw the Lord. Remember, God is spirit. So, the Lord is giving Isaiah a picture to visualize rather than Isaiah actually seeing a physical representation of the Lord. Notice that the description is not of the Lord personally but all those things surrounding Him. The picture is what is important and conveys the truths that God wants His people to know. Thus, in essence, Isaiah sees the Lord with the eyes of his heart, and you can as well if you will visualize Isaiah’s description. Now notice all that he saw about the Lord. The Lord was sitting on a throne in the place of majesty, authority, and power. He was high and lifted up (or exalted). Isaiah also saw that the train of the Lord’s robe filled the temple. The temple, of course, was where God met His people on earth. This is where His presence dwelt. God is not so transcendent that He has nothing to do with creation. He is not so far off that we cannot know Him or have a relationship with Him. The presence of His glory and majesty are right here on earth with us. He is completely involved in our lives and even our daily affairs. He wants us to know Him and experience life and a relationship with Him.

There were seraphim above the Lord’s throne. These are heavenly creatures which are only mentioned here in all of Scripture. Their name means something like burning or glowing. It appears that Isaiah is the one who gave them that name because he experienced their burning ministry of purification. It was more of a description than an actual title. Notice all that is said about the seraphim. They each had six wings. They used two wings each to cover their face and feet (or lower half) which was appropriate covering in the presence of the holy God. They covered their eyes and feet but not their ears, so that they would only set their feet for the path that the Lord commanded (Motyer, 76). They also used two wings for flying. While cherubim are closely associated with the throne, seraphim are seen here as constantly flying above the Lord sitting on His throne. Their name means “burning” which probably refers to purification as one of their main concerns. The prophet even heard these creatures speak as they cried, “Holy, Holy, Holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory.” While God could have conveyed His absolute holiness to Isaiah without words, He allows His heavenly creatures to reveal this truth with words. Can you imagine the angelic beings crying out so loudly that the posts of the doors shake and the house fills with smoke? Surely, this would make a man tremble to his core. The shaking would have kept Isaiah from coming to close to the Lord’s presence, and the smoke would have kept the man from completely seeing the Lord.

From the visual of the Lord’s overwhelmingly majestic presence to the picture of the seraphim covering themselves and the actual words of their mouths, the holiness of God is put on full display. There is no being in all of creation, whether in heaven or on earth or under the earth, who compares to the One who sits high and exalted on His heavenly throne. It is said that, “God’s ‘name’ is qualified by the adjective ‘holy’ in the Old Testament more often than by all other qualifiers put together” (Motyer, 77). Repetition in most languages means to convey emphasis and/or totality. So, “Holy, Holy” would mean “Most Holy,” and “Holy, Holy, Holy” must mean “Far and Above Holiest of All.” The three-fold repetition intensifies God’s holiness to the uttermost and may even refer to the Trinity. There is no other way to say how holy God is in human language than the thrice-repeated, “Holy, Holy, Holy.” The word means to be set apart. It means that one is unique, different, and special. What is it that makes the Lord the far and above holiest of all? “It is his total and unique moral majesty” (Motyer, 77). God is morally and ethically perfect. This, of course, is seen again in verse five as Isaiah realizes his sinfulness just by being in God’s presence.

Isaiah may have thought that it was utterly impressive to see the hem of God’s robe filling the temple, but the seraphim make clear that the “whole earth” is full of His glory. The word glory means heavy or weighty. To be glorious means to be important and valuable. So, the angels are saying that God is holiest of all and that His value is written all over creation. Isaiah begins to better understand this as the building shakes and fills with smoke.

Confession (5)
A man or woman who sees God for all He is, with the eyes of their heart, are forced to make a confession before Him of their sinfulness. What is it that Isaiah notices about himself? He notices that he is unclean. Even the best of people, even the most godly of saints are found to be with sin before the “Holy, Holy, Holy Lord of hosts.” Is it only the lips of the people that are unclean? Of course not, what pours forth from the mouth comes from the depths of the person. Unclean and unholy lips point to an unclean and unholy character. Now, let me make one other thing clear. Notice that Isaiah deals with his sin after he sees the holiness of God. We are guilty of blasphemy whenever we question the holiness or integrity of God. Listen carefully, God is never the problem. We are the problem. The Lord’s integrity should never be questioned, but ours should always be examined. We are the sinful ones. He is holy. What Isaiah needs is not just some ritual cleansing. No, he needs the Lord to take away the sin that has corrupted him. He needs forgiveness and atonement.

Call (6-8)
The burning coal is from the altar. The altar had a live fire at all times and was the place where blood sacrifice was made. It has the ideas of atonement, propitiation, and satisfaction before God. This is brought to Isaiah as a way of doing those very things for the sinful man. His iniquity was taken away, and his sins were purged in the act of the live coal touching his lips. Atonement was made and the wrath of God was satisfied. Fire is usually important in the Scriptures. Fire symbolizes both judgment and purification. Here it clearly is symbolic of God’s holiness and His eagerness to atone for Isaiah’s sin. So fire is brought forth to cleanse Isaiah, but it will destroy Judah.

Notice that atonement was made and Isaiah was forgiven after he made his confession of sin. Yet, the forgiveness and cleansing that he received was not of himself but was done completely by God (the seraphim, of course, do only the Lord’s bidding). All Isaiah knew to do in the moment was confess his sin, and he probably thought that he would simply drop dead. That is not what the Lord wanted. The Lord wanted to forgive, cleanse, and call him to a special task. After having his sins purged, Isaiah is now able to associate with the Lord and even speaks up to volunteer to do the Lord’s will.

Commission (9-13)
Spiritual expectations. Isaiah is commanded by the Lord to tell the people to hear and see but not to understand or perceive. The Lord wanted Isaiah to make the heart of the people dull. What a strange commissioning! What a disheartening mission. Both inner and outer capacities are referenced, and the structure of verse ten is heart-ears-eyes, eyes-ears-heart to emphasize the total corruption of the people. We are shown in Isa 28:9-10 that the people of Isaiah’s day taunted him for teaching so plainly, clearly, and simply. The sad truth of the matter is that a preacher can be plain and simple so that true believers may hear and believe, but, at the same time, the hearts of unbelievers may grow harder and harder as they continually reject and mock the simple truth. So, to carry out his task, Isaiah does not have to talk in condescending ways or in veiled lessons. No, Isaiah only had to teach the basic truth, and God knew that the people would reject it because of their total corruption. When the Good News is proclaimed both grace and judgment are delivered (or, as Romans 1 says, the righteousness of God and the wrath of God are both revealed from heaven). Some choose life and others reject it.

This also tells us that God does not want us “to be successful in a purely human sense but to be faithful” (Oswalt, 190). God does not expect you to be rich or famous, he does not expect a minister to gain a huge following; what He expects of you and of me is faithfulness – through thick and thin, in good days and bad days, when things are going well and when they are not.

Historical/political expectations. Historically speaking, Isaiah was preaching to a nation that would be destroyed. They would experience the wrath of God because of their unbelief, rejection of the truth, and hardness of heart. Judah trusted in itself and did not trust God. Isaiah wants to know how long he has to preach a message that will be mocked, and the Lord tells him that he must continue preaching that message until everything is done away with: the cities will be laid waste, the people will be deported leaving the cities, houses, and land empty. There comes a time when God’s mercy ends. If people do not repent, then He must carry out His judgment to the fullest. That time had come for Judah and Jerusalem.

Messianic expectations. One author has beautifully said of the end of verse 13, “Typically of Isaiah, hope is the unexpected fringe attached to the garment of doom” (Motyer, 79). There is hope in the stump of Judah. There is yet life in the stump. There is a promised holy seed. Like trees that are cut down to only a stump yet a shoot of new life can come up from it, so too will be Judah. You see, God has a plan of redemption that was inaugurated with the word in the Garden that the woman’s seed would crush the serpents head. It was continued in the promise to Abraham that through his seed all the families of the earth would be blessed. There would be absolute annihilation for Judah in Isaiah’s day, but the Lord has always kept a small remnant of people to continue the salvation plan. Ultimately the tribe of Judah brought forth the Savior of the world, Christ Jesus.

Conclusion and Christian Application

(1) God does not expect you to be successful from a worldly perspective. He expects you to be faithful to Him.

(2) Since there comes a time when God’s mercy runs out for the sinner, please repent of your sin this day. Romans 2:4 asks, “Do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?” 2:5 then says that those who do not repent, although they have been given time by God, are only storing up wrath against themselves for Judgment Day. So, repent today. Turn away from your sin and turn to God. Admit that the Lord alone is holy and that you are a sinner.

(3) There is no more wonderful picture in all of the Bible than Isaiah confessing his sin in the presence of the uniquely holy God and him being cleansed and forgiven. The same can be done for you. 1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

(4) Don’t you want to serve this wonderfully holy God? There are a variety of ways that you can get more involved in the ministry here, and the Lord would be pleased if you did. It is time for some of you to settle down. It is time for some of you to make this church your home. Some of you have stalled in your spiritual life, it is time for you to repent of your sin, turn to Christ, and pursue holiness and spiritual growth.

(5) Let me close with this word of exhortation: just as this vision became the foundation of Isaiah’s ministry, may the vision of God’s greatness – His majesty, glory, and absolute holiness – become the foundation of our ministries at the Rural Hall Church of Christ.

Isaiah 2 The LORD Alone Shall Be Exalted

Isaiah 2:1-22       Visions of God’s Greatness                       WC McCarter
The LORD Alone Shall Be Exalted

One of the things that seems to be lacking in churches today, especially in America and even in solid evangelical churches, is an accurate picture of Almighty God. We seem to have lost who God is, what He does, and what He is going to do. We have lost the attributes of God: the holiness of God, His righteousness, His justness, and more. We have lost it, and it’s a problem. Instead, we have filled our minds with the latest self-help or positive-thinking nonsense. In doing so, all we can think about is how we can live our best life now. We are selfish and sinful. We have lost the greatness of God and the global vision that He has given us. To combat this spiritually devastating epidemic, I am going to preach God in all His glory the best I can over the next several weeks.

As we begin this new sermon series in the book of Isaiah, we will be looking at six different chapters which contain visions of God and what He will do. Isaiah is considered the greatest of the writing prophets because his book is the longest of all the prophets. His career lasted at least four decades as he warned the Israelites of the North of coming judgment, and then he warned the Jews of the South of the same. He began preaching in about the year 740 B.C. Isaiah preached judgment, repentance, and hope for the future.

READ Scripture- This is the Word of God

Global Vision (1-4)
The first thing to notice about this chapter is the global vision that the Lord reveals to the prophet Isaiah. He promises a splendid future when “all nations” shall flow to the Lord’s house; “many people” shall come to the mountain of the Lord to declare His greatness; and the instruction of the Lord shall “go forth” from Zion, the holy city, into all nations. The Lord also promises righteous judgment of the “nations;” He will rebuke “many people;” and “nations” will no longer think of war. As one writer has said, “This vision depicts nothing short of the transformation of human society” (Chisholm, 18).

Verse one tells us that this was a “word” that Isaiah “saw,” that is to say, this was a vision from the Lord. The vision revealed the promises of God for the future. In the “latter days” the Lord’s dwelling place on earth will be exalted. His house will sit at the heights of the mountains. The Lord’s house will be established on the peak of the tallest mountain.

The instruction of the Lord will bring about peace worldwide. It will truly transform global society. War will be a thing of the distant past as nations give it up to cultivate their own lands. War is an awful thing, especially in ancient times. In those days, war meant hand-to-hand combat. It was bloody, and it was ugly. There was slaughter, starvation, raping, cannibalism, slavery, and all forms of human atrocities. But in the latter days this will all be abandoned.

Filled with Eastern Ways (5-9)
Verse five is a call to all Israel to repent and obey their Lord which would usher in the long-awaited “latter days” when God would bring the blessings of verses one through four.

Verse six begins a different section in the chapter. God is acknowledged as having forsaken His people. The reason He has done so is clear, and the cause runs from verse six to verse nine. Twelve lines are listed representing three evils found among God’s people: eastern ways, wealth, and idols.

The Lord Alone Shall be Exalted (10-17)
Verse ten says that a wicked person can try to hide, but verse eleven makes clear that the wicked will be found and brought down. The only one left standing on that day will be the Lord. Not only will He be left standing, but He alone will be exalted.

The question that comes to mind from the end of verse eleven is, what is “that day?” The answer comes in verse twelve. It is the “day of the Lord.” This is a common phrase for the prophets of the Old Testament which refers to the judgment that the Lord will bring down upon the earth. Sometimes it refers to the very end times, and sometimes it refers to an immediate judgment against the people of Israel.

Israel is seen here as having fallen into the evil ways of all of humanity. They have become proud and arrogant. The day of the Lord is said to come upon everything that is lifted up, and, when it does, those things will be brought low.

Verses 13-16 list eight things which the Israelites would have considered high and mighty. The prophet says that these things will be brought down and, “The Lord alone will be exalted in that day.” These verses are almost poetic and certainly emphatic. For a Jew who only knew small, warped trees in Palestine, the massive trees of Lebanon and Bashan were greatly admired. For a people who feared the seas, the mighty merchant ships of Tarshish were wondrous. Some things which were a little closer to home, for which the Jews took great pride in, were the high mountains and raised hills, the high towers and fortified walls. These were great prides in the land of Canaan.

All the things that the people of earth take great pride in will be brought down. All the things that the Israelites considered mighty and marvelous would be brought low. The great sin of man is the sin that was committed first in the Garden and has occurred in every generation since: the sin of attempting to become God. We are selfish, proud, and arrogant people who are out of line and out of place. We do not have a proper perspective of ourselves, especially in relation to the Lord of hosts. Those who persist in arrogance will experience the terror of the Lord.

Idols Utterly Abolished (18-22)
On the day of the Lord, idols will be shown for what they are: helpless and useless. They will not save their devotees. The day of the Lord will be the end of all idols. They will be utterly annihilated. The only good those idols will be in the day of the Lord is as deterrents against rodents as the idolaters flee to the caves and holes to hide from the terror of the Lord, and they throw them at the moles and bats to keep them away.

Conclusion and Christian Application

(1) Come and let us walk in the light of the Lord.

(2) Arrogance and pride bring about the judgment of God. It is a broken and contrite heart that the Lord will not despise. The Lord looks favorably upon the lowly. God resists the proud and gives grace to the humble. Blessed are the poor in spirit. You see, the doctrine taught here in Isaiah is taught throughout the Bible. The Lord says in the New Testament, “For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

(3) Not only should you forsake your own pride and self-centeredness, but you should also reject those around you who follow that path. We are told to sever ourselves from such people. Bad company corrupts good character.

(4) Lastly, let me say that this is certainly a great judgment passage, but there is also a word of promise. The day of the Lord will be disastrous for all those who oppose the Lord by idolatrous and arrogant ways, but it will be glorious for those who have trusted in Him.