This coming Sunday, I have been invited to preach/teach at one of the church plants of Good News. I am excited because I have not visited this church plant in a couple of years. Many of the members there are very dear to me. This was the first church that I visited while in Moldova, many years ago. I am excited to be able to go and study the Word of God with my brothers and sisters in Christ. I would like to share the message here in written form before we study it as a church. The lesson comes from a study written by Dr. Wayne Barber. The name of the study is “Walking with God”. Lesson 2 covers Isaiah’s walk with the Lord. This message is relevant to the 21st Century because Isaiah’s culture is not too different from ours today.
I. God’s message to a wicked culture
Isaiah’s people had once walked closely with God yet, little by little, they became influenced by the world around them (wanted to become a melting pot you could say) and because of that influence, with their lips they gave glory to God yet with their actions they were far from His presence. Let’s take a look at a few passages to help get us in the cultural context of the day.
8 For Jerusalem has stumbled and Judah has fallen because they have spoken and acted against the Lord, defying His glorious presence. 9 The look on their faces testifies against them, and like Sodom, they flaunt their sin. They do not conceal it. Woe to them, for they have brought evil on themselves. 11 Woe to the wicked — it will go badly for them, for what they have done will be done to them.
8 Woe to those who add house to house and join field to field until there is no more room and you alone are left in the land. 11 Woe to those who rise early in the morning in pursuit of beer, who linger into the evening, inflamed by wine. 18 Woe to those who drag wickedness with cords of deceit and pull sin along with cart ropes, 20 Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness, who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter. 21 Woe to those who are wise in their own opinion and clever in their own sight. 22 Woe to those who are heroes at drinking wine, who are fearless at mixing beer
Did you notice how similar Isaiah’s culture is to our culture today? I would like to bullet point some of the sins that were being practiced in the midst of a culture that was supposed to fear God, a culture that claimed to be faithful to the Lord.
- Bad leaders
- Openly living in sin with no shame
- Material prosperity (no matter how it is acquired) measures the well being of the people and nation
- Controlled by alcohol
- Relativism (calling evil good and good evil)
- Tolerance was the buzz word of the day
- Each person doing what is right in his own eyes
It is almost like a mirror image of today. As the Bible teaches, there is really nothing new under the sun. The modern mentality of unshackled freedom and doing what ever you want when ever you want with whom ever you want is nothing new. It is just a repetition of what has been done before. God is searching for a man to send His message to these people, to remind them of the price to be paid for such a way of life. Oddly enough, the above mentioned sins enslave people yet those same people call it “freedom” to live outside of God’s “rules and regulations”. I think that it is fitting the way that God described the people of Nineveh in the book of Jonah, “people who do not know their right hand from their left”. It is an obvious play on words. Grown people know their right from their left (in most cases) yet spiritually, they were like grown people who did not know their right from their left. They could not discern between what was good and what was evil. They called evil good and good evil, very similar to today. What made Isaiah different from the people around him? He saw reality as it was. He was honest with himself and with God. He was ready and willing to be used by God.
II. Isaiah’s attitude set him apart from the other people of his generation
Isaiah was sensitive to God’s voice and he was honest with himself about his weaknesses and needs. Contrary to the popular teachings of the day (like in Isaiah’s day) God searches for people who realize that they are in need of a relationship with God and have nothing to offer, only to receive.
1 In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a high and lofty throne, and His robe filled the temple. 2 Seraphim were standing above Him; each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. 3 And one called to another: Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Hosts; His glory fills the whole earth. 4 The foundations of the doorways shook at the sound of their voices, and the temple was filled with smoke. 5 Then I said: Woe is me for I am ruined because I am a man of unclean lips and live among a people of unclean lips, and because my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of Hosts. 6 Then one of the seraphim flew to me, and in his hand was a glowing coal that he had taken from the altar with tongs. 7 He touched my mouth with it and said: Now that this has touched your lips, your wickedness is removed and your sin is atoned for.
First of all. Isaiah was sensitive to God’s voice. God wanted to reveal Himself and wants to reveal Himself to everyone yet He searches for people who are open to Him, who, in fact, are searching for Him. Isaiah was ready and willing to hear from God, to get to know God. Most people of the culture are just too busy building their own little worlds to take the time to hear from God, to get to know Him. Others are too bogged down in sin that they cannot hear God even when He speaks. This was the culture of Isaiah’s day and we live in a very similar one today.
Secondly, Isaiah was a humble man, who saw reality as it was. He did not think of himself as being better that he actually was. He was conscious of his sin, his shortcomings, and his need for God. When surveys are done, most people generally tend to think of themselves as being better than they actually are. When surveys are done at work to compare the way employees rate themselves and the way employers actually rate them, the difference in opinion and reality is great. Isaiah did not deceive himself, especially when he realized the holiness of God. Compared to the people around him, Isaiah was a model citizen yet when he compared himself to God, he quickly realized how unholy he was. These are the types of people God seeks out to invest in so that they can impact the world around them. Why? James gives us the answer in chapter 4.
6 But He gives greater grace. Therefore He says:
God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.
Why does God oppose the proud? It is because it is impossible to work with and train a proud person. Proud people tend to think that they know it all and compare themselves with others so that they can look down on them. God is looking for a person who comes as a beggar, who will totally depend upon God to be molded, equipped, and available to His service. This is why God calls Himself the potter and His people the clay.
Thirdly, Isaiah is unique because he comes to God on His terms and is cleansed by God, according to His plan. Many times, especially religious people, believe that they can come to God on their own terms. They set up rules, rituals, and regulations that must be met and if kept, God must accept them and be pleased with them. They try to bend God to their will instead of allowing themselves to be bent to God’s will. Isaiah came to God and allowed God to change him. His sins were forgiven and he was able to approach God, to get to know God, and then to be useful to God. All three of these characteristics deal with a person’s attitude. When the attitude is right then the rest will flow out of that. What kind of attitude do you have when it comes to being used and useful to God? Are you humble, ready to come to God on His terms or do you try and set the conditions (if you do this for me then I will do this for you)?
III. Isaiah answers the call and his availability makes him useful to God
God has a plan for all time. He has been working since the beginning of time on that this eternal plan. He invites people to join Him in this effort. He calls people and then the people have to do their part by answering the call. Many people hear the call yet are unavailable to be useful to God because they are just too busy. Please comprehend this. They are too busy with petty temporal activities to answer God’s eternal call. When analyzed and thought out, this is extremely illogical. Why focus on the temporal that will pass away when the King of the universe offers a chance to invest in His eternal plan? I do not understand how so many can pass up the opportunity but they do. The usual answer is “I am too busy. I do not have time.”. Let’s take a look at Isaiah’s response to God’s calling.
Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying: Who should I send? Who will go for Us? I said: Here I am. Send me. 9 And He replied: Go! Say to these people: . . .
Isaiah did not hesitate. When God called he answered. This attitude and reaction models the Lord’s prayer when we say:
10 Your kingdom come.
Your will be done
on earth as it is in heaven. (Matthew 6)
Are you living to accomplish God’s will on earth as it is accomplished in heaven? Whose kingdom are you working hard to build, God’s or your own? What do you spend the majority of your time doing?
The message is very specific. Isaiah was to confront the culture’s sin, pronounce the judgment that was coming and then offer the hope of the Gospel that God has for us. This is the same message that Jesus preached, that Paul preached, that all of the people of God preach. It is for the temporal benefit of society as well as the eternal benefit of the people. Are you ready to take that message to the culture in which you live? Are you doing all that you can to get that message out? May the Lord help us be truly useful to Him with all the days that He allows us to live.