This week, in our Connect Groups at Southern Calvert Baptist church, we are continuing to study the Old Testament. We will be in the book of Isaiah. The children of Israel, like all people, struggled with their sin nature. That struggle manifested in the form of idolatry. God, because of His great love, was and is patient with His people, even when we disobey Him. It is His nature. He interacts with humanity based on love. Even when He disciplines people, it is done out of love, seeking to produce repentance. God has to humble His people, and even that is done out of love. When God humbles His people, He does it to teach them, not to harm them. The process may be painful, momentarily, but what it produces leads to blessing. This seems like a contradiction to modern mankind, but it is not a contradiction. When parents discipline their children, they do it out of love, to correct dangerous behavior for the good of the children. At the moment, children do not understand the benefits of the correction but, as they mature, they realize WHY their parents disciplined them. As we have established in our previous lessons, the root of idolatry is trust in oneself. God designed us to trust in Him, not ourselves. Our sin nature entices us to trust in ourselves, to our own detriment.
I. A dose of reality
Personal analysis does not come easily to human beings. We prefer not to look in the mirror so that we can avoid reality. How many times have you avoided the scale when you know in your heart that you have put on some weight? Why do we not like yearly job evaluations at work? Like the ostrich, if we bury our heads in the sand and avoid reality, then we think we are not responsible for our actions. Just remember, when your head is buried in the sand, what is sticking up in the air? Through the prophet Isaiah, the Lord, like a Master Surgeon, diagnosis the problems taking place among the children of Israel. They did not want to face reality. With their lips, they claimed to follow and trust the Lord. In reality, they were living contrary to God’s will. They needed some personal evaluation and God provides that through the prophet Isaiah.
8 And He removed the defense of Judah. In that day you depended on the weapons of the house of the forest,
9 And you saw that the breaches In the wall of the city of David were many; And you collected the waters of the lower pool.
10 Then you counted the houses of Jerusalem And tore down houses to fortify the wall.
11 And you made a reservoir between the two walls For the waters of the old pool. But you did not depend on Him who made it, Nor did you take into consideration Him who planned it long ago. (Isaiah 22)
The children of Israel claimed to trust in the Lord but, in reality, they trusted in themselves. When tough times came upon the people, reality manifested itself. God, through the prophet Isaiah, placed a mirror in front of the children of Israel and forced them to face reality. Many times, we ask why God would allow difficult times to come upon us. That is answered in this passage. Tough times reveal who we really are and in whom we really trust.
Therefore in that day the Lord GOD of hosts called you to weeping, to wailing, To shaving the head and to wearing sackcloth. (Isaiah 22:12)
There are two deep truths that we need to mine from the previous mentioned verse. The first thing is, God reveals His character to His people and gives evidence why they should trust in Him instead of trusting in themselves. God reveals that He is “Adonia“. The name Adonai means “Supreme Ruler” or “Master“. God is the Supreme Ruler and His creation consists of His servants. Our duty is to walk in a personal relationship with Him and live to accomplish His desires. That is the way a Master/servant relationship works. God also reveals Himself as “Jehovah“. The name Jehovah means “the Self-Existing One“. God has life in Himself and He is perfectly content within Himself. He does not need His creation but, His creation definitely needs Him. When God interacts with humanity, it is always for the well being of humanity. God has our best interest in mind when He interacts with us. The final character trait the we discover about God is in the word/name “Sabaoth“. The word/name Sabaoth means “leader of the army“. God had placed Himself at the disposal of His people to fight on their behalf and assist them through difficult times. The children of Israel had turned away from God and tried to do it all by themselves. They need to repent of this mentality and the actions that followed. God called them to repent. That is what He wanted from them. This is the second deep truth that this passage reveals. To repent means to have a change of mind that leads to a change of heart, that leads to a change of direction in life. The minds of the children of Israel are not right. They are not living in reality. Their minds need to be changed so that their actions will follow. I need that. You need that. Every human being on planet earth needs that. The evidence is clear. How will the children of Israel respond?
13 Instead, there is gaiety and gladness, Killing of cattle and slaughtering of sheep, Eating of meat and drinking of wine: “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we may die.”
14 But the LORD of hosts revealed Himself to me, “Surely this iniquity shall not be forgiven you Until you die,” says the Lord GOD of hosts. (Isaiah 22)
Instead of taking a long hard look in the mirror of reality and repenting, the children of Israel chose to ignore God’s analysis and recommendation. As a result, they were going to have to suffer the consequences. God wanted to bless but the people chose the consequences. We see this clearly in the children of Israel, but, what about us? Are we not the same today? When difficult times come upon you, do you immediately seek to “fix” the situation or, do you turn to the Lord and ask Him WHY? When God gives a specific recommendation, how do you respond? Are you quick to repent? Although this was originally written for the children of Israel, it applies to us today. How are we going to respond?
II. God’s will: Repentance
We know that God is the God of second chances. Based on what we saw in Isaiah 22, God could have wiped His hands of the children of Israel and allowed them to suffer the consequences of their choices. I am so grateful that He is not like that!
O LORD, You are my God; I will exalt You, I will give thanks to Your name; For You have worked wonders, Plans formed long ago, with perfect faithfulness. (Isaiah 25:1)
Isaiah got the message that the Lord delivered in chapter 22. He knew the Lord personally. He recognized the character of God, that He is Jehovah-Elohim. We have already discovered what the Name Jehovah means. The Name “Elohim” means “the Creator God“. God is our Creator. He knows us better than we know ourselves. He knows what is best for us. This understanding led the prophet Isaiah to praise the Lord and demonstrate his gratitude. That should have been the response of the children of Israel. This should be our response today. The people of God should trust in Him instead of trusting in ourselves because He is able to work miracles. If I had time to sit with you, I could reveal miracle after miracle that the Lord has performed in my life simply because I trusted in Him and not in myself. Many times, the things that the Lord asked me to do did not make sense to me but, I trusted Him and He did more than I ever could have imagined. We can trust in the Lord because He always keeps His Word. When God says “yes” He does “yes“. When God says “no” He does “no“. We often think of God in human terms. We say “yes” and do “no” and we say “no” and do “yes“. God’s desires and actions are perfect, for the good of His creation. He is always faithful to His Word! We can and should trust Him. The prophet Isaiah understood this and applied it to his daily life, in contrast to the children of Israel. How do you respond to the character of God, the way the children of Israel did, or, the way that the prophet Isaiah did?
2 For You have made a city into a heap, A fortified city into a ruin; A palace of strangers is a city no more, It will never be rebuilt.
3 Therefore a strong people will glorify You; Cities of ruthless nations will revere You. (Isaiah 25)
God allows difficult circumstances to lead people to repentance and demonstrate His character. He is always at work in the lives of His creation. Those who do not follow Him are being drawn to Him through the circumstances of life. Those who do follow Him but, are living in disobedience, are being drawn to Him through the circumstances of life. The apostle Paul echoes this truth in the New Testament letter to the Christians in Rome.
Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance? (Romans 2:4)
The apostle Peter taught the same truth in his second epistle in the New Testament.
The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. (II Peter 3:9)
God wants His creation to repent. We need to repent. In order to repent, we need to pause, take a long hard look in the mirror of personal analysis, and then respond to what the Lord is doing. Often, difficult circumstances can cause us to hit the pause button in life. That is a good thing because the busyness of life can often allow us to live on auto pilot. If all of this were not enough to convince us, God gives even more benefits in the following verses.
4 For You have been a defense for the helpless, A defense for the needy in his distress, A refuge from the storm, a shade from the heat; For the breath of the ruthless Is like a rain storm against a wall.
5 Like heat in drought, You subdue the uproar of aliens; Like heat by the shadow of a cloud, the song of the ruthless is silenced. (Isaiah 25)
God interacts with us for our own benefits and He lays out more of those benefits in the above two verses. God promises to defend the helpless. In reality, we are all helpless and we need a defender. God promises to defend the needy. In reality, we are all needy and we want a defender. God is a refuge for any who will run to Him. But, we have to run to Him. He offers protection but we have to do our part. Do you want to trust in yourself or in the Lord? In whom do you trust, in yourself or the Lord?
III. The proper response from us
The above mentioned benefits are not automatic. We have a role to play in this process. We have to respond to the Lord’s character.
Therefore the LORD longs to be gracious to you, And therefore He waits on high to have compassion on you. For the LORD is a God of justice; How blessed are all those who long for Him. (Isaiah 30:18)
If the previous evidence were not enough to convince people to trust in God, the prophet Isaiah provides even more evidence. God wants to show grace to us. Grace means receiving what you do not deserve. We do not deserve all of these benefits. We do not deserve all of these second chances yet, God chooses to interact with us this way, based on His character and not our own merits. God wants to show compassion to His people. He feels what we are going through and wants to help us, even when we are suffering the consequences of our own poor choices. Responding correctly to the Lord will lead to blessings. The idea of “blessing” or “blessed” in the Bible is the idea of “being content” or “satisfied“. Trusting in the Lord will cause us to be content, no matter the circumstances of life.
19 O people in Zion, inhabitant in Jerusalem, you will weep no longer. He will surely be gracious to you at the sound of your cry; when He hears it, He will answer you.
20 Although the Lord has given you bread of privation and water of oppression, He, your Teacher will no longer hide Himself, but your eyes will behold your Teacher.
21 Your ears will hear a word behind you, “This is the way, walk in it,” whenever you turn to the right or to the left.
22 And you will defile your graven images overlaid with silver, and your molten images plated with gold. You will scatter them as an impure thing, and say to them, “Be gone!” (Isaiah 30)
If and when the people of God repent, He promises to teach us to follow Him. As we walk closer and closer to Him, the idols in our lives lose their luster. We trust less and less in ourselves and more and more in the Lord. This will produce a satisfaction in us that nothing else in this world can produce. The ball is in our court. Are you going to repent and trust in the Lord or continue on trusting in yourself, reaping the consequences?