As parents we have all experienced situations where are exhortations to our children fell on deaf ears. We might repeat the same warning over and over but there is no response. Teachers in the classroom can testify to the same frustration. They might as well be speaking to the wall. Sometimes people just don’t seem to have ears to hear. That was certainly the case for God’s people back in the days of Isaiah. They could be characterized as Hearing Deficient. Chap. 48 concludes this first of 3 sections in the final 27 chapters of Isaiah. [this section began in Chap. 40] Each section ends with a similar warning to those in Israel who remain stubborn in their refusal to turn from their rebellion and trust fully and only in their God: “’There is no peace for the wicked’ says the Lord.” (57:21; 66:24)
Look at how often words associated with hearing and listening and paying attention are used in Chap. 48. Isaiah is trying to grab the nation by the throat and shake them and tell them to wake up and pay attention to God’s Message before it is too late. Remember how the Lord Jesus characterized His disciples on many occasions as being hearing deficient. Sadly the same can be said of all of us at certain times in our spiritual journey. Hopefully this message will help clean the wax out of our ears and open up the auditory passageway to receive God’s message of truth.
THE HEARING DEFICIENT WILL NEVER EXPERIENCE PEACE AND PROSPERITY UNTIL THEY HAVE EARS TO HEAR –
4 KEYS TO SPIRITUAL LISTENING
Scripture teaches that God is the one who raises up world powers and God is the one who brings them low. We have seen this worked out in history time and time again. Here we come to the example of the Divine Humiliation of Babylon. If ever there was a nation that thought it was autonomous and all powerful and beyond the reach of any conqueror, it was the nation of Babylon (present day Iraq). Yet the Book of Daniel records the suddenness of its fall at the hands of Cyrus, king of Persia. Daniel 5 – maxim = Pride goes before a Fall
What does this teach us about the mighty nation of the United States of America today? Our leaders would be foolish to imagine that they ascended to power on the basis of their own strength and wisdom. Likewise, our leaders would be foolish to imagine that the United States will not be held accountable before God for its pride and wickedness and false delusion of self sufficiency. No nation has the power to perpetuate itself forever. Pride still goes before a fall and the Lord is still in the business of raising up and bringing low as He sees fit.
FALSE RELIGIONS CANNOT DELIVER EVEN THE MOST POWERFUL OF NATIONS FROM THE HUMILIATION OF DIVINE VENGEANCE FOR ARROGANT PRIDE AND WICKED BEHAVIOR
So largely this is a chapter of judgment; but there is an important sub theme here as well – that of the Lord’s protection of His elect people
Some heavily promoted fights end up being huge mismatches. I didn’t stay up to watch the Mayweather-Pacquiao bout (couldn’t afford it anyway and Karen would have been disgusted with me) but I hear it ended up fairly one-sided. Both fighters are expected to make well over $100 million from the welterweight unification bout with 60 percent of the purse going to Mayweather and Pacquiao collecting the other 40 percent. A limited number of tickets in the over 16,00 seat arena —maybe only 500 – were made available to the general public — priced as high as $7,500 with the cheapest going for $1,500. At StubHub, a secondary ticket seller, a seat on the MGM Grand floor was listed at $128,706 Friday morning and the cheapest upper-deck seat was priced at $5,826.This fight was a pretty bid deal!
When the true God enters into conflict with the false gods of Babylon – No Contest. Talk about an undefeated record. Nobody can compare to the only true God – the God of Israel. That is the message that Isaiah has been trumpeting as he prepares God’s people to withstand the pressure of being corrupted by false gods when they are in bondage in Babylon. They need assurance that their God is able to judge their enemies and ultimately deliver them.
Where do you look for relief from the burdens of this life? Where do you find your fulfillment and your value system? Whose agenda are you pursuing with your time and your talents? When times get rocky, where is your anchor and solid foundation? False religions and the allure of idols can make a lot of promises about happiness and prosperity and pleasure and future bliss, but:
ONLY THE TRUE GOD CAN CARRY HIS PEOPLE AND DELIVER ON THE PROMISE OF SALVATION
I. (:1-4) FUNDAMENTAL CONTRAST
II. (:5-7) FUTILE COMPARISON
III. (:8-11) SOVEREIGN PURPOSE
IV. (:12-13) SALVATION PROMISE
Brian Borgman has some good material on this passage …
Our culture of pluralism with its naïve foundational tenet of tolerance for all religions finds the Christian doctrine of an exclusive gospel to be absolutely repugnant. How can you say that there is only one way to God . . . or even that your concept of God is the only correct one? Yet didn’t Christ Himself testify: “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life; no man comes to the Father but by Me.” Sounds pretty narrow to me … and that should be expected if there is one true God and He is the one who dictates the pathway of salvation.
Our passage in Isaiah 45 today hammers away again at some of the common themes that have been recurring throughout the book –
- God declares that He is the Lord and there is none else
- God presents Himself as the absolute Sovereign of the universe since He is the Creator and Sustainer of all things
- God presents Himself as the only Savior of men – the Savior not only of the Jews but of the Gentiles as well … if they will but turn and look to Him alone for salvation
THE UNIQUENESS OF GOD DETERMINES THE EXCLUSIVITY OF SALVATION
Two sections – each begins with the same announcement formula: “Thus says the Lord”
Amazing text today – one that makes liberal scholars gag and scramble to try to explain away its validity. How could Isaiah 150 years before the time of King Cyrus specifically write down by inspiration from God that it would be Cyrus whom God would raise up to deliver His people from the Babylonian Captivity? The Jews had not yet even been captured by Nebuchadnezzar. They were still in their homes in Jerusalem worshiping in the temple that had not yet been destroyed. But God has a point to make. He has something very important to communicate.
“Thus says the Lord” introduces the 3 different sections
Grogan: The assertion “This is what the Lord says” (v. 24) punctuates this section of the prophecy (cf. 44:24; 45:1, 11, then again in 18)
THE UNIQUE CREATOR-LORD RAISES UP CYRUS TO ACCOMPLISH HIS SOVEREIGN PURPOSES TO DELIVER HIS PEOPLE FROM THE BABYLONIAN CAPTIVITY (TO INHABIT THE CITY OF GOD)
Maybe you are struggling today with whether God is really in control of your situation. Look at all of the trouble that abounds in the world. Look at all the world leaders with so little regard to God. It seems like everything is out of control.
Our God is still on the throne …
Almighty God is he
And He cares for His own through all eternity ..
First and last sections are like bookends – presenting the credentials of the Lord to speak with authority regarding prophecies of the future; guts are in the middle section
Flee From Idolatry and Cling to the One True God
Why are we tempted to trust in ourselves? Why do we doubt the sufficiency of our God? Why do we set up idols that compete with God for our affection, our loyalty, our time, our energy? Why are we not resting in the precious promises that God has put out there for the encouragement of His elect children of the faith?
Remember what an idol is: anything that replaces God as the object of our trust and affection and worship; anything that man lives for – could be money and material possessions – covetousness at its essence is idolatry; our career; could be power and prestige; could be the affirmation of people around us – so that our value system is governed by our peers – so that we live as man-pleasers; could just be the “I did it my way” individualistic philosophy of our age; could be sports or entertainment that consume our time and affection – that we look to in order to escape the pain of the reality of our broken relationship with God; could be our own deluded reasonings where we create a god after our own imaginations
IDOLATRY MAKES NO SENSE IN LIGHT OF THE UNIQUENESS OF THE ONE TRUE GOD AND HIS PRECIOUS, IRREVOCABLE PROMISES TO THOSE HE HAS REDEEMED
God’s sarcasm drips from every verse in this passage as He completely destroys the folly of idolatry – How could anyone be so stupid as to walk down this path – yet we do it all the time
1 Cor. 10:14 “Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.”
Today we are going to approach this passage a little differently – we are going to start at the heart of the passage – at the middle – rather than the beginning.
At the heart of the passage we see the heart of God – and the heart of God is one of forgiveness towards His chosen people.
- Whether in a national sense = Israel
- In an individual sense by way of application to those of us in this church age who have experienced forgiveness through Jesus Christ
GOD’S GRACIOUS FORGIVENESS CAN TRANSFORM WORTHLESS WORSHIP INTO SURPRISING SALVATION
Today God wants to raise our level of Confidence in His redemptive purposes. He calls on His people Not to Fear – despite whatever trials we might face – threats of overwhelming floods or fires that would consume us. “Do not fear,” says our God. God wants to raise our level of Certainty in His redemptive purposes – our conviction that He will carry out all that He has promised to perform. The more we understand of our God – who He is in relationship to His chosen people and what it means for Him to function as the one true God – the more we will live in Confidence and Certainty.
- What type of confidence and certainty did God want Noah and his family to have in the face of the oncoming judgment of a worldwide flood?
- What type of confidence and certainty did God want Israel to have as they fled Egypt in the Exodus and were trapped against the Red Sea with Pharaoh and his troops pursuing them?
- What type of confidence and certainty did God want the 12 spies to have whom Moses commissioned to bring back a report about their prospects of successfully entering the Promised Land?
- What type of confidence and certainty does God want His people today to have in His gracious redemptive purposes and His providential care?
GOD’S SPECIAL RELATIONSHIP TO HIS PEOPLE REINFORCES OUR CONFIDENCE IN GOD’S REDEMPTIVE PURPOSES AND
GOD’S IDENTITY AS THE ONE TRUE GOD MAKES CERTAIN THE PERFORMANCE OF HIS REDEMPTIVE PURPOSES
How is it that our nation today can be so oblivious to our precarious position due to our rejection of God’s moral law and standards for righteousness? How much more patience can God extend to us in His love and forbearance? We seem to have no clue regarding how far we have fallen. I am not claiming that all of our founding fathers were dedicated believers; many of them like Thomas Jefferson were Deists. But still for the most part they had a healthy respect for the God’s revelation and understood the reality of absolute morality as opposed to the relativism that has engulfed us today. Look at the Puritans up in New England – wonderful depth of theology. Look at the founding of prestigious colleges on the East Coast as centers for studying theology and preparing men for Christian ministry.
As a nation, we tolerate and now even promote abortions. We tolerate and now even promote the homosexual agenda. We have come to the point where we call good evil and evil good. Have we not learned anything from the lessons of history. How did the great cultures of the past fare when they went down this same road of decadence and worship of entertainment and materialism? What about God’s warnings to us in passages like Romans 1 that spell out the downward spiral of a culture who has rejected God and exchanged the worship of the Creator for the worship of the creature? Who anymore even believes in the simple creation account recorded in the first chapters of Genesis?
What is the mission of the church? Some would point to worldwide evangelism as the goal – and that is certainly an important part of the equation. But remember that the Great Commission calls us to make disciples of all the nations. That goes beyond seeking conversions. Ultimately Almighty God is seeking for those who will “worship Him in spirit and truth” (John 4:23). Satan has a similar goal. In the Temptation of Jesus, “the devil took Him to a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory; and he sad to Him, ‘All these things I will give You, if You fall down and worship me” (Matt. 4: 8-9).
Brian Borgman: The church has been called to “declare the excellencies of His name” 1 Pet. 2:9;
(“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light”) God is infinitely worthy of our admiration and praise; God doesn’t want lifeless, half-hearted, mumbled, dull worship – that minimizes the work of the Lord Jesus and the power of the gospel; C. S. Lewis “The Word About Praising” quote from his Reflections on the Psalms; “whatever we value, esteem, love – we praise it, delight in it; share it exuberantly with others;” look at all the people and things we praise; the praise completes the enjoyment; the delight is incomplete until it is expressed; what we value we automatically praise; we seek to convert others to what we delight in; doctrinally sound churches can be dead and boring; “doctrinally as straight as a gun’s barrel, but emotionally just as empty” (Tozer); In another unbalanced extreme, the church shouldn’t take worship and turn it into some form of palatable entertainment to try to reach the world; instead our worship should be so transcendent that it overpowers the unbeliever; They come into our worship services and can tell that these people love God; they take God seriously with an attitude of reverence and joy.
How are we doing in our worship and praise? Today we will be celebrating the Lord’s Supper. Are we just going through the motions or are we emotionally excited to participate in remembering and praising our Savior until He returns? Our songs of praise are a key element or worship. The bible has a lot to say about music and singing. Until the Reformation, the church went through a very constrained period in its form of worship where the only allowable songs were the recorded psalms from Scripture. Look at the rich hymnology that has developed since that time. We are going to see in our passage today that the Lord calls for us to sing new songs of praise.