Wednesday, December 31, 2014

LORD of the Nations

Isaiah 1-12 focused on Judah and ended with a proclamation to the nations.  Isaiah 13-27 begins by focusing on the nations and ends with Judah

"These nations were all threatened by Assyria at one time or other, and were all actual or potential partners with Judah in anti-Assyrian alliances." (Webb - p80).

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

From Thankful Praise to Evangelism

Isaiah 12 is two songs, both introduced with the phrase, "And in that day you will say," (v1, 4).

The first song is joyful praise for personal salvation.  But that kind of salvation cannot be extolled enough being sung by only those who are saved.  They need more voices, more praise, more glory.  And so the second song demands that we go out and get more voices -

Isaiah 12:4–5 (NKJV)

...“Praise the Lord, call upon His name; Declare His deeds among the peoples, Make mention that His name is exalted. 5 Sing to the Lord, For He has done excellent things; This is known in all the earth.

Let the peoples praise Thee!  Let all the peoples praise Thee!

Monday, December 29, 2014

Where Do We Run from the Wrath of God?

There has been a refrain of God's coming wrath - His anger is not turned away/His hand is stretched out still...

Isaiah 5:25 (NKJV)

25 Therefore the anger of the Lord is aroused against His people; He has stretched out His hand against them And stricken them, And the hills trembled. Their carcasses were as refuse in the midst of the streets. For all this His anger is not turned away, But His hand is stretched out still.

Isaiah 9:12 (NKJV)
12 The Syrians before and the Philistines behind; And they shall devour Israel with an open mouth. For all this His anger is not turned away, But His hand is stretched out still.

Isaiah 9:17 (NKJV)
17 Therefore the Lord will have no joy in their young men, Nor have mercy on their fatherless and widows; For everyone is a hypocrite and an evildoer, And every mouth speaks folly. For all this His anger is not turned away, But His hand is stretched out still.

Isaiah 9:21 (NKJV)
21 Manasseh shall devour Ephraim, and Ephraim Manasseh; Together they shall be against Judah. For all this His anger is not turned away, But His hand is stretched out still.

Isaiah 10:4 (NKJV)
4 Without Me they shall bow down among the prisoners, And they shall fall among the slain.” For all this His anger is not turned away, But His hand is stretched out still.

Where can salvation be found from the wrath of the living God?

Isaiah 12:1-2 instructs us:  salvation from the wrath of God can only be found by fleeing into the arms f the righteous God.

Isaiah 12:1–2 (NKJV)
1 And in that day you will say: “O Lord, I will praise You; Though You were angry with me, Your anger is turned away, and You comfort me. 2 Behold, God is my salvation, I will trust and not be afraid; ‘For Yah, the Lord, is my strength and song; He also has become my salvation.’ ”

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Praise Songs of the Remnant

In Isaiah 11;16, a remnant is mentioned, withstanding the judgment of the LORD and returning to His temple because they remained faithful - 

Isaiah 11:16 (NKJV)

16 There will be a highway for the remnant of His people Who will be left from Assyria, As it was for Israel In the day that he came up from the land of Egypt.

And then Chapter 12 breaks out in a song of praise.  The song is in the singular ("I" and not "we") and so we could translate the beginning as "Each of you will say in that day."  There is an important emphasis on the individual's decision to trust and obey the LORD here.  Most of the consequences that have been written about in Isaiah thus far are national issues as a whole.  But Ahaz had to make His own decision (Isaiah 7:9b) and every other Israelite must as well (Isaiah 28:16).

Friday, December 26, 2014

How Wet is the Sea?

Isaiah 11:6-9 describes the effect of the Messiah's rule.  It will be universal peace, an ideal described here in language which may or may not be symbolic (or may be both).

Isaiah 11:6–8 (NKJV)

6 “The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, The leopard shall lie down with the young goat, The calf and the young lion and the fatling together; And a little child shall lead them. 7 The cow and the bear shall graze; Their young ones shall lie down together; And the lion shall eat straw like the ox. 8 The nursing child shall play by the cobra’s hole, And the weaned child shall put his hand in the viper’s den.

An end comes to all strife between creatures.  Does this mean an end to carnivorous living for all?  I'm not sure at this point.  Of course, the most important strife that will come to an end, and has already come, is the division between Jew and Gentile.  Now, all are justified by faith in Jesus Christ alone and we are all under one new humanity.  Under that reconstruction, all other divisions may come to an end.  The Prince of Peace brings peace to all human relationships.  

And so, the picture of Isaiah 11:6-9 is one of returning to the paradise of Eden.  It is a a picture of the whole creation put back into joint (Webb).  And verse 9 is climactic.  The entire earth and not simply Jerusalem will be the LORD's holy mountain and His Word, His law, His rule will be known, experienced and enjoyed as much as the waters cover the sea.

The spreading of this dominion, peace, and rule of King Jesus began at His first Advent and will continue until His second.  Until then, He rules over heaven and all of the earth while sitting at the right hand of God the Father (Psalm 110:1-2).  

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Messiah: The Anointed King

Isaiah 11:1 promises a descendant of Jesse, a son of David, who will have the Spirit of the LORD resting on him.  That is what it means to be anointed and that is what is promised of the Messiah.

Messiah, in Hebrew, means "anointed" and does not immediately point to only one single person.  In a sense every king of Judah, from Saul onwards, had been the messiah.  Both priests and kings were anointed, but "the LORD's anointed" was shorthand for "the King" (1 Sam 24:10, Lam 4:20).

There is one aspect of this that points to Jesus particularly.  He is the anointed King and the anointed High Priest.  He is particularly anointed to fulfill both roles.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Beating Temptation at the Table

The Lord’s Prayer teaches us to pray for God to keep us from temptation and to deliver us from evil.  It also teaches us to ask Him for our daily bread.  But, as we also heard Jesus say while He was resisting temptation – Man does not live by bread alone, but by every Word that proceeds from the mouth of God.

There are many words that proceed from God.  But they all are summed up here in the Word of God made flesh.  And that Word is here at this Table – and it is offered to You as we partake of Bread.  This Bread and Wine are the Word of God – just as the Bible you hold is the Word of God.  Neither are turned into God – but both, by partaking by faith – are the instruments by which the Holy Spirit imparts the Word, Jesus, more and more into His body, the church.

And so, just as important as hearing by faith when the Word is proclaimed – is partaking by faith when the Word is given – here, at the Table of the Lord.  The Word of God is given to fight temptation.  Come and welcome to the Word of God – to Jesus Christ.

Not Merely Inspiring Words

In this religion we call Christianity, it is not enough to be inspired by the words of the Gospel – and this is part of what sets Christianity apart from every other religion and religious system.  It is not enough to simply hear words and contemplate and meditate and be inspired or motivated to change.

We do not come to simply hear words.  We come to hear the Word.  Even more, we come to eat the Word and drink the Word.  We come to participate in the Word and have the Word which was made flesh participate in us.  We come to renew our union and communion in and with and by the Word.

And this is what the Table of the Lord is for.  As Christians, we always have Christ in us – but here we come and renew that union – here we come and corporately confess the life, death, and resurrection of the body of Jesus – and we do so by faith as the body of Jesus.  It is all Christmas and Easter and Pentecost here – by faith – given for You and for the life of the world.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Called to Holiness

When the Lord calls us to holiness, He is not calling us to a grim, tight-shoed approach to life that pretends to be holiness.  Neither does He call us to a kind of license that doesn’t care at all what God thinks of the matter and treat Christian liberty as freedom to do whatever you want.

The kind of holiness we are called to is a holiness that wants, that longs, that desires to be like Jesus – that wants to be free from sin and that wants to enjoy holiness with the Lord – obedience with great joy and hope surrounded by faith.

And this is something that God gives.  He gives holiness filled with joy, gladness, strength, grace, forgiveness, fortitude, hope and glory that has a backbone in all the details of life.  When you are given this kind of holiness, you don’t have to be told to pursue holiness – you only want to more and more.

This is connected to fighting temptation, which will be the topic of the sermon this morning.  No one fights temptation who has not been given this gift from God that loves holiness, that loves walking in the light, that loves walking with God in fellowship and glory.  Everyone that has been given this love for holiness hates their sin and that hatred is part of what God in you to learn to fight temptation.

As we come to worship our God this morning, be aware of His stirrings in you to love holiness and to hate sin – ask Him for more.  And if you have none of this desire – then come and hear the good news.  The only reason any of us – a pack of sinners – has come to Christ is because He has come to us.  But when He comes, He comes with holiness.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

First Be Right With God Yourself

It’s not enough to simply be in the right.  It’s not enough to be a member of the ‘Moral Majority.”  It’s not enough to be against homosexuality or abortion or feminism or evolution.  It’s not enough to be right about education or government tyranny or biblical liturgy or the doctrines of grace.  We must first be right with God ourselves.  Jesus warns us of such hypocrisy (Luke 6:39-42).  The one who brings discipline must not only have the right doctrine.  He or she must also have the right heart (Gal 6:1).  These principles apply to the family, to the church, and to the state, for each one falls under the jurisdiction of God’s Word.  Judgment will always begin in the household of God.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Searching for Christmas

Jesus rebuked the unbelieving Jews for their stubborn hearts and spiritually blind eyes.  They thought they knew everything about God and His coming Messiah.  They thought they knew their Bible – many had memorized major portions and some had memorized and studied the entire Old Testament.  But Jesus said to them,
John 5:39–40 (NKJV) 39 You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. 40 But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life.

In a similar way, many are aware of Christmas, know something of a baby born in a manger, and something about religious traditions associated with the holiday.  Unbelievers stroll the malls singing along with carols playing over speakers, “O come, O come Emmanuel and ransom captive Israel…..What Child is this who lays to rest…This this is Christ the King….Angels we have heard on High, sweetly singing o’er the plains, Gloria in Excelcis Deo – Glory to God in the Highest…” but they do not hear what they are singing.

But then, so do Christians.  We sing “He comes to make His blessings flow far as the curse is found” while believing that the world and the church are on their way to apostasy and destruction.  We are guilty of celebrating Christmas without understanding the meaning of it.

There was a marvelous virgin birth – but of what?  Of Whom?  Of the King Who would rule all kings and all kingdoms.  Of the ruler of a kingdom that was like a peck of leaven put in lump of dough – slowly spreading and affecting the whole lump – the whole world.  Of a Light for all Gentiles, for all nations, to show them the way and to lead them streaming to the mountain of the Lord.  Of One upon whom would rest the governments of this earth for His kingdom had come to claim all that He had been given by the Father.

Do not be satisfied with a few moments or days of feel-good secular sentiment about the Christmas season.  Rather, come and view the Savior of the nations born to set His people free, given authority over all of heaven and earth, and perfectly satisfying the requirements of the Law, satisfying the just wrath of God for the world which He came to purchase with His blood.  Be overjoyed that a Child was born, that a Son of David now reigns and rules at the right Hand of God the Father, ruling over your particular life, and over the life of the world and all that is to come.  Come and worship Christ the King.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

From Human Kingdom to Kingdom of God

It is a massive move historically to go from the coming judgment of Israel and Judah (and the accountability laid upon Assyria) to the establishment of a "rod from the stem of Jesse" (11:1), but theologically, this is simply the next movement.  Only a remnant remains; only a stump.  But from that stump comes forth One who has the Spirit of the Lord resting upon Him.  Of course, every Gospel informs us of exactly Who that is (Matt 3:16, Mark 1:10, Luke 3:22, John 1:32).

Because of the breadth of optimistic reign over all of evil in this chapter, some want to regulate it all to the time of Christ's second Advent. But Christ's own ministry speaks to the certain establishment of all of chapter 11 in principle from the beginning of His first Advent and certainly from the beginning of His public ministry.

Jesus came - and, in principle, everything changed.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Faith for More than Justification

For Judah and Israel, 9:8 - 10:34 teaches them, and all generations, that faith in God is not simply about our justification.  It is also a practical approach to all the challenges of life.  Will you trust God in the whirlwind?  Will you turn to the Light when you find yourself in darkness?  Will you walk by faith and not by sight (2 Cor 5;17)?

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Children Prophecies

The two children of Isaiah are two prophecies.  And those prophecies are the topics of two sections in Isaiah 9:8 - 10:34.  The first is the second named son, Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz.  His name means "Speed the spoil, hasten the booty" and is applied to the swift and soon coming fall of Syria and Damascus to Assyria.  Isaiah 9:8 - 10:4 describe this coming event.  The second section, 10:20-27, follows the prophecy of the first child, Shear-Jashub, whose name promises a remnant that will return.

The children's names are prophecies.  These boys come forth announcing the coming judgment of God.  Little children bring forth news and a new age.  And to the faithful, another Child, Immanuel, brought forth another judgment upon unbelieving Israel, and with that judgment, the saving work of the Lord.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Simply Put: What Preaching Must Be

"Christianity begins with a triumphant indicative; it does not begin with an urgent imperative...Nevertheless, Christianity does not end with the indicative; the indicative always moves on to the imperative...Preaching that lacks application is the bane of the modern Reformed pulpit."  Carrick, IP, pp148-9.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Assyrian Arrogance and the Sovereignty of God

Assyria is the tool of judgment upon Israel, chosen by God to accomplish His purposes - in spite of her arrogance, idolatry, blasphemy and wickedness.

But the Lord did choose Assyria (10:5-6) to "tread (Israel) down like the mire of the streets."  This, however, did not absolve Assyria of her own sins, and that which is charged as the greatest sin, is that of arrogance (10:15), "shall the ax boast itself against him who chops with it?"

There is so much to see here regarding the sovereignty of God and the responsibility of man, how they do not contradict one another but are held together gladly in the wisdom of God.  

For us as well, it is critical that we note the great sin of arrogance and self-boasting pride.  Paul warns, "But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world" (Gal 6:14).

Monday, December 8, 2014

Back to the Present

Glorious promises in the beginning of Isaiah 9.  And then, from 9:8 through 10:4, the great and coming demise of the northern kingdom, of which the birth of the child Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz was a declaration, is elaborated.

That demise of the northern kingdom (Samaria) takes place almost 140 years before that of the south, but Isaiah knows and has been warning that Judah is headed down the same road, infected with the same rebellious heart.  The fulfillment of this chastisement upon Samaria is to be timely warning to Jerusalem.

She would not listen.

Will we?

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Christ in Us at Advent

Advent is not a time to pretend that Jesus has not yet come.  It is a time to prepare for and in celebration – as we do at this Table.  In the Lord’s Supper there is no denying that Jesus came and that His body was broken and His blood shed – for us.

And so, as we go about our Christmas preparations, reflections, and celebrations, this is the center – this Table.  It is our participation in Christ, it is our union and communion with Him.  God took on flesh and blood and dwelt with men.  To come here with faith and partake is to celebrate Advent, and Christmas, and Good Friday, and Resurrection Sunday.  It is to celebrate Christ in us, the hope of glory.

Friday, December 5, 2014

God Incarnate and the Blessing of Babies

"For unto us a Child is born." - Isaiah 9:6

Taking all of verse 6 and all of Isaiah thus far in context, this can only apply to one who is God incarnate.  Just one for instance, His name will be called "...Mighty God."

This verse must point to the coming and promised Messiah, the great Son of David, and He will be both God and man.

Webb notes as well that it is wonderful to meditate on the whole of chapters 7-9 where purpose of God in history is associated with the birth of babies, of little children.  "Out of the mouth of babes" comes the declaration of the salvation of the world.  His strength is made perfect in weakness; and there, in a manger, lies the power of all powers.

Incarnation and the Apostles' Creed

As we begin the season of Advent in anticipation of celebrating the Incarnation of the Word of God, the only begotten of the Father, we are going to return to reciting the Apostles’ Creed in our service.  This creed speaks abruptly of a Maker of heaven and earth, and of His Son.  Please do not think this rules out the Creative-work and participation of the Son at the time of creation, which we can easily see from passages like John 1:1-4.

But what is more important to remember as we come to worship, is that, having made all things, we come to worship the Triune God who Redeemed all things, Who brought salvation to the world – and personally to you, any of you, who call upon His name in repentance and faith.  The Creed reminds us that this took place because at a particular time and space Jesus came and lived on this earth in order to die.  He is Immanuel, God with us.  He is Jesus who came to save us from our sins.  And He did so by taking on flesh and blood.

Never forget that Jesus was a man and is not a fleshless spirit.  He took on flesh.  He is not afraid of the stuff of His creation.  He doesn’t think it is more holy to get away from the stuff.  If sinlessness was about avoiding the stuff then the Incarnation would have ruined the Lord’s holiness.  But Jesus did not avoid matter at all – He became matter, ate and drank matter, walked on matter, related with matter.  In fact, He loved matter.  He loved the world.  Material is not where the problem lies.  The problem is in the heart, and Jesus was born into the world so that He might be born in your heart as well.  How?  Through His death, you too may die to your sin and to your condemnation – and through His resurrection, you too may be raised to new life in the new Man with a new way to live in all of the stuff of the world which He made.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The People Walking in Darkness

"The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light."  Isaiah 9:2

Because Isaiah 8 has referred to both the northerners and southerners, to Israel and Judah, it seems we have a hint of the reunification of Israel here in 9:2.  More than that, the message is preached to the "Galilee of the Gentiles" and so the hint goes much further, to the reunification of all men, of Jew and Gentile.  This will be the glorious work of the reconciliation of the world to God and to one another that Christ accomplished on the cross.

When people are walking in darkness, when there is strife between husband and wife, or between nations, the answer is the light of the gospel, the presence and zeal of Jesus, His grace and forgiveness, His law and duty, His justice and mercy.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

The Zeal of the Lord and His Strong Promises

"The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this." - Isaiah 9:7

The promises listed of this glorious Son to be born is as sure to be done as God's promises.  His zeal to make sure this happens speaks of His love of mercy and deliverance and grace (John 3:16).  

Learn to stand on the promises of God.  Learn to stand on them as already accomplished even when they are far from manifested yet.  Learn to declare the dawn long before the darkness has gone.  Then you will know the zeal of the LORD.

Monday, December 1, 2014

He Will Not Remain in Darkness

For all the doom and gloom, Isaiah refuses to remain in the darkness because the LORD refuses to allow the world to remain in darkness.  And so, Isaiah 9 -

"Nevertheless the gloom will not be upon her who is distressed,
As when at first He lightly esteemed
The land Galilee of the Gentiles."

Devastation gives way to glory and so the dawn breaks in the very region that was first to experience God's judgments in Isaiah's days.  

Does this help make sense of the fact that Matthew will highlight the fact that it was in these northern parts, filled with Gentiles of mixed races, that Jesus first proclaimed the gospel (Matt 4:12-17)?

Yes, it does.