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Justice and Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  41:42
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Sometimes it is aweful hard to be thankful. I see this played out in the lives of my boys. Sometimes they just have a rough day. Their brothers have been teasing them all day, they can’t find their favorite toys, mom has forced them to do school all day, and to top it all off for supper that night their dad makes them eat a salad with, gasp, a tomato. Now at that moment, especially for our little ones, it is nigh impossible for them to be thankful. I can thell them as a dad, you need to be thankful that God has given you food to eat. And the only response they can give is, “but I don’t like tomatos!”
We laugh at that silly illustration, but sometimes we can get in that same mindset. We end up believing that it is impossible for me to be thankful. My car broke down, I lost my job, the furnace gave out, and my kids are driving me crazy! How can I be thankful? In Isaiah 51 we come across one of those impossible moments of thankfulness, and yet God still requires his people to be thankful.
Context:
Isaiah is speaking to a people in captivity. “A military conquest somewhere in Jerusalem’s history functions as a backdrop for explaining God’s cup of wrath, but the specific war is left undefined.”
Isaiah 51:17–20 KJV 1900
17 Awake, awake, stand up, O Jerusalem, Which hast drunk at the hand of the Lord the cup of his fury; Thou hast drunken the dregs of the cup of trembling, and wrung them out. 18 There is none to guide her among all the sons whom she hath brought forth; Neither is there any that taketh her by the hand of all the sons that she hath brought up. 19 These two things are come unto thee; who shall be sorry for thee? Desolation, and destruction, and the famine, and the sword: By whom shall I comfort thee? 20 Thy sons have fainted, they lie at the head of all the streets, as a wild bull in a net: They are full of the fury of the Lord, the rebuke of thy God.
This is the backdrop of what Isaiah tells them in chapter 51. Jerusalem has drunken the dregs of the fury of the Lord. Her current experience is desolation/destruction and famine/sword.
Yet in this backdrop Isaiah calls for joy, gladness, and thanksgiving. Why?
Isaiah calls for the people of Israel to respond to their suffering with thanksgiving because of the justice of God.
We as believers can respond to any situation in our lives with thanksgiving because of the justice of God.
Why should we respond with thanksgiving because of the justice of God?

I. God’s Justice is grounded in His Promises

Isaiah 51:1 KJV 1900
1 Hearken to me, ye that follow after righteousness, ye that seek the Lord: Look unto the rock whence ye are hewn, And to the hole of the pit whence ye are digged.
Listen to me! Isaiah will use this command repeatedly in the chapter. Listen you who are following after righteousness and seeking the Lord.
Metaphor:
Look unto the rock which you were hewn
And to the hole of the pit (the idea is that of a rock quarry) where you were dug.
V. 2 gives us the interpretation of this metaphor
Isaiah 51:2 KJV 1900
2 Look unto Abraham your father, And unto Sarah that bare you: For I called him alone, And blessed him, and increased him.
Look (Imperative) (has the idea of perceive with attention)
Abraham is the rock from which they were hewn, and Sarah is the quarry from which they were dug.
God says, I called him alone, better- he was but one when I called him. What did God promise Abraham? How did God bless him and increase him?
Genesis 22:17–18 KJV 1900
17 That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; 18 And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice.
The idea here is that God blessed Abraham, but Abraham was but one man when God made this promise. Abraham had to trust God by faith.
Hebrews 11:12 KJV 1900
12 Therefore sprang there even of one, and him as good as dead, so many as the stars of the sky in multitude, and as the sand which is by the sea shore innumerable.
Abraham trusted me by faith and you Jerusalem are hewn out of the same rock, so follow in his footsteps. Have faith in my promises as did your father Abraham.
What then is the promise that they are to trust?
Isaiah 51:3 KJV 1900
3 For the Lord shall comfort Zion: He will comfort all her waste places; And he will make her wilderness like Eden, And her desert like the garden of the Lord; Joy and gladness shall be found therein, Thanksgiving, and the voice of melody.
Remember right now they are not in comfort, they are in what?
Isaiah 51:19 KJV 1900
19 These two things are come unto thee; who shall be sorry for thee? Desolation, and destruction, and the famine, and the sword: By whom shall I comfort thee?
But God will one day comfort Zion. He will comfort even her waste places. God will make her like Eden, like the garden of the Lord. What is this talking about? I believe Isaiah is referring to the coming millennial kingdom. This has not happened yet, but this is the only time we read about God changing the land so that it reverts back to a pre-fall state like the Garden of Eden.
Romans 8:19–23 KJV 1900
19 For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God. 20 For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope, 21 Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. 23 And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.
The creation is groaning in pain because of the curse of the fall. It is waiting to be delivered from the bondage of the curse. I believe this will take place during the literal 1000 yr earthly kingdom where God will fulfill his promises/covenants to His people.
Now notice the end of v. 3,
“Joy and gladness shall be found therein, Thanksgiving, and the voice of melody.”
So, even though you are suffering right now, there is coming a time where joy and gladness and thanksgiving will be the dominate attitude of God’s people. I think the point of theses verses is you can have an attitude of joy and gladness and thanksgiving right now because God has promised you these things. Just like God promised Abraham and Abraham believed God by faith, so you too can believe God by faith because of His promises. Ultimately God will bring you justice and comfort and you can be thankful because God’s justice is grounded in his promises.
Illustration: I asked Dr. Hudson via email to teach our adult SS class this morning. When he replied that you could do that and that he would put it on his calendar, guess how I replied? Thank you! Why? He hadn’t done anything yet. He hadn’t taught the class. Shouldn’t I wait and thank him after he teaches the class? I thanked him after he game me his word or his promise that he would teach the class. I knew he would follow through and so I gave him thanks.
Even though we are not Israel, we are a people of God, the church. And we also have been promised a part of God’s millennial kingdom. So even though it has not yet happened, God has given us His word so we can be thankful. No matter what we are going through right now we know that one day God will comfort his people, and so by faith we can be a thankful people. Why? Because God’s justice is grounded in His promises.

II. God’s justice is grounded in His Eternality

Isaiah 51:4 KJV 1900
4 Hearken unto me, my people; And give ear unto me, O my nation: For a law shall proceed from me, And I will make my judgment to rest for a light of the people.
Listen to me! (2nd time)
Judgement is better justice
God will set in place his Justice and it will be a light for His people.
This is what is required before you can have the kingdom! There can be no kingdom without justice.
Isaiah 51:5 KJV 1900
5 My righteousness is near; my salvation is gone forth, And mine arms shall judge the people; The isles shall wait upon me, And on mine arm shall they trust.
Here the concept of God’s righteousness is added to the idea of God’s justice. My righteousness is near, my arms shall judge the people. Because of God’s righteousness and God’s justice the isles (the nations of the world) will wait upon me or lit. set their hope in me and they on my arm (arm of judgement) they will trust.
So before you can have the kingdom you must have righteousness and before you can have righteousness you must have justice.
Isaiah 51:6 KJV 1900
6 Lift up your eyes to the heavens, And look upon the earth beneath: For the heavens shall vanish away like smoke, And the earth shall wax old like a garment, And they that dwell therein shall die in like manner: But my salvation shall be for ever, And my righteousness shall not be abolished.
Here we have a great comparison! Look up into the sky, go ahead look. And then look down at your feet, go look at the earth beneath you. Both of these things will be destroyed. The heavens will vanish like smoke, the earth will wear out like an old pair of jeans. And those that live here (those that do not follow after righteousness and seek the Lord) they shall die in the same manner.
BUT! my salvation (deliverance from all harm) will be forever! And my righteousness will not be shattered. God’s deliverance and His righteousness are forever, because God is forever. WOW!
What does this mean for me practically? What does this mean for those who are suffering right now?
Isaiah 51:7–8 KJV 1900
7 Hearken unto me, ye that know righteousness, The people in whose heart is my law; Fear ye not the reproach of men, Neither be ye afraid of their revilings. 8 For the moth shall eat them up like a garment, And the worm shall eat them like wool: But my righteousness shall be for ever, And my salvation from generation to generation.
Listen to me! (3rd time) You that are righteous, you who have my law in your heart
Don’t fear the reproach (Scorn/Disrespect) of men
And don’t be afraid of their insults
Why?
Because they will be eaten up like a moth eats away a garment, like a worm devouring wool.
BUT! God’s righteousness will be forever and his deliverance from generation to generation.
There can be no comfort no kingdom without righteousness and there can be no righteousness without justice. God is telling you do not fear. I will establish my justice on men and it will be like a light. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my righteousness will be forever. So we can be thankful. We can be thankful because of God’s justice. And we know God’s justice will be certain and complete because of God’s eternality. His righteousness will be forever.
Illustration:
That means that the Christian baker or photographer or hotel owner can be thankful even when our own Supreme court rules that they must support homosexuality. And when they refuse for conscience sake and the government takes away their business or their home they can still be thankful, because God’s justice is grounded in his eternality. This earth will pass away and those that oppose God will die in like manner, but God’s righteousness will last forever. God will one day bring justice and it will be like a light for his people.
Refutation:
Now, that doesn’t mean that we walk around with the attitude, “You dirty sinners, you are going to get it.” No! What does Romans say?
Romans 12:19 KJV 1900
19 Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.
Romans 12:20 KJV 1900
20 Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head.
Romans 12:14 KJV 1900
14 Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not.
Romans 12:17 KJV 1900
17 Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men.
God loves the sinner! He loves the homosexual and the supreme court justice. Our job is to show them the love of Christ by giving them the gospel and praying that they would repent of their sins and believe in Christ. For those that will God will forgive their sin, just like He forgave us our own sin. And for those that choose to Reject Christ we can have confidence that God will bring about justice. And when we leave things in God’s hands and when we know we can trust in God’s justice then we can be thankful.

III. God’s justice is grounded in His Power

Isaiah 51:9 KJV 1900
9 Awake, awake, put on strength, O arm of the Lord; Awake, as in the ancient days, in the generations of old. Art thou not it that hath cut Rahab, and wounded the dragon?
Here, Isaiah is praying on Israel’s behalf. O God, awake and put on strength. As in the days of old when you cut Rahab and the dragon (References to Egypt)
Isaiah 51:10 KJV 1900
10 Art thou not it which hath dried the sea, the waters of the great deep; That hath made the depths of the sea a way for the ransomed to pass over?
A reference to the nation of Israel coming out of bondage of Egypt walking through the midst of the Red Sea. It was God’s power that allowed God’s justice.
Isaiah 51:11 KJV 1900
11 Therefore the redeemed of the Lord shall return, And come with singing unto Zion; And everlasting joy shall be upon their head: They shall obtain gladness and joy; And sorrow and mourning shall flee away.
Because of God’s power he brought about justice and delivered His people from Egypt.
And one day, in the kingdom, because of God’s power God will again bring about justice, and with justice will come singing, everlasting joy, gladness and joy, and sorrow and mourning will flee away.
Isaiah 51:12 KJV 1900
12 I, even I, am he that comforteth you: Who art thou, that thou shouldest be afraid of a man that shall die, And of the son of man which shall be made as grass;
The double use of “I” ensures us it is the mighty powerful God that will comfort them in that day.
Why then should they be afraid of man that will die, man who is nothing more than grass.
Isaiah 51:13 KJV 1900
13 And forgettest the Lord thy maker, That hath stretched forth the heavens, and laid the foundations of the earth; And hast feared continually every day because of the fury of the oppressor, As if he were ready to destroy? And where is the fury of the oppressor?
The phrase “Who are you” continues into v. 13.
Who are you that forgets the Lord your maker, the one by His own power stretched forth the heavens and laid the foundations of the earth.
Who are you to fear continually ever day because of your oppressor?
Isaiah 51:14 KJV 1900
14 The captive exile hasteneth that he may be loosed, And that he should not die in the pit, Nor that his bread should fail.
The idea is that even the captive exile will be released with haste. He will not have to die in the pit nor lack bread. Why?
Isaiah 51:15 KJV 1900
15 But I am the Lord thy God, That divided the sea, whose waves roared: The Lord of hosts is his name.
Because of our powerful God. The one that divided the sea with its roaring waves. The Lord of host is His name.
Isaiah 51:16 KJV 1900
16 And I have put my words in thy mouth, And I have covered thee in the shadow of mine hand, That I may plant the heavens, and lay the foundations of the earth, And say unto Zion, Thou art my people.
Illustration: When my kids have a problem with one of their brothers we train them to first try to resolve the conflict on your own (ask them nicely). Then if that doesn’t work come and get mom or dad. Why? Because mom or dad has the power, we are in the position of authority, to make sure justice is done.
There is not a power on earth that can prevent the justice of God. There is no court high enough to overrule God.
Psalm 2:2–4 KJV 1900
2 The kings of the earth set themselves, And the rulers take counsel together, Against the Lord, and against his anointed, saying, 3 Let us break their bands asunder, And cast away their cords from us. 4 He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: The Lord shall have them in derision.
God’s justice will be carried out. And for that we can always be thankful.
We as believers can respond to any situation in our lives with thanksgiving because of the justice of God.
Why?
Because God’s justice is grounded in the promises of God, in the eternality of God, and in the power of God.
I think about Job. Imagine if Job had Is 51 to rest in during his trials. Was not the issue of God’s justice central to his problem. Job doubted God’s justice and because of that he really struggled. I would describe Job as anything but thankful during his suffering. We cannot afford to make the same mistake. Rather God’s justice must be for us a light.
When we rest in God’s justice then we too will have joy and gladness and with us thanksgiving and the voice of a melody will be found.
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