23(Isaiah 57,14-21)What Every Backslider Needs
Isaiah 57:14-21 (p. 550)
Background: Isaiah has described the corruption of the people of Israel.
Verses 6-13a are a long description of idolatry.
Yet, God holds out hope for those who take refuge in him. (13)
14) Get ready for my people to return. “Remove the obstacles for my people.”
15) The hope of v.14 is that God, who is holy, chooses to condescend with his people. His people will return crushed and humbled, and they will be revived.
16) God knows the limits of our spirit. He created Israel/us for His glory – He will not utterly destroy. He will find a way to acquit.
17) God is not naïve. He does not look at His people through rose-colored glasses. Israel kept going their own way, no matter how He warned and punished.
18) In spite of the severity of their sinfulness, God will heal! How will He heal?
Verse 15 says that God dwells with the crushed and humble. Yet the people of verse 17 are brazenly pursuing their own proud way. What will a healing be?
It can only be one thing- God will heal them by humbling them. He will cure the patient by crushing his pride.
If only the crushed/humble enjoy God’s fellowship (15) and if Israel’s sickness is a proud and willful rebellion (17), and if God promises to heal (18) them, then his healing must be humbling and his cure must be a crushed spirit.
This is Isaiah’s way of describing what Jeremiah call the new covenant, and Ezekiel called a new heart.
Jeremiah 31:31-33 "Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah-- 32 not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the LORD. 33 But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.
Ezekiel 36:26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.
The same salvation is in view by all three – Isaiah 57:18 is a major heart transplant.
The fulfillment of Ezekiel’s new heart, Jeremiah’s new covenant, and Isaiah’s healing comes in Jesus Christ.
What is the result? (15) To have the Lofty One whose name is Holy dwell with you and give you life. So, to have God with us and not turned from us is health.
PRINCIPLE: the Lofty One whose name is Holy dwells with crushed and humbled saints.
Three truths from this, and then a story:
1. It is surprising that the Lofty One dwells with crushed and humble saints.
2. It is not compromising when the Lofty One dwells with crushed and humble saints.
3. It is healing when the Lofty One whose name is Holy dwells with crushed and humble saints.
Once there was a land where the people were ruled by a king who was so wise and so powerful and so uncompromising that none of his subjects could come near to him --at least not the way they felt now.
His palace was high in the White Mountain and his throne in the palace was very lofty. Huge winged creatures surrounded the mountain. And the palace seemed to float on a cloud of fire.
The people of the land were very resentful of the king's authority, and had no respect for his power or wisdom. It hadn't always been this way. The first people in the land had stood in awe of the king and marveled that all his power and wisdom and riches were spent doing good for his subjects. It was as though he exalted himself in order to show kindness.
But somewhere along the way, for some strange and dark reason, his subjects began to resent the fact that he exalted himself. Suddenly it didn't matter that his laws were good, what mattered was that they were laws. And the people rebelled, because they started to hate being told what to do. They wanted to make their own laws and appoint their own kings. And so things went very bad.
Then something unexpected happened. A rumor was heard in the most rebellious town that the king had left his lofty throne, had passed through the cloud of fire and was coming down the Valley of Shades. That evening in fact, he appeared on his horse at the edge of town with his royal blue cape and blazing eyes and a host of White Mountain warriors that stretched out of sight up the valley.
The town's people knew that one word of command and they would all lose their heads. They cringed and sneered and trembled. But the king gave no command. He got off his horse and walked down a side street as though he knew the town well. He stopped at the house of an old widow and knocked. When she opened the door her mouth fell open and she began to cry. The king went in and shut the door.
They spoke until it was late. She fed him supper. She gave him a straw mattress. And in the morning he was gone, but on the table was a velvet box.
After the king had gone, the people of the village were amazed. Why had the king come? And to dwell with that woman! Her husband had been killed erecting a tower of rebellion against the king. She herself had once been part of the prostitution religion which the king loathed. And after her husband died she served the local resistance as a volunteer. Only recently had she stopped coming to the protest assemblies.
But the king had come and dwelt in this old woman's house. This was very surprising. It is surprising that the Lofty One whose name is Holy dwells with any of his subjects, not to mention an old conspirator .
Surprising, yes, but not compromising. Not long ago this old woman, who had so long resisted the king's authority and had done all she could to flaunt her rebellion, had found in the archives of the town library an ancient copy of the king's edicts. She had taken it home and began to read. As she read she began to weep. For days and days she read and wept and wept. She began reading them comfortably in her chair but she finished reading them on the floor, bent over, trembling and crying.
The edicts of the king were good. His plans and purposes for the land were glorious and sure. She saw and felt for the first time that real freedom and fulfillment didn't come by setting up her little rebellious plan against the king's, but by accepting the wonderful place he would give her in his plan.
She was crushed and humbled. From that day on she would be the king's if he would have her. So when the king entered her house, he didn't enter the house of a rebel. He entered the house of one who in all brokenness and contrition revered his throne. So his visit was not a compromise, because the pride of his hostess had been crushed. It is not a compromise for the Lofty One whose name is Holy to dwell with crushed and humble saints.
And now the woman sat staring at the little velvet box. To her it was not little. She was tempted to bow before it. Her hand trembled. Even a visit from the king had not made her presumptuous. Slowly she opened the box, and saw a delicate golden ring and a hand-written note from the king. She took up the note and read to herself,
With this I cancel every sin
And heal now every hurt within.
The one who wears the royal ring
Will be the daughter of the king.