Isaiah01 From Fame to Shame
From fame to shame to Reformation
Welcome and announcements
Doxology Hymn 146:1, 5
Call to worship and Greeting
Hymn no 144: “Jesus shall reign wherever the sun”
Prayer of adoration and Confession of sins
Declaration of pardoning
Hymn no 377: “Come to the Saviour, make no delay”
Hymn no 75: “For God so loved the World”
Offering and Dedication
While the Offering is taken up, all (remaining seated) sing) Hymn no 279 (tune Hymn no 1) “How sure the Scriptures are”
Prayer of Intercession
Old Testament: Isaiah 1:1-4
New Testament: Matthew 11:25-30
Sermon “A nation disowns her God”
God called a prophet named Isaiah. His name meant: God is the source of salvation. God called this man with a specific message in a specific time of the history of Israel – God’s own covenant people.
Verse one of chapter one gives us the time framework in which this prophet was called to proclaim the will of God to his people.
The vision concerning Judah and Jerusalem that Isaiah son of Amoz saw during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, kings of Judah. (Isaiah 1:1)
To understand the message of this prophet we must understand the time as framed by the kings mentioned in this verse.
This king was only sixteen years old when he was made king in the place of his father Amaziah. This young king was taken care of by the prophet Zechariah who instructed him the fear of the Lord.
He continued to seek God in the days of Zechariah, who had understanding through the vision of God; and as long as he sought the Lord, God prospered him. (2 Chronicles 26:5)
This was necessary, because we read about his father that he turned away from the Lord:
From the time that Amaziah turned away from following the Lord they conspired against him in Jerusalem, and he fled to Lachish; but they sent after him to Lachish and killed him there. (2 Chronicles 25:27)
The priests and the prophets were then still very much aware of the God of the covenant Who would send blessings upon obedience and curses upon disobedience. It was important to obey the Word of God and to seek his guidance in every matter.
But Uzziah, as he grew older, became powerful. And his pride led to his downfall:
But when he became strong, his heart was so proud that he acted corruptly, and he was unfaithful to the Lord his God, for he entered the temple of the Lord to burn incense on the altar of incense. (2 Chronicles 26:16)
Of course, the office for offering to the Lord did not belong to the king, but to the priest as descendants of Aaron. It took a strong high priest and a band of courageous other priests to face the king with a charge against him. They ordered the king to leave the sanctuary. He was enraged and resisted the demand of he priests, and there in their presence, God struck him with leprosy. This disease never left him until the day he died – he could never enter the temple of the Lord, because lepers were not allowed in the temple.
Over the life of Uzziah – and for that matter, Israel – we write: from faithful servant to unfaithful servant; from under God’s instruction and blessing to against God’s instruction and under God’s curse.
After the 52 years of reign of Uzziah, his son became king in his place. He was a good king, seeking the face of God, but not totally. He was careful not commit the same sin as his father, but he did not succeed in leading the people to walk in the ways of God. The people continued their corrupt practices.
Only the high places were not taken away; the people still sacrificed and burned incense on the high places. He built the upper gate of the house of the Lord. 2 Kings 15:35
What were these high places? It signifies a place of idolatrous worship. It began in the days of Solomon who built a high place for Chemosh, a detestable god of Moab. Jeroboam continued the practice:
And he made houses on high places, and made priests from among all the people who were not of the sons of Levi. (1 Kings 12:31)
From then on it became part of the religious life of Israel. Jotham, an otherwise good king, was happy to live his obedience before God as a private thing, but could not be bothered about the way in which God’s people lived.
Over his life we write: halfway reformation is no reformation. There is only one standard; there cannot be two truths. Tow truths usually leads to one big lie.
Truth by definition is exclusive. Everything cannot be true. If everything is true, then nothing is false. If nothing is false then it would also be true to say everything is false. We cannot have it both ways. The law of non-contradiction does apply to reality. We mean by that, that two contradictory statements cannot both be true in the same sense.
Jotham, you tried to apply two truths – that of the one true God on the one hand, and that of the gods of the high places on the other hand. It led to one big lie: the heart of the people was led astray, slowly but surely.
If ever there was an evil king, it was Ahaz: he openly teased the Lord by worshipping cast idols to worship Baal. He had his own sons sacrificed to the fire. He took the worship in high places a but further:
He sacrificed and burned incense on the high places, on the hills and under every green tree.
The Lord his God delivered him into the hand of the king of Aram; and they defeated him and carried away from him a great number of captives and brought them to Damascus. And he was also delivered into the hand of the king of Israel, who inflicted him with heavy casualties. (2 Chronicles 28:4-5)
Judah had forsaken the Lord, the God of their fathers. The result of Ahaz’s disobedience and rebellion before God:
For the Lord humbled Judah because of Ahaz king of Israel, for he had brought about a lack of restraint in Judah (or: he had promoted wickedness) and was very unfaithful to the Lord. 2 Chronicles 28:19
As he stumbled along, with Gods as his enemy, trying to reach for some meaning in his kingship and some direction in his leadership, he gathered together the furnishings of the temple of God, took them away and even shut the temple doors, building altars to foreign gods all over Jerusalem. He bowed to other gods, but – so the Bible tells in 2Chron 28:23 – they were his downfall and the downfall of all Israel.
Over the life of Ahaz we read: from bad to worse. The bad apple king is the source of rottenness in the whole nation of apples.
It all started with Uzziah who became pride and became wiser than God: he was blessed, but his pride made him god in his own sight: he worshipped his in own way and thought God would tolerate wilful religion: he tried to rewrite the Bible so that he can be the important role player, both as political leader and as religious leader. God struck him with terminal illness and he never saw the inside of the temple ever in his life.
Then Jotham – the man of two minds, the man with double standards. His rulership opened the door for full-scale rebellion against God. Two truths made one big lie. In God’s world there can only be one truth – Himself. He is finally the Creator – besides Him there is no other God.
Then Ahaz, the result of the possibility of two truths: the one big lie. He believed in personal freedom of choice. His choice was actually no choice. Because to hate God, is to love death. There is no middle position. The people saw in this king a moral choice, and they chose wrongly: They became a nation that rejected and disowned her God.
This man was too different and too godly to mention in the same breath as the others. A close friend of the prophet Isaiah he led the people to reformation. He was an example of total and radical commitment. We will hear of him later in this series out of Isaiah.
From steadfast faith and obedience to outright rebellion; from blessed to cursed nation. And then, out of the ashes: reformation to glory. This was the time in which God called Isaiah. Amen