Isaiah01 From Fame to Shame b
From fame to shame to restoration
Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the LORD our Maker; for he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care. Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts (Psalm 95:6-8)
Call to worship
Doxology: Hymn no 146:1, 5 : “My heart and voice I raise” (remain standing for The Lord’s Prayer)
The Lord’s Prayer
Hymn: No 144: “Jesus shall reign where’er the sun”
In the Belgian Congo, the weather was hot and humid. No breath of air stirred; leaves hung from the trees as though they were very heavy. In the garden not far from the missionary home, a small boy played under a tree.
Suddenly, the father called to him: "Philip, obey me instantly--get down on your stomach." The boy reacted at once.
"Now crawl toward me quickly," his father continued. The boy again obeyed. After he had come halfway, the father said, "Now stand up and run to me."
The boy reached his father and turned to look back. Hanging from the branch under which he had been playing was a 15-foot serpent.
Are we always as ready to obey? Or do we say, "Tell me why?" "Explain to me?" "I will later." Let it be, Speak, Lord, Thy servant hears."
--From Best Sermon Illustrations by J. G. Lawson
Hymn: No 429:1, 2: “Trust and obey”
Scripture Reading: Matthew 11:25-30
Prayer of Adoration and Confession
Our Heavenly Father and our God,
You made the earth by your power; You founded the world by Your wisdom and stretched out the heavens by your understanding.
When You thunder, the waters in the heavens roar; You make clouds rise from the ends of the earth. You send lightning with the rain and brings out the wind from his storehouses. Compared to You, your splendour and majesty every man is senseless and without knowledge; every goldsmith is shamed by his idols. His images are a fraud; they have no breath in them. Idols are worthless, the objects of mockery; when their judgment comes, they will perish. You who are the Portion of Jacob are not like these, for You are the Maker of all things. The LORD Almighty is your name. (Jeremiah 51:15-19)
Declaration of pardoning
I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declare the Lord.” (Jeremiah 29:11-14)
Hymn: No 377: “Come to the Saviour, make no delay”
Offering and Dedication
Prayer of Intercession
Gracious God through Jesus Christ our Lord, it is our privilege to bring the whole of our finite existence into the glory of your infinite presence. You know what is in our mind, but we still have the privilege of articulating to You what is there. You say, “Come, speak to me. Make your requests known to me.” And so we come in order to know You and to be known by You.
Because of the knowledge of your sovereignty, and the fact that You already know our needs, we know that every benefit, every good and perfect gift, is really an expression of the abundance of your grace. Father, teach us to understand your sovereignty, so that our prayers will be filled with thanksgiving.
The mind of God does not change; Your are not a thing. Things change, and they change according to your sovereign will. The prayer of your people is one of the means You use to bring things to pass in this world. The very reason we pray is because of Your sovereignty, because we believe that You have it within your power to order things according to your purpose.
So we pray for the sick (Jean, Bruce and Marlene Hood, Matthew Doyle), your servants (ministers, elders, missionaries; those in power); your Church on earth, this church (committee of Management this week, Meals on Wheels, Sunday School, Bible study groups, new member’s class), David McDougall in John Calvin and their camp this weekend.); men in uniform (chaplains, those overseas in service, home front)
By your grace and mercy please here our prayer. In the Name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
Scripture Reading: Isaiah 1:1-4
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 from Isaiah.
The prophet Isaiah is a prophet for our day. We are God’s covenant people. As a reformed church we are a church adhering to covenantal theology.
8 We once again need to be aware of who God is and what his covenant with us is. We need to know the stipulations of that covenant of which Christ by virtue of his victory on the Cross and grave has become the new Head.
We need to understand what’s happening around us in the light of God’s covenantal blessing or curse. According to Gods’ eternal decree nothing happens by chance. No drought, earthquake, famine, rain, prosperity or whatever the circumstance is in the hands of man. It is the result of God’s covenantal blessing or curse.
8 The prophet Isaiah calls us from covenantal disobedience to covenantal obedience – the Bible calls that the only ground for repentance.
8 We need to know that no matter how desperate the world around us may appear, by God’s mighty hand, by His promise and by his grace in Jesus Christ, who is King of all kings and who reigns over all authorities, reformation is possible. But is has to begin right within the church. Right here. Amen