Isaiah03 Dumber than a Donkey
Dumber than a donkey
Call to worship and Greeting
Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations. Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God. (Psalm 90:1-2)
Grace to you from God our Father, and Jesus Christ our Lord, and the Holy Spirit.
Doxology Hymn 96: “God we praise You!” (Tune 441)
Scripture Reading: Romans 1:18-32
Hymn no 102: “Sovereign Grace o’er sin abounding”
Prayer of adoration and Confession of sins
O Lord, our Lord,
How majestic is Your name in all the earth! You have set Your glory above the heavens! (Psalm 8:1)
Great and marvelous are Your works, Lord God Almighty! Righteous and true are Your ways, King of the nations! Who will not fear You, O Lord, and glorify Your name? For You alone are holy. All nations will come and worship before You, For Your righteous acts have been revealed. (Revelation 15:3–4)
How great are Your works, O Lord! Your thoughts are very deep. The senseless man does not know; Fools do not understand that when the wicked spring up like grass And all the evildoers flourish, They will be destroyed forever. But You, O Lord, are exalted forever. (Psalm 92:5–8)
You are the Lord, that is Your name. You will not give Your glory to another, Or Your praise to idols. (Isaiah 42:8)
Save me from bloodguilt, O God, The God of my salvation, And my tongue will sing aloud of Your righteousness. O Lord, open my lips, And my mouth will declare Your praise. For You do not desire sacrifice, or I would bring it; You do not delight in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; A broken and contrite heart, O God, You will not despise. (Psalm 51:14–17)
You have loved us with an everlasting love; You have drawn us with loving-kindness. (Jeremiah 31:3)
You led Your people with cords of human kindness, with bands of love; You lifted the yoke from their neck and bent down to feed them. (Hosea 11:4)
Lord, God we worship You, and we thank You for your compassion, loving-kindness and forgiveness. Amen
Declaration of pardoning
Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty. (John 6:35)
Hymn no 382: “Come O Fount of blessing”
Offering and Dedication
Prayer of Intercession
Current events and concerns: euthanasia debate, stem cell practice
Old Testament: Isaiah 1:1-4
Sermon: “Dumber than a donkey”
A few remarks
I am stressing these introductory verses of the book of Isaiah in order that we can ask crucial questions about God’s relationship with us. We may also ask: How do we live in a relationship with God?
The crucial questions are:
1. Who is the God we worship?
2. How does God reveal Himself to us and why?
3. How should we live before this God?
4. What will happen if we obey/disobey what God says?
5. What does the future hold for the faithful
Question 1: Who is the God we worship? Verse 2 says: God is the Creator God, the God who reveals himself through what He is saying, the One who called out his people to become their Father. There is no other God, because there is no other Creator. Because there is no other Creator, there is no other power that has a claim over us to live the way He intended it to be. His plans are perfect; His ways are perfect; the creature, who dares to make his own rules, is sure to disfigure God’s creation, his own life and the life of others. This is the reason the Bible calls us not to conform to the pattern of this world.
The Creator God, is our Father in Jesus Christ. This Christ is the only Mediator between us and God. There is no other way to go the Father.
Not only has the Father a divine right over our lives by virtue of his creation, but also because of the fact the He bought is to be his own when we were sinners, far away from home. He bought us in the imperishable blood on Jesus Christ.
Question 2: How can we know God: First let’s remember (and this phrase is repeated over and over again in the Scriptures for God’s people to remember in whatever they do) there is no other God; because if there were, such a god would have a claim on our time, money, energy, talents, etc. too.
We know God by and through God’s own Self-revelation, by his Son Jesus Christ, our Mediator. John says:
No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known. John 1:18
God calls us to obedience to his Son as our only Saviour and Redeemer.
Question 3: How should we live before this God? We live in a covenant relationship with Him. The distance between God and what He has created is so great that, although rational creatures owe obedience to Him as their Creator, it would never be possible to enjoy Him and his blessings, unless God by some act of voluntary stooped down to enter into a relationship with mankind. He expressed this relationship in the form of a covenant or agreement (WCF VII,1). In the covenant of grace God freely offers to sinners life and salvation by Jesus Christ. He requires of them to trust Him, obey Him so that they may be saved. He also promises the Holy Spirit to make them willing and able to believe. This agreement reveals God’s holiness, as He wants us to live a holy live before Him.
Question 4: What will happen if we obey/disobey what God says? God promises blessings in many ways. The world belongs to God; He can make true such promises. However, we need to know this is the result of the covenant of grace; it is not a covenant of merits. We can never ever earn God’s blessings. But as faithful God, He does in his own time and own way what He promised as blessings.
Those who disobey will be under a curse because God is faithful to his covenant.
Question 5: What does the future hold for the faithful? God’s blessings rest upon them. They will inherit the earth, and ultimately, when Jesus come, they will inherit eternal life, a new heaven and a new earth. The disobedient will be disinherited, and ultimately they will inherit eternal punishment.
In today’s society and the way we live, we don’t wish to put a monetary value on a donkey. In fact, what is there about a donkey that we can sing praises about? What do you know about a donkey that you would desire it? And surely, although I don’t know donkeys all that well, I can’t say that I am overly impressed by its intelligence. You who grew up with donkeys and donkey carts will probably recall the days when the donkey just couldn’t do anything you wanted it to do. In it own stubborn way it will just go where it took to the last time, having eyes for nothing else but the way he trot on last time.
Would you love it to be compared to a donkey? Especially when it concerns your intelligence? Well, God compared his people to a donkey and said they were dumber than donkeys.
The ox knows his master, the donkey his owner’s manger, but Israel does not know, my people do not understand.” Isaiah 1:3
God, the caring Father
God said about his people, and the Bible teaches that the church is the new Israel, and therefore we must apply this truth to us today:
The LORD has spoken: “I reared children and brought them up. Isaiah 1:2
He is their and our Father. He called them and us into existence. He reared them and taught them his ways. The prophet Hosea records the same message:
“When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son. It was I who taught Ephraim to walk, taking them by the arms; but they did not realize it was I who healed them. I led them with cords of human kindness, with ties of love; I lifted the yoke from their neck and bent down to feed them. Hosea 11:1-4
The Lord declares, “I am Israel’s father, and Ephraim is my firstborn (Jeremiah 31:9).
God say He upheld his people since they were conceived, and have carried them since their birth. Into their old age He will sustain them. God says He has made them and will carry them, yes, He will rescue them (Isa 46:3-4).
This was the message God’s people were told right from the beginning. Even Moses preached this truth to Israel as they prepared to enter the Land of Promise.
The LORD your God, who is going before you, will fight for you, as he did for you in Egypt, before your very eyes, and in the desert. There you saw how the LORD your God carried you, as a father carries his son, all the way you went until you reached this place.” Deuteronomy 1:30-31
Isaiah repeats this message in Chapter 63:
He said, “Surely they are my people, sons who will not be false to me”; and so he became their Savior. In all their distress He too was distressed, and the angel of his presence saved them. In his love and mercy He redeemed them; He lifted them up and carried them all the days of old. Isaiah 63:8-9
The most striking paragraph in God’s Word to describe God’s caring love for his people is probably found in Ezekiel 16. Here the Lord tells about the birth of Israel, and how on the day she was born no one loved her. But the Lord passed by where she was lying in blood, still unwashed, the umbilical cord not cut:
“‘Then I passed by and saw you kicking about in your blood, and as you lay there in your blood I said to you, “Live!” I made you grow like a plant of the field. You grew up and developed and became the most beautiful of jewels. I spread the corner of my garment over you and covered your nakedness. I gave you my solemn oath and entered into a covenant with you, declares the Sovereign LORD, and you became mine. I bathed you with water and washed the blood from you and put ointments on you.
I clothed you with an embroidered dress and put leather sandals on you. I dressed you in fine linen and covered you with costly garments. I adorned you with jewelry: I put bracelets on your arms and a necklace around your neck, and I put a ring on your nose, earrings on your ears and a beautiful crown on your head. So you were adorned with gold and silver; your clothes were of fine linen and costly fabric and embroidered cloth. Your food was fine flour, honey and olive oil. You became very beautiful and rose to be a queen. And your fame spread among the nations on account of your beauty, because the splendor I had given you made your beauty perfect, declares the Sovereign LORD. Ezekiel 16:6-14
Yes, God’s people were blessed, treasured and privileged. Romans 3:2 says they were entrusted with the very words of God. Romans 9:4-5 says theirs is the adoption as sons; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises. Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of Christ, who is God over all, forever praised! Romans 9:4-5
Who is the God we worship? Of course, as we saw last week, He is the Creator God. This week we learnt more about his love, care and compassion with a sinful and stiff-necked people, whom He called out of all nations to be His own possession.
How can we know this God? How does God reveal himself to us? God speaks through his Word, the Bible. He used prophets in the Old Testament and Apostles in the New Testament. And the message of both the prophets and the Apostles were fulfilled in Jesus Christ, the ultimate way in which God revealed himself as a merciful God who provided a way out for sinners.
How should we live before this God? We should honour Him who called us into existence, saved us and sustains us. We can only do it by living according to his Word and his law. Nothing more, nothing less!
What will happen if we obey or disobey? God sets out the blessings for obedience and the curses for disobedience in his Word, the Bible. Those who do not live by it, will receive God’s curses; those who obey and make it their rule of life, will live under God’s blessings.
What is God’s plan for “true Israel”? He makes them inheritors of the earth. He gives them life, here on earth, but also eternal life in Jesus Christ.
God’s child, Israel, rebelled
Israel knew who their Father was who reared them, carried them, saved them and who gave them the land in which they lived. They knew that God who spoke to them through the prophets, through wonders, mighty deeds and miracles. They knew what He expected of them: they lived in the covenant relationship with Him and therefore they were obliged to obey his Law. They knew his blessings upon obedience and His curses upon disobedience were not uncommon to them. Yet, they rebelled! As a result, God is about to disinherit them. They were about to be taken away in captivity and slavery.
They forsook the Lord, they despised the Holy One to whom they belong and owed their very existence. They turned their backs on Him.
How could this be possible? Verse 3 gives the answer: they had neither knowledge nor understanding. They became like the ox and the ass. The ox and ass had some knowledge: as least they know their master (the one who owns them) and the manger (where they would be safe and looked after.)
Israel became dumber than an ass.
May I just once again tell you the old, old story of Jesus and his love? That He died on the Cross for your sins? That He bought you to be his own? That He wants you to live according to His rules in a living relationship with Him? That He promises his blessings upon you if you obey and live a holy life? That He warns you about eternal hell if you don’t acknowledge and know Him? That He gives you eternal life and perseverance because of his salvation?
If you don’t believe this, then you are dumber than a donkey!
Hymn no 384: “How hopeless was our former state” (verses 1,4-7)
Hymn no 637