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Isaiah07 Restoration to holiness

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Isaiah (7)

Pollution, dilution and corruption calls for restoration to holiness

 

Doxology                        "There is none holy as the Lord" (Blue Book 296)

Call to worship and Greeting

As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the LORD is flawless. He is a shield for all who take refuge in him. (Psalm 18:30)

Grace to you from God the Father, and Jesus Christ our Lord, multiplied by the Holy Spirit.

Hymn no 364:               "Almighty Lord of all created things"

Bible Reading:   New Testament:                                  1 Peter 4:12 to 19

Prayer of adoration and Confession of sins

Declaration of pardoning

I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.
And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. (Ezekiel 36:25-27)

Hymn no 377:               "Come to the Saviour, make no delay"

Welcome and announcements

Offering and Dedication

Praise time

Prayer of Intercession

Bible Reading

Old Testament:                    Isaiah 1: 21 to 31

Sermon:                           "Restoration to holiness – from judgment to salvation "

Introduction

Dear Brother and Sister in the Lord,

I preach the word of God tonight from this passage in his Isaiah, remembering the words we read in 1 Peter 4:17:

For it is time for judgment to begin with the family of God; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God? (1 Peter 4:17)

We have been looking at the first chapter of the book of Isaiah over the last few weeks. This chapter sketches the broken relationship between God and his chosen people Israel.  In the first part the relationship is expressed in the form of a father towards his children.  In verse 2 God says:

Hear, O heavens! Listen, O earth! For the LORD has spoken: “I reared children and brought them up, but they have rebelled against me. (Isaiah 1:2)

Now we move into the next section of this chapter, and here in verse 21 the relationship is expressed as a marriage relationship.  Israel is now addressed as the City of God, who acted unfaithfully.

Over the next few weeks we will look at the theme of judgement as a means for restoration to holiness.  This week the theme for the sermon is: Pollution, dilution and corruption calls for restoration to holiness.  Then we look at the object of judgement, the substance, the means and the result of judgement.

Schematically we can sum up the message of chapter one in this screen (screen of Isa 1 – God called into …

8  “God calls into existence”

8  Arrow “Covenant contract”

8  Arrow “Obedience – blessing”

8  Arrow “Disobedience – curse”

8  Arrow from “God” to “children” (verse 2) and “bride” (verse 21)

8  Arrow from both “bride” and “children” to “People rebelled, hollow worship”

8  Arrow from “Covenant contract” to “Judgment”

8  Arrow from “Blessing” to “Cleansing”

8  Arrow from “Curse” to “destruction”

Tonight wee will concentrate on the reason for judgement.

Defiled marriage relationship

The city of God in verse 21 is a symbol of God’s chosen people – his children of verse 2 – the people He whom loved and called to Himself, the people whom He sanctified and set apart to be his bride, has become a harlot.

Yes, once she was faithful and justice dwelled within her.  She was known to the heathen nations around her to be a people of faithfulness to the One who loved her. More than that, she was filled with righteousness.  This word in Hebrew implies that she was satisfied, well nourished, she was in a state of which one is happy and content. (Note: this can also refer to lack of physical hunger).  She loved the One she was married to, because He was her righteousness:  He forgave her all her sin by grace and cleansed her of her transgressions and wrongdoings.  As a result she pleased God as she did what He required of her.  Righteousness “dwelled” with her:  This term has consequence for this context.  This word means: to stop overnight with someone; this then leads to a relationship with the implication that you become a permanent tenant.  This eventually gives you the right as co-owner.  It would even give you the right to protest is something else would infringe on your rights.

Thus were God’s people:  They were his bride.  They were a faithful wife to Him.  He imputed his righteousness into them by forgiving their sins and He cleansed her from unrighteousness. He planted in them his righteous decrees with the idea that it will grow in them to lead them in a living covenantal relationship to greater obedience to his will as expressed in his law.

But something dreadfully happened:  this bride turned into a harlot, a prostitute!  She, who was once known for her faithfulness, is now known for her unfaithfulness. Like a harlot she sold her mind to other gods and became faithful – but now to other gods.  She worshipped other gods.  She who was once called into existence by the creator God, now turned into a murderer.  As she turned against God, she assumed the role of God by taking lives.  And this is not meant to be understood in a figurative sense only.  Lawlessness and anarchy in the city of Jerusalem, as we see in Chapter 3 later in the series, escalated to such an extent that the killing and death at the hand of the so-called rulers, with the blessing of the pseudo-priests and hopelessly inadequately equipped elders, became order of the day.  Jerusalem was not safe place to live in.

She left home to figuratively “sleep with someone else.”  She became some else’s partner.    That made her ad adulterer.

What a change of scene:  Jerusalem was not satisfied with the loving-kindness of God. Instead of having God’s righteousness reside and remain in her, instead of binding the law of God around her neck and forehead to think and live accordingly, she had a flirtation with it; and eventually she left her Husband to sleep with what is no god.  She became an adulterer.

The prophet Hosea, almost a contemporary of Isaiah lamented:

And it will be: Like people, like priests. I will punish both of them for their ways and repay them for their deeds. “They will eat but not have enough; they will engage in prostitution but not increase, because they have deserted the LORD to give themselves to prostitution, to old wine and new, which take away the understanding of my people. They consult a wooden idol and are answered by a stick of wood. A spirit of prostitution leads them astray; they are unfaithful to their God. (Hosea 4:9-12)

And in Chapter 5:4 he says “a spirit of prostitution is in their heart, they do not acknowledge the Lord.” 

Contaminated relationship

To stress their unfaithfulness and double-heartedness to the Lord as their Master, the prophet used other terms. Silver became dross and wine is diluted.

Silver is a precious metal.  But it needs to be purified to remove all the impure parts.  Dross refers to those worthless, impure parts.  The value of silver was measured against the weight of it.  The more impure parts the less value.  But there is something else in this verse that our translation might miss.  Silver was sought after as precious metal.  As such it was (and probably is) something desirable, which might help to understand that the same stem is used in Hebrew to refer to both silver and desire.  It is therefore more than possible that the prophet used this example to tie in with the context.  Not only did their unfaithfulness to the Lord point to their contaminated hearts as a result of their spiritual prostitution, but maybe the prophet used this term to warn them that their lust after other gods will bring them no gain.  To lust after other gods is to chase the wind:  it is nothing but dross – worthless.  It contaminates the real thing and renders it without any value.

He takes the point even further:  he uses the example of choice wine which is diluted with water.  Now this word dilute is also figuratively used in the context of adultery.  Israel has become like diluted wine.

Corrupted leadership

To sketch the broken relationship between God and his people further, Isaiah uses another term:  corruption in the leadership.  The same idea of pollution and dilution is used to refer to the leadership that is the opposite of what one would expect of leaders:  the word used here is commonly used for prince (or even elder) – their task as leaders under God was to lead God’s people in righteousness. As a theocrasy Israel’s leaders were to lead to greater obedience to the glory of God.  Leaders had to reflect therefore the holiness and righteousness of God as they stood between God and his people.  They would lead people to God. The direction was positive, away from the negative of sin and corruption.  The ultimate prince was Jesus Christ who is described by Isaiah as the Prince of peace:

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government [as prince] and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. (Isaiah 9:6-7)

 But Israel’s corrupted leaders did the opposite of what is expected of leaders:  they rebelled.  The idea here is: to rise up in open defiance of authority, with the intention to overthrow it by acting in complete opposition to its demands.

The leaders closed ranks to protect one another in their misleading of the people – they are referred to as a band, or gang of robbers.  The word “band” is an interesting one.  It is also used to describe the use of smooth and sweet words to mislead your audience to even cast a spell on them.  The leaders were good in using this technique:  they had an outstanding message:  “Peace, peace!” they preached.  The people believed that and were never brought before the horror of their sin. They never confessed and as a result they never had any peace before God.  An as such they were described as a gang of robbers:  the robbed God’s people from their righteousness and peace before God.  Never did they thunder the words of God’s punishment upon sin.  Never did they call the people back to covenant obedience.

The minister who does not preach the full counsel of God, is nothing but a rebellious robber, depriving the people of the luxury of God’s grace as he leads them to repentance and covenant renewal in God.  How many will one day point the finger to the frivolous preacher who satisfied the itching ears of people, never warning them about an eternity in hell if they don’t repent.  And in ignorance they glided into the eternal punishment of hell in the shadow of the spire of a church with a pulpit occupied by a minister of a dishonest gospel! 

In Israel’s case, the leaders feathered their own nests, forgetting the fatherless and the widow.  What was meant for the destitute, ended up on their table – everything in complete opposition of the first and second table of the law:  love the Lord your God, honour his name, not desecrating the Sabbath and love your neighbour as you love yourself.

Conclusion

Brother and Sister in the Lord,

God had a message for his people. The message was that of restoration to holiness again.  And the only way to achieve that, God had to do what doctors have to do:  to take the scalpel and cut out the bad parts causing the sickness.  He used the prophet Isaiah to cut deep into the sin-affected church.  He exposed their unfaithfulness and double-heartedness.  He exposed the rebellion of their leaders.  He did this because He loved them.  He did this because He is just and righteous, holy and merciful.

There is not easy way.  We see it in the cross of our saviour. There the Prince of Peace received the full measure of God’s punishment upon our unrighteousness.  There He renewed the covenant of mercy and grace as He became sin for us, He who never knew any sin.

Today once again the Lord used the scalpel of his Word:  And in and through Jesus Christ He points out the areas where we fall short.

May He give us grace to see the spotlight upon our lives. May He, by the power of Holy Spirit, lead us to covenant renewal.

Amen.

Prayer

Hymn no 442:                                     "Take time to be holy"

Benediction

Hymn 636

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