Isaiah06 Grace in the face of disgrace
Grace in the face of disgrace
Doxology Hymn 603: "Jerusalem the golden, in glory high
above" (verse 1, tune 198)
Call to worship and Greeting
Lord ’s Prayer
Hymn no 112: "All creatures of our God and King"
Prayer of adoration and Confession of sins
Declaration of pardoning
Hymn no 514: "Approach, my soul, the mercy seat"
Bible Reading: New Testament: 2 Peter 3: 1-13
Welcome and announcements
Offering and Dedication
Prayer of Intercession
Old Testament: Isaiah 1: 18 -31
"Grace in the face of disgrace"
The brothers are sisters the Lord,
Over the last few weeks we looked at the structure of Isaiah chapter 1. Verses to 2 and 3 deal with the fact that God called his people into existence and that He has ownership over them because of the covenant relationship between him and his people.
But because of their rebellion, God's people became like and ox that does not know his master and donkey that does not know his owners manger. They forsook the Lord, they spurned the Holy One of Israel, and turned their backs on Him. They became a people without knowledge and without understanding.
Because of their rebellion against the Lord, the Lord brought upon them or of the curses of the covenant and it is expressed in Deuteronomy chapter 28. He afflicted them, and there was no help for them. The country became desolate, the cities were burned with fire, and foreigners stripped their fields.
But in his mercy, the Lord secured a remnant. This left the impression with them that everything was okay. They forgot the conditions of the covenant with the Lord, and appreciated what was happening with them not in terms of the covenant and curses upon disobedience, but rather as unfortunate political and climactic conditions.
This led to a hollow worship before the Lord. They understood God's grace wrongly. This is of course something that can easily happen to us today also.
We will also look at the principle applied, the result then and now, the solution to the problem, and of course we will pull things together in the concusion.
Because we live in the world where there is hardly any possibility of Christian worldview, we tend to look at our world apart from the Creator. We try to interpret facts and we lend an ear to secular scientists will have no regard for God and his Word. We have become accustomed to a secular worldview. Evolution and its effects on our society are rampant today.
In such a worldview there is no room for sin, for corruption, and for biblical morals. There is hardly any connection between cause and effect, because God is not part of this worldview. Man has become a law unto himself, and in his own eyes man is only responsible to himself as to what he does in the world and with this world.
For example, droughts are looked upon as necessary cycles in nature that we just have to live with. This is not what the Bible teaches. The Bible is very clear that God sends rain upon obedience, and he gives droughts as a result of disobedience of a nation.
National diseases and illnesses that cripple our societies as a whole are today understood as a common part of normal life. HIV, we know, is mainly the result of promiscuous sexual activity, and yet it is portrayed as a normal illness “that does not discriminate”. In the meantime the age of consent of sexual activity between minors and adults are lowered, not only ridiculing the law of God, but redefining the terms “paedophilia”, “homosexuality”, and even that of the “family”. We have heard only this week that this disease places an extra M$20 upon the tax burden to supply medical services to sufferers of this devastating disease to which we have no medical answer – there is a moral answer to it.
Drug abuse is portrayed as a social choice, and yet it costs taxpayers millions of dollars per year to ensure that no hidden needles on beaches and in backstreet alleys get to unaware children or holidaymakers. The effect of drugs on the brain, motor skills, social activity and skills, as well as general health is well known. Yet, we fail to see the connection between cause and effect, and as a nation we cripple ourselves not because of medical inadequacies, but because of moral corruptness.
The more people live without regard for God and his Word, the more we see sicknesses, illnesses and other mental conditions only as part of our normal life. Instead of people repenting before God, the more they turn their backs upon God, and the more we see the problems around us compound. One is reminded of the verse in Proverbs:
Whoever finds me finds life and receives favor from the LORD. But whoever fails to find me harms himself; all who hate me love death.” (Proverbs 8:35-36)
The churches have fallen into the trap too. Instead of preaching repentance before God, churches and worship services have become a therapeutic sessions where there is hardly any place for sin and churchgoers hear a gospel satisfying their itching ears. Ministers become timid and hesitant and will do about everything and anything as long as they don't rock the boat.
The result is that the churches have become nothing more than a shelter in a vineyard or a hut in a field of melons, the city under siege. We can only look around us to see that we have become a remnant. The world looks upon the church as something to laugh about. Churches do whatever they can to attract the world once again into the church, but because they don't preach the gospel of the Word of God they are not reaching to the world, but the world is reaching into the church and is seeking to destroy it completely.
The churches do not catch the eye as God's people. The people within the church lead a life not any different from those who do not come to church or who do not believe in God. There is no holiness within the church. The church does not provide any direction for the world we live in, because the line between church and world has become very hazy and faint.
The hollow gospel of the past has taken us over. We have nothing to offer to this world. We have become a disgrace.
But, it seems as if we do not understand the message. It seems as if we understand God's grace wrongly. Because He has not wiped us from the face of the earth, because He still allows us to gather every Sunday, because there are still some people performing their religious duties Sunday after Sunday, we fail to understand why we have become a disgrace. We think everything is still okay and that God is happy with us. We pat ourselves on the back in self-contentment because something at least is still happening.
And yet, we know something is wrong. We know that it something drastically does not happen within the near future, the church will find itself in dire straits. The worst thing that can happen is for us to turn around and point fingers to the world. We look at the sins of the world around us and we dread about all the ugliness we see abounding. But the major thing we do not see is that we have a problem within. We fail to see that we have become a disgrace because of our own disobedience and hollow worship before the Lord. Our heart is not in it any more, but we worship the Lord with our lips.
There is hardly any difference between us, the modern church, and Israel of old. We are a disgrace. Church buildings in Europe have become pubs and brothels or art studios where the most disgraceful forms of art are displayed. The world disregards the church and its message as something that has reached its use-by date.
We have become a disgrace. Where does the problem lie? Purely and simply because we do not adhere to the Word of God in its pure form.
If that is the problem then where does the solution lie?
The whole chapter of Isaiah 1 is written in the form of what is referred to as "a covenant lawsuit". In verse 2 we hear God call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against the unfaithfulness of his people. While the heavens and the earth are witnesses, God calls his people to accountability. He charges them with disobedience and He reminds them of his covenant faithfulness. The very fact that has sent his prophet to call them to repentance was a sign of his covenantal faithfulness and love. The very fact that He called them to repentance is a sign of his love and long-suffering.
He laid a charge against them of a hollow and meaningless worship. They were guilty and there was no way by which they could reconcile themselves to God.
I remember my childhood days the tone of the of my father voice, “Come, I want to talk to you!”
In verse 18 the Lord says: "Come now, let us to reason together." Now that all the charges are laid, it was time to front up and appear before God's throne. "Come now" is an imperative for it is God who speaks. This is a command which cannot be evaded; it must be obeyed. God alone can lay down the conditions which must be followed. It is not a meeting with equals, but with God and his sinful people.
"Let us reason together". God invites his people to discuss the accusation made against them. They had to submit absolutely to what God dictates. Man must think God’s thoughts after Him. Now they appear before God to be judged in light of God's law. The first step to restitution was to admit that they were wrong and that their actions have not been in accordance with God's commands.
By His mercy and grace, God offered to cleanse them from their sins. There was no way by which they could redeem themselves. There was nothing they could offer to bring salvation. But God promised to put things right between Him and them.
Scarlet: it was a lead or iron oxide, yielding a bright red pigment. Once something was painted with scarlet it was permanent. But the Lord now promises to take away the sin that stained them like scarlet.
Crimson: The small parasitic insects from which this dye was obtained somewhat resembled the cochineal which is found in Eastern countries.
With these pictures we see something of a forensic justification. Only through God's mercy and forgiveness and pardon, could they require forgiveness for their sins. It is as if God says, "I now regard your sins to you all as blood-red, but I shall regard them as white." They will become opposite of what they are now, in other words, they will not exist.
But verse 19 speaks of repentance, "If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the best from the land; but if you resist and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword."
This calls for a complete turnaround. God gives us a choice; it is a very limited choice, though: It is merely a call to accountability. It is blessing or curse; life or death. To choose against God is not to end God’s rule over your life; to choose against God is invite Gods’ condemnation upon yourself. The choice is to come back to God and to receive his forgiveness. But if you hear the Word of forgiveness and resist and rebel, the time of grace will run out.
(Allow time for illustration on the screen: Covenant obedience – Covenant Disobedience)
Brother and sister,
The Lord is calling us to accountability before Him. How will we reason with God today? As church, and not only St Andrews Church in Townsville, but the church as a whole, is called into a covenant lawsuit before the Lord. And once again we are offered grace in the face of disgrace. God's grace is free, but it calls for repentance, a change of heart, a total commitment to him and his Word.
We are now invited to the Table of Grace. It is a covenantal feast. It is an opportunity to once again renew the covenant with God through Jesus Christ who is the head of the covenant through his death and resurrection. His righteousness secured our covenant relationship with God. He made a new covenant in his blood. Amen.