“But Enough about You…”
First Baptist Church Henderson, KY
April 5 2009 (AM)
Rev. Rich Stratton
Take your Bibles and turn to Isaiah chapter 30 verses 8-18. Isaiah is located in the Old Testament and if you are using the pew Bible it is on page 479.
While you are looking for the text I want to set the stage for what we will be talking about today.
Many people today are interested only in what they want to hear. These are folks who seem to tune out anything that does not fit their agenda. Now we all do this to some degree.
My kids very often say, “I didn’t hear you,” when they begin to get into trouble for doing something we have told them multiple times not to do (or not doing something we have told them multiple times to do) . In fact we have in the past considered taking them to the doctor to investigate the source of their hearing disorder. Yet they never seem to have any trouble hearing us when we are talking about something that they want, Stacey and I can be three rooms away talking in a whisper while the kids are watching TV (at a volume that is way too loud) and if we were to mention the words “Chuck E Cheese’s” two children would come racing into the room saying “when are we going, are we going today?” Or men our wives might ask us to do something around the house, say take the clothes out of the washer when it is finished and put them into the dryer and chances are we will not hear such a request. So to a degree we all hear only what we are interested in.
But there are lots of folks today who treat God and His Word the same way. They are not really interested in His truth but only in the parts they want to hear. They seek to be encouraged; they desire to hear a message that makes them feel good about themselves, their choices, their lifestyles, and their agendas. They seek out spiritual leaders who speak of love and goodness but who will never make mention of sin, judgment, or holiness. They are people who in essence have said to God, “But enough about you, let’s talk about me.”
But this attitude is not new, there have been people who have selectively ignored God and His Word from the very beginning and this is what we find going on in our passage today. Isaiah is dealing with the people of Israel and Judah as they chose to ignore His Word by delivering to them a prophecy that still speaks to us today.
I hope everyone has found Isaiah 30 so please stand with me as we honor the reading of God’s Word.
8 Now go, write it before them on a tablet, And note it on a scroll, That it may be for time to come, Forever and ever: 9 That this is a rebellious people, Lying children, Children who will not hear the law of the LORD; 10 Who say to the seers, “Do not see,” And to the prophets, “Do not prophesy to us right things; Speak to us smooth things, prophesy deceits. 11 Get out of the way, Turn aside from the path, Cause the Holy One of Israel To cease from before us.” 12 Therefore thus says the Holy One of Israel: “ Because you despise this word, And trust in oppression and perversity, And rely on them, 13 Therefore this iniquity shall be to you Like a breach ready to fall, A bulge in a high wall, Whose breaking comes suddenly, in an instant. 14 And He shall break it like the breaking of the potter’s vessel, Which is broken in pieces; He shall not spare. So there shall not be found among its fragments A shard to take fire from the hearth, Or to take water from the cistern.”
15 For thus says the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel:
“ In returning and rest you shall be saved; In quietness and confidence shall be your strength.” But you would not, 16 And you said, “No, for we will flee on horses”— Therefore you shall flee!
And, “We will ride on swift horses”— Therefore those who pursue you shall be swift! 17 One thousand shall flee at the threat of one, At the threat of five you shall flee, Till you are left as a pole on top of a mountain And as a banner on a hill. 18 Therefore the LORD will wait, that He may be gracious to you; And therefore He will be exalted, that He may have mercy on you. For the LORD is a God of justice; Blessed are all those who wait for Him.
Before we begin to actually look at our passage this morning we need to set it into the context of the book. The prophet Isaiah wrote this book over a period of about 80 years during one of the most wicked periods in Israel’s history. The Bible tells us in the books of Kings and Chronicles that some of the most godless kings ever to rule in Israel and Judah sat on the thrones of these kingdoms during the time of Isaiah. As a matter of fact the northern kingdom of Israel had wandered so far from God that they were defeated by the Assyrians very early during Isaiah’s time. And the southern kingdom of Judah was being led by men like Ahaz and Manasseh. Men whom the Bible tells us ignored God and even began to follow other gods to the point of sacrificing their own sons. Manasseh was even responsible according to Jewish tradition for the death of Isaiah by having him sawn in half. So this was a very dark time during which God sent Isaiah to call His people back to Him.
So in Isaiah 30 we find God sending Isaiah to give a prophecy concerning those who choose to ignore Him. And in this prophecy we find five truths about God and His Word. First we find that…
I People Have Access to God’s Word.
8 Now go, write it before them on a tablet, and note it on a scroll, that it may be for time to come, forever and ever:
When I read this verse I cannot help but think; God is good. Now if we were to go ahead and read on to see what it is that God has told Isaiah to have written down for all time without thinking about this verse by itself we might miss some of God’s goodness, because the upcoming message points out some rather tough love on God’s part. So let’s think about verse 8 and why God wants what is in the coming verses written down for all time.
God wants the warning that is coming written down so that these people and all who come after them can know that God loves them and wants them to remain close to Him. You see our God, the God of Christianity, which by the way is the only true God, is unique in many ways. And one of the great and wonderful ways in which He is unique is that He never leaves us to wonder what it is that He expects of us.
Here God is telling His rebellious children who have turned to Egypt for protection against the Assyrians who have conquered and enslaved the northern kingdom of Israel that they need to be turning to Him instead of to some earthly power or earthly answer. He is telling them that they should look to Him as the one who provides for them, the one who protects them, and the one who knows what is best for them. He does not want them to ever be able to say in the future that they do not know what He expects of them.
God has shown us this great love from the very beginning of creation. In the garden of Eden God did not leave Adam and Eve to wonder about what He expected of them. He did not leave them to wonder if what they were doing was pleasing to Him. No, God told them exactly what He wanted them to do in Genesis 1:28 God gave them very specific instructions on what He wanted them to do.
“Then God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
And in Genesis 2:16-17 God also tells them exactly what He expects them not to do:
“And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, ‘Of every tree in the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”
You see, from the very beginning God loved us so much that He did not want us to have to wonder about whether or not we were pleasing Him. He wanted us to know exactly how we could remain in a loving relationship with Him. And as time progressed He continually gave us more and more insights into how we are to live in order to remain in a love relationship with Him. He made covenants with Abraham and Noah telling them how they were to depend only on Him and how to trust in Him fully. He gave Moses and the children of Israel the Ten Commandments and the Levitical laws so that they would not have to wonder how to be pleasing in His sight. He sent Christ as one who could live up to all of these expectations perfectly and then allowed Him to be sacrificed in our place and them telling us that what He expects from us is that we have faith in Christ and His sacrifice which should propel us to want to be pleasing to Him in every other action we take.
Did you know that no other religion has a God that loves His people this way? The people of every other religion live in constant uncertainty about what is pleasing to their god. They live life hoping that they are doing the right things, hoping that when death comes they have managed to do more things that are pleasing to their gods than things that were unpleasing. Only the God of Christianity loves us enough to tell us exactly what He expects from us. Lots of people live under the false impression that Christianity and all of its “dos and don’ts” indicates a tyrant God who delights in keeping people from having a pleasant life, but nothing could be further from the truth. God gives us a detailed manual for living because He loves us and wants us to have confidence that we know we are pleasing Him and have confidence concerning where we are headed when death comes.
God is good because we have access to His Word. The second truth we see in this prophecy concerning God and His Word is that…
II People have an aversion to God’s Word.
In verses 9 and 10 we begin to see what it is that God wants written down as a warning to His people so that in the future they will not have any excuse for making the same mistake.
9 That this is a rebellious people, Lying children, Children who will not hear the law of the LORD; 10 Who say to the seers, “Do not see,” And to the prophets, “Do not prophesy to us right things
God sent Isaiah with a prophecy warning His people to listen to Him because they were not doing so. In fact they were actually looking for any message that they could use to replace the message they did not want to hear from God.
God wanted the people of Judah to depend upon Him instead of upon Pharaoh, Egypt, and their armies, horses and chariots. But the people wanted to have something which they could see, something which they could in some degree control, something that would allow them to feel as if they were in charge of what was going on. They were saying to the prophets and to God “Enough about God, we want everything to be about us.”
This is the same problem that many people struggle with today. They say as the people of Judah did “do not prophesy to us right things.” Instead often times we decide to hear only what we want to hear, only what we find easy to accept, only the things that culture says are right.
Things that deal with questions we have talked about in previous weeks. We are tempted to say all religions lead to the same God because we do not want to think about what that means for the millions who do not know Jesus. We are tempted to say that the Bible is not fully reliable because it presents hard truths that make many people in our culture uncomfortable. We are tempted to try and make the Bible fit into what science says about the world because we do not want others to think us unsophisticated. We are tempted to dismiss God’s Word when it makes our life a little more difficult.
But the reality is that we cannot ignore His truth no matter how hard we may try. Jesus himself said as much in Luke 19:37-40:
37 Then, as He was now drawing near the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works they had seen, 38 saying: “‘Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the LORD!’ Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” 39 And some of the Pharisees called to Him from the crowd, “Teacher, rebuke Your disciples.” 40 But He answered and said to them, “I tell you that if these should keep silent, the stones would immediately cry out.”
The truth is according to both Isaiah and Jesus is that we cannot avoid the truth of God’s Word. No matter how much we may try to get away from its truth and convicting nature, no matter how much of an aversion to it we may have, we cannot escape or change its truth. And this sometimes leads us to attempt the third thing we see concerning God’s Word in these verses.
III People want to amend God’s Word.
Look at the second part of verse 10 and verse 11.
Speak to us smooth things, prophesy deceits. 11 Get out of the way, Turn aside from the path, Cause the Holy One of Israel To cease from before us.”
Now this is very similar to and grows out of the previous point. We have an aversion to accepting the full truth of God’s Word and so therefore we sometimes try to amend it or change it to support what it is we want it to say. We want to soften it so that we can sooth our conscience and the result of doing so is to say to God “get out of the way, cease to be before us.”
That is the intent of what the people of Judah were saying to God as they ignored His Word and that is the intent of what we say today when we ignore His Word. This is the attitude that Jesus condemns in Matthew 13:15 when he says: “For the heart of this people has grown dull, Their ears are hard of hearing, and their eyes they have closed…” and it is also what Paul encourages Timothy to preach against when he encourages him in 2 Timothy 4:3-4 by saying: “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears they will heap up for themselves teachers; they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.”
Jesus, Isaiah, and Paul are all saying do not try to put aside any part of God’s Word. They are saying do not ignore the parts of God’s Word that are difficult. Don’t ignore the parts that talk about sin and judgment and say that those parts are not as important as the parts that talk about love and encouragement. All of the word of God is important and true, especially the parts about sin because no one ever came to know they need the salvation of Jesus Christ if they did not first know they were a sinner.
Therefore nineteenth century pastor Ichabod Spencer said it best when he said that all “the directions of God’s Word are the only safe direction for inquiring sinners.” WE do no one, ourselves included, any favor when we change the Word of God.
And this brings us to the next truth we see about God and His Word is that…
IV People are accused by God’s Word
Speaking of a difficult truth but one that is necessary for everyone to hear and accept this is one. Look at what God instructs Isaiah to say concerning those who are rejecting Him and His Word.
12 Therefore thus says the Holy One of Israel: “ Because you despise this word, And trust in oppression and perversity, And rely on them, 13 Therefore this iniquity shall be to you Like a breach ready to fall, A bulge in a high wall, Whose breaking comes suddenly, in an instant. 14 And He shall break it like the breaking of the potter’s vessel, Which is broken in pieces; He shall not spare. So there shall not be found among its fragments A shard to take fire from the hearth, Or to take water from the cistern.”
The truth of God’s Word is that when we ignore or refuse to listen to Him we are accused by that same Word. When people despise, this word might better be translated “reject” God’s Word and the truth contained in it then they are rightly accused and guilty. And when someone is rightly accused and guilty they are rightly punished. Read again what God says will happen to those who resist and refuse Him: iniquity shall be to you Like a breach ready to fall, A bulge in a high wall, Whose breaking comes suddenly, in an instant. 14 And He shall break it like the breaking of the potter’s vessel, Which is broken in pieces; He shall not spare. So there shall not be found among its fragments A shard to take fire from the hearth, Or to take water from the cistern.”
Now none of this sounds pleasant. He says those who resist and reject Him will fall like a bulging wall or dam that breaks in an instant. He says that those who reject Him will pay the price of being broken into pieces. Now this has different meanings to those who are believers in Jesus Christ and those who have not accepted Him.
For believers this is a warning that sin still has temporal consequences. We have been forgiven and will not have to face eternal punishment for our sins but that does not mean that sin still does not have consequences in this life. God says that when we wander from His will we can still get into a heap of trouble, we can still find ourselves bringing the world down upon our shoulders. If we make wrong and sinful choices we still have to deal with the earthly results. If you cheat on your spouse, you still have to deal with the consequences of a broken and shattered family. If you steal from your employer you still have to deal with the punishment and brokenness that it brings. If you chose to be promiscuous you may have to deal with the consequences of disease or pregnancy.
Christian, making the choice to ignore God’s Word brings severe consequences in this world.
And for nonbelievers all of these same consequences exist but there is an even greater brokenness that is coming. God warns us that if we do not turn to Him in this life we face an eternity of misery, brokenness and destruction that is much worse than anything we could ever imagine.
But there is good news. God is not a merciless God and the final truth we see in this passage concerning God and His Word is that…
V People are accepted according to God’s Word
God is not some mean and spiteful God that takes pleasure in our misery and failure. In fact He wants us to experience a life in His loving kindness. Look at verse 15:
15 For thus says the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel:
“ In returning and rest you shall be saved; In quietness and confidence shall be your strength.”
God wants us to rest in Him. He wants us to have confidence in His strength. He wants us to live our lives knowing that we can face absolutely anything that comes our way just as He wanted that for the people of Judah. Folks, God loves us and wants nothing more than to lovingly throw open His arms and accept us as His own loving children. But He wants us to do so according to His Word and His plan. It won’t happen for us as long as we insist on being in control of our own lives just as He told the people of Judah it would not work for them.
16 And you said, “No, for we will flee on horses”— Therefore you shall flee!
And, “We will ride on swift horses”— Therefore those who pursue you shall be swift! 17 One thousand shall flee at the threat of one, At the threat of five you shall flee, Till you are left as a pole on top of a mountain And as a banner on a hill.
But look at what He says again in verse 18.
18 Therefore the LORD will wait, that He may be gracious to you; And therefore He will be exalted, that He may have mercy on you. For the LORD is a God of justice; Blessed are all those who wait for Him.
It says that the Lord will wait. He will wait for us to turn to Him because He is gracious. He is a God of love and mercy that does not want to see anyone suffer in sin. He does not want to see us endure the pain we bring on ourselves through bad choices and self-reliance. He does not want to see any perish and spend an eternity separated from Him in Hell.
Instead He wants to have mercy on us like a loving Father. But because He is a God of justice we must do so on His terms. We must do so having been cleansed of our sins by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, a sacrifice that He himself provided out of His great love. Therefore, let’s allow Him to be exalted, glorified, in us and our lives as we receive His blessings and trust His Word.
God wants to bless each of us and is waiting to be gracious to all those who will wait on and trust in Him.
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