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Sermon #2 Isaiah Series
Title: God’s Prophet,
God’s Providence, God’s People
Text: Isaiah 1:1
Subject: The Times, Circumstances, and Message
Of Isaiah’s Prophecy
Date: Sunday Evening — May 1, 2016
Readings: Rex Bartley and Merle Hart
The title of my message is — God’s Prophet, God’s Providence, God’s People. Our text will be Isaiah 1:1 — God’s Prophet, God’s Providence, God’s People (Isaiah 1:1). As we study Isaiah’ prophecy, we should try to realize both the circumstances in which it was written and the message it contains for us. These things are all indicated in the opening verse of the first chapter.
“The vision of Isaiah, the son of Amoz, which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah.”
Isaiah lived in days of great affluence and prosperity. — Uzziah, the King of Judah, had led his people in the achievement of both economic and political stability. Under his rule, Judah had almost risen to the power, prestige, and glory of Israel in the days of David and Solomon. But, as is almost always the case, as the nation increased in riches it became more and more degenerate. Vice increased as wealth increased. Isaiah lived to see the worship of God degenerate to lifeless, meaningless ritualism. And he saw the nation and people he loved forsake the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
In the midst of moral and spiritual decay, God raised up this man, Isaiah, to proclaim the coming of a better day, to proclaim the coming of Christ the Messiah, the establishment of the kingdom of heaven by preaching of the gospel, and coming of eternal glory by the grace of God.
Isaiah has been called “The Fifth Evangelist,” because, more than any other prophet of the Old Testament, he spoke of the person, work, offices, and gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. And he does not merely hint at these things, he spoke of them with clarity and understanding hundreds of years before Christ came into the world. He spoke as though he had been an eyewitness of Christ’s accomplishments as our Redeemer. — And, in a sense, that is precisely what he was — An Eyewitness.
This prophecy is called, “The Vision of Isaiah.” — It is that which he received by divine revelation and wrote by infallible inspiration. He was personally acquainted with and had sure knowledge of all that he wrote and spoke as God’s prophet. — Those men who speak for God speak from personal, first-hand experience (John 6:69; 1 John 1:1).
(John 6:69) “And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God.”
(1 John 1:1) “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life.”
And Isaiah knew that what God had revealed to him he must proclaim to man (Acts 4:20; 2 Corinthians 4:13).
(Acts 4:20) “For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.”
(2 Corinthians 4:13) “We having the same spirit of faith, according as it is written, I believed, and therefore have I spoken; we also believe, and therefore speak.”
The prophet of God knew that unless he taught the people the truth of God, they had no hope of deliverance. The nation and people he loved could not be saved unless he gave them the Word of God (Romans 10:17).
In every generation and society God raises up a man who, more than any other, is God’s ambassador and spokesman to his people. For more than fifty years, through the reigns of four kings, in Jerusalem, Isaiah was that man.
Proposition: In a day of idolatry, ignorance, and iniquity, the Prophet Isaiah faithfully preached the Word of God and called for men and women to come to God in repentance, trusting the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who would soon appear to accomplish redemption for his people.
Obviously, Isaiah’s prophecy was and is very important. We should never read it casually, or with indifference.
Divisions: If we are to understand the message of this Book, there are three things with which we must acquaint ourselves.
1. The Prophet of God
2. The Providence of God
3. The People of God
THE PROPHET OF GOD
First, I want us to look at this man Isaiah, the prophet of God. — In the Word of God there is always a great lack of information concerning God’s prophets. By comparison, we are told a lot about other people, men like Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, and David. But the lives of God’s prophets and apostles, the details of their lives, are hidden from our eyes. And Isaiah is no exception. It is as though God hid the man, so that we might hear his message. He kept his service in seclusion, so that God’s message, not God’s messenger, might be remembered. Surely, there is a lesson in that — We are to focus our attention on God’s message, not on the man who delivers it. But there are a few things we do know about this man Isaiah.
Isaiah was a man of special election. — We know that God’s election is free, sovereign, and unconditional. He chooses none because of their virtue, or because of their vice (Romans 9:11-13). But usually, not many wise, not many mighty, not many noble are called (1 Corinthians 1:26-29). Isaiah was an exception.
Isaiah was a man of royal blood. — His father Amoz, was a brother to King Amaziah, who was the father of King Uzziah. — Isaiah was Uzziah’s first cousin. And he appears to have enjoyed exceptional access to the king’s court.
Isaiah was also a man of exceptional talent and ability. — We do not know whether or not he was well educated. But he was a man of great, unsurpassed literary skill, reason, and ability. He was not a showman. But he was a giant among men. Isaiah was not a herdsman, a fisherman, or a farmer. He was a man from the city. He spent his whole life in the city. He was a man of culture, a refined aristocrat.
And he was the son of a prophet. — His father’s name was Amoz, not Amos who wrote the Book of Amos. Isaiah’s father, Amoz, was apparently a prophet in the king’s court during the reign of his brother Amaziah (2 Chronicles 25:5-8).
Very seldom does God call the noble, the mighty, and the learned. Seldom does God raise up prophets from the sons of prophets. — Isaiah was all of these. Yet, God chose Isaiah as the object of his love and set him apart as the servant of the Lord.
Above all else, Isaiah was a prophet. — He was a man sent from God with a message for God’s chosen people. God separated Isaiah for the work of a prophet; and Isaiah separated himself to the work God had trusted to him. Though he was a man of learning and refinement, Isaiah had no regard for the opinions, customs, and traditions of men. Like Elijah before him and John the Baptist after him, he commonly wore a garment of camel’s hair, and constantly called for the people to repent.
This man, Isaiah, was married and had a family. But he was married to the Word of God, the people of God, and the cause of God first. We are never told who his wife was. And he even used the names of his two sons to convey God’s message.
Š His firstborn son, he called, “Shear-jashub,” which means “the remnant shall return.”
Š His second son he called, “Maher-shalal-hash-baz,” which means “making speed to the spoil.”
Š In both, he described the salvation of God’s elect remnant by the mighty hand of Christ.
And by the providence of God, Isaiah’s name itself describes his work and ministry. “Isaiah” means, “the Lord shall save” or “Salvation is of the Lord!” And that is the message proclaimed throughout this book. The whole book of Isaiah is a prophecy about the Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord who shall save. Isaiah’s message is twofold (Isaiah 40:6-11).
Š “All flesh is grass!”
Š “Behold your God!”
By the commandment of God, on one occasion, Isaiah went naked and barefoot for three years (20:1-6), like a slave, both as a symbol of God’s judgment upon Egypt and Ethiopia and as a marvellous picture of our Savior.
(Isaiah 20:1-6) “In the year that Tartan came unto Ashdod, (when Sargon the king of Assyria sent him,) and fought against Ashdod, and took it; (2) At the same time spake the LORD by Isaiah the son of Amoz, saying, Go and loose the sackcloth from off thy loins, and put off thy shoe from thy foot. And he did so, walking naked and barefoot. (3) And the LORD said, Like as my servant Isaiah hath walked naked and barefoot three years for a sign and wonder upon Egypt and upon Ethiopia; (4) So shall the king of Assyria lead away the Egyptians prisoners, and the Ethiopians captives, young and old, naked and barefoot, even with their buttocks uncovered, to the shame of Egypt. (5) And they shall be afraid and ashamed of Ethiopia their expectation, and of Egypt their glory. (6) And the inhabitant of this isle shall say in that day, Behold, such is our expectation, whither we flee for help to be delivered from the king of Assyria: and how shall we escape?”
What shame and humiliation Isaiah must have endured during those three years! No doubt, he was every drunkard’s song, mocked, and laughed to scorn by everybody. — Imagine a naked man walking through the streets preaching! — Who wouldn’t laugh?
Think again! — What a remarkable picture Isaiah became of our blessed Redeemer! He, though Lord of life and glory, went about the streets of Jerusalem, in the garb of a poor Jew, despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. He who is righteousness, holiness, and perfection was put to utter shame for us!
(Lamentations 1:12) “Is it nothing to you, all ye that pass by? Behold, and see if there be any sorrow like unto my sorrow, which is done unto me, wherewith the LORD hath afflicted me in the day of his fierce anger.”
O Blessed Savior, with what unabating love to our souls you endured such a contradiction of sinners against yourself! — When reviled, you reviled not again, but committed yourself to him who judges rightly! — O Lamb of God, keep the eyes of your redeemed steadfastly fixed on you!
Isaiah was a preacher of salvation by the sovereign grace of God, through the merits of Christ’s effectual atonement. He set forth in clear, unmistakable language…
Š The Total Depravity of Man (1:4-6).
Š The Unconditional Election of Grace (1:9).
Š The Incarnation and Virgin Birth of Christ (7:14; 9:6-7).
Š The Glorious Sovereignty of God (40:12-27; 45:5-25; 46:9-13).
Š The Particular, Effectual Atonement of Christ (53:1-12).
Š The Steadfastness of God’s Covenant of Grace (54:8-10).
Š The Freeness, Fullness, and Firmness of God’s Saving Grace and Pardoning Mercy (55:1-11).
Š The Irresistible Grace of God in Salvation (62:10-12).
Š The Glory of God in Providence (63:12-14).9.
Š The Certain Accomplishment of God’s Everlasting Purpose (66:1-24).
And this prophet of God was faithful unto death. — Isaiah’s ministry extended to the beginning of Manasseh’s wicked reign. Manasseh hated God and hated God’s prophet. The Jewish Talmud tells us that this godless wretch had Isaiah sawn in pieces with a wooden saw. He is probably one of those heroes of faith mentioned in Hebrews 11:37 who were “sawn asunder,” because of his faithfulness to his Lord.
THE PROVIDENCE OF GOD
I have shown you the prophet of God, Isaiah. Now, second, I want you to think about the providence of God. Our text tells us that Isaiah’s ministry spanned the reigns of four kings in Judah. He was God’s faithful spokesman in the land of Judah for more than fifty years, perhaps much more. Gill calculates that he preached for one hundred and twelve or thirteen years! That takes in a large piece of history, for one man. And in all those years God was sovereignly accomplishing his own divine purpose in providence. These four kings were but instruments in the hands of God, by which he sovereignly accomplished his purpose of grace toward his elect (Proverbs 21:1; Romans 8:28).
Each of these four kings, by the providence of God, were used to accomplish eternal good for God’s elect. And each of them provide important lessons for us.
Uzziah reigned for fifty-two years in Judah. — He was a good king, a powerful leader, and the kingdom prospered under his reign. Everything he did prospered, until his heart was lifted up with pride. Uzziah died under the curse of God, because he attempted to approach God without a mediator (2 Chronicles 26:16-21).
(2 Chronicles 26:16-21) “But when he was strong, his heart was lifted up to his destruction: for he transgressed against the LORD his God, and went into the temple of the LORD to burn incense upon the altar of incense. (17) And Azariah the priest went in after him, and with him fourscore priests of the LORD, that were valiant men: (18) And they withstood Uzziah the king, and said unto him, It appertaineth not unto thee, Uzziah, to burn incense unto the LORD, but to the priests the sons of Aaron, that are consecrated to burn incense: go out of the sanctuary; for thou hast trespassed; neither shall it be for thine honour from the LORD God. (19) Then Uzziah was wroth, and had a censer in his hand to burn incense: and while he was wroth with the priests, the leprosy even rose up in his forehead before the priests in the house of the LORD, from beside the incense altar. (20) And Azariah the chief priest, and all the priests, looked upon him, and, behold, he was leprous in his forehead, and they thrust him out from thence; yea, himself hasted also to go out, because the LORD had smitten him. (21) And Uzziah the king was a leper unto the day of his death, and dwelt in a several house, being a leper; for he was cut off from the house of the LORD: and Jotham his son was over the king’s house, judging the people of the land.”
We cannot approach God on our own — We must have the Mediator — Christ Jesus!
In the year that King Uzziah died, Isaiah saw Christ, his Lord and King sitting upon the throne, high and lifted up, having accomplished eternal redemption for us (Isaiah 6:1-8).
(Isaiah 6:1-13) “In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple. (2) Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly. (3) And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory. (4) And the posts of the door moved at the voice of him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke. (5) Then said I, Woe is me! For I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts. (6) Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar: (7) And he laid it upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged.”
(8) “Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me. (9) And he said, Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not. (10) Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed.”
(11) “Then said I, Lord, how long? And he answered, Until the cities be wasted without inhabitant, and the houses without man, and the land be utterly desolate, (12) And the LORD have removed men far away, and there be a great forsaking in the midst of the land. (13) But yet in it shall be a tenth, and it shall return, and shall be eaten: as a teil tree, and as an oak, whose substance is in them, when they cast their leaves: so the holy seed shall be the substance thereof.”
Jotham reigned for sixteen years in Jerusalem. — Jotham was a devout man, a true believer, one who worshipped God, and prepared his ways before the Lord. Though Uzziah did not know the Lord, he was used of God to build his kingdom, and used of God to lead his son in the way of faith (Psalm 76:10). — Only eternity will tell how God has overruled and used the evil deeds of men to accomplish his purpose of grace for his people.
Ahaz was king in Jerusalem for sixteen years. — He was a godless man, an idolater. He was a pragmatist of the worst sort. Ahaz sought help from a pagan king to protect the kingdom of God. And in doing so, he brought Judah into captivity. This weakling, wretch burned his own children upon the altar to Moloch! Ahaz brought Judah shame, reproach, and bondage. Ahaz turned the hearts of the people away from the worship of the Lord (2 Chronicles 28). — Yet, Ahaz, with all his wickedness, idolatry, and unbelief did not hinder the accomplishment of God’s purpose.
And Hezekiah reigned in Judah for twenty-nine years. — Hezekiah was a godly man. He restored the worship of the Lord, reformed the priesthood, cleansed the temple, and led Judah in the ways of the God. When Sennacherib thought he would destroy Judah, Hezekiah prayed and God sent his angel to slay 185,000 Assyrian soldiers (2 Kings 19:32-35).
Š Hezekiah shows us that the effectual, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.
Then the Lord sent Hezekiah a message, telling him to set his house in order, he must die. But Hezekiah prayed again, and the Lord added fifteen years to his life (Isaiah 38:1-6). There are some things to be learned from this prayer too.
Š If we are wise, when we pray, we will seek not our own will but God’s will. — The Lord gave Hezekiah his way. He let him live another fifteen years. But they were a sad, painful fifteen years.
Š His heart was lifted up with pride, and he showed the Babylonians all his treasures.
Š He prepared the way for the Babylonian captivity.
Š And he fathered Manasseh, the most vile, cruel, wicked king the world had ever seen.
Yet, again, in all this we see the ever ruling hand of God in predestination and providence. — This too was used to accomplish God’s purpose of grace toward his elect. After Manasseh came Josiah, from whom came the Christ, the Son of David, our Redeemer (Romans 11:33-36). Truly, our God does all things well.
(Romans 11:33-36) “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! (34) For who hath known the mind of the Lord? Or who hath been his counsellor? (35) Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again? (36) For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory forever. Amen.”
THE PEOPLE OF GOD
Third, turn your attention to the people of God — “Judah and Jerusalem.” Isaiah’s prophecy and God’s providence concerns “Judah and Jerusalem.” Without question, the Book of Isaiah has direct reference to the southern kingdom of Judah and the city of Jerusalem, the center of true worship in the Old Testament. But the wider, full, spiritual scope of the prophecy is not about a literal kingdom and a literal city. Judah and Jerusalem in Isaiah’s day were the church and temple of God. And all that Isaiah says of that kingdom and that city finds its ultimate, spiritual fulfillment in the church, the kingdom of Christ, the Israel of God, the Temple of God.
If you would understand Isaiah, or any of the Old Testament prophets, this is essential: — You must understand that God’s true Israel is the church, the spiritual kingdom of Christ. Even a casual reader of the New Testament would recognize this, were his mind not perverted by the doctrines of men (Galatians 6:14; Philippians 3:3). — We are “The Israel of God.”
Š The Children of Abraham.
Š The Heirs of the Covenant.
Š The True Circumcision.
Everything God ever has done, is doing, or shall hereafter do, he does for the salvation of his elect, the Israel of God (Romans 11:26).
(Romans 11:25-27) “For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. (26) And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: (27) For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins.”
Š The Prophet of God is a man with God’s Message.
Š The Providence of God is the Sovereign Rule of our God.
Š The People of God are God’s Elect, Redeemed, Holy Nation.
(Philippians 3:3) “For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.”
In the Israel of God, among the people of God, in all true religion man is not the center, but Christ. True religion is not ceremonial, but spiritual. True religion is not a matter of creed, but of conviction. True religion is not outward, but inward.
“For we are the circumcision,” God’s true, covenant people, the Israel of God, Abraham’s true children, which “worship God in the Spirit.” — We worship God as he is revealed in the Scriptures, by the power of his Holy Spirit, in our spirits, and in a spiritual manner. True worship is spiritual worship, not carnal, ceremonial ritualism (John 4:23-24).
“And rejoice in Christ Jesus.” We trust the Lord Jesus Christ alone, placing all our confidence in him as our Savior. We are complete in him (1 Corinthians 1:30-31; Colossians 2:9-10).
“And have no confidence in the flesh.” — We place absolutely no confidence in our flesh, the experiences, emotions, or (imaginary) excellencies of our flesh. The privileges of the flesh, the feelings of the flesh, and the works of the flesh are no basis of confidence before God.