Listen to sermons at FreeGraceRadio.com
Sermon #8 Isaiah Series
Title: Two Things God will Do
Text: Isaiah 1:21-31
Subject: Justice and Mercy
Date: Sunday Evening — July 17, 2016
Readings: Bobbie Estes and Mark Daniel
Here are Two Things God Will Do: — God will execute wrath upon his enemies, and he will exercise mercy toward his elect. God will be just and he will be gracious. Judgment is God’s strange work (Isaiah 28:21); but it is his work. God must and will punish sin. But, he will be gracious. He delights in mercy (Micah 7:18-20).
(Micah 7:18-20) “Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity, and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage? he retaineth not his anger forever, because he delighteth in mercy. (19) He will turn again, he will have compassion upon us; he will subdue our iniquities; and thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea. (20) Thou wilt perform the truth to Jacob, and the mercy to Abraham, which thou hast sworn unto our fathers from the days of old.”
I have heard many say, “God may be merciful, but he has to be just.” That is not true. God must be just, because justice is the attribute of his being. If he were not just, he would not be God. Justice is essential to divinity. But God must be merciful, too. Mercy is as much the attribute of his being as justice. If he were not merciful, he would not be God. Mercy is essential to divinity. Justice and mercy are both essential to God’s being. Indeed, as he showed Moses, justice and mercy are his glory as God. (Exodus 34:5-7). And he will exercise both.
(Exodus 34:5-7) “And the LORD descended in the cloud, and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the LORD. (6) And the LORD passed by before him, and proclaimed, The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, (7) Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, unto the third and to the fourth generation.”
Open your Bible to Isaiah chapter 1. I want to talk to you about these Two Things God will Do as they are set before us in Isaiah 1:21-31. — Two Things God will Do — (Isaiah 1:21-31).
Proposition: God will execute judgment upon the wicked and exercise mercy toward his elect. —— That is the message of our text (Isaiah 1:21-31).
(Isaiah 1:21-31) “How is the faithful city become an harlot! It was full of judgment; righteousness lodged in it; but now murderers. (22) Thy silver is become dross, thy wine mixed with water: (23) Thy princes are rebellious, and companions of thieves: every one loveth gifts, and followeth after rewards: they judge not the fatherless, neither doth the cause of the widow come unto them. (24) Therefore saith the Lord, the LORD of hosts, the mighty One of Israel, Ah, I will ease me of mine adversaries, and avenge me of mine enemies: (25) And I will turn my hand upon thee, and purely purge away thy dross, and take away all thy tin: (26) And I will restore thy judges as at the first, and thy counsellors as at the beginning: afterward thou shalt be called, The city of righteousness, the faithful city. (27) Zion shall be redeemed with judgment, and her converts with righteousness. (28) And the destruction of the transgressors and of the sinners shall be together, and they that forsake the LORD shall be consumed. (29) For they shall be ashamed of the oaks which ye have desired, and ye shall be confounded for the gardens that ye have chosen. (30) For ye shall be as an oak whose leaf fadeth, and as a garden that hath no water. (31) And the strong shall be as tow, and the maker of it as a spark, and they shall both burn together, and none shall quench them.”
Divisions: In our text we see both the justice of God in punishing sin and the mercy of God in forgiving sin. The Lord God has promised mercy to every sinner who comes to him seeking mercy (v. 18). God will bestow mercy upon sinners for Christ’s sake. And he has threatened wrath upon stubborn, rebellious, self-righteous men and women who refuse to acknowledge their guilt and seek his mercy in Christ. In our text we see how and why God executes wrath upon his enemies and exercises mercy toward his elect. Here the prophet of God declares…
1. The Wrath of God Against Apostate Religion (vv. 21-24).
2. The Faithfulness of God Toward His Elect Remnant (v. 25).
3. The Method of God’s Gracious Operations (vv. 26-30).
4. The Basis of God’s Everlasting Wrath (v. 31).
The Wrath of God
First, Isaiah shows us the wrath of God against apostate religion (vv. 21-24).
(Isaiah 1:21-24) “How is the faithful city become an harlot! It was full of judgment; righteousness lodged in it; but now murderers. (22) Thy silver is become dross, thy wine mixed with water: (23) Thy princes are rebellious, and companions of thieves: every one loveth gifts, and followeth after rewards: they judge not the fatherless, neither doth the cause of the widow come unto them. (24) Therefore saith the Lord, the LORD of hosts, the mighty One of Israel, Ah, I will ease me of mine adversaries, and avenge me of mine enemies.”
There is no question about the historic significance of these verses. In Isaiah’s day, Jerusalem, which had been faithful in the worship of God since the days of David, had fallen into spiritual adultery. They retained the ceremonies, sacrifices, and laws of outward worship prescribed by God. But they mingled the worship of God with the worship of idols. They departed from the worship of God, though they pretended to honor his name. The faithful city had become a spiritual harlot.
Prophetically, this passage of Holy Scripture refers to the age in which we live. When our Lord Jesus Christ walked upon this earth, Judaism was spiritually bankrupt. The Scribes, Pharisees, and Sadducees had so corrupted the Word of God and the ordinances of divine worship that our Lord called that generation a wicked and adulterous generation (Matthew 12:39; 15:9).
The Scribes were the intellectuals, the Pharisees were the fundamentalists, and the Sadducees were the liberals of the church in those days. They had their differences. Like the professed church today, the intellectuals, the fundamentalists, and the liberals fought like cats and dogs. But they all believed the same thing essentially. They all believed in salvation by man. They had all departed from the faith. They were all apostate teachers of free-will, works religion. They were all will-worship idolaters. When our Lord came preaching divine sovereignty, substitutionary atonement, and free grace salvation, when our Savior came preaching God holy and sovereign, man corrupt and helpless, and salvation free, they all joined together to reject him, crucify him, and rid the world of his disciples.
Because the Jews despised God’s truth, despised his Son, and despised his grace, God destroyed the Jewish nation, forsook the Jews in their religious darkness and superstition, and sought out a people for his honor from among the Gentiles (Matthew 23:37-38; Romans 11:20-23).
There are three things to be learned from the history of apostate Israel.
1. God’s judgment fell upon Israel because of their willful, deliberate unbelief. — “Because of unbelief they were broken off” (Romans 11:20).
2. Israel’s unbelief did not frustrate the purpose of God (Romans 3:3; 11:25-27).
3. Any who forsake the Word and worship of God will be, like Israel, forsaken and destroyed by God (2 Peter 2:20-22).
(2 Peter 2:20-22) “For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. (21) For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them. (22) But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire.”
No true believer can forsake God, and none shall be forsaken of God (Jeremiah 32:38-40). But many who walk in the path of truth for a while do depart from it. And those who depart from the Word and worship of the living God shall be marked by God for everlasting destruction.
Isaiah shows us four characteristics of apostate religion (vv. 21-24). These four things always characterize apostate religious systems. In every age and in every place false religion is the same. Babylon never changes. It wears many names. It comes in many forms. But it always has these four characteristics.
1. Apostate religion has its origin in true religion (v. 21).
(Isaiah 1:21) “How is the faithful city become an harlot! it was full of judgment; righteousness lodged in it; but now murderers.”
Cain learned how to worship God just like his brother, Abel, from their father Adam. The difference between the two is that Cain rebelled against the gospel and Abel bowed to it. Cain perverted the gospel and Abel preserved it. Cain became an apostate. Abel died in faith.
All the various forms of free-will, works religion which parade through the earth in the name of Christ are varying degrees of apostasy from the gospel of Christ (2 Thessalonians 2:1-12).
Š Southern Baptist Convention
Jerusalem was once a faithful city. But she became a harlot! She once produced just and righteous men. But when she forsook God, she brought forth murderers! — When God forsakes anyone, it is because they forsook God.
(2 Thessalonians 2:1-17) “Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, (2) That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand. (3) Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; (4) Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God. (5) Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things? (6) And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time. (7) For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way. (8) And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming: (9) Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, (10) And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. (11) And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: (12) That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness. (13) But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth: (14) Whereunto he called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. (15) Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle. (16) Now our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God, even our Father, which hath loved us, and hath given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace, (17) Comfort your hearts, and stablish you in every good word and work.”
2. Apostate religion always retains a measure of truth. — It is always a deadly mixture of truth and error (v. 22).
(Isaiah 1:22) “Thy silver is become dross, thy wine mixed with water.”
“The Word of God which is as silver purified seven times was now corrupted with false glosses and human traditions, which were as dross” (John Gill)
Š The wine of gospel doctrine is mixed with the water of free will.
Š Dross shines like silver. But it is worthless.
Š And wine mixed with water still looks like wine. But it is useless.
No false prophet comes, saying, “I hate the grace of God, the blood of Christ, and the work of the Spirit.” But they mix grace of God with the works of men, the blood of Christ with the merit of men, and the work of the Spirit with the will of man. And the result of this mixture is a damning false doctrine (Galatians 1:6-9; 5:1-4).
(Galatians 1:6-9) “I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: (7) Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. (8) But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. (9) As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.”
(Galatians 5:1-4) “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage. (2) Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing. (3) For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law. (4) Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.”
3. The preachers and religious leaders of apostate religion are selfish, self-serving thieves (v. 23).
(Isaiah 1:23) “Thy princes are rebellious, and companions of thieves: every one loveth gifts, and followeth after rewards: they judge not the fatherless, neither doth the cause of the widow come unto them.”
They talk about the glory of God, the will of God, and the souls of men. But they are motivated by greed, ruled by ambition, and driven by the rewards of money, power, position, recognition, and success (Jeremiah 5:30-31; 6:10, 13, 14).
(Jeremiah 5:30-31) “A wonderful and horrible thing is committed in the land; (31) The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests bear rule by their means; and my people love to have it so: and what will ye do in the end thereof?”
(Jeremiah 6:10-14) “To whom shall I speak, and give warning, that they may hear? Behold, their ear is uncircumcised, and they cannot hearken: behold, the word of the LORD is unto them a reproach; they have no delight in it. (11) Therefore I am full of the fury of the LORD; I am weary with holding in: I will pour it out upon the children abroad, and upon the assembly of young men together: for even the husband with the wife shall be taken, the aged with him that is full of days. (12) And their houses shall be turned unto others, with their fields and wives together: for I will stretch out my hand upon the inhabitants of the land, saith the LORD. (13) For from the least of them even unto the greatest of them every one is given to covetousness; and from the prophet even unto the priest every one dealeth falsely. (14) They have healed also the hurt of the daughter of my people slightly, saying, Peace, peace; when there is no peace.”
4. Apostate religion is always the object of God’s most fierce anger and wrath (v. 24).
(Isaiah 1:24) “Therefore saith the Lord, the LORD of hosts, the mighty One of Israel, Ah, I will ease me of mine adversaries, and avenge me of mine enemies.”
Judgment is God’s strange work. Throughout the Scriptures, we see God as one who is slow to anger and has no pleasure in the death of the wicked. But here he speaks of comforting himself, easing himself by the destruction of those who have perverted the truth. —— Free-will, works religion is and adversary and an enemy to God.
Š It robs him of the glory of his grace.
Š It makes a mockery of Christ and his atonement, trampling underfoot the precious blood of Christ, making it a common (unholy) thing.
Š It despises the Spirit of grace.
Š It destroys the souls of men.
And God is the adversary and enemy of free-will works religion.
Š He will, at his own appointed time, rid the world of all antichrist religion.
Š But, in wrath, God will remember mercy! — He will not allow his elect remnant to be destroyed by the religion of antichrist (2 Thessalonians 2:13-14).
Second, Isaiah declares the faithfulness of God toward his elect remnant (v. 25). God will intervene to save his elect. There is a remnant, sealed and preserved by God, whom he will save. Look at what God promises to do for his elect.
(Isaiah 1:25) “And I will turn my hand upon thee, and purely purge away thy dross, and take away all thy tin.”
“I will turn my hand upon thee.” — He promised wrath to his enemies. But he turns his hand of grace, almighty, effectual, irresistible grace upon his elect, to save them (Zechariah 13:7). When God sets out to save a sinner, he turns his hand upon that chosen one to retrieve him from the fall. — And God’s hand never fails to accomplish his purpose. — As surely as he sacrificed his Son for us, when he was made sin for us, he will turn his omnipotent hand in efficacious, irresistible, saving mercy to save his redeemed ones!
(Zechariah 13:7) “Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, and against the man that is my fellow, saith the LORD of hosts: smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered: and I will turn mine hand upon the little ones.”
“I will purely purge away thy dross.” — This he does by the precious blood of Christ. By sacrificing his Son in our place, he has purged away all the dross of sin from his people.
Š Christ put our sins away when he died (Hebrews 9:26).
Š The blood of Christ purges the conscience of guilt in conversion (Hebrews 9:14).
Š And our God will purge all sin from us in the resurrection.
“I will take away all thy tin.” — That is to say, “I will take away all your self-righteousness.”
Š The tin of self-righteousness looks like silver
Š It has the appearance of some good in it.
Š All men, by nature, pursue it, trust it, and defend it.
In conversion, God graciously strips his elect of self-righteousness and destroys our refuge of lies, that he may clothe us in the righteousness of Christ.
(Philippians 3:3-10) “For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh. (4) Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more: (5) Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; (6) Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. (7) But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. (8) Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, (9) And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: (10) That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death.”
God says, “I will,” not “I want to,” or “I will try,” or “I will if you will let me.” He says, “I will!” And blessed be his name, He will! I love God’s “shalls” and “wills.” When God turns his hand to save, he accomplishes his purpose. And he tells how he does it.
Third, we see the method of God’s gracious operations (vv. 26-30). We would not, must not, and cannot limit God. He is infinite, sovereign, and glorious. He always does what he will, when he will, with whom he will, in the way he will. But here the Lord graciously tells us how he will save his elect. God is talking about his work of restoration and revival. When God turns to revive his church it is for the salvation of his elect and the glory of his name. Here he promises three things. This the method of God’s gracious operations.
1. When God turns to revive his church and save his elect he restores faithful pastors and preachers to his church (v. 26).
(Isaiah 1:26) “And I will restore thy judges as at the first, and thy counsellors as at the beginning: afterward thou shalt be called, The city of righteousness, the faithful city.”
When God delivered Israel from Egypt, he raised up Moses. When he delivered his elect from the bondage of apostate Judaism, he raised up Peter, James, John, and the rest of the apostles. When he stretched forth his hand to the Gentiles, he raised up Paul. When he would deliver his elect from the superstition and darkness of papacy, he raised up Luther, Calvin, and Knox. When he would deliver his church from dead, dry, ceremonial Protestantism, he raised up Gill, Toplady, Whitfield, and Edwards.
This is what I am saying — The first token of God’s gracious work in his church in any age is the restoration of faithful preachers to her pulpits (Jeremiah 3:15).
(Jeremiah 3:15) “And I will give you pastors according to mine heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding.”
When God sends John the Baptist to town, you can mark it down, King Jesus will soon make a visit!
Š God’s preachers are judges in Zion, who discern and declare the truth, without consideration of cost or consequence.
Š God’s servants are counselors, who direct sinners to the way of life.
Š Whenever God restores faithfulness to the pulpit, he will restore righteousness and faithfulness in his church. — Churches are the reflection of pastors!
2. God will redeem his elect (vv. 27-28).
(Isaiah 1:27-28) “Zion shall be redeemed with judgment, and her converts with righteousness. (28) And the destruction of the transgressors and of the sinners shall be together, and they that forsake the LORD shall be consumed.”
Redemption is a big word. It means “to purchase,” “to deliver,” “to free.” And God will fully redeem Zion, his church. — “Zion” is the church of God — “Her converts” are those who were born into her by God’s almighty grace, being returned to her from the four corners of the earth.
Š God has redeemed his elect by righteousness and judgment through the obedience of Christ our Substitute (Romans 3:24-26; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Galatians 3:13-14).
Š God redeems his elect from the bondage of sin and the power of Satan by his irresistible grace in regeneration.
Š And our redemption will be complete in the last day, when the ungodly and those who have forsaken the Lord are consumed in his wrath (Psalm 104:34-35; 2 Thessalonians 2:8; Revelation 18:4-8; 19:1-6).
Our redemption will not be complete until sin, Satan, antichrist, false religion, and every enemy to God’s glorious throne is destroyed. And, blessed be his name, the God of Peace shall bruise Satan under our heels shortly!
(Revelation 18:4-8) “And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues. (5) For her sins have reached unto heaven, and God hath remembered her iniquities. (6) Reward her even as she rewarded you, and double unto her double according to her works: in the cup which she hath filled fill to her double. (7) How much she hath glorified herself, and lived deliciously, so much torment and sorrow give her: for she saith in her heart, I sit a queen, and am no widow, and shall see no sorrow. (8) Therefore shall her plagues come in one day, death, and mourning, and famine; and she shall be utterly burned with fire: for strong is the Lord God who judgeth her.”
(Revelation 19:1-6) “And after these things I heard a great voice of much people in heaven, saying, Alleluia; Salvation, and glory, and honour, and power, unto the Lord our God: (2) For true and righteous are his judgments: for he hath judged the great whore, which did corrupt the earth with her fornication, and hath avenged the blood of his servants at her hand. (3) And again they said, Alleluia. And her smoke rose up for ever and ever. (4) And the four and twenty elders and the four beasts fell down and worshipped God that sat on the throne, saying, Amen; Alleluia. (5) And a voice came out of the throne, saying, Praise our God, all ye his servants, and ye that fear him, both small and great. (6) And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.”
3. When God turns his hand in mercy, his elect shall be converted by his almighty grace (vv. 29-30).
(Isaiah 1:29-30) “For they shall be ashamed of the oaks which ye have desired, and ye shall be confounded for the gardens that ye have chosen. (30) For ye shall be as an oak whose leaf fadeth, and as a garden that hath no water.”
Conversion is God’s work. He causes his people to turn from their idols to serve the living God (1 Thessalonians 1:9). Conversion is a painful, but necessary turning of the heart from idolatry to the living God, from self to Christ, and from self-righteousness to the righteousness of God in Christ. — When God reveals himself to a sinner in Christ, in saving grace, this is what he does…
Š He will cause you to be ashamed of your idolatrous religion. — “The oaks which ye have desired” (Jeremiah 2:20; 3:6).
Š He will cause you to see the foolishness of your free-will, works of religion, and meaningless ceremonies. — “The gardens ye have chosen” (Isaiah 66:16-18).
Š He will cause your righteousness to fade away and all the comfort of your self-righteous works to disappear.
Š And when you have nothing to offer God, you will turn to him for mercy and grace in Christ. — You will turn to him, because he said, “I will turn my hand upon thee.”
In the last place, the prophet shows us the basis of God’s everlasting wrath (v. 31). If God sends you to hell, he will cast you into the pit of everlasting destruction because you fully deserve it. You will not go to hell for anything else.
Š Not Because of God’s Decree!
Š Not Because of Adam’s Transgression!
Š Not Because of Your Raising!
Š Not Because of Your Environment!
Š Only Because of Yourself!
(Isaiah 1:31) “And the strong shall be as tow, and the maker of it as a spark, and they shall both burn together, and none shall quench them.”
God will make those who are strong in their own eyes to be like a wick dipped in fuel, and their works of self-righteousness shall be the spark to ignite the flames of hell. — If you go to hell, it will not be because you are too wicked to be saved. It will be because…
Š You will not confess your sin (1 John 1:9).
Š You will not give up your own righteousness (Romans 9:31-10:4).
Š You are too good to be saved by grace, saved by a Substitute, saved for the glory of God.
Illustration: Strait Gate — Narrow Way
Š You despise the gospel of God’s free grace in Christ (Proverbs 1:23-33).
(Proverbs 1:23-33) “Turn you at my reproof: behold, I will pour out my spirit unto you, I will make known my words unto you. (24) Because I have called, and ye refused; I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded; (25) But ye have set at nought all my counsel, and would none of my reproof: (26) I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your fear cometh; (27) When your fear cometh as desolation, and your destruction cometh as a whirlwind; when distress and anguish cometh upon you. (28) Then shall they call upon me, but I will not answer; they shall seek me early, but they shall not find me: (29) For that they hated knowledge, and did not choose the fear of the LORD: (30) They would none of my counsel: they despised all my reproof. (31) Therefore shall they eat of the fruit of their own way, and be filled with their own devices. (32) For the turning away of the simple shall slay them, and the prosperity of fools shall destroy them. (33) But whoso hearkeneth unto me shall dwell safely, and shall be quiet from fear of evil.”
Illustration: The Artist and the Beggar
 Too Little “Fun,” Too Much “Dam,” and Too Many “Lists”