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Sermon #86 — Isaiah Series
Title: “Judgment must Begin at
the House of God”
Text: Isaiah 27:7-13
Subject: Divine Chastisement
Date: Tuesday Evening — May 21, 2019
Readings: Lindsay Campbell and Rex Bartley
The Apostle Peter wrote, “The time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begins with us, what shall the end of them be that obey not the gospel of God?” (1 Peter 4:17). In the Book of Hebrews we read, “Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge his people.” And the conclusion which the inspired writer draws from those words is this. — “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:30-31).
Proposition: Both Peter and the writer of the Book of Hebrews tell us that though God will surely judge the world, he will first judge his own house. — “Judgment must begin at the house of God!”
That is an astounding statement, misunderstood by many, confusing to most, and ignored by others. But that is my subject tonight. — “Judgment must Begin at the House of God.”
We believe that the Bible is the best commentary on the Bible. That is to say, we interpret Scripture by Scripture. In our text this evening, the prophet Isaiah gives us an inspired commentary on Peter’s words, “Judgment must Begin at the House of God.” My text is Isaiah 27:7-13. We will begin reading at verse 1.
Isaiah begins by telling us of our God punishing Satan and his instruments of cruelty, all the oppressors and persecutors of his church through the ages, religious and political tyrants.
(Isaiah 27:1-13) In that day the LORD with his sore and great and strong sword shall punish leviathan the piercing serpent, even leviathan that crooked serpent; and he shall slay the dragon that is in the sea.
In verses 2, 3, and 4, God’s prophet assures us of God’s relentless provision for and protection of his people.
(2) In that day sing ye unto her, A vineyard of red wine. (3) I the LORD do keep it; I will water it every moment: lest any hurt it, I will keep it night and day. (4) Fury is not in me: who would set the briers and thorns against me in battle? I would go through them, I would burn them together.
Next, the Lord God calls for us to lay hold on Christ, the Strength of Jehovah and our Strength, that we may obtain peace and promises peace and salvation to all who trust the Lord Jesus.
(5) Or let him take hold of my strength, that he may make peace with me; and he shall make peace with me. (6) He shall cause them that come of Jacob to take root: Israel shall blossom and bud, and fill the face of the world with fruit.
Now, here’s our text.
(7) Hath he smitten him, as he smote those that smote him? Or is he slain according to the slaughter of them that are slain by him? (8) In measure, when it shooteth forth, thou wilt debate with it: he stayeth his rough wind in the day of the east wind. (9) By this therefore shall the iniquity of Jacob be purged; and this is all the fruit to take away his sin; when he maketh all the stones of the altar as chalkstones that are beaten in sunder, the groves and images shall not stand up. (10) Yet the defenced city shall be desolate, and the habitation forsaken, and left like a wilderness: there shall the calf feed, and there shall he lie down, and consume the branches thereof. (11) When the boughs thereof are withered, they shall be broken off: the women come, and set them on fire: for it is a people of no understanding: therefore he that made them will not have mercy on them, and he that formed them will shew them no favour. (12) And it shall come to pass in that day, that the LORD shall beat off from the channel of the river unto the stream of Egypt, and ye shall be gathered one by one, O ye children of Israel. (13) And it shall come to pass in that day, that the great trumpet shall be blown, and they shall come which were ready to perish in the land of Assyria, and the outcasts in the land of Egypt, and shall worship the LORD in the holy mount at Jerusalem.
Proposition: In this chapter Isaiah is showing us God’s care for his vine, the church, in times of great trial.
The particular illustration he uses is the care and protection of God’s elect remnant in Israel during the time of their Babylonian captivity. God will destroy his enemies, those who persecute and oppress his church. And in the end the Lord will cause his Israel, the church of his elect, to blossom, and bud, and fill the earth. But, in order to accomplish these things, “Judgment must begin at the house of God.”
Divisions: In verses 7-13 Isaiah calls our attention to three things and assures us of them.
1. The Judgment of God’s House (vv. 7-9).
2. The Destruction of Babylon (vv. 10-11).
3. The Salvation of God’s Elect (vv. 12-13).
The Judgment of God’s House
1st — In verses 7-9 Isaiah describes the judgment of God’s house. In what sense does the Lord God judge his people? How and why does he judge his church? These are questions that the prophet here answers and explains.
In verse 7, Isaiah assures us that God does not judge his church as he judges the world. — “Hath he smitten him (his Israel, his elect, his church) as he smote those that smote him?” The question implies a denial. No, God does not smite his church as he does those who persecute his church. “Is he (Israel, God’s church) slain according to the slaughter of them that are slain by him?” Again the answer is, no!
When God comes out against his enemies, he takes out his rod of justice in the fury of his wrath to destroy them (26:21-27:1).
(Isaiah 26:21) For, behold, the LORD cometh out of his place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity: the earth also shall disclose her blood, and shall no more cover her slain. (27:1) In that day the LORD with his sore and great and strong sword shall punish leviathan the piercing serpent, even leviathan that crooked serpent; and he shall slay the dragon that is in the sea.
But when the Lord comes out against his church, he takes out his rod of correction in mercy, love and grace, to correct us. He says, “Fury is not in me!” Be sure you understand this at the outset. — God is not angry with his people. He spent the fury of his wrath and justice against us upon his own dear Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, our Substitute. If the Holy Lord God has punished my sins in Christ, he will not and cannot punish them in me. Justice will not allow it.
“Payment God cannot twice demand,
First at my bleeding surety’s hand
And then again at mine!”
The Lord “hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities” (Psalm 103:10).
This is what redemption by the blood of Christ means. — All who are redeemed by the blood of Christ are forgiven of all sin (Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 1:14).
(Ephesians 1:7) In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace.
(Colossians 1:12-14) Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: (13) Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: (14) In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins:
Is that perfectly clear? In Christ we are freed from sin, totally freed from all penalty due to our sins! But that does not mean that God will allow his people in this world to live in rebellion and sin. God does not spoil his children. He will not indulge us in our iniquities. He will deal with us about our sins. Blessed be his name, he deals with us in mercy. But he does deal with us as a wise and loving Father (Hebrews 12:5-11).
(Hebrews 12:5-11) And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: (6) For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. (7) If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? (8) But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons. (9) Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? (10) For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness. (11) Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.
God’s holiness spoken of here does not refer to his moral character or to that holiness which he gives, which we have in Christ by grace. Here the word simply and only means “separation.” — By the loving exercise of his rod, our Heavenly Father separates our hearts from the world, separates the wheat from chaff and the precious from the vile.
Illustration: David (2 Samuel 12:1-14)
When the Lord judges his people his judgments are always governed by love and mitigated by mercy (v. 8).
(Isaiah 27:8) In measure, when it shooteth forth, thou wilt debate with it: he stayeth his rough wind in the day of the east wind.
Solomon assures us that a man cannot take fire to his bosom without burning his clothes, or walk upon hot coals without burning his feet (Proverbs 6:27-28). Even so, when you and I willfully walk contrary to the will of God, bringing reproach upon the name of Christ, the gospel of his grace, and faith in him, we do injury to his cause and we will bring pain and trouble to ourselves.
In verse 8 Isaiah tells us three things about the judgments of God’s providence upon his people.
The Lord deals out our afflictions to us like a wise physician prescribes medicine to his patient. He knows what and how much we need. Like a skillful surgeon, he knows where to cut and how deep. He will not put upon you more than is needful or more than you can bear (1 Corinthians 10:13). And, with the judgment, he will give you grace sufficient (2 Corinthians 12:9).
In affliction God debates and contends with his people. Not all affliction is the result of personal sin. But often it is. And when it is, the child who is afflicted knows it.
Illustration: I never corrected my daughter for anything without telling her the reason.
God, who holds the winds in his fists (Proverbs 30:4), directs them according to his will. He sends the rough wind against his vine to blow off the dead twigs. But he stops the rough wind, lest it destroy the vine. In other words, God’s judgment of his house is always mixed with and directed by mercy.
The Lord’s purpose in judging his house is to purge it of iniquity (v. 9).
(Isaiah 27:9) By this therefore shall the iniquity of Jacob be purged; and this is all the fruit to take away his sin; when he maketh all the stones of the altar as chalkstones that are beaten in sunder, the groves and images shall not stand up.
In the immediate context the prophet is telling Israel that God would send them down into Babylon in captivity to rid the nation of idolatry. And he did. But the prophecy was written for us as much as it was for the church of Isaiah’s day.
God’s object in judging us in providence is altogether gracious. — “By this therefore shall the iniquity of Jacob be purged.” The word “purged” means “atoned, expiated, put away.” And we know that no amount of suffering on our part can make atonement for sin! But God graciously afflicts us for sin (especially for every remnant of idolatry) so that we might turn from it in repentance and faith to Christ, by whom it is purged away (1 John 1:7, 9).
(1 John 1:7) But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.
(1 John 1:9) If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
With regard to the individual believer, God’s purpose in chastisement is to retrieve us from our sins (Job 36:8-10).
(Job 36:8-10) And if they be bound in fetters, and be holden in cords of affliction; (9) Then he sheweth them their work, and their transgressions that they have exceeded. (10) He openeth also their ear to discipline, and commandeth that they return from iniquity.
Though our heavenly Father afflicts us, he makes our afflictions work for the eternal, spiritual good of our souls. When foolishness is bound up in the heart of his child, he drives it out with the rod of correction (Proverbs 22:15).
“`Tis my happiness below
Not to live without the cross,
But the Savior’s power to know,
Sanctifying every loss;
Trials must and will befall,
But with humble faith to see
Love inscribed upon them all,
This is happiness to me.
God, in Israel, sows the seeds,
Of affliction, pain and toil;
These spring up, and choke the weeds
Which would else o’erspread the soil;
Trials make the promise sweet,
Trials give new life to prayer;
Trials bring me to His feet,
Lay me low, and keep me there.
Did I meet no trials here,
No chastisement by the way,
Might I not, with reason, fear
I should prove a castaway?
Bastards may escape the rod,
Sunk in earthly, vain delight;
But the true born child of God,
Must not, would not, if he might.”
— William Cowper
“Chastisement is the rod by which God drives the sin which he hates from the child that he loves” (C.H. Spurgeon).
Be wise and hear what I am telling you. — Children of God, we cannot reject God’s counsel, bring reproach upon his name, and dishonor his Son without suffering the consequences of our actions. God will either turn us from our sin, or he will take us from our sin. — “There is a sin unto death” (1 John 5:16).
Illustration: Moses perished in the wilderness because he did not sanctify the Lord God before Israel in smiting the Rock the second time.
Illustrations: J. S. — F. G.
“There are only two reasons why God will kill a believer: either he is through with him, or he gets in God’s way” (Rolfe Barnard).
With regard to his church, God’s purpose in afflicting his church is that he might separate the wheat from the tares (1 Corinthians 11:19).
(1 Corinthians 11:19) For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you.
“Judgment must begin at the house of God.” — But it does not end there!
The Destruction of Babylon
2nd — Read verses 10-11. — Here Isaiah describes the destruction of Babylon.
(Isaiah 27:10-11) Yet the defenced city shall be desolate, and the habitation forsaken, and left like a wilderness: there shall the calf feed, and there shall he lie down, and consume the branches thereof. (11) When the boughs thereof are withered, they shall be broken off: the women come, and set them on fire: for it is a people of no understanding: therefore he that made them will not have mercy on them, and he that formed them will shew them no favour.
I know that the “defenced city” here refers to the ancient city of Babylon and the destruction of that city. But throughout the Scriptures, Babylon represents all that is opposed to God, his church, and his gospel. Babylon, the great whore of Revelation, is all false religion, by which the princes, kings, merchants, and nations of the world have been deceived and led in rebellion to God.
Babylon is a “defenced city.” — False religion gives men and women confidence, assurance, and peace. But it is a counterfeit peace.
And when the Lord God comes to destroy Babylon, her destruction shall be thorough and complete (Revelation 18:20-24).
(Revelation 18:20-24) Rejoice over her, thou heaven, and ye holy apostles and prophets; for God hath avenged you on her. (21) And a mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone, and cast it into the sea, saying, Thus with violence shall that great city Babylon be thrown down, and shall be found no more at all. (22) And the voice of harpers, and musicians, and of pipers, and trumpeters, shall be heard no more at all in thee; and no craftsman, of whatsoever craft he be, shall be found any more in thee; and the sound of a millstone shall be heard no more at all in thee; (23) And the light of a candle shall shine no more at all in thee; and the voice of the bridegroom and of the bride shall be heard no more at all in thee: for thy merchants were the great men of the earth; for by thy sorceries were all nations deceived. (24) And in her was found the blood of prophets, and of saints, and of all that were slain upon the earth.
This world, its religion, its kingdoms, shall be made desolate! The nations of the world shall be made like one huge ghost town.
When God destroys this world in judgment, his judgment shall be the execution of wrath and justice without mercy.
1. The cause of wrath will be their willful ignorance of the living God. — “It is a people of no understanding.”
Had they walked in the light God had given them, he would have given them more light. But, because they refused the light and chose darkness, God will destroy them.
2. In that day the great Creator will destroy his creatures, without mercy, without favor.
Hell is a place where there is not so much as a drop of mercy to mitigate wrath.
Illustration: The rich man in hell begged for a drop of water. But none was given!
The Salvation of God’s Elect
3rd — In the end, when all the works of God are finished, and time shall be no more, Isaiah tells us the salvation of God’s elect is sure (vv. 12-13).
(Isaiah 27:12-13) And it shall come to pass in that day, that the LORD shall beat off from the channel of the river unto the stream of Egypt, and ye shall be gathered one by one, O ye children of Israel. (13) And it shall come to pass in that day, that the great trumpet shall be blown, and they shall come which were ready to perish in the land of Assyria, and the outcasts in the land of Egypt, and shall worship the LORD in the holy mount at Jerusalem.
Here the prophet gives us a picture of what God is doing. The day he is talking about is now, this last day, the Gospel Age, from the coming of Christ to the end of the world. In his providential judgments of his own house and in the righteous judgments of his enemies, this is what God is doing. — He is accomplishing the salvation of his elect. This is the day of God’s harvest!
The Lord God is gathering his children one by one (v. 12). Like a man takes a stick to beat his trees so that the ripe fruit may fall, so the Lord is beating the earth to gather his ripe fruit.
The channel of the river Euphrates is the northeast border of Canaan, and the stream of the Nile in Egypt is the southeast border. By God’s beating of the earth from pole to pole “All Israel shall be saved!” God will gather his elect from the north, the south, the east, and the west. — All the heirs of promise shall be gathered into the land of promise, the heavenly Canaan!
(Isaiah 43:1-7) But now thus saith the LORD that created thee, O Jacob, and he that formed thee, O Israel, Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine. (2) When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee. (3) For I am the LORD thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour: I gave Egypt for thy ransom, Ethiopia and Seba for thee. (4) Since thou wast precious in my sight, thou hast been honourable, and I have loved thee: therefore will I give men for thee, and people for thy life. (5) Fear not: for I am with thee: I will bring thy seed from the east, and gather thee from the west; (6) I will say to the north, Give up; and to the south, Keep not back: bring my sons from far, and my daughters from the ends of the earth; (7) Even every one that is called by my name: for I have created him for my glory, I have formed him; yea, I have made him.
Here is the means by which God shall gather his elect (v. 13).
And when they come, they shall worship the Lord in the holy mount at Jerusalem.
Learn these three things…
1. God’s judgment of his own house is a work of great mercy and grace. — “He whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth.” (Isaiah 54:7-10)
(Isaiah 54:7-10) For a small moment have I forsaken thee; but with great mercies will I gather thee. (8) In a little wrath I hid my face from thee for a moment; but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee, saith the LORD thy Redeemer. (9) For this is as the waters of Noah unto me: for as I have sworn that the waters of Noah should no more go over the earth; so have I sworn that I would not be wroth with thee, nor rebuke thee. (10) For the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, saith the LORD that hath mercy on thee.
2. God’s judgment of the world is a work of justice.
3. God’s purpose of grace cannot be frustrated or defeated. — He will gather the outcasts of Israel one by one!