A GOD WHO SAVES

The SON and the SUN

If you search the pages of history, you will find one story after another of God’s salvation, of God setting His people free. Israel was let out of Egyptian slavery and Paul was blinded on the road to Damascus. No doubt you have known and experienced God’s salvation in one, if not many instances in your life. In today’s lesson we will search Isaiah 12 in order to discover something about the God who saves.

Chapter 12 of Isaiah is actually a song of thanksgiving. We see that this is an appropriate conclusion to the last verses of chapter 11 which foretells that the people of God will be returned from exile.

LOVE IN THE MIDST OF ANGER (12:1). The first verse of our text repeats a theme that we have discussed in two preceding lessons: God’s anger must be seen as part of His compassion. Isaiah states that a day is coming when the people will sing (literally say) praises to the Lord because once He was angry with them but now He literally “turned his anger away from them.” Now, says Isaiah, God comforts His people. Once again we see the compassion defines the character of God.

THE SALVATION OF THE LORD (12:2-3). Isaiah refers to God’s salvation three times in these two verses, and he uses language which is similar to Exodus 15:2 and Psalms 118:14. Verse 2 literally begins by saying: “Behold! God is my salvation!” Following that confession, the people proclaim that they will trust in the Lord and they will not be afraid. This presents an important point. When we confess that God is our salvation then we place our trust, our confidence, in Him. We have nothing to be afraid of, for God is powerful enough to deliver us. George Fohrer, a professor of Old Testament studies, has said that “trust in this salvation and help of God from all the tribulations and terrors which always and everywhere oppress us, is an essential element in the believer’s self-understanding.” Other places in the Old Testament where God’s salvation encourages the believer to trust in God are found in Psalms 22:4-5; 25:2-3; 31:14-15; Jeremiah 39:18. Salvation should produce trust and confidence in God.

Verse 2 concludes with the same confession with which it began: “God is my salvation!” What exactly does it mean to say that God is our salvation or that God saves us? We have seen that salvation produces comfort (v. 1) and trust (v.2) for the believer. God’s ability to save is based upon His power (v.2 and see also Psalms 80:2) and His kingship (see Isaiah 33:22). God’s salvation can be described as deliverance or as His rescuing us. God can rescue us from His judgment (see Ezek 34:20-24) or from oppression and danger (see Jeremiah 15:20), but we must resolve to depart from our sinful ways (see Jeremiah 4:14). God can rescue us now from danger, and He will rescue us from that future day of judgment.

In Isaiah 12:3 we find a beautiful image of God’s salvation. Isaiah says, “as fresh water brings joy to the thirsty, so God’s people rejoice when he saves them.” For a people acquainted with the desert and who depended upon wells for water, this is a promise of God’s providing for His people. Compare Jeremiah 2:13 where God is described as the “spring of fresh water” and John 4:7-15 where Jesus offers the Samaritan woman “living water.” The SON/SUN provides WATER, as well as providing free solar energy, a business which my son Joshua has undertaken as part of his mission on Earth. Unlimited energy, more evidence of the Lord’s abundant gifts and how technology can bring us CLOSER to God and the SON/SUN instead of alienating us.

THE HUMAN RESPONSE (12:4-6). What is the human response to God’s salvation? In verse 2, we saw that we should trust God and not be afraid of His judgment or of dangerous circumstances. In verse 3, we read that the water of God’s salvation brings us joy. We are sustained and refreshed by God’s salvation. In verses 4-6, however, we read of a most important and natural response to God’s salvation: praise and proclamation of His mighty works. Verses 4, 5, and 6 all begin with different exhortations to praise God. Verse 4 encourages the believer to ‘give thanks to the Lord”; verse 5 asks that those who have been saved “sing to the Lord”; verse 6 says that we should “shout and sing to the Lord.” What are we to proclaim? We are to tell of God’s mighty works and His greatness (vv. 4 and 5). Verse 6 encourages the people of Zion to tell of God’s greatness and that He lives in their midst. What a fantastic message! God is an almighty God who saves His people and who lives among them.

 

THE MESSAGE OF MESSIAH: A GOD WHO JUDGES

HAPPY EASTER- He is Risen. Amen.

Now, back to my theme.

The “Song of the Vineyard” is a parable on the judgment of Israel and Judah. A parable, in very simple terms, uses illustrations from one aspect of life (for example, gardening or warfare) to represent a truth in another area (for example, the nature of God). As such, a parable is a story which compares two or more areas of life. The “Song of the Vineyard” is, as a famous author Ronald Clements states, “a skilfully constructed artistic tale which has been designed to elicit, first the ‘gossipy’ interest of the hearers; then their sympathy, and finally their verdict on the ‘villain’ of their song.”

THE SONG OF THE VINEYARD (5:1-2). Verse 1 introduces the song of a ‘friend’ (literally a “beloved person”) and his vineyard. We are told that the friend’s vineyard was located on a very fertile piece of land.

In verse 2, the prophet relates the good care which was taken of the grapevines. The friend carefully cultivated the soil; he planted only the best grapevines, and he dug a well to ensure that the grapes would receive plenty of water. Every excuse for a failed crop is removed. The friend took extreme care that the grapes would produce a juicy, sweet grape. The end of verse 2, says that “he waited for the grapes to ripen.” Actually, the word “to wait for” has the connotation of “hope for.” The caretaker, therefore, waits for the grapes with anticipation. Can you imagine his disappointment when he finally tasted the first grape? It must have been like my first bite to of a green mango because I expected it to taste like a golden, ripe mango! What went wrong with the caretaker’s crop, and what should the caretakedr do?

THE FAILURE AND THE VERDICT (5:3-6). In verse 3, the prophet draws his audience into the story by asking them to judge between him and the vineyard. By asking the people of Judah and Jerusalem to judge for him, the prophet allows the people themselves to decide who is guilty and who is not. This prophetic parable is very similar to the parable in 2 Samuel 12:1-10 where the prophet Nathan tricks David into confessing his guilt over having Uriah killed.

“Is there anything I failed to do for the vineyard,” he asks in verse 4. Since the answer is obviously, “no,” the fault for the failure of the grapes must not be the caretaker’s. What then can be done to the vineyard? That is the question which is answered in verses 5 and 6.

Verse 5 begins with an announcement that the caretaker is about to take action. A literal translation of the first part of the verse is: “Please let me have you know that which I am doing to my vineyard.” This suggests that the prophet’s decision is already established and will be immediately carried out. The remainder of verse 5 and all of verse 6 speak of what will happen to the vineyard: its protection will be removed. Thus, wild animals can invade and destroy the vines. The first part of verse 6 can be literally translated: “And I will set destruction upon it.” At the end of verse 6 the prophet gives us a hint of who the caretaker symbolizes, for who other than God can withhold the rain? Clearly, the caretaker intends to destroy the vineyard completely.

GOD’S EXPECTATIONS (5;7). Verse 7 is the punchline of the parable. The vineyard represented Judah (the Southern Kingdom). God had planted the grapes and he waited hopefully for the people’s good fruit. Using a play on words (or a pun), the original language emphasizes the contradiction between what God expected and what He got. God looked for justice (mishpat) but all he got was violence (mispach); He looked for righteousness (tsedeqah), but all he got was a cry (tse’akah). This implication is clear: Israel and Judah, like the vineyard that produced sour fruit, will be judged and destroyed. God was a merciful caretaker; Israel and Judah were poor plants, and God will be an exacting Judge.

THE MESSIAH IN ISAIAH’S MESSAGES

Isaiah 24:1-16, which is part of a larger collection of prophecies relating to the last days (Isa. 24-27), forms the basis for the prophecies which follow in Isaiah 24:17 to chapter 27. Our text for today’s presents a picture of world-wide doom.

 

 

IMAGES OF TERROR (24:1-13).

The first thirteen verses of Isaiah 24 present the reader with two images of the terror which results from God’s day of judgement. First, in verses 1-5, we read of the universal, intense, certain and deserved day of judgment. Verse 2 states that the day of judgment will be universal and will spare no class of people. Priest and laity, slaves and masters, buyers and sellers, lenders and borrowers, rich and poor- no one will be spared God’s retribution. The intensity of the world’s ruin is emphasized in verses 1, 3, and 4 where we read of such things as the earth’s surface will be twisted, “the earth will lie shattered and ruined,” and the earth will “dry up and wither.” Even the form of the verbs which are used to describe these events are intensive forms. We know that the day of judgment is certain because as Isaiah says in verse 3: “the Lord has spoken and it will be done.” In verse 5 we are told that the people deserve the day of judgment. Why? They have broken their agreement with God. In the mind of an ancient Hebrew, breaking an agreement (covenant) is similar to refusing to honora debt. Breaking a covenant with God insults His character and invalidates the divine terms of the agreement. God is, therefore, just when He punishes His people.

The second image of the final day of terror (which is found in verses 7-13) is that there will be no joy in the land. Verse 7 speaks of the failure of the Judah’s grape harvest with the result that “everyone who was once happy is now sad.” Verses 8 and 9 paint a picture of extreme sadness. There is no joyful music, no singing, no enjoyment of the wine after the harvest. Verse 10 speaks of a city which is in chaos. The word which means “chaos” is used elsewhere in the Old Testament to describe the desert and the wasteland of the wilderness (compare Deut. 32:10; Ps. 107:40). Verse 11 describes the people who “shout in the streets.” Actually, the word means “to cry out in distress or misery.” So, verse 11 reinforces the image of sadness which is attached to the terrible destruction of the earth. Verses 12-13 repeat the theme of the universal destruction which will come with the day of judgment.

 

UNEXPECTED WORSHIP (24: 14-16).

In light of the terror and greatness of God’s judgment, what would you expect the response of the people to be? Fear? Sadness? Anger? Joy? What a surprise to find after the description of God’s fearsome judgment that the people will actually “sing for joy”! God’s judgment produces praise and worship. According to Isaiah 24:15, “The people who live along the sea will praise the Lord, the God of Israel.” Two important points should be made regarding the fearsome judgment of God.

First, God should be feared. We have read of His day of judgment, and we know of His infinite power. Certainly a god who judges his creation and who has the power to fulfil his threats should be feared. As a matter of fact, we can often read of the “fear of God” in the old Testament as an appropriate response to God (Ps. 52:6-7; Hos. 10:3; Zech. 9:3-5; Jer. 5:22). To that extent, the fear of God is not a bad thing.

The second point which should be made, however, is that a fear of God which does not result in worship and praise is unhealthy and immature. Why? Because to be totally motivated by a fear of God is a sign that we have not seen His true character which is love. We should notice that in Isaiah 24:16 the people sing songs in praise of Israel, the righteous nation. In other words, the judgment of God, which is a source of terror, restored Israel to a state of goodness. God in his judgment does destroy, but He always destroys wickedness in order to allow goodness to grow. That is why the people who have seen the judgment is righteous and just. As a matter of fact, in many places in the Old Testament, the word which means “fear” is actually translated “worship” or “praise” (see, for example, Jonah 1:9; Ps. 22:23 (“praise him, you servants of the Lord!”)). Thus, should we worship such a fearful God? My answer is: how can we not worship such a loving God?

 

A STUDY ON THE BOOK OF ISAIAH (Part 3)

To read the previous entries about the Book of Isaiah, click here

THE NATURE OF ISAIAH’S SERVICE (6:9-13).

The words which follow Isaiah’s exclamation are difficult words for us to take in. In verse 9, God tells the prophet that no matter how much the people hear, they will not understand; no matter how much the see, they will not know. In modern terms, we can see God’s handiwork all about us; we can hear His word preached everyday, but we do not see God in his creation and we do not hear God in the message.

In verse 10, Yahweh (which is God’s name) commands Isaiah to make the “minds of the people dull.” Literally, the Hebrew reads, “Fatten the heart of this people.” Since the ancient Hebrew saw the heart as the place of intelligence. Isaiah was being asked to make the Hebrews insensitive to reason. The reference to Judah as “this people” shows how distant God feels toward His chosen people.

The idea in the last half of verse 10 that God would not want the people to return to Him and be healed is hard to understand. At the least, it is a warning to all who hear that there are places in the love of God which, once we leave, we can never find again. It is similar to someone jumping off of the tenth floor of a building and, after passing the fifth floor, asking to be rescued.

In verse 11-13, Isaiah is confronted with the difficulty of his task. Verse 11 is a woeful lament (see also Ps. 89:46). How long must Isaiah bear the burden of preaching such harsh words? God’s answer in verses 12 and 13 is of little comfort: until the cities are destroyed and the land is completely desolate. All that will remain of Judah will be like the stump of a tree (v.13). The prophet’s task is not easy because he has seen God’s great love, His people’s rebellion, and God’s promise of judgement.

 

A STUDY ON THE BOOK OF ISAIAH (Part 2)

We begin our study of Isaiah with a look at Isaiah’s calling to be a prophet. The vision apparently takes place while Isaiah is in Jerusalem Temple. We cannot be sure, however, of why Isaiah was in the Temple. Perhaps he was performing some official Temple duty.

THE VISION OF GOD AND HIS THRONEROOM (6:1-4)

Verse 1 begins by dating Isaiah’s call during “the year that King Uzziah died.” Uzziah, whose reign began in 790 B.C., died in 736 B.C.; so we naturally presume the call of Isaiah took place sometime during that year.

Isaiah’s vision of God in His throneroom consistently points to God’s greatness, first, Isaiah calls God “Adonai” (Lord, v.1), which literally means “master” or “sovereign.” Second, that God is seated upon a throne is also a sign of His kingship. God is king; He is ruler. Third, the length of His robe is so great that it completely fills the Temple! His physical presence is great. Fourth, the reverence of the seraphim, the burning, snake-like angels who ministered to God, demonstrates the awe in which the heavenly court held Gd. Fifth, the seraphim sing in verse 3 that God is “holy” shows that God is the most holy. Finally, according to the flaming creatures, God’s glory fills the entire world. God’s glory, for the Hebrew, often represents God’s activity in the world (Ezek. 1:28; 3:23; Ps. 24:8; 113:4). Thus, before Isaiah can say a word, he is overwhelmed by God’s presence which fills not only the Temple, but the entire world! What a great God we worship!

THE RESPONSE OF ISAIAH (6:5-8).

The vision of God’s greatness convicts Isaiah of his sinfulness; God does not have to say a word, Isaiah exclaims, “There is no hope for me! Every word that passes my lips is sinful… “The word for “sinful” in verse 5 actually means “ritually unclean.” In other words, Isaiah’s lips are dirty and therefore, unfit to proclaim God’s message. God, however, is calling Isaiah to be “His spokesperson. That is exactly the dilemma of everyone who is called to proclaim God’s message of salvation and judgement. On the one hand, we must proclaim the good news, but on the other, we cannot because we fall short of God’s greatness and majesty.

Someone must intercede for us, and in Isaiah 6:6 a seraphim intercedes for Isaiah. After touching Isaiah’s lips with a hot coal, the burning creature calls out, “This has touched your lips, and now your guilt is gone, and your sins are forgiven.” “Guilt” (“iniquity” in most versions) in verse 7 refers to the “bent” or “crooked” nature of a person. “Sins” refer to those actions which stray from God’s standard.

Verse 8 is a classical text of one person’s willingness to serve God. Isaiah states: “And I heard the voice of the Lord saying: ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then I said: ‘Here am I; send me.’” God is asking His heavenly cabinet (the seraphim) who will deliver His message to His people. Isaiah does not know the content of the message, the condition of His people’s heart, not the cost of being a prophet, but he is willing to serve God. He hears God’s question, and his answer is literally, “Here I am; send me!” His is a heart open to God and his life is available for service.

A STUDY ON THE BOOK OF ISAIAH

The book of Isaiah, written and compiled more than 2,000 years ago, speaks to us today in a place and time when we must hear the difficult words about God’s anger over sin, wickedness, and injustice. We also need the words of Isaiah because we need a message of hope, comfort and salvation during difficult times.

THE CALL OF ISAIAH

What is a prophet? The prophets are perhaps the most mysterious and misunderstood of all biblical characters. Our modern day perception of prophets and their work (prophecy) has been coloured by our fascination with fortune-telling, horoscopes, and our desire to know the future. In order to understand Isaiah, we must understand something about biblical prophets.

Prophets are found in nearly every period of biblical history, but the period which extends from approximately 750 to 550 B.C. is the most famous. Certainly most of the persons whom we think of as biblical prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Amos, Hosea, among others) ministered during those two hundred years. What are the characteristics of these so-called “classical prophets”?

One of my college professors, Dr. J.K. Thompson, identified two important characteristics of the prophets. First, the prophets brought God to the people. In other words, they proclaimed the word of God to His people. Second, the prophet’s message grew out of the present-day situation and it was relevant to his audience’s present-day life.

Who was Isaiah? Isaiah, the son of Amoz, was active as a prophet from about 739 B.C. until 700 B.C. He was married and had at least two sons who were named Shear Jashub (“a remnant shall return”) and Maher-shalal-hash-baz (‘quick-loot- fast-plunder”). Isaiah’s preaching has been described as the “theological high-water mark of the whole Old Testament.” The oracles which are contained in his book have special relevance to two ancient audiences: (1) those Hebrews who lived during the time of Assyria’s rise to power and who saw the fall of Israel in 722 B.C., and (2) those Jews who found themselves in exile under the Babylonians (586 to 535 B.C.). In this study, we are most concerned with the messages which were addressed to the first group, and which, incidentally, are found mostly in the first thirty-nine chapter of Isaiah.