Studying Isaiah: Rebellious Children and God's Broken Heart

I bought Ray Ortlund's book on Isaiah: God Saves Sinners and also Alec Motyer's Isaiah By Day and have decided to finally study this great book that I've longed to get to know more intimately. Below are my notes on first few verses.. Join me if you want and see how God is speaking through this prophet even today. 

Read Isaiah 1:1-3 [1] 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. [2] Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth; for the LORD has spoken: “Children have I reared and brought up, but they have rebelled against me.[3] The ox knows its owner, and the donkey its master's crib, but Israel does not know, my people do not understand.” 

REBELLIOUS CHILDREN AND GOD'S BROKEN HEART. Beginning his work about 740 BC, Isaiah ministered to God’s people in Judah and Jerusalem, and is seen at the start here addressing a global audience. God so loved the world that he gave us Israel, a covenant people by whom the whole world was to be blessed/saved through. Ray Ortlund notes that the revival of his people is the hope of the nations: “Nothing is more important to the state of the world than the state of the church.”

But the state of the church at this time was disastrous.  The children that he lovingly “reared and brought up” have rebelled against the Father. The word rebel here is not some accidental mistake but a willful and deliberate turn away from the Father.

Their actions reveal that they are stupid in thinking. The lowly animals don’t act that way toward the master. They know enough to find their master. They have a right sense of things that Israel lost, and worse don't even realize or probably even want to realize!

That phrase “Israel does not know” reminds me of the words of Jesus in Luke 23:34: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” We don’t know the depth of how much our sin breaks God’s heart. We each don’t know the magnitude of the hurt, where we say with David, “Against you only have I sinned.” But Isaiah won’t stop until we get that right sense about ourselves and the reality that we just don’t see. Why? Because that is where healing beings.

It’s a miracle God doesn’t destroy them right then and there, but we see that the church survives (vs 9). God will have a remnant that will glorify Him forever. He will have children who seek His face above all the world has to offer. The remnant are a people who know they were fit for destruction just like Sodom and Gomorrah but are resting in God’s grace and mercy toward’s them. 

Prayer: Lord, we don’t know all the myriad ways our sin has offended your heart. We don’t know how stupid we are when we push away from your loving heart toward us. Thank you that you have shown how great your love is for us through the Cross off Christ. Let me know today that you are a good, good father and that I am indeed loved by you. Amen. 

The Deadly Seriousness of Sin

I am going through the M'Cheyne Reading Plan and came to Leviticus 20. 

This chapter describes the penalties that come from engaging in sexual immorality and illicit worship. 

As I was reading it, I can see how a religiously-minded person could almost make a checklist of these commands and then come away thinking, "I'm doing alright..I must be holy...I haven't slept with another man...I haven't committed adultery...I haven't lay with any animals..I'm doing just fine." 

But wait, Jesus says “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart." (Matthew 5:27-28 ESV)

Who can honestly stand before a holy God and say they haven't ever looked at a woman with lustful intent -- or likewise: a woman who has not looked at a man with lustful intent?

Leviticus 20 describes the doing of such acts as "depravity" and "perversion" and an "abomination." And to make the point that these sins are deadly serious, the threat of death and stoning and blood are given as a warning. This is the reality of the Lord's justice for those who persist in sexual immorality and perversion. 

And the push for purity only intensifies in the New Testament. 

Jesus takes sexual immorality serious, adding to his clarification of adultery that "If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell." (Matthew 5:29 ESV) 

This reminded me of Jonathan Edward's Resolution 22, which says

"Resolved, to endeavor to obtain for myself as much happiness, in the other world, as I possibly can, with all the power; might, vigor, and vehemence, yea violence, I am capable of, or can bring myself to exert, in any way that can be thought of."

Note the word violence. I think Edwards is recognizing here the seriousness of sin and being holy as the Father is holy. The pursuit of holiness is the indirect pursuit of happiness, and we are to pursue that with all the violence against sin in us that we can muster, by God's help. Edwards is recognizing that we must be killing sin or sin will be killing us. 

These commands are not to be viewed as a burden. They are God's gracious guard-rails in our life that keep us from plummeting off the cliff. If God did not warn us, he would not be a loving God.

Now think of the Cross. This is how serious God views sin. He poured his wrath out onto Jesus for all our sin and perversities and depravities. He took the stoning and the consequences of our sin on himself so that we can be declared righteous before a holy God. 

"Consecrate yourselves, therefore, and be holy, for I am the LORD your God. Keep my statutes and do them; I am the LORD who sanctifies you." (Leviticus 20:7-8 ESV)

"You shall be holy to me, for I the LORD am holy and have separated you from the peoples, that you should be mine. (Leviticus 20:26 ESV)

God will have a people - His Bride, the Church - that is holy and being made holy by the Holy Spirit that he has given them. 

Why it's extremely dangerous to go to church

The apostle Paul assumes that if people hear a true rendering of the word of Christ, they are responsible to believe it and are liable to judgment for not believing it. 

The stakes couldn't be any higher for those listening to the gospel being preached by a faithful minister. Eternal delight or eternal misery hangs in the balance. Beware the God you are coming before. He is full of mercy -- lavishly rich in it in fact -- for those who kiss His Son. But judgment and wrath are on those who reject and suppress Jesus.

"It was necessary that the word of God be spoken to you. Since you thrust it aside and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles." Acts 13:46

John Piper says of this passage: "[Paul] warns that refusing the truth of the gospel will expose a person to a final deception and judgment "because they refused to love the truth and so be saved" and because they "did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness." (2 Thess. 2:10, 12). 

Remember your responsibility to the truth. Weigh the cost of suppressing God's grace and truth delivered by a faithful minister of the word of Christ. 

You will be judged for what you know and what you refused to know. The facts of the gospel will either be embraced and loved or pushed away and hated. 

God is not willing that you would know the wrath side of His magnificence. He has lifted up Christ. Come. Drink the grace so lavishly on display. 

Count the cost of listening. Count the cost of following Christ. And especially count the cost of not following Christ. 


The Object of Faith Is More Than Facts

Last week I wrote about how it's the object of our faith that matters, not the intensity of our faith. Christians shouldn't be a people who rest on the strength of their faith, but who rest on the finished work of Jesus. The have empty hands, eager to receive the gift of God's grace that is found in Jesus.  

As I was going through John Piper's new book, A Peculiar Glory, I came to chapter eight where Piper talks about what Jonathan Edwards thinks the object of faith is. "The nature of what we are trying to know determines how we can know it. Honey says, know me with taste. Ammonia says, know me with smell." 

Edwards says the object of our faith is not merely the factuality of the gospel, but also the "holy beauty and amiableness [loveliness] that is in divine things." You can have a kind of faith that the devils have (James 2:19), which doesn't do you any good. You can know there is a gospel, but do not see the beauty or glory of the truth. It doesn't change you at a core, fundamental level. 

"Seeing they do not see" (Matt. 13:13). That is where we are at until God gives us eyes to see (Eph 1:17-18). 

A Cat Example

I was thinking of cats the other day. They are fickle creatures. There is a neighborhood cat that my little Emma absolutely loves because the cat lets her hold her as long as she wants. Totally unlike Lexi, the new cat we recently got, which tolerates but 10 seconds before it tries to escape, and who really only shows attention because it wants a treat from the fridge. It does upset Emma that our cat doesn't like to be cuddled, and we tell her that is just how some cats are. Some are born more inclined to cuddle and others aren't. 

It's that way with us in a sense. God shows us the Gospel - lifts up Christ before our eyes and minds. It's only by being reborn - through a faith that sees Christ as beautiful and glorious - that we'll be like the neighborhood cat who doesn't want to escape Jesus. But most of us are like Lexi. We tolerate but a few seconds of Jesus in our life and only come to him because of food or the benefits involved in that relationship. It's only by God recreating us with a new nature - new holy affections for Him - that we'll be true followers of Jesus who value time with Him over things from Him.  

There is no gospel without historical facts. Faith rests on these facts but "when the historical facts are known rightly they are known as glorious, beautiful." And you become like the cat in the example that likes/desires to be held in the embrace of the Father/Master. 

Piper quotes Edwards, who says, "The mind ascends to the truth of the gospel but by one step, and that is its divine glory...Unless men may come to a reasonable solid persuasion and conviction of the truth of the gospel, by the internal evidences of it, in the way that has been spoken, viz. by a sight of its glory; 'tis impossible that those who are illiterate, and unacquainted with history, should have any thorough and effectual conviction of it at all." 

The unbeliever sees facts but not glory...a glory that is really objectively there in Christ to be seen but yet only which the Holy Spirit can enable one to actually see and savor. 

Do you behold the glory of the Lord and want to be caught up in the embrace of the Father?

Or do you behold mere facts that reveal you're more like Lexi the cat: fickle and wanting to flee the love of the Father? One that finds Jesus useful to meet certain needs here and there? 

Why I'm Writing Again

The quote below by John Piper is the primary reason I want to begin writing again - to awaken and fire up your affections for Jesus and to share content that is an overflow of my own personal development and joy. 

A long time ago when I first started writing I regret I was attached to the idea of "building a platform" and "finding my tribe." The idea is now repulsive to me mainly because I went at writing with the wrong motivation, not always of course, but it was nonetheless there. Now I hope to come back to writing because I sense this calling to teach...and well, because it gives me a fuller satisfaction to share what He has shown me instead of keeping it all this goodness stuffed away in Evernote for no one to see. 

I can't wait to share with you all God has and is teaching me!