Behold, Me! (Isaiah Sermon 78 of 81)
February 05, 2017 | Andrew Davis
Bible Prophecy, Christ and the Old Testament
The Invisibility of God
One of the hardest aspects of our faith, our Christian faith, is the invisibility of God. The God of the Bible is described as a majestic, radiant being who dwells in unapproachable light, His glory fills the Heavenly realms with such overpowering radiance that the holiest angels have to cover their faces even to be in His presence. This awesome creator God, this awesome ruler God, He is the source of everything in existence and He rules over all things actively. It is by His power that every atom in the universe holds together and keeps from flying apart. It is by God's power that the very being of all creation in the world has come.
Such a majestic God is also the source of all beauty. The saints and angels are arrayed in concentric circles, it seems, in the heavenly realms around God, constantly celebrating His beauty, and His omnipotence, and they're doing this with incessant praise. They never stop saying, "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord, who was and who is and who is to come... The Almighty." But this radiant, beautiful, powerful God is invisible. And that's hard for us. 1 Timothy 1:17 says, "Now to the King, eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever, amen." John 1:18, "No man has seen God at any time." 1 Timothy 6:16 says, "[God] who alone is immortal, who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one ever has seen or can see. To Him be honor and might forever. Amen."
Our eyesight, our physical eyesight, is the source of much of what we know about the universe. And by our eyesight, light floods into our minds in various colors and shapes and teaches us what the physical world around us is like. We get so much information from our eyesight. Jesus said in Matthew 6:22, "The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness." Now, in CS Lewis's classic, Till We Have Faces, one of the characters named Psyche, the Greek word for soul, talks about the strong feelings of desire, "It was when I was happiest that I longed the most. Do you remember? The color and the smell, and looking across at the Grey Mountain in the distance? And because it was so beautiful, it set me to longing, always longing. Somewhere else there must be more of it. Everything seemed to be saying, 'Psyche, come!' But I couldn't not yet come. I felt like a bird in a cage when all the other birds of its kind are flying home. The sweetest thing in all my life has been the longing to reach that mountain to find the place where all the beauty comes from. Do you think it meant nothing, all this longing, the longing for home? For now death feels not like going, but going home."
Beautiful, isn't it? There's a source of all this beauty, and we want to go there, we want to see it, we want to see God. But this hidden God we have to see now only by faith. This hidden God, this invisible God, is the source of all this beauty, all the life, all the creativity, all the love and peace and joy that's ever to be found in the universe, God is the source of it all. To be able to see him would be the perfection of sight itself, but we cannot. God is the invisible Creator, the invisible Sustainer, the invisible Emperor of all visible things that fill our eyes. But none of this is an accident, this longing to see what we cannot see. There is a spiritual realm around us. We talked about it last week, remember, in Isaiah 64:1, "Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down." Rend means to rip, to tear, "Make a tear in the heavens and come down."
We talked about it in terms of the baptism of Jesus. Remember when Jesus came up out of the water, the heavens were torn open, in Mark's Gospel, and the Holy Spirit descended. We talked about it in terms of Stephen's moment of death, you remember, as he's being martyred, in Acts 7:55-56. "Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 'Look' he said, 'I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.'" As though there's some kind of... I don't know what to call it, a membrane or a wall or something between us and the spiritual realms.
And through that membrane, we cannot pass, not yet anyway. We cannot reason our way through it, we cannot fly high enough to get over it. Or search for some secret portal, like in the Narnia Tales, CS Lewis, there's always some portal in different stories, like of course, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. There's the wardrobe. If you go back far enough into the closet, you'll come through into Narnia. And then we're into the spiritual realms.
But there isn't such a place. God is the invisible, he is the unseen, He dwells in a spiritual realm that surrounds us, we cannot reach it. And we cannot know anything about this mysterious hidden realm except that God, and here's the word, "reveals it to us." That He reveals things to us. That is the word that the bible and theologians always use, Revelation. That's the name of the final book of the Bible to which I'm going after the Book of Isaiah. So pray for me because I don't know what the book means. I know the big themes, it's the details that get me. And I'm going to preach in my usual verse by verse, chapter after chapter-style, and I'm hoping that by the time I get to some of those chapters that I'll know what they mean. So pray for me.
Natural Revelation and Special Revelation
But we're going to Revelation. But that's the word, "revelation," it is the purpose of that book, and really indeed of all Scripture, to reveal the hidden to us. To pull back the veil, the unveiling. A pulling back of the veil so we can see the hidden, the invisible God. But God has chosen to reveal things to us, to reveal Himself to us, to communicate to us of His existence and His nature and His purposes. Now, he does this in what theologians call "natural revelation," revelation in nature. So nature communicates to us. "The heavens are telling the glories of God." Psalm 19. Or Romans 1:20, "For since the creation of the world, God's invisible qualities, His eternal power and divine nature have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made so that men are without excuse." That's natural revelation.
But God does it even better, by what theologians call "special revelation." By the scripture and by Jesus. The special revelation of God by the words of the Bible. He unveils His truth through the words of the prophets and the apostles. Amos 3:7, "Surely the sovereign Lord does nothing without revealing His plan to His servants, the prophets." Now God has done this revelation most clearly, in the person and work of His Son, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Jesus is the author... The Hebrews tells us, God's effectively final Word to the human race. "In the past, he spoke through the prophets at various times, many times, various ways, but in these last days, He has spoken to us by His Son… The Son is the radiance of God's glory, and the Son is the exact representation of His being, sustaining all things by His powerful word." Colossians 1:15, Jesus Christ "is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation."
The Word "Behold"
Now, I've talked about this before, but this is why I'm beginning the sermon this way. One word, in the King James Version, again and again, that just comes out again and again, but usually is omitted in these newer translations, is the word "behold." And we're going to follow the word "behold" here. "Behold." Honestly, other than reading scripture, when was the last time you said, "behold?" Imagine a housewife, "Behold, dinner is ready." Wouldn't that be exciting? That would be amazing. Or a husband coming home, "Behold, I am here." Something like that. It'd be a bit odd. I mean, I think of it in terms of a magician, maybe even an amateur magician, "Behold!" and out comes the rabbit out of the hat. Something like that. Behold. I don't know, you have to say it with a deep voice. "Behold." But there's a sense of something being unveiled, something being displayed. And these English translations either just omit it entirely or they use the word "look." I'm going to say it like that, "Look, I'm doing something great." It just isn't the same, friends.
So I'm starting a campaign. The next translation needs to keep the word "behold" wherever it's found. And where is it found? In Isaiah 65, it's found in the King James Version nine times in these verses. Behold, behold, behold, it's like God's unveiling some amazing things in this chapter. And we're going to look at it this week and next week, we're not getting through all of Isaiah 65 this week. But look across, you're not going to see it in... ESV actually holds on to most of them, thankfully, praise God. But NIV does and others don't.
So, in Isaiah 61, it's there twice, and none of the translations, I think, have it. I think KJV does, but it's literally "Behold me, behold me," in the Hebrew. "I said, 'Behold me, behold me, unto a nation that was not called by my name.'" And then Isaiah 65:6, "Behold, it is written before me, I will not keep silent, but I will repay." And then four times in verses 13 and 14, "Therefore thus saith the Lord God, Behold, my servants shall eat, but you shall be hungry, behold, my servants shall drink, but you shall be thirsty, behold, my servants shall rejoice, but you shall be put to shame. Behold, my servants shall sing for gladness of heart, but you shall cry out for pain of heart, and wail for breaking of spirit." And then verse 17, "For behold, I create a new heavens and a new Earth, and the former thing shall not be remembered nor shall they come to mind." And then verse 18, "But be glad and rejoice forever in that which I create, for behold, I create Jerusalem to be a joy and her people a gladness."
Nine times, God says "behold," as though he's saying to the human race, "Watch what wonders I'm going to unfold before you. I'm going to unveil some amazing things before your very eyes, things you have not known. You wouldn't have any other way of knowing, except that I'm communicating them to you. Watch, oh human race, watch and be amazed at this. Look on with wonder at what I will display to you." So, I'm going to organize this sermon and an entryway into next week's sermon, God willing, by these words, "behold." So first, "behold me." God's saying, "behold me," as He reveals His saving grace to the gentiles. Secondly, "Behold my judgments," on wicked Israelites that have forsaken Him for idols in verses two through seven. And then thirdly, "Behold my servants singing while the wicked are shamed." Put to shame, verses eight through 16. So that's this week's message. And then next week "Behold my new universe that I am creating." And we're going to step into that and try to understand some of the most amazing and perplexing verses in the Book of Isaiah.
I. “Behold Me!”: God’s Saving Grace to the Gentiles (vs. 1)
So let's begin with "behold me," God's saving grace of the Gentiles, verse one. God allows himself here to be sought by saying, "Behold me, behold me... " The first greatest revelation in this chapter happens in verse one, when God says twice, "Behold me, behold me... " Look at verse one, and I'll put in the "behold me" in the translation. "I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me. I was found by those who did not seek me. To a nation that did not call on my name, I said, 'Behold me, behold me."
God Allows Himself to Be Sought
This is the amazing grace, this is the patience, and this is the humility of God, this majestic and holy God. The incredible grace of God who presents himself with astonishing persistence and humility to the nations of the world that don't seek Him or care about Him at all. They've not sought Him, they're not looking for Him, they don't know about Him, they're ignorant of Him. And He's standing and saying right before them, "Behold me." And the verse literally says, "I allowed myself to be consulted... I permitted myself to be consulted by you."
In other words, God took the initiative to reveal himself and draw from the Gentiles a yearning, a desire to seek Him and find Him. If God does not permit Himself to be consulted, if he does not permit Himself to be sought, we will never seek Him and we will never find Him. So the initiative is with God. Now, Paul the Apostle quotes this verse in Romans 10:20 to speak of the grace of God displayed in the amazing harvest of gentiles into the church of Jesus Christ, incredible grace of God, Romans 10:20. "And Isaiah boldly says, 'I was found by those who did not seek me. I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me.'" He's talking there about Gentiles converted to a Jewish Messiah, becoming grafted into a Jewish olive tree, becoming honorary adopted sons and daughters of Abraham. They didn't know anything about these things. And Paul is talking about this incredible gentile harvest that's been going on now for 20 centuries, and we're part of it.
So these gentiles, they were not seeking the true God at all, they were pursuing their idols with darkened minds. Their idolatrous worship services were exceedingly corrupt, and lustful, and debauched, involving temple prostitutes and drunkenness and gluttonous revelries. God's humble persistence in revealing Himself to the gentiles is stunning, for the text says literally, "Behold me, behold me... " and I think he does that in the preaching of the gospel of Christ. God, in Christ, persistently stands before the audience. And as the gospel is being preached by missionaries, by evangelists, God, in Christ, through that evangelist preaching is standing before people and saying, "Behold me, here I am in Christ, ready to save you, ready to be the focus of your entire existence, ready to be your King, your Savior, everything. All you have to do is seek me, and you will surely find me."
Sought Now by Gentiles Who Were Not Seeking Him Before
So He is sought now by gentiles, who were not seeking Him before. They did not seek for Him. They were not looking for Him in their villages, in their compounds, in their cities around the world. And these unreached people groups around the world, they were not seeking the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. They were not seeking the true creator God, not at all. Romans 3:11 says, "There is no one who understands, no one who seeks God." None of them were, but God revealed Himself to them and by His sovereign Spirit, drew them. And the first they knew about it was a growing hunger and thirst inside to know this God. They wanted to know him. Where did that come from? God gave it to them as a gift. And they found Him through Christ.
This is amazing grace, this is amazing persistence, amazing humility to the gentiles, to people all over the world. So the centerpiece of the gospel is God. I mean, honestly, God is the Gospel. "Behold me," God's saying that to us, who were previously in the darkness, now in the light. That's salvation, God unveiling Himself in Christ to us. And God does the seeking first. Luke 19:10, Jesus said, "The Son of man came to seek and to save the lost."
And then, in that incredible encounter in John Chapter 4, Jesus with the Samaritan woman. Remember that day? She got up and was coming to the well just to get some water, and oh no, there's someone there. She's trying to avoid all people. Not just someone but a Jew of all things, Jewish man. She wants to get in there, get the water as quickly as she can, and get home. But then he stuns her by speaking to her, and then stuns her even more by what he says to her. And little by little by little draws her to hunger and thirst for the living God. It comes to a point in the conversation when Jesus talks about His true aim in being there. He had to go through Samaria. Why? Because he had to find her, and not just her but her Samaritan neighbors. And this is what he said, John 4:23-24, "Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshippers the Father is seeking." He is seeking them, all over the world through evangelism and missions, He's seeking people. And through the Gospel, standing before them saying, "Behold me, behold me, come and worship me."
And so we seek God, and we do for the rest of our lives hungry and thirsty to know Him better, to know like Philippians 3, Paul says, "I want to know Christ." There's a hunger and a thirst and I hope that's what drew you to worship today, you wanted to come and worship this living God. Well, that seeking and yearning, that was first in the heart of God, your Heavenly Father. And because He yearned for you, now you're yearning for Him because He sought you, now you are seeking Him, because He loved you, now you love Him. We love because He first loved us. So just stop, if I could just stop and apply this right here, we're going to do some application right in the middle of the sermon. Just stop and wonder in amazement at this humble, patient, God, who stood in front of your soul all those days, persistently revealed Himself to you until at last you saw Him, at last you loved Him and you followed Him through Christ. Just stop right now and thank God for His grace in revealing Christ to you by His Spirit, you are now seeking Him because He first sought you so, give Him thanks and marvel that He has only begun to reveal Himself to you.
You have infinitely more to see about this God, He will be like for eternity saying, "Behold me," and you will never be done. So, that makes heaven a very exciting dynamic place, doesn't it? We'll be learning forever, "Behold me, behold me."
II. “Behold My Judgments!” on Wicked Israelites (vs. 2-7)
Now in Isaiah 65, God turns with, I think great sadness to address the rebellious Israelites, and to convict them of their persistent wickedness in rejecting this God and instead pursuing idols. So Verses 2-7, "Behold my judgments on wicked Israelites." God was amazingly patient with them as well. In Verse 2, He says, "All day long I have held out my hands to an obstinate people who walk in ways not good pursuing their own imaginations." Now Romans 10, I think is just the best commentary on these verses, the best way to interpret them. Apostle Paul tells us how to interpret Verse 1 and Verse 2 of Isaiah 65. Paul applies verse one to the Gentiles, and their amazing harvest into the church, but then he turns and contrast the receptivity of the Gentiles to the hardness of the Jews, and they're just consistent rejection, not universal, but almost universal rejection of Christ as their messiah.
And he's addressing that and he uses Verse 2 and applies it to Israel in Romans 10:21, he says this, "All day long" concerning Israel, he says, "All day long I have held out my hands to a stubborn or a disobedient and defiant people, stiff neck people, uncircumcised hearts and ears." Again in this though we see the remarkable patience and humility of God with Israel. For generations through the prophets, through these messengers, God had stood before stubborn Israel, like the father of the prodigal son waiting at the end of the driveway for the son to come home, yearning with his arms spread out, wanting the prodigal to come home, and yet they were stiff neck, they refused, they were hard hearted, they wouldn't yield. They walked in evil ways, they pursued pagan religions of their own imaginations, not part of God's revelation and yet God continues to persistently hold out His hands to them, reach out to them, but they refused. So, what is the nature of this idolatry? Look at Verses 2-7. These are evil pagan religions that have polluted Israel for centuries, they had consistently sinned right in God's face, defiantly embracing Canaanite rituals, pagan rituals, godless rituals.
Look at verse 3 and 4, "A people who continually provoke me into my very face, offering sacrifices in gardens and burning incense on altars of brick who sit among the graves, and spend their nights keeping secret vigils, who eat the flesh of pigs and whose pots hold broths of unclean meat." So this is a paganism, a ritual, dark occultic religion that includes repulsive practices such as necromancy, and eating pig meat and other defiled meats in defiance of God's holy law. So they're spending their nights among the graves summoning the dead in some weird way, and they're chewing and swallowing pig meat in direct defiance of the dietary regulations that God had given them in the Laws of Moses. They eat the flesh of pigs and whose pots hold broths of unclean meat and their hearts are actually weirdly made proud by these bizarre rituals, they're actually proud of them. It's like one of those secret occultic religions where it's like higher and higher circles of knowledge. And as you went further and further into these deep secrets of Satan, you got more and more sacred in some weird occultic way.
And so in verse 5, they say, "Keep away, don't come near me, for I am too sacred for you." In the KJV, this is one of the more famous translations, KJV says, "Come not near to me for I am holier than thou." Ever heard of that expression, "Holier than thou?" That's coming right from this verse. But it's a weird context, it's talking about Jews who are doing pagan rituals and think it's making them holy. How weird is that? So they rejected God's definition of holiness, choosing instead one from paganism and their attitudes and actions were utterly repulsive and provocative to God. Verse 5, "Such people are smoking my nostrils, a fire that keeps burning all day." It's a powerful image. Have you ever gone camping? And you make a fire, a camp fire and the wood that's available isn't the greatest, it's a little green, maybe pine, a lot of sap in it and it's a windy day and you get the fire going but it does not matter where you stand, the wind's going to find you the smokes, you know what I'm talking about? You keep adjusting your chair, you try all 360 points of the compass, and no matter where you put it, the smoke stings your eyes. I can feel it right now, I had it recently. It's like it's... Man, it's awful, it's obnoxious.
Or another story, this is, my wife and I were missionaries in Japan, and we had a neighbor, older man who used to burn his garbage regularly and it did not seem to matter what the prevailing wind was that always found our living room. It just came right and then had a very distinctive, acrid, nasty odor, the burning garbage. And so God is saying, "These people who are living like this are smoking my eyes and in my nostrils, they're incredibly provocative and irritating to me." Fire that keeps burning all day.
Now, it's for this reason we just need to marvel at God's patience with the reprobate, God's patience with wicked people who will not repent. Romans 9:22 says, "God…bore with great patience the objects of His wrath prepared for destruction." He puts up with a lot, they are stinging His eyes every day by the way they're living their lives, and He puts up with a lot. But at some point, God's patience runs out. At some point, the patience is going to stop.
Verse 6 and 7, "Behold my judgments." God will not wait forever. At some point, the Day of Judgement will come. "Behold, it stands written before me, I will not keep silent, but I will pay back in full, I will pay it back into their laps." Verse 7, "'Both your sins and the sins of your fathers,' says the Lord, 'because they burnt sacrifices on the mountains and defined me on the hills, I will measure into their laps the full payment of their former deeds.'" God is a careful record-keeper. Romans 2 says that these people do not realize that day after day, by their stubborn unrepentance, they're storing a wrath against themselves, for the day of God's wrath, when His righteous judgments will be revealed.
That's what He says here. God had been silent, and they misconstrued the silence, they didn't understand what it meant. They said. "Oh, there's no God, or He's not holy or He doesn't care or... " They feel justified in their actions, God doesn't seem to do anything ever. But finally, the day is coming. "Behold", that's the behold here, "Behold the day is coming when the wrath of God will most certainly come." And he says, "It stands written before me…" He uses this language, "Behold it stands written." Reminds me of that famous phrase from the movie, 10 Commandments. You remember 10 Commandments and Pharaoh's there, Yul Brynner, and he would make some pronouncement, and then he would say. I'm not going to do his accent. But he would say, "So let it be written, so let it be done." Remember that? If not, see the movie and see what I'm talking about. So this potentate makes a statement and there's these court stenographers around ready to take every word from the King, because that's law when the king says it. Well, that's what the King of the universe, is saying, "It stands written before me, there's going to be a Judgment Day." It's definitely coming, it's revealed. And God is going to pay back into their laps all the deeds they have done. Again, I'm going to stop and do application right here.
Behold, God cannot be mocked. Do not misunderstand the fact that the wicked seem to get away with their wickedness in this world, do not misunderstand that. God cannot be mocked, we will reap what we sow, and Judgment Day definitely does come. Galatians 6:7. Revelation 2:23 says, "I am He who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each person according to what he has done." Revelation 20 depicts this, "I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne and books were opened, another book was opened, which is the Book of Life, and the dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the book." It's payback time for God at that point. And the only possible salvation there is from this meticulous, holy, just, record-keeping God, is the cross of Jesus Christ, that's the only hope that we have. Flee to Christ, flee to Christ now while there's time, that's our message to Durham, that's our message to this community, to people, work places tomorrow, they're under the wrath of God if they're not Christians, urge them to flee to Christ, "Behold my judgments are coming," it's our job to make that clear. All over the world, people are involved in wicked idolatrous worship systems. Stone Age animistic tribes in the jungles of Papua New Guinea, still offer human sacrifices to the gods, to the spirits of the jungle and to the elemental demonic forces of the universe, it's still going on now.
Hundreds of millions of Hindus follow empty demonic rituals that are offensive to God and damning to their souls. David Platt who's president of the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention writes about this in his book, Counter Culture. The horror that came over his soul watching a Hindu ritual.
This is David Platt, he said,
"I stood at the Bagmati River in South Asia, where every day funerals are held and bodies are burned. It is the custom among these Hindu people when family or friends die, to take their bodies within 24 hours to the river, where they lay them on funeral piers and set the piers ablaze. In so doing, they believe that they're helping their friend or family member in the cycle of reincarnation. As I saw this scene unfold before me, I stood in overwhelmed silence. For as I watched these flames overtake the bodies, I knew based on Scripture that I was witnessing at that moment, a physical reflection of an eternal reality. Tears streamed down my face as I realized that most, if not all the people I was watching burn had died without ever having heard the good news of how they could have lived forever with God."
This demonic ritual is a smoke burning in God's nostrils all day long. In the very next chapter of Isaiah, God willing if we'll have time to talk about, the way the book ends, Isaiah 66:24, it says, "They will go out and look upon the dead bodies of those who rebelled against me, their worm will not die, neither will their fire be quenched and they will be loathsome to all mankind." Christ alone can save us from that eternal fire. Now, just stop for a moment, stop for a moment. It's just easy to put the paganism out there, out in the jungles of Irian Jaya, along the rivers of India, with the Hindu rituals, there is a paganism right here in America, it's just obvious if you know what to look for. There is a growing overt paganism in this country. People who live for money, for food, for sex, for sports, for earthly pleasure, paganism, not just in the jungles of Irian Jaya or by a river in India, but also in the investment offices of Wall Street. Also in restaurants in Brightleaf Square, in huge sporting venues in Houston, Texas, there is paganism in these places too.
And Christ alone can rescue the people who are involved in pagan worship in Wall Street and in restaurants and at Super Bowls. He can rescue them from their paganism. It's not true that everyone in Wall Street, everyone at the restaurant, everyone at the Super Bowl is pagan, I'm not saying that, but many are. 'Cause that's what their hearts are all after, that's what they're living for.
III. “Behold My Servants Singing!” (While the Wicked are Shamed) (vs. 8- 16)
Thirdly, behold my servants singing while the wicked are shamed. Verses 8-16. God makes distinctions. Good grapes here in these verses, good grapes are saved, the bad ones are rejected. So the Jews in Verses 2-7 are wicked and essentially pagan, but not all Jews follow these pagan rituals. God is able to make distinctions.
Not all the Jews are bad grapes. In the large cluster of Israel, there was still some juice in some of them. God found a righteous remnant among all this paganism. Look at Verse 8. "This is what the Lord says, 'As when juice is still found in a cluster of grapes, and men say, 'Don't destroy it. There's still some good in it.' So will I do on behalf of my servants. I will not destroy them all.'" Now Jesus told many parables of separation on Judgment Day. The parable of the wheat in the weeds, where it's all mixed up and they want to root them up. He said, "No, wait till the end." And He will separate the wheat from the weeds, and He'll gather the weed into His barn, but He'll burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.
Or the parable of the dragnet. "The kingdom of Heaven is like a net let down into a lake and it caught all kinds of fish." And then the fishermen sit down on the pier, and they separate the good fish from the bad. They collect the good fish in baskets, but they throw the bad away. Or again, the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25, "When the son of man comes in his glory… He will sit on His throne in Heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate the people one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left." So also in Verses 8-16, Isaiah reveals with the repeated word, "Behold." God is able to make distinctions between the righteous and the wicked.
Blessings for the Remnant
Look at Verse 9 and 10. He says, "I will bring forth descendants from Jacob and from Judah those who will possess my mountains, my chosen people will inherit them, and there will my servants live. Sharonwill become a pastor for flocks, and the Valley of Achor, a resting place for herds for my people who seek me." So, for the remnant, the genuine believing Jews and this and that extends them to the elect around the world I think. God promises to produce descendants who will inherit the Mountains of Judah and dwell there richly blessed. The Promised Land from Sharon in the west to Achor in the east will be fertile, a rich pasture-land for their flocks to graze in and lie down in peace. These are old covenant images of blessing in that way. But, given that Paul applies this chapter to Gentiles coming to faith in Christ, I think it's reasonable for us to look on them first as the spiritual blessings of coming to faith in Christ, the richness of the life we have in Christ, and then even better. The literal physical blessings we will have in the new H9eavens and the new Earth. And maybe the millennium. We'll talk about that next week. [chuckle] That'll be exciting. That's like two sermons in one. I have no idea how I'm going to preach the rest of this chapter in one sermon, but I'm going to try next week. We're going to try to walk through the idea of the millennium and try to come to some unity and understanding of that.
But in any case, whether you believe in a literal millennium or you believe in the new Heavens and new Earth, there are rich blessings that are coming, even physical. The righteous will inherit the earth, along with all of the descendants of Abraham. In Romans 4:13 it says, that Abraham and his offspring received the promise that he would be heir of the world. The meek will inherit the earth. However, there will come judgment and wrath on the bad grapes, in this image, the bad grapes. Verse 11 and 12, "But for you who forsake the Lord, and forget my holy mountain, who spread a table for fortune and fill bowls of mixed wine for destiny, I will destine you for the sword, and you will all bend down for the slaughter for I called but you did not answer. I spoke but you did not listen. You did evil in my sight and chose what displeases me."
Blessings and Curses
These people turned their backs on God and His rich blessings. They forsook the Lord. It was not an accident, it was a willful choice. They embraced fate and destiny and lady luck. It's the way we would talk about it. Do you realize that Americans will bet if past habits... Americans will bet 4.7 billion dollars on the Super Bowl, or have already bet. Almost 5 billion dollars trusting in luck and fortune to make some money. Now, in this text, these people who forsook the Lord and turned their backs on that, and spread a table for fortune, and they're having a feast of paganism basically. God has destined them for slaughter. He tried again and again to call out to them, but they refused to listen. And so, we have blessings and curses.
And here we have again and again through this word, "Behold. Look." See this. Behold, how much blessing the righteous are going to receive, and how the wicked will be excluded. And what's really striking here, is God is telling it to the wicked who are excluded. "Behold, my servants will have this blessing, but you excluded ones will not." And it just seems very striking, that language. Here, look at Verses 13 and 14, "Therefore, thus says the Lord God, 'Behold, my servants shall eat, but you will go hungry. Behold, my servants shall drink, but you shall be thirsty. Behold, my servants shall rejoice, but you shall be put to shame.'" Verse 14, "Behold, my servants shall sing for gladness of heart, but you, shall cry out for pain of heart and wail for breaking of spirit."
Now, this idea of feasting, in the kingdom of heaven is regularly described and what God is doing here through the prophet Isaiah is saying there is going to be a feast and you are going to miss it. Now here's the thing, for God to tell us this ahead of time, is incredible grace. If you see it properly. There should be a longing in the heart of outsiders right now, saying, "I don't want to be excluded. I don't want to miss out on the richest most bountiful feast there could ever be in all of this, I don't want to miss it. I don't want to stay an outsider I want to come in, I want to be invited into the feast and I want to sit down at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven and I want to feast with Jesus I don't want to be an outsider."
But then on Judgement Day He's going to say this, and He has no hesitation to make people feel regrets at that point. "My servants will eat but you will go hungry, my servants will drink and you will be thirsty." You're on the outside. And they will live in torment and especially pain of heart and breaking of spirit. I've thought about that. There will be bitter regrets, in hell. People will remember their lives. They'll remember things about it, they'll remember that they had good things while they lived, they will remember. I think especially the times they heard the gospel and didn't respond and they'll regret it. They're outsiders. Verse 15, "You shall leave your name to my chosen for a curse, and the Lord God will put you to death. But his servants, he will call by another name." You know what that means? I really believe, and others struggle with this, but I believe the redeemed will know exactly what's happening to the reprobates in hell.
They'll know their names, they'll know what's happening, because God's not going to hide it from us. We'll talk about that at the end of Isaiah 66 but it's openly taught. They'll go out and look out on them, and they'll know and we will vindicate the justice of God and all that God's not embarrassed about this, He has told us ahead of time what He's going to do. This is the time of Grace. This is the time when the door is open, come in. By the way, just a little application, on the Lord's Supper, when we have the Lord's supper I do something as a pastor called fencing the table. And what I say if you're not a believer, in Jesus Christ, do not partake. I want them to know they're outsiders.
I'm not trying to be mean, but I'm just saying there is no feasting, apart from faith in Christ. I want them to know that. You know what? I've said this before, I want you to celebrate the next time we'll do a Lord supper. Come to faith in Christ, get baptized, come enjoy. Yeah. But the Lord here wants the outsiders to know they are outsiders and what's going to happen. And we're going to get a new name, it says in Revelation 2:17, a transformed nature, and we will be radically different.
Verse 16, "So that he who blesses himself in the land shall bless himself by the God of truth and He takes an oath in the land, shall swear by the God of truth because the former troubles are forgotten and hidden from my eyes." So we'll be done with all of our false oaths, done with all of our paganism. We have been transformed, we have a new name, we have a new nature, and we're going to celebrate the grace of God forever in heaven.
IV. “Behold My New Universe” (vs. 17-25) [Next Week!]
That's what's coming in, that former sorrows will be gone forever, all sorrow and sadness will flee away forever. And death and mourning and crying, and pain, will be gone, and we'll be there forever. Now verse 17-25, "For behold, for behold, I will create a new heavens, a new earth." Next week, we'll talk about that. I hope you see now why I did this in two weeks. There's just no way we could get through all of this in one week.
Let me do a little more application we'll be done. This passage I believe, gives a clear warning to the outsiders to flee to Christ now while there's time. So if you know yourself this morning to be an outsider, you know that you're not a Christian, I'm pleading with you flee to Christ, now while there's time. Come to Christ Jesus is God's son, He died on the cross as an atoning sacrifice for all of our paganism and our idolatry and wickedness and He took all of that wickedness on Himself and died under the wrath of God, to give us a perfect righteousness by faith alone come to Christ.
So you Christians, thank God for His persistence in saving you, H never gave up on you. And He never will. He's going to stand in front of you and say, "Behold me, behold me forever". And just praise God for that and look forward to seeing His face in Heaven. Just look forward to the beatific vision they call it the beautiful vision. The source of all the beauty where it all came from, you're going to see Him radiant and shining. God in Christ, the source of all beauty. Revelation 22:3 and 4 says, "No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and His servants will serve Him, and they will see His face, they will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads."
Fourth be sober-minded about the future of the wicked.Take this seriously. I'm speaking to Christians. Look at these things, understand the smoke of their torment rises forever and ever, weep over it, be broken over it, like David Platt was. And let it motivate you toward evangelism, let it motivate you toward missions. Don't harden your heart toward lost people in your school, your classes, your dorm, your workplace, your neighbor, don't harden your heart. Open up, be willing to take some abuse from them as you might lead some of them to Christ. And then next week, we're going to talk about the rest of the chapter and the beauties of the coming world as God will create it. Close with me in prayer.