Awake O Zion and Celebrate: Your God Reigns! (Isaiah Sermon 60 of 81)
January 11, 2015 | Andrew Davis
Coming to Mount Zion
The Bible gives us many different images for the church, the people of God that it called out. It does that because just as it gives us many different images of God, the whole picture is complex, and so not just one image will do for understanding what the church is. For example, the Bible reveals that the church is a family that God is our Father, and that we are all brothers and sisters, we have been adopted into a family, we are children of the living God. It develops that image, or the church is sometimes said to be a body that Christ is the head and we are all members of the body, and we are joined and held together by supporting ligaments and by a circulatory system and all that. We're like a body.
Or the church is like the bride of Christ, the bride, and Jesus is the bridegroom, and we have adorned ourselves with beautiful garments and with jewels. We'll get that image later in Isaiah but, that we are to be in a marvelous and mysterious way wed to God through Christ. The Bible also reveals that we are a temple, a temple, a living temple and we are all living stones in that temple, and that we have in some amazing way, been quarried out, of Satan's dark kingdom and we have been moved over and put like living stones into the walls of this spiritual structure that's rising and getting bigger and bigger to be a place in which God dwells by His Spirit.
Very similar to that image, is the image of a city. We are the city of the living God, and that there's this incredible, vast city with walls and with glorious buildings and with adornments and gates and all of that that just is getting bigger and bigger all the time. And as we come to Isaiah 52, we come to a word that links into that image across scripture and that's the word Zion. We come to the image of Zion and here we have the picture of a vast city of God. Now it's mentioned the word Zion is mentioned 158 times in the Old Testament, interestingly only seven times in the New. And four of those seven are direct quotations of Old Testament passages, like the one we're looking at today. Now, in the Old Testament, Zion is the city of Jerusalem, it's a city of David, literally the physical city of Jerusalem, which you could fly into by a jet plane today, that place.
It was a Jebusite city that David conquered and established as the capital of his kingdom, the combined kingdom of Israel and Judah, it was all one in those days, and he was the king there in the city of David, in Zion, Jerusalem. And so, again and again in the Old Testament when you see Zion you can almost put the word Jerusalem right in there. It's just about equivalent. Occasionally in Psalms, it gives you a sense of something more lofty, something not just merely physical but generally speaking you just think Jerusalem when you see Zion, physical city. But when we come over into the New Testament, we have the fulfillment of that image, we have the flourishing and the perfection of the idea of Zion. And there are a lot of different verses but there's one in particular that I have in mind. In Hebrews Chapter 12, the author to Hebrews tells those Jewish Christians, "You have not come now to a mountain that can be touched and that is burning with fire," talking about Mount Sinai, "but you have come to Mount Zion, the heavenly Jerusalem…"
So I want you, as we look in Isaiah 52 today, I want you to keep that image in mind. You have come to Mount Zion, the heavenly Jerusalem. We're going to try to understand that and he goes on there, the author of Hebrews the church of the first born so he goes, Mount Zion, the heavenly Jerusalem, the church of the first born. Those are just images that he strings together there. The perfection therefore, in my opinion, the perfection of Zion is Revelation 21, and that is this beautiful city, this new Jerusalem, which has been being prepared now for 2000 years. It's a work in progress, it's under construction. And little by little, it's getting more and more glorious, and more and more finished and perfect with these living stones, same images, the sanctuary of temple image. It's getting built up, and it's almost ready. Dear friends, I don't know what almost means to you or to me, but Jesus says, "Behold, I'm coming quickly."
And so he's in the process of building this glorious new Jerusalem that's heavenly Zion, and at some point, it's going to descend from heaven to earth and that's the consummation of all of the redemptive history of the Bible. And it's going to be a perfect place where he will dwell in direct face-to-face fellowship with his people and there'll be no more death, and mourning, or crying, or pain, for the old order of things will have passed away, and he has made everything new and he's going to dwell there and he's going to wipe every tear from our eyes, and will be there forever. So the Zion below is the physical city of Jerusalem. The Zion above is that heavenly work that God is doing through redeeming sinners by the gospel and putting them together, building them together into this vast amazing city. And in the end those images come together.
Now as we're in Isaiah, as we're following the chapters of this very complex and beautiful book, we're coming to an amazing series of chapters, Isaiah 52, 53 and 54. Isaiah 52 and 54, the strong images will be Zion, the building of this incredible city of the living God. This holy bride that's going to be lifted up from the dust and the degradation of sin and to holy readiness for her wedding day. It's a powerful thing. We're going to come to it again in Isaiah 60 through 66, Zion made beautiful, made radiant, made ready, beautified by the streaming of the nations, the glory of the nations streaming into the city and making it beautiful. So we're going to get that image uploaded and we're going to think about it in Isaiah 52 and 54, in the middle, is Isaiah 53, the single greatest prophetic chapter in the Bible, concerning the atoning work of Jesus Christ. So, the way I put all that together as you get the beauty of Zion in Isaiah 52 and 54, and we get what it costs God to make it happen in Isaiah 53, the blood of Jesus Christ shed for his bride, shed for the city. That's where we're going. So, in Isaiah 52, the idea of Zion is a prophetic picture of the true Jerusalem being built. It's like the animal sacrificial system. It was real, physical, it really happened, but it pictured something higher, something more spiritual, and perfect. And some day the physical would pass away and be perfected in the spiritual, and that's why we don't do animal sacrifices anymore. In the same way, the idea of Zion as the earthly Jerusalem, gives way in the new covenant to the heavenly city that's being built by the Gospel.
Now, in Isaiah, we still have a transition in the words, and so we're still concerned about the physical city, and the picture, the type or shadow, the prophetic picture, the actual city and the things that are going on there. But keep in mind, it's just a picture of the final work of redemption that God's doing in the church, and so here's Zion defiled, despised, rejected, sitting in the filth and degradation of sin, and the dusty rubble of wrath and judgment from God, being called on now to rise up out of that and be cleansed from all that and to be exalted by the grace and power of God, the time of judgment is over and the time of glory is at hand.
And so the rising up and cleansing is a picture of the redemptive work of God in Christ, for all of us, that we're called on to get up out of the muck of sin, and the rubble of judgment, and to live a life glorifying to God. So that's where we're going.
I. God Exalts Zion from the Dust of Exile (vs. 1-6)
Now, let's look at the verses carefully verses 1 through 6, God, exalt Zion from the dust of exile. So Zion in verse 1 is awake and then clothed with holy garments. Look at the verse, "Awake, awake, Zion, clothe yourself with strength! Put on your garments of splendor, O Jerusalem, the holy city. The uncircumcised and the defiled will not enter you again." So Zion again, Jerusalem, the Holy City, is pictured here asleep or like it is dead perhaps in judgment, under the wrath of God and also having been defiled by unholy men. God calls on Zion, to awake, he says it, he repeats it "Awake, awake, O Zion."
Similar to Jesus calling to Lazarus, "Lazarus come forth." So it's like a resurrection message here, "Wake up from your sleep of death." Defiled by uncircumcised unholy Babylonian soldiers who ran through the City of Jerusalem with tortures that took axes in the Holy of Holies, stripped it of all of its gold, and chopped its beautiful carved panels with axes and turned that precious aromatic wood into kindling fuel for the fire. Now, the time of that defilement is over. It's done. Zion, Jerusalem, the holy city, is called on to rise up out of that and clothe herself with strength and garments of splendor and God makes a fascinating promise here to Zion. The promise that the uncircumcised and defiled will never enter her again.
Now, the immediate piece of Jerusalem, when it was being rebuilt after the exile was done under Cyrus the Great. And the decree that the city and the temple would be rebuilt was a mere foretaste in the beginning of the journey of the fulfillment of this prophecy. It's not the perfection of it. Frankly, that decree from the Persian kings was contested in court, just about every step of the way. When you read about this in Ezra and Nehemiah, they have to go send lawyers and advocates to go argue with these Persian kings to prove that the decree had even ever been given, they had to rummage through all dusty libraries, they didn't have the database search systems we have now. I can picture some guy with a candle down there going through like scrolls trying to find Cyrus's decree about the rebuilding of Jerusalem.
It was contested every step of the way and Nehemiah had to rebuild the walls of the city out of rubble with a sword in one hand and a trowel on the other, it was contested every step of the way. Ezra rebuilt the temple, but its glory was greatly diminished and reduced from that of Solomon's temple it was completed under Haggai. And you read in Haggai that the sound of weeping couldn't be distinguished from the sound of joyful celebration. The old timers remembered what Solomon's temple looked like and this isn’t it. And they were grieved over it and they said, "Is this what we're down to now? It's all we can afford?" And so after the Greeks conquered the Persians, then later Greek rulers defiled the temple and the Holy of Holies with extreme defilements worse than any that have been measured up to that point. Antiochus Epiphanes, a Greek ruler that succeeded Alexander the Great, came a number of a century or two later, he defiled the Holy of Holies by sacrificing pigs in the Holy of Holies in the year 167 BC.
Look at verse 1 again, "Put on your garments of splendor, O Jerusalem, the Holy City, the uncircumcised and defiled will not enter you again." Huh? Question mark, how is that true? And given that six centuries later, the Roman army did finally and completely, what any of these other Gentile armies had only begun doing, they completely leveled the city of Jerusalem and it's been, the temple has never been rebuilt. Just see if it's recorded, just how bad it was and how many died and the blood bath there was then. It just leaves you wondering. Look at verse 1, "Put on your garments of spender, O Jerusalem, the Holy City, the uncircumcised and defiled will not enter you again." So what is this talking about? This is a prophecy that hasn't been fulfilled yet. It's not been perfected yet.
And I think we have to jump ahead to the end of the Bible and don't turn there, but if you were to jump up to Revelation 21:25-27, and there it's talking as I said about the glorious new Jerusalem that's coming down. This beautiful city with these gates and walls and splendor and glory, it is just amazing and this is what it says about that city. Revelation 21:25-27, "On no day will its gates ever be shut." You don't need to shut the gates anymore. Why? No more enemies, "On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it." Now, here's a key verse, Revelation 21:27, "Nothing impure will ever enter it nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful but only those whose names are written in the Lamb's Book of Life." So that's the perfection of Isaiah 52:1, "The uncircumcised and defiled will never enter you again." That's what we're looking forward to.
Isaiah is saying there's going to come a day when the city of Zion will be completely free from all enemies and completely glorious, radiant in holiness, that day has not come yet, but it is coming. The rebuilding of the literal city of Jerusalem under Ezra and Nehemiah was a mere foretaste of the future glory of the new Jerusalem. Now, let me ask you a question. What about you, dear friend? What about you? Created in the image of God, living a human life, you're here today, will you be able to stream into the nations with, into the gates at that point and bring your glory in the city, or will you be in the lake of fire? Those are the options.
The uncircumcised and defiled, those who are the un-redeemed, those who are the outsiders, those who are the sinners, the rebels, those that hate God and his people, they'll be gone, they'll be in the lake of fire. What about you? If you repent, you trust with what Daniel was just saying, "If you trust in that gospel, you trust in Christ crucified and resurrected, you'll be allowed to enter in for your name will have been written in the Lamb's Book of Life."
Zion Arises from Bondage and Sits Enthroned
Now, in verse 2, Zion arises from bondage and sits on throne, "Shake off your dust; rise up, sit enthroned, O Jerusalem. Free yourself from the chains on your neck, O captive Daughter of Zion." Now Jerusalem is pictured here as dusty and enslaved, defiled, here God causing her to rise up gloriously and sit enthroned, free from all chains of captivity. Once again, the immediate fulfillment of the exiles leaving Babylon and re-populating Jerusalem is only a deemed prophecy. It's acted out, it's important, but it's not complete. For one thing, the captive daughter of Zion could not sit enthroned in Jerusalem, while it had to ask permission from Gentile kings for everything. It was the time of the Gentiles, Jesus called it. She had to go cap in hand to Gentile kings like Cyrus and Xerxes and Artaxerxes, and Alexander, and Antiochus, and Caesar, Augustus, and Tiberius.
You have to go ask for things ask permission. So how is Zion sitting enthroned in that condition? No, no, the true final enthronement of Zion awaits. Think about this: Revelation 3:21, "To him who overcomes I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I [Jesus speaking] overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne." I heard one preacher say, "Lap in lap, in lap," so Jesus sitting in the Father's lap, we're in Jesus's lap, that's enthroned. We'll be on the throne of the universe at that point, or again, Revelation 4:4, we have a picture of these thrones surrounding the throne, the central throne, there's a main throne, the throne of God, and then there's 24 other thrones and seated on them are 24 elders and they're dressed in white and they have crowns of gold on their heads. Or again 2 Timothy 2:11 and 12, here's a trustworthy saying, "If we died with him, we will also live with him, if we endure, we will also reign with him." That's the fulfillment of this enthronement of Zion image. That's the future. If you're a child of God, if you're a Christian, someday you're going to sit on Jesus's throne, like Jesus is sitting on his Father's throne.
Zion Redeemed to Know the Lord
And then in verses 3 through 6, it speaks about the redemption of Zion. Zion is redeemed in order that they may know the Lord. Look at the verses, "For this is what the LORD says: 'You were sold for nothing, and without money you will be redeemed.' For this is what the Sovereign LORD says: 'At first my people went down to Egypt to live; lately, Assyria has oppressed them. And now what do I have here?' declares the LORD. 'For my people have been taken away for nothing, and those who rule them mock,' declares the LORD. 'And all day long my name is constantly blasphemed. Therefore my people will know my name; therefore in that day they will know that it is I who foretold it. Yes, it is I.'"
So God here speaks to captive Zion in chains like a slave, he says, "Look at you, you are sold for nothing." She gave herself in enslavement to other gods and goddesses and to sin and wickedness. And what did she get back? She got nothing for it. Sold for nothing into their chain. So it is with us. Paul puts it this way in Romans, "What benefit did you reap at that time from those things you're now ashamed of?" What were your wages in serving sin? It's death. You're sold for nothing.
So Isaiah here recounts Israel's history of bondage, at first bondage in Egypt, lately in exile the Assyria, he doesn't mention exile of Babylon, but it's the backdrop of all these chapters. This exile of God's chosen people has resulted in her captors mocking him, blaspheming his Holy Name. There's a lot of this. Even in the Psalms, I'll sing one of those songs of Zion here in Babylon, and the psalmist can't do it. By the rivers of Babylon, we wept. As they couldn't sing one of the songs of Zion there in a foreign land, and so there was mocking and blaspheming going on because God had lost the battle, so they thought. He's not very powerful after all. God's name is linked up with his people and he can't let his name be defamed, he can't let his name be blasphemed.
And so he must redeem his people and he does so. Just as they were sold for nothing without money, they will be redeemed. Amen, isn't that sweet? Think about that, without money, redeem. God doesn't owe her new masters anything, he doesn't owe them anything but destruction. He's going to destroy those masters. And without money, God's going to redeem her. And we all know how don't we? I love 1 Peter 1, it says, "You know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you by your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, the lamb without blemish or defect." That's what redeemed you. We're going to get to it in the next chapter in Isaiah 53.
If you look just at the end of this chapter, look at verse 15, it says, "so will he sprinkle many nations." Sprinkle them with what? With his blood? And then in the next chapter, Isaiah 53:5, "He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed." Or we could say redeemed, but the blood of Jesus were bought back out of this, our slavery to sin, without money. In a couple of chapters in Isaiah 55, we're going to have this call. Ho! Was one of the translations. "Ho!" Or "Hey everyone! All you who are thirsty, come to the waters. And you who have no money, come buy and eat…Without money and without cost." So you just come to Jesus, free, you don't need to bring anything, he doesn't want anything from you, he wants to give something to you. And so freely you receive forgiveness and salvation without money, without price, just as a gift from God. You couldn't afford it anyway and neither could I. And so don't try to pay for it. It's an insult. Accept it as a gift.
And so the end result of this redemption without money will be that Zion will know that it is the Lord, that did it, we're going to get to heaven, and we'll have no doubt about the sovereignty of God, and salvation. There's all kinds of debates about it now. Oh, back and forth. The debates go on God's sovereignty and salvation. There'll be no debate in heaven. We will know it was the Lord that did it. Amen. From beginning to end, we'll give him the glory and the credit and the praise. We will know that God foretold it and he brought it about.
II. Beautiful Feet Bring Joyful News: “Your God Reigns!” (vs. 7-12)
Now, in verses 7-12, we have the missionary part of this. Do you notice how often we keep bumping into missionary themes? It keeps happening again and again. Look what he says in verse 7 of beautiful feet of messengers that are bringing this good news, he says, "How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, your God reigns." The image here I get is of messengers who have traveled a long distance and they are breathless, they are just out of breath. They did barely had enough strength to get to Zion and they're traveling to Zion, and they have an incredible message to give. They traveled over the mountains to bring the message. They're willing to travel over dangerous and difficult roads to get to Zion. They're going to Zion. Now, again that's the earthly image of the earthly city of Jerusalem, but ultimately the people of Zion, the elect who need to hear this message that you got to keep both of them in mind.
So you could picture like some straggling small pathetic remnant of Jews that was left behind in Jeremiah's day to kind of scrape out a living, people of the land and all that, and they suddenly the messenger comes over the hill, and he says, "Babylon has fallen, has fallen all, the images of her gods are crushed in the dust and some exiles are coming back and they're going to rebuild this city. Oh, what good news. What good news." But if Zion is the spiritual city, the idea is of elect people scattered, chosen before the foundation of the world, but scattered all over the surface of the planet. They're all over the place, they're in distant mountains and valleys and villages and they're in major urban areas and cities, and they're everywhere, they're all over the place. And they're not converted yet and they're elect, and they're waiting for some messengers to go.
The messengers come and they're so filled with energy, and they're so filled with joy, and they're here to tell the people, your God reigns. Salvation is for you. Paul actually quotes this to speak of the missionary endeavor. Any of you know Romans, you know you've heard this before. Isaiah 52:7, it's very familiar to you. And Paul picks it up right out of Isaiah 52. And he drops it into a defense for the whole missionary and enterprise of the church. Romans 10:12-15, he says, "There is no difference between Jew and Gentile-- the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, 'Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.' How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, 'How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!'" Paul is pulling straight from Isaiah 52:7.
So Paul is defending the missionary enterprise that he himself was on. The apostle to the Gentiles, traveling on boats and across roads to bring the Gospel to gentiles so that they could hear it. So both Jew and Gentile are Zion here in Romans 10. If they hear the Gospel with faith, they are Zion and they're hearing that God reigns and he's going to save them from their slavery to sin, and he's going to release them and rebuild the city. And so, as missionaries travel over the sea and ships to the islands of the South Pacific or through lofty mountain passes to get to remote tribes in Nepal or Tibet, or even as a college student sees another student sitting alone in the cafeteria and uses his or her beautiful feet, okay, to walk 35 feet across the cafeteria and sit down and have a conversation with a total stranger, fulfillment of this verse, as you share the gospel. We must take the initiative, that's our job. We have the good news, we must go out with that good news. There are people in countries to the ends of the earth that need to hear this.
Now, what does it mean how beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news. You might say a bit odd. Why the focus on feet? Well, feet especially in the days of sandals are dirty and repulsive. You say, "Pastor, these are the days of sandals, didn't you know that?" I mean lots of people wear them, alright. Well, let me ask, "What's the condition of your toes?" How are they? Don't tell me, I don't want to know, alright. Dirty, repulsive. Slaves don't wash the feet of their masters, they provide bowl, basin, towel and water and soap and here you go master enjoy I'm going to leave now, let me know when you're done I'll clean up afterwards. But Jesus washed his own disciples feet and dried it with a towel that was around his waist, a picture of servanthood and John the Baptist said of Jesus, he said, "I'm not worthy to get down on the ground and untie his sandals," that's how much greater he is than me.
Mary Magdalene showed her repentance by weeping and washing Jesus's feet with her tears and drying it with her hair, so the feet you could think about like the most repulsive part of someone's body. The point is if even their feet are beautiful, how much more their mind and their heart and everything that brought them to our village to preach the gospel. So beautiful, it's just beautiful knowing you, dear friend, that you brought me this Gospel message, how beautiful even your feet that you brought... That brought you here to me.
The Good News: Peace, Goodness, Salvation Because God Reigns
And look what it says. The good news, peace, salvation, the message it just flows. It brings good news, proclaims peace, brings good tidings, proclaims salvation and says to Zion, "Your God reigns." Now this is immediately fulfilled in the fall of Babylon and the decree of Cyrus that exiles should return, but even more the triumph of Jesus Christ over Satan, over sin and death, the grave and hell, that's the real fulfillment, that's the real victory that God has won. Rejoice, death has been defeated. Rejoice, sin has been paid for. Rejoice, you are liberated from your chains. Rejoice, you're adopted into the family of God and you'll live forever. That's what the good news is, the peace.
And all it does is in verse 8 and 9 produce shouts of joy, "Listen! Your watchmen lift up their voices; together they shout for joy. [Good news.] When the Lord returns to Zion, they will see it with their own eyes. Burst into songs of joy together, you ruins of Jerusalem, for the Lord has comforted his people, he has redeemed Jerusalem." And so we get together every week to do this. And I mean Daniel and his team just do a great job and we sing songs together, and that's the fulfillment of this image. All we can and should be doing is just celebrating what Christ has done and God's goodness in saving us, but we're going to have the fullness of that in heaven, worshipping forever.
And so verse 10, the salvation, this salvation displays God's power. Verse 10, "The Lord will lay bare his holy arm in the sight of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth will see the salvation of our God." The Gospel is a display of God's power. He's laying bare his holy arm here, power. Now, when you think of power, we think of two things: Position, the right to make a command. You're the emperor of all the earth, you can say how it's going to be, you're in charge. He has the power to do it, he has the power to declare wicked people not guilty of all their sins based on what Jesus had done. He has that power.
And he has the power to take history and sovereignly orchestrate it to deliver the Gospel message to every elect person all over the earth. He has the power to do this, he's going to lay bare his holy arm in the sight of all nations and so the cross is a display of power. First Corinthians 1:23-25, "we preach Christ crucified: A stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than man's wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength." This is a display of power, the cross is.
Therefore: Depart in Holiness and Journey Safely to Zion
Verse 11 and 12, therefore it's time to move out. Depart, leave, leave there, leave Babylon honestly, and make the pilgrimage, make the journey back to Zion now. That's what he's telling them to do, look at the verses, verses 11 and 12, "Depart, depart, go out from there! Touch no unclean thing! Come out from it and be pure, you who carry the vessels of the Lord. But you will not leave in haste or go in flight; for the Lord will go before you, and the God of Israel will be your rear guard."
So here we have this image of the exiles, they're living in Babylon, and now the message has come, it's time to leave, time to get out of here. So depart from there, get out of Babylon, we've seen again and again, Babylon is a symbol of the world and all of its idolatries and wicked lusts and wicked passions and sins, all of the gods and goddesses, and it's defiled and filthy and nasty, and the call here is get out of there now, come out of there. And don't touch those unclean things anymore.
And so he calls on the people of God to be pure and to begin a journey to go to Zion and rebuild it. So that's what he's calling them to do. And he says, "You who carry the vessels of the Lord." What is that talking about? Well, if you look at Daniel Chapter 1, don't do that, but you remember in Daniel 1:1 and 2, it talks about how at the time of the exile in the third year of the reign of King Jehoiakim of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar came to Babylon or king of Babylon, sorry, came to Jerusalem and besieged it. Listen to this, Daniel 1:2, "And the Lord delivered Jehoiakim King of Judah into his hand along with some of the articles from the temple of God. These he carried off to the temple of his god in Babylonia, and put in the treasure house of his god."
So here are these gold and silver, cups and plates, and candlesticks and different things that were used for worship. And they were carried off as a symbol of the triumph over Yahweh. And they are put in this treasure house of the God of Babylonia. Well, we meet up with them again in Daniel Chapter 5, you remember that Belshazzar's feast.
And Belshazzar, Nebuchadnezzar's grandson, who I think didn't have Nebuchadnezzar's conversion experience, a wicked man, is having a drunken feast with all of his nobles, and he gives word and they bring the vessels, the cups, the gold and silver cups from the temple and they drank from them, toast to the gods of bronze, iron, wood and stone, and they're defiling them. And God's holy anger is kindled, his zeal for his name is kindled and a hand, a disembodied hand shows up and starts to write on the plaster of the wall, "Belshazzar, your days are numbered, your kingdom is gone. You're dead, you're a dead man."
And so that very night, Darius took over Babylon and the thing fell and the Babylonian Empire was over and soon after that Cyrus gave the edict including these gold and silver cups. Do you think Cyrus wanted them? Why don't you take them back to Jerusalem when you go, please? And so, take these gold and silver cups, and they're listed for us in Ezra 1. I won't describe the inventory, but it's kind of weird. There's this inventory of cups and plates and saucers, and you're like, "What is the Bible? I don't understand this. Why do we have this list of 5400 gold and silver articles?" They're a symbol of the worship of God on Earth, the holy worship that he set up. And they're being transported from Babylon back to Zion as a picture of the renewal and the perfection of true spiritual worship.
It's physical, it's real stuff, but God wanted them re-established under the Old Covenant sacrificial system as a symbol of his restoration of worship there. And so, they carried them back. Now, they have a problem. If you're Ezra and you're going back along the Fertile Crescent along the road, you may get stopped by some oases and all that, and you've got 5400 very valuable gold and silver things. What are you worried about? Highway robbers. You're worried about other armies, you've got valuable stuff. And so, in Ezra 8, he says, "There, by the Ahava Canal, I proclaimed a fast, so that we might humble ourselves before God and ask him for a safe journey for us and our children, and all our possessions. I was ashamed to ask the king for soldiers and horsemen to protect us from enemies on the road because we had told the king, 'The gracious hand of our God is on everyone who looks to him, but his great anger is against all who forsake him.' So we fasted and petitioned God about this, and he answered our prayer."
In the text we're looking at here, God has said, "I'm going to go before you like the pillar of cloud and fire and I'm going to be your rear guard, I will take care of you, I'll keep you safe."
Now you're like, "What does this have to do with us?" Well, it's a picture of the spiritual journey that we make out of sin in Babylon to heaven. And you are, in some ways, you are the sacred vessels, you are the valuables and the enemies, the highway robbers, is Satan and demons and wicked people who want to attack you every step of the way, you're in enemy territory. And God has promised, "You're not going to leave in haste, it's going to be a long journey for you, but I'm going to protect you and I'm going to tell you to come out from there and be pure, and be holy." Paul says this in 2 Corinthians 6. And God is saying, "Don't touch those things, and don't make covenants together and be unequally yoked because I'm calling in you to come out of Babylon and be pure. And I'm going to get you there. And I'm going to filter your temptations.
And no temptation will seize you, except what is common to man, but God is faithful, and he will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you can bear. But with the temptation, he will make a way of escape, he's going to protect you and none of you will be lost. And so he's going to go ahead of us, and be our rear guard. So we've been weaving applications all the way through, but let me just say a few as we finish here.
First and foremost, can I just urge you to delight in the future of Zion? It's glorious. Read about it in Revelation 21. That city is big. It's like from here to the Mississippi River and up to the Great Lakes. And apparently goes up into the stratosphere as high as it is wide, and long. It's like this perfect cube. You're like, "I don't get that. That's a really big city. It's going to throw the orbit of the Earth. I don't know, I don't know how that's going to work, but it's a really, really big glorious perfect city. Amazingly huge and glorious. And it's made up of people, living stones like us, who have heard the Gospel and being quarried out. Look forward to that, it's beautiful there. There's no more death, or mourning, or crying, or pain.
And as a result of that, it's called the home of righteousness, nothing impure, unclean will ever enter into it. So we need to be pure and holy. Be very careful how you live. Be very careful what you look at on the internet, be very careful what captures your heart, what kinds of things you love, and what you eat and what your habits are. Be careful. Because we're under enemy attack all the time on this journey. And God, he's gone before us and he is our rear guard, but he wants us to fight and to put on the spiritual armor, and be holy. It says in 2 Peter 3, "Since everything would be destroyed like this, what kind of people ought you to be?" You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed, it's coming.
So, that's the internal journey of holiness. Ask God to purify you from the Babylon of our age. Ask him to cleanse you from sins. Ask him to purify your perspective on the unbelievers of this age, don't be unequally yoked with them. For Christians not to marry non-Christians, but more than that, don't be in covenant relationship with non-Christians. Understand this world system, this setup, it's dominated by Satan, the God of this age, it is no friend to your faith, you're under enemy territory.
And look forward with longing to the day when there'll be no more sin, no more temptations, yearn to be as holy as you can be. And then the external journey of missions, it's so clear. We are to yearn for this, we are to be a church that sends out missionaries, we are to be a church that supports those missionaries. We are, I think, we've either made or very close to making our Lottie Moon goal. Isn't that awesome? Praise God. It was a great December, financially. But it'd be great to have a great 11 months between now and the next December, amen. Let's be generous financially with missions year-round.
Let's pray as we've never before prayed for missions. Let's be active in unreached people group missionary, missions. Let's send as many missionaries out as we can over the next 10 years, amen. And support them, and love them through emails and Skype and short-term mission trips. And let's have our beautiful feet really active here in the Durham area, amen. Let's go out into the city, out into the workplaces, workplace evangelism, evangelism on the college campuses, there are a lot of lost people, we love to see baptisms. More and more people brought to faith in Christ, yearn for that. Let's make this place a mission launching pad.
Next time I preach in Isaiah, we're going to be looking at how God paid for all this. These are some of the greatest, these are some of the greatest chapters in the Bible, it begins in 52, but on into 53. Come ready to hear. Now, next week, I believe Sanctity of Human Life Sunday, but it maybe two weeks from now. So bring visitors in a couple of weeks to hear Isaiah 53. And I want to make one final appeal, if you are lost, if you're on the outside looking in, don't leave this place without trusting in Christ. Talk to me or anyone else that want to be on the inside. Close with me in prayer.