God Saves His Stubborn Children from Plans of Self-Salvation (Isaiah Sermon 32 of 80)
November 18, 2012 | Andy Davis
Warnings, Providence and Sovereignty of God
Pastor Andy Davis preaches a verse-by-verse expository sermon on Isaiah 30:1-33. The main subject of the sermon is how God interrupts our absurd plans to acquire salvation apart from Him.
- SERMON TRANSCRIPT -
Open in your Bibles, if you would, to Isaiah chapter 30. Looking this morning, at this magnificent chapter. One of the hardest parts of the Christian life, I think, is waiting. God is calling on us to wait as he does. That I can prove it's part of the Christian life is not difficult. You can think about the end of 1 Thessalonians 1, where Paul celebrates the conversion of the Thessalonians. And the report that came back to him of what God had done in those people. He says, "They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God and to wait for his Son from Heaven, Jesus Christ who rescues us from the coming wrath." Do you see those two verbs? To serve and to wait, that's what we're called on to do. We're called on to wait on the Lord. And so there are many verses in the New Testament that celebrate, that command, patience, the need for perseverance or patience. That we must wait under the hand of God. That we must humble ourselves and array ourselves under his mighty hand. That in due time, he may lift us up.
And that waiting is hard, but it's absolutely essential to our salvation. “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.” Patience. What's that for but waiting? Perseverance must finish its work so that you'll be mature and complete, not lacking anything. So the journey from immaturity to maturity is a long one, it doesn't happen quickly, and you must have patience. And you must have patience during trials, that's the hard part. Waiting is hard, but it's essential to our future inheritance. It says in Hebrews 6:12 that we are to, “Imitate those who, by faith and patience, inherit what has been promised.” You won't inherit without patience, so you must wait. You must wait day after day, it's just a central part of the everyday Christian life, but it's also a unique challenge for some people who are going through extreme trials.
I think about the Parishes, they have been waiting for Andy's healing since the accident happened, and they continue to wait. It's a severe trial of waiting. I think about our brothers and sisters in persecuting parts in the world. I think about pastors that are incarcerated for their faith, and they're waiting for their release, they're waiting for God to answer their prayers, so are their wives and their children and their churches, waiting that God would set them free. There's some under chronic pain, severe pain, and they're just waiting for deliverance, just waiting to be set free. God is just saying, ‘No, not yet. You just need to wait.’
And the gist of this text here is that if we don't wait under God's hand, we are displaying faithlessness, a sinful faithlessness. We need to wait, as one pastor put it, “In God's place and at God's pace.” It's good to remember that, isn't it? Wait where God has you, and wait there as long as God wants you to stay there. Let him choose the pace and in many cases it’s gonna be a lot slower than you want. God wants us to wait. To wait on him, because that's what he's doing, he's waiting. And I know it's not easy, but it's of the essence of faith. And what I wanna do in this sermon today is to teach you how to wait. To teach you how to wait on the Lord. To teach you how to let God's word speak hope into your heart so that you wait well. Because we're so impatient.
Do you see that in your own life? I see it in myself, and I wouldn't say every time I drive, but many times that I drive. I must know that when everybody ahead of me is driving too slowly, something's wrong with all those people. Sooner or later, the Spirit says, ‘No, it's you.’ [laughter] Driving home just the other day, and one slow driver turned off and the next one turned on right in front of me. And I said, “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss." I said that out loud. Didn't I? Some kids who were with me. Didn't I say that out loud? "Meet the new boss, same as the old boss." I was impatient that day. Now, it's funny we laugh, but this is a plague to my soul. It is unbelief to not wait under God's hand. It's unbelief. And in our text, God calls it out. He calls his stubborn children out for not waiting for him and waiting on him, for making plans of their own, going their own way. 'Cause here's the deal, when you are on the highway of life, and God's providence calls on a mudslide, like happened to us in Nepal, and you're stopped. There are two ways to show unbelief in that situation, two different ways. The first is to grow overwhelmed with discouragement and quit the journey. It happens in divorce, it happens in a lot of settings. To just give up the ministry, people turn their backs and say, ‘This is just too hard,’ they give up the mission field. They give up the ministry, and I'm not saying that it's wrong to leave the mission field, or to even leave the ministry of God leads to do something else. But there are some situations in which it's done by unbelief because the people aren't willing to wait. So they quit, 'cause it's hard, they quit. That's one way. The other way, again, to stay with the bumper to bumper, traffic stop analogy, is to pull off on the shoulder and go four wheeling. You know what I'm saying? To go across someone's front lawn, ‘Now I have got a four-wheel drive, let's see what it can do.’ Take matters in your own hands and go in a way God has not told you to go, not by his Spirit, to go solve the problem yourself and get rolling again. And we do that, we do both of those. We quit or we just take matters in our own hands and go when God is telling you to wait on him.
So that's what Isaiah 30 is about. The context here is, again the southern kingdom of Judah, King Hezekiah and Assyria, that vicious conquering nation is coming, they're coming. They're probably already there. They are probably already fighting and coming. And Judah has basically four choices: they can go out and meet them in battle, they can fight them, and then retreat to the fortress of Jerusalem and fight them there. The problem with that is they're gonna lose. The Assyrians are far stronger than they are, and they're gonna lose, they've won everywhere. They can submit to them, they can surrender. The problem is with that is that many of the men are gonna die, women ravished and the whole nation enslaved, 'cause that's just who the Assyrians were. They can send emissaries with gold and silver to some powerful nation nearby, to ally with them and come help them militarily. Or they can repent from their sins and wait on God for supernatural deliverance. And what they choose to do is that third option. It's just regular habit pattern of that little southern kingdom of Judah, they do it again and again and again, you just have to trace it out. Maybe I have noticed the pattern. But when the northern kingdom of Israel threatened them militarily. They were enemies, they were not allies, they were enemies. When the northern kingdom of Israel threatened them, they made an alliance with Syria, Damascus. When Israel and Syria threatened them together, they made an alliance with Assyria, the vicious northern empire. One commentator said that's very much like a mouse being threatened by a larger mouse asking a cat for deliverance, ‘Sure, I'll come help you. I'll be happy to. I'm coming right your way.’ Devours in both. Now threatened by Assyria, what do they do? Turn to Egypt and make the same kind of mistake, the same kind of alliance. When God was calling on them to repent and to wait.
God gives timeless, unchanging counts, and look at verse 15, Isaiah 30, and verse 15, “This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says: “In repentance and rest is your salvation. In quietness and trust is your strength.”" That's his advice through the prophet, ‘This is what I'm telling you to do, you wanna be delivered? Do that.’ And then in verse 18, very, very sweetly, very beautifully, he says this, and this is really for me, verse 18, the centerpiece of the chapter. I'm gonna translate a little bit differently than NIV, "The Lord waits to be gracious to you; he exalts himself to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him!" So at the beginning of verse 18, the Lord is the one waiting, at the end of the verse, he speaks a word of blessing to all of those who will join him in waiting. God waits. It's mysterious, the Sovereign God, “All day long, I have held out my hands to a disobedient and obstinate people.” He's a waiting God, and yet sovereign over people's hearts, it's a mystery to me, but he waits. He waits for the right time for everything in the fullness of time, he does all things. And at end of that verse, verse 18, he promises a blessing to you if you'll wait on him. But in this chapter, these people were seizing control, taking hold of the situation and moving out, four-wheeling, if you know what I'm saying, going across people's lawns and fields of corn to get where they wanted to go.
I. Woe to Those Who Make Plans to Save Themselves (vs. 1-7)
So look at verses 1-7, you see that, “"Woe to those", says the prophet, "Who make plans to save themselves." God speaks a word of prophetic judgment. A prophetic woe. In verse one, "Woe to the obstinate children," declares the Lord, "to those who carry out plans that are not mine, forming an alliance, but not by my Spirit, heaping sin upon sin."” So he speaks his prophetic word of woe to Judah for doing this. He calls them obstinate children, stubborn children, stubborn in their own ways. They are his children. Isaiah 1:2 says, "Hear, O heavens! Listen, O earth! For the Lord has spoken: “I reared children and brought them up, but they have rebelled against me." So these are the stubborn children, the obstinate children, he's talking to them. And what is their sin? Well, making and trusting in and acting on plans that don't come from God. ““They're carrying out plans that are not mine,” declares the Lord, “Forming an alliance, but not by my Spirit.”” They are moving out, away from God, doing it their own way. And God is able to give wisdom and counsel, he's able to send godly messengers, prophets who will speak the truth. We'll talk about them a little bit later. But God is able to tell you the truth, he's able to speak to you, he's able to direct you. Look at verse 21, "Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you saying, 'This is the way; walk in it.'" God is able to give counsel, He's able to give advice, but they're not listening, they're not asking, they'd already made up their mind what they're gonna do. They were not waiting under God's mighty hand. And so in verse two, "Who go down to Egypt without consulting me; who look for help to Pharaoh's protection, to Egypt's shade for refuge." Do you see that phrase? Without consulting me.
Convicting for me is the simple question: How many prayerless decisions do I make in a day? How many times do I decide weighty things and don't even ask God? It's convicting. It's convicting. They didn't even ask me. They just went to Egypt without consulting me. And he said, "Heaping sin upon sin." What that means is there was sin that was bringing the Assyrians, now they're adding to the sin. And what was the sin? The violation of God's laws. Their sexual immorality, their idolatry, their false religions, their drunkenness, their love of luxury, all of these things. These are the sins, that's the sin, and now they're heaping sin upon sin by seeking to remedy the problem themselves, saving themselves. Instead of falling on their faces and asking God's forgiveness, they send emissaries down to Egypt with gold to form an alliance, "But not by my Spirit," says the Lord.”
"Convicting for me is the simple question: How many prayerless decisions do I make in a day? How many times do I decide weighty things and don't even ask God? It's convicting."
This is the essence of my problem and yours as well, isn't it? Moving out, not consulting God, not asking his wisdom, not moving by the power of the Spirit, doing your own thing in the flesh? And why Egypt of all places? Why go back to Egypt? Have we forgotten our history? Centuries before God beat them, badly, remember? They were your captors, you were enslaved by them. 400 years. And God sent Moses and God bared his holy arm and poured out wrath on Egypt, 10 dreadful plagues. And then when Pharaoh pursued with his army, God destroyed the whole army in the Red Sea. Egypt is nothing. So why would you go to a defeated enemy like that that enslaved you? Why go back to Egypt? Why would you do that? And God had said specifically, in Deuteronomy, right before they entered the promised land, ‘Don't go back to Egypt. Don't ever go back there again.’ It says in the instructions to the king in Deuteronomy 17:16, "The king moreover," he says, "Must not acquire great numbers of horses for himself or make the people return to Egypt to get more of them, for the Lord has told you, “You must not go back that way again.” No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of heaven. Don't look back, remember Lot's wife. Don't look back. Why are you going back to Egypt for help? Have you forgotten who crushed Egypt? He's the one you ought to be dealing with. And he says very plainly, the prophet says, ‘It's not going to help you. It will not help you.’ Look at verse three, "But Pharaoh's protection will be your shame, Egypt's shade will bring you disgrace." Shame and disgrace follow that kind of bad decision making. Shame and disgrace follows, moving out, four-wheeling, so to speak, pulling out on the shoulder and going across someone's yard because you can't wait on God and ask him what to do and wait for his timing. It brings shame and disgrace. It's not going to help you. Verses four and five, "Though they have officials in Zoan and their envoys have arrived in Hanes, everyone will be put to shame because of a people useless to them, who bring neither help nor advantage, but only shame and disgrace." I don't think Isaiah could have said it any more plainly. It will not help you, don't send the money. Don't do it.
Actually, in verses six and seven, Isaiah takes a bit of a humorous look. He says I wanna speak in oracle about the animals of the desert between Judah and Egypt. Let's talk about the animals. So it's a little, “oracle about the animals of the Negev:” he says, “Through a land of hardship and distress,” it's almost like a little vignette, like a mini motion pictures. You get to this picture in your mind, “Through a land of hardship and distress, desert land, picture deserts, and lions and lionesses and adders and darting snakes. The envoys are moving through, the envoys carrying their riches on donkeys’ backs, their treasures on humps of camels to that unprofitable nation, to Egypt, whose help is utterly useless. Therefore, I call her Rahab, the do-nothing.” So just picture in your mind's eye, these poor beasts of burden, carrying precious metals that are inevitably dense and heavy, those poor animals, those poor donkeys and camels, and all of it for nothing, as they go down to Egypt. The envoys will certainly welcome them gladly and take their money, but nothing good is gonna come from it. Verses 1-7, God speaks a word of woe to Judah for even doing it. The fact that they add sin to sin, and they will not deal with God, who is the real issue, instead they're making their own plans and moving out in their own direction.
II. Woe to Those Who Want God’s Prophets to Speak Pleasant Lies (vs. 8-17)
In verses 8-17, he speaks a word of woe to those who want prophets to speak pleasant lies to them. And it's interesting, Isaiah in verse eight was commanded to write this prophecy down. Thank God he did, that's why we're here today, looking at his words, 'cause God told him to write it, write it down. And so, the writing prophets, they have left for us a record of God's word, and it's timeless, He's speaking to us today. God intended to speak to us today, because he commanded Isaiah to write it down. So look at verse eight, "Go now, write it on a tablet for them, inscribe it on a scroll, that for the days to come it may be an everlasting witness." So, they had the word and even more written down, but they didn't listen. They're not listening to it. The hardness of their heart is exposed, verse nine, “These are rebellious people, deceitful children, children unwilling to listen to the Lord's instruction.” Again and again in Isaiah, it's "Hear, O heavens! Listen, O earth!" again and again, God speaks and we must listen. But these are rebellious children, and they are not willing to listen. God again and again sent, what he called, my servants, the prophets, ‘I sent my servants, the prophets to you and you just didn't listen.’
So whenever there was this external threat, God would send a message telling them what to do. Go out and surrender, stand and fight, go out, but don't bring any weapons, just go and sing and I'll destroy them. I mean, he'll tell them, it's something different every time, but ‘Just listen to me and I'll tell you what to do.’ But the people didn't wanna listen. Now, that doesn't mean they didn't want preaching, oh, they want preaching, they want a certain kind of preaching. They wanted some people to come and tell them some things, they were eager for that. Look at verses 10-11, "They say to the seers," prophets, ““See no more visions!” and to the prophets, “Give us no more visions of what is right! Tell us pleasant things, prophesy illusions. Leave this way, get off this path and stop confronting us with the Holy One of Israel!”" Oh, is that powerful. They didn't want God, they didn't want the consuming fire, they didn't want the Holy One of Israel. So they're talking to Isaiah and to other true prophets saying, Stop doing this, stop it. Stop talking to me about God's holiness. Stop talking to me about God as the consuming fire. I don't wanna hear it anymore. Stop it. Leave this way, get off this path. Stop preaching like that. Tell us pleasant things. Funny or happy things. Lie to me. Just make me happy. It's the regular tragic history of the Jewish nation as recorded in Scripture. Stephen nailed them for it in Acts seven, "You stiff-necked people," he said to the Sanhedrin, "With uncircumcised hearts and ears! You're just like your fathers: You always resist the Holy Spirit. Was there ever a prophet your fathers did not persecute?" Is there even one? Jesus said the same thing, "You build tombs for the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous, and you say, “If we had lived in the days of our forefathers, we wouldn't have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.”" But Jesus said, ‘So you testify against yourselves that you're the descendants of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up then the measure of the sins of your forefathers, go ahead and do it, kill me,’ which they did.
This is a tragic thing. Again and again, think of the examples, think of wicked king Ahab. Remember that, when he's gonna go out to fight Ramoth-Gilead, and he's got godly king Jehoshaphat next to him, remember? And they got all these false prophets saying, ‘Go and succeed, you're going to win. It's gonna be awesome.’ I don't think they said awesome, but anyway, ‘You're just gonna be great. You're gonna be victorious.’ And Jehoshaphat with that sensitivity from the Lord, he's like, ‘Isn't there a prophet of the Lord that we could inquire of? I don't care if you've got 5000 of these guys, they're worthless. Are there any prophets of the Lord?’ Do you remember what Ahab said? ‘Well, there is one, but I hate him, because he always says bad things about me.’ [chuckle] Well, I think you might wanna listen, King Ahab to Micaiah, son of Imlah. Remember Jehoshaphat said, ‘The king should not say that.’ I don't know how he said that, but that's what he said. Or in Jeremiah's day, they wanted “priests and prophets alike. To treat the wound of the people as though were not serious. To say ‘Peace, peace,’ when there is no peace.” That's what they wanted. But then when Jeremiah told the truth, they put him in a miry pit, they put him in prison. And Jonathan, in the secretary's house, they put him in prison, they persecute him. And so, Paul gave a clear warning about all this, this phenomenon here in verses 10-11. He says in 2 Timothy 4:3-4, "For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a large number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths."
So, the fundamental test of a true prophet of God then and a true teacher, pastor, teacher, now is the willingness to bring the whole counsel of God's word, no matter what the people think, no matter what the people say, to tell the truth. This was the little boy, Samuel's test, that he had to go tell Eli that his house was going to be destroyed because of his sin. Every pastor faces the pressure of shaping his message to suit the taste of the people. Everyone does. Every proclaimer of God's word has to make this fundamental choice that Paul talks about in Galatians 1:10, "Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ." Flannery O'Connor put it this way, "The truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it." So we're not going to change it based on whether it's palatable, or as Paul said later in Galatians 4:16, "Have I now become your enemy by telling you the truth?" But apparently, back in Isaiah's day, that's exactly how it was. He became their enemy by telling the truth.
So what pleasant things did the people want to hear? Well, the 21st century version would be, ‘I'm okay, you're okay. The future is bright, God's happy with us. Everything's just how it should be. Let's eat.’ Something like that. Or, ‘It's not time to eat yet, I'll tell you some fun stories, I'll entertain you until the time's up.’ This will make them very popular with their hearers. But Jesus said, "Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for that's how they spoke of the false prophets." I meditate on that. It's like, what is it about these guys that everyone likes what they say, because they say things that everyone likes? Moralistic diatribe, fun stories, different things that we could all agree on. But they stay away from those things that confront people with the Holy One of Israel, put it that way. Well, in verses 12-14, the future for this people who turn away is dark indeed. “Therefore,” do you see the word therefore in verse 12, because you want the tickling ears, because you don't want to be confronted with the Holy One of Israel, I love what it says, ‘Stop confronting us with the Holy One of Israel. Therefore, this is what the Holy One of Israel says.’ In other words, he's not going away. [chuckle] This is his universe. We're in his living room, he's not going anywhere. So, “Therefore, this is what the Holy One of Israel says: “Because you have rejected this message, and relied on oppression and depended on deceit, this sin will become for you like a high wall, cracked and bulging, that collapses suddenly, in an instant. It will break in pieces like pottery, shattered so mercilessly that among its pieces, not a fragment will be found for taking coals from a hearth or scooping water out of a cistern." So they're telling lies, they see a seer is coming, they need a wall of protection, right? So they build up a wall of lies, and he says ‘It's poor construction, don't you see it's leaning over, the mortar isn't setting. There's cracks in it. It's coming down. I wouldn't stand under this wall if I were you, 'cause it's coming down.’
Reminds me of when we want to visit Haiti after the earthquake, and we saw a school that had been condemned and the construction there would not have been accepted in the US, there was no rebar, there were some other things, and it was just dangerous. And so, there are already broken pieces of cinder block all over the place, but many of it hadn't fallen yet, and they just condemned it, 'cause they can see what's gonna happen. And that's what Isaiah's saying here, it's the same thing, this bulging wall of lies, and it's just gonna come down on your head. It's going to destroy you.
But here we come in verse 15 to the text I've already read, God's beautiful, central invitation stands. This is our hope. This is the joy. "This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel says, 'In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength.'" So God speaks, this Holy One of Israel, speaks a word of grace, he speaks a word of blessing to us, the word of counsel. "In repentance and rest, in quietness and trust," that's where your salvation is. Repentance is literally turning in: turning away from your sins, and rest means don't venture forth on some path God didn't tell you to go on. Stay here, stay put under the mighty hand of God. Submit yourself unto God's mighty hand, rest under his hand, rest under it. In quietness is: be at peace under God's hand. The opposite I think of impatience is quietness based on faith, you're quiet under God's plan, trusting Him to work it out. And your heart is not murmuring, you're quiet. So quietness, and you're accepting what's happening as the sovereign will of God. And then ultimately, as always, trust faith, ultimately it's faith. Trust in me, believe in me, and I will save you. He says it again and again, By faith alone, “The righteous will live by faith," Habakkuk 2:4, it's what he gives them. It's his timeless counsel, repentance, rest, quietness and trust.
But look at the people's reaction, "But you would have none of it." It's just the pain, the pathos of that statement. ‘I told you what to do, but look what you're saying to me, but you would have none of it. You said no.’ Do you see that word right in the text, ‘You said no.’ Who are they saying no to? To God who said in repentance, rest, quietness and trust. They said, no, not that. We have a better plan. We have a better plan. We're gonna flee on horses, we got some good horses. God says ‘Fine, I'll give your enemies better horses.’ ‘Oh, we're gonna be swift, we're gonna ride swift,’ ‘Therefore your pursuers will be swift, 'cause they're not your issue, I am.’ I mean, do you feel the tragedy of that? God told them repentance, rest quietness, and trust. And they said, ‘No, no, I don't want it.’
And so, this section makes plain the key issue, how people respond to the word of God spoken by the prophets. They rejected the words of warning and judgment and woe. They rejected those words, they wanted pleasant things, they wanted illusions, they wanted sweet, happy things. They didn't wanna hear any more about the Holy One of Israel. And so, judgment is going to come on them. God told them that repentance and rest, quietness and trust would be their salvation, but they said, ‘No, they're going to run.’ God said, ‘Okay, then you're going to run.’ And in the end, the end result will be total desolation, there'll be no and left. Now, that didn't get fulfilled with Assyria, that got fulfilled with Babylon over a century later, when Lamentations begins with these words, “How desolate lies the city once so filled with people.”
III. Transforming Grace to Those Who Wait Upon the Lord (vs. 18-26)
Well, aren't you glad the chapter doesn't end there? Aren't you glad that there's words of grace, there's words of forgiveness and mercy? And so, in verses 18-26 God gives transforming grace to those who will simply wait on the Lord. Verse 18, "Yet the Lord waits to be gracious to you; he exalts himself to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him!" So God is waiting for us so that we will wait for him. And the wheels of redemptive history are turning, God's providential sovereign controller is turning, and his plan is unfolding and he's waiting for it to all happen. And he's waiting, so he can show us compassion. And he exalts himself, he makes much of himself through the miracles of Jesus and through the preaching of the apostles and of the church for 20 centuries, and all of God's mighty works, he exalts himself so that he can show you compassion, isn't that incredible? So that you'll call in the name of the Lord and be saved, “For the Lord is a God of justice.” Huh. Justice that produces salvation. How can those be put together? Well, you know, what's the answer? How do justice and our salvation come together in the cross of Jesus Christ? That's how it all comes together. We'll get to in a minute, but justice, God is a God of justice and he will do what is right, and he longs to show you compassion. So, I have a blessing to give you, blessed are all you people who wait on him. Salvation comes to those who wait on the Lord, God will give us grace. And he's gonna work it step by step, verse 19, God works in his people to cry out to the Lord, “For a people shall dwell in Zion, in Jerusalem; you shall weep no more. He will surely be gracious to you at the sound of your cry, As soon as he hears you, he will answer you,” “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." Cry out to me, he's gonna work a change in their hearts, they're not going down to Egypt with gold anymore, they're done with that, they're done with the side shows, and they realize now they are getting what they deserve for their sins. They have turned away from their sins and wickedness. They've turned away from that and they have turned in faith, in quietness, in trust to God, and they are now crying out to God, ‘Oh God, would you deliver us? Save us.’
Secondly, God transforms the hearts of his people to heed his word, to listen to his counsel. Verses 20-21, "Although the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the waters of affliction," it's one of the strangest meals that God feeds his people. You go overseas, go on the mission field, you're gonna eat some strange food. Remember Elizabeth Elliot said, "Where he leads, I will follow, what he feeds, I will swallow." [laughter] And she ate some strange things in the jungles of Ecuador, very strange foods. This is the strangest, why would God feed his own beloved children the bread of adversity and the waters of affliction? Because He's sanctifying you, and He's saying, ‘Here, eat this.’ And you say, ‘Yes, Lord,’ and you eat it. You eat it because it's good for you, even though it's bitter in your mouth, it's good for you, and you patiently chew it and you swallow every bit of it until God is done showing you adversity and affliction. You wait, wait under his mighty hand. Wait under the affliction, wait under the pain, wait under the unknowing of what's gonna happen. Just wait under him and let him guide you. Says, “Your teachers will be hidden no more; with your own eyes you will see them. Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, 'This is the way; walk in it.'" That of course, is ultimately fulfilled in the indwelling Holy Spirit, isn't it? The spirit of truth, who will live with you and be in you, and he will guide you, it says, into all truth.
‘So he will direct you to turn neither to the right nor to the left,’ that's Deuteronomy language of complete obedience to the law. "So be careful," Deuteronomy 5:32-33, "So be careful to do what the Lord your God has commanded you; Do not turn aside to the right or to the left. Walk in all the way that the Lord your God has commanded you, so that you may live and prosper and prolong your days in the land that you will possess.” Now, your ears will hear a voice behind you, and God will transform you and you will walk in that straight and narrow way, and turn neither to the right nor to the left. God will transform also the hearts of the people to despise their idols that caused all the trouble and throw them away. Hate them. Genuinely hate those idols. Verse 22, "Then you will defile your idols overlaid with silver and your images covered with gold; you'll throw them away like a menstrual cloth and say to them, 'Away with you!'" What you used to love, you now hate 'cause God hates it, and you throw it away.
It's transformation, complete transformation. And then God pours out transformation on the whole land, though it was cursed, it was under the curse of Deuteronomy and the curse of the law of Moses, it had become like a desert. It's going to flourish. And the curse will be removed. Verse 23-26, "He will send you also rain for the seed you sow on the ground, and the food that comes from the land will be rich and plentiful. And in that day your cattle will graze in broad meadows, and the oxen and donkeys at work the soil will eat fodder and mash, spread out with fork and shovel. In the day of great slaughter, when the towers fall, streams of water will flow on every high mountain and every lofty hill. The moon will shine like the sun, and the sunlight would be seven times brighter like the light of seven full days, when the Lord binds up the bruises of his people and heals the wounds he inflicted." It's the land flowing with milk and honey again. And better than ever before, brighter than it ever was before, shining like the light of seven full days. Oh, how beautiful is that?
IV. Terrifying Wrath to the Enemies of God
Final section of Isaiah 30 is God's wrath against his enemies. Says ‘You don't need Egypt, you need me. [chuckle] I can take care of Assyria, I can crush Assyria in ways that you will never forget.’ These are terrifying verses dear friends, terrifying. But listen to them, verses 27 and following, "Behold the name of the Lord comes from afar, with burning anger and dense clouds of smoke; his lips are full of wrath, and his tongue is a consuming fire. His breath is like a rushing torrent, rising up to the neck. He shakes the nations in the sieve of destruction; he places in the jaws of the people a bit that leads them astray. And you will sing as on the night you celebrate a holy festival; your hearts will rejoice as when people go up with flutes to the mountain of the Lord, to the Rock of Israel. The Lord will cause men to hear his majestic voice and will make them see his arm coming down with raging fire, with raging anger and consuming fire, with cloudbursts, and thunderstorm and hail. And the voice of the Lord will shatter Assyria; with his scepter, he will strike them down. And every stroke the Lord lays on them with his punishing rod will be to the music of tambourines and harps. As he fights them in battle with the blows of his arm." Verse 33, "Topheth has long been prepared; it has been made ready for the king. Its fire pit has been made deep and wide, with an abundance of fire and wood; the breath of the Lord, like a stream of burning sulfur, sets it ablaze."
Final act of this drama in Isaiah 30 is the wrath of the Lord poured out on his enemies. The Assyrians are mere mortals, you don't need Egypt, you need God. God can handle them easily. And the images of wrath here are powerful, God's name comes from afar. God is zealous for his namesake. He's gonna move out powerfully to defend his name, he's gonna come with burning anger and dense clouds of smoke with raging torrents of fire. A lot of the anthropomorphic images here of God having body parts is powerful, his lips filled with wrath, his tongue, a consuming fire, his breath like a rushing flood, drowning all his enemies. It's by the mouth of the Lord. You see it? By how he speaks, he speaks, and they are judged. It's that simple. And he does it to the nations that are against him, puts them in a sieve of destruction, and leads them by the jaw where he wants them to go. The Assyrian army will be destroyed instantly, and we'll talk about that in Isaiah 37. The people of God will celebrate wildly as they are delivered and God gets the glory. And Topheth, a place where they burned garbage outside of Jerusalem, New Testament version is Gehenna, is a picture of hell. A picture where all of this wreckage of the nations is gathered and it's burning with sulfur coming from the mouth of the Lord forever and ever.
So, how does Isaiah 30 preach the gospel of Jesus? Well, I already hinted at it, couldn't hold back. Only in the cross of Christ are justice and grace coming together, only in the cross of Christ does God deliver sinners like us from his wrath with grace and mercy and compassion. Jesus, the Son of God, came into this world to be our sin bearer. He came to stand under Topheth for us, to take the stream of burning sulfur into himself and absorb it completely, so that we would not suffer in hell forever and ever, that's what Jesus came to do.
And in the double exchange of the Gospel, that he came to take our wickedness on himself and extinguished the wrath of God forever, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” And to give you his perfect righteousness and to restore you beautifully, like these verses say, and to pour out grace and to give you a heart of supplication, so you cry out against your idols and throw them away, 'cause you hate them and you yearn for righteousness and you hunger and thirst for it, 'cause you have a new nature now, and you yearn to walk in the straight and narrow, not turning aside to the right or left, and you now have the indwelling Holy Spirit, and the Spirit tells you where to go. In conjunction with his written word and not separate from it, please don't misunderstand, and do not elevate that voice inside you telling you where to go to the word of God. Test everything you hear in your heart by the word. But the Holy Spirit leads us and guides us, 'cause he is the spirit of truth. And how beautiful is that?
And so, final word for you is the same faith that saves your soul, will also teach you how to get through the trials God has planned for you. He's going to throw some boulders in your highway. He's going to put a mudslide across your path. Don't cut and run, don't give up, and don't go four-wheeling, don't pull off on the shoulder and go over someone's lawn. Wait under God's mighty hand, and in due time, he will lift you up.
"Don't cut and run, don't give up, and don't go four-wheeling, don't pull off on the shoulder and go over someone's lawn. Wait under God's mighty hand, and in due time, he will lift you up."
Now we're coming to a time of the Lord's Supper, it's a time for us to prepare ourselves. If God has spoken to you today, if you're convicted of your sins, go to him in grace. If you've never trusted in Christ as your Lord and Savior, you came here to hear the Gospel, you just heard it. All you have to do is believe in Jesus, trust in him. Don't come and take from the Lord's Supper. This is for people who have already testified to their faith in Jesus by water baptism, so if that's you, please come. But if you trusted in Christ, been baptized, but you know you're a sinner, it's for sinners. Jesus shed his blood for sinners like you and me, so come. And it's also for us as the family of God to draw together around the table and love each other and realize we're going to heaven together because of the grace of God.
Let's close in prayer. Father, thank you for the word of Isaiah. Thank you for this sermon, thank you for what Isaiah 30 tells us about the power of God to deliver us from the true danger that faces us, not the Assyrians, but your own justice and wrath expressed on Judgment Day and in hell, you've come to deliver us if we'll just listen to you, tell us the truth, we will turn away from our sins in repentance and turning and rest and trust is our salvation. Thank you for this message, in Jesus name, Amen.