Self-Salvation versus Salvation in Christ (Isaiah Sermon 29 of 80)
October 14, 2012 | Andy Davis
Pastor Andy Davis preaches on Isaiah 28:1-29, calling attention to futile human attempts to attain salvation and the sure salvation that comes from God through Christ.
- Sermon Transcript -
The greatest preacher of all time is Jesus Christ, to him we give first place and all glory. And he is the greatest preacher, and perhaps his greatest sermon ended with these words, "Everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rains came down and the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, yet it did not fall because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice, like a foolish man who built his house on the sand, and the rains came down and the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash". So ends the Sermon on the Mount. And it is our joy to proclaim to a lost, and a dying world, that there is a solid foundation, there is a rock on which you can build your life and it will not collapse. It's an immovable rock, and his name is Jesus, and he's proclaimed right in this text today, Isaiah 28-16, "Behold, I lay in Zion a stone a tested and precious cornerstone for a sure foundation, and the one who trusts in Him will never be put to shame."
The text also mentions as Jesus's parable at the end of the Sermon on the Mount mentions the testing of the house, and Jesus's parable to individuals, both of them building, building a house, both of them making a selection, but one of them is wise and one of them is foolish, the wise man selects the rock, and the foolish man selects the sand. But both of the houses get tested, the rains come down, the streams rise, the wind beats against the house, both of them tested. And so also in Isaiah 28, "an overwhelming flood is coming, a devastation is coming", And in this chapter, people try to make a separate peace with that, what they call a covenant with death, they try to make a separate arrangement, what I call self-salvation. They try to find a way to get through what's coming, and they cannot. There is only one Savior, there is only one safe refuge from the onslaught that is coming, and we are facing not what the Jews in this chapter were facing, invasion by a gentile army, the Assyrians are gonna sweep in like a flood. We're not facing that, we're facing something far more serious, we're facing death and judgment and hell. And there is only one refuge, and His name is Jesus, and there is such a refuge. And that is the joy of the Gospel that we can proclaim that.
I. A Fading Crown on a Drunkard vs. A Glorious Crown on the Remnant
And so we look at Isaiah 28, and we find in this chapter some strange words, perhaps as Ron was reading, you're like, What is this chapter about? What is going on here? And I think the mystery would perhaps only deepen if we heard all the words of this chapter. It's my privilege today to do my best with the spirit to explain this chapter and to try to apply it to our lives so many centuries later. This chapter is ultimately about a difference between an effort at self-salvation in the face of the coming onslaught versus the only secure refuge or salvation there is that provided by Almighty God. Now, this is the beginning of a new section in the book of Isaiah, chapters 28-35, a series of woes one chapter after another, begins with the word woe, this is the first of that string. And the big picture is Isaiah the prophet, in the days of godly King Hezekiah was preparing the Southern Kingdom of Judah for the onslaught of the Assyrians. The Assyrians were coming and they're coming as an instrument of wrath in the hands of Almighty God, they were coming as a judgment for sin. And they were going to sweep away the northern kingdom of Israel called Ephraim in our text today. And they're gonna come after Judah as well. And the reason for that is the sinfulness of the people, because of the sins of the Jews, the Assyrians were coming.
And God through his prophet Isaiah, was calling the people to repent of their sins and to find refuge in God alone, to build their house on the solid rock, the immovable rock, to find refuge in God. And so chapter after chapter begins with the word ‘woe’. But Hezekiah and his counselors, we're gonna see this chapter after chapter, were seeking to find another refuge, another way of escape, specifically, they wanted to reach out to Egypt, another powerful nation and hire them to fight for Judah when the Assyrians came. And so they were being tempted to serve two masters, they'd be divided in their affects and say, "Yeah, there's God, but we're really hoping in Egypt, that Egypt would come and rescue us". And so, chapter after chapter deals with this, beginning with woes, look at this, one 28:1, “Woe to Ephraim”, we'll get to that, 29:1, “Woe to you, Ariel”. Ariel, that's the city of Jerusalem, and he's going to encamp against them and judge them for their sins. Chapter 30 begins, "Woe to the obstinate children. To those who carry out plans that are not mine. Forming an alliance, but not by my Spirit, keeping sin upon sin to those who go down to Egypt Without consulting me and who look for help to Pharaoh's protection and to Egypt's shade for refuge".
And then 31 begins with the word woe as well. Same thing, 31:1, "Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help, who rely on horses, who trust in the multitude of their chariots and in the great strength of their horsemen, but they do not look to the Holy One of Israel, and they do not seek help from the Lord". And the last of this series of woes in 33, amazingly, against those that are going to destroy the people of God, those who are gonna destroy Jerusalem, He says, "Woe to you, O destroyer, you who have not been destroyed. Woe to you, O traitor, you who have not been betrayed, when you stop destroying, you will be destroyed, and when you stop betraying you will be betrayed". So there he gives a word of judgment against the very same gentile powers that he's going to use to discipline his own people. It's a string of ‘woes’ one after the other. And we'll look at them each of them in turn. The word ‘woe’ is a word of prophetic warning. Basically, bad times are coming, danger is coming and you need to address it. You need to deal with it.
So in verses 1-6 the woe is spoken to the Northern Kingdom, the Kingdom of Israel, called Ephraim here. Look at the verses, “Woe to that wreath, the pride of Ephraim's drunkards, to the fading flower, His glorious beauty, set on the head of a fertile valley– to that city, the pride of those laid low by wine. Behold, the Lord has one who is powerful and strong. Like a hailstorm, and the destructive wind like a driving rain and a flooding downpour, he will throw it forcefully to the ground. That wreath, the pride of Ephraim's drunkards will be trampled underfoot. That fading flower, his glorious beauty set on the head of a fertile valley, will be like a ripe fig before harvest– as soon as someone sees it and takes it in his hand, he swallows it. In that day the Lord Almighty will be a glorious crown, a beautiful wreath, for the remnant of his people. He will be a spirit of justice to him who sits in judgment, and a source of strength to those who turn back the battle at the gate".
This is a warning to Ephraim, the Northern Kingdom, but it's spoken to the southern kingdom of Judah, that's where Isaiah was ministering. The northern Kingdom was not listening. They haven't listened for centuries, they're not listening to some Judean prophet. And so basically the people of Judah, the Southern Jews are needing to learn from what's about to happen to the northern Jews, what's about to happen to Ephraim. They're supposed to learn. So this is really a message of warning to Judah, the devastating fall of Ephraim, the Northern Kingdom of Israel.
And it speaks there of the pride of Ephraim, the beauty of Ephraim. Samaria, their capital city, was set up high on a hill and it looked down over fertile valleys, it was a beautiful thing to behold. And they were very proud of it. And it's called a wreath, set on the head of the nation, so it's the capital city of Samaria, and it's beautiful, and it's fertile, it's on the head of a fertile valley. Again, in verse 3 and 4, speaks of it that way, that wreath, the pride of Ephraim's drunkards will be trampled under foot, that fading flower, his glorious beauty, etcetera. So it's a beautiful thing, it's this beautiful wreath, but it's fading. It was more beautiful before now, it's not so beautiful. Because all men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flower of the field. And the grass withers and the flowers fall, because the breath of the Lord blows on them. Surely the people are grass. The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the Word of our God stands forever.
And so here is Ephraim and at one point they were beautiful, but not so much anymore, they have been laid low, their beauty is fading now, their glory is fading, it's evanescent, it's trend, it's temporary. And why? Because of their wickedness, their sin. Here the focus is on their drunkenness. It's mentioned multiple times in verse 1, those laid low by wine, it speaks of that. That wreath, verse 3, the pride of Ephraim's drunkards. So these were people that were laid low by wine, they were drunkards, And so we see the debauchery of Ephraim, you know the fertility of the land produced abundant harvests. The abundant harvests produced luxury, the luxury led to self-indulgence. The self-indulgence led to immorality and wickedness, and that's brought on the judgment of God. And so we have this warning about drunkenness, Proverbs 20 and verse 1 says, "Wine is a mocker and beer a brawler, whoever's led astray by them is not wise". And again, in Proverbs 23, it says "Do not gaze at wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup, when it goes down smoothly in the end, it bites like a snake and poisons like a viper".
“The abundant harvests produced luxury, the luxury led to self-indulgence. The self-indulgence led to immorality and wickedness, and that's brought on the judgment of God.”
So we have the fading beauty of what could have been glorious, but no longer was. What could have been for the glory of God, a light shining in a dark place, a city on a hill to be seen by the surrounding region, but instead it was fading, it was debauched. It was wicked. I often think that the great tragedy, the great sorrow of judgment day for all of us is to have a sense of what we could have been if we had been more faithful, but we weren't. What sin robbed from us, if only we had been more faithful, it would be like torture to see some kind of a display, maybe a video of our lives, what could have been if we had only been more faithful or if we hadn't committed that pattern of sin, if we had not been unfaithful in that area, this is the fruitfulness that would have come. How grievous that is.
And so this Northern Kingdom of Israel is about to be deported, and what could have been for the praise of the glory of God, instead was going to be thrown down and crushed, this fading wreath of dead flowers. And so he says in verse 2-4, "Behold the Lord has one who is powerful and strong", he's speaking of the invader, of the Assyrian who's going to come. And it's his servant, the Assyrian is an axe in the hands of God, and God's gonna chop down that beautiful flowering tree. The Lord has one who is powerful and strong like a hailstorm and like a destructive wind, like a driving rain and like a flooding downpour. He, this one, the Assyrian, will throw it forcefully to the ground, that wreath will be trampled underfoot and that fading flower will be swallowed up.
So the Assyrian invasion is coming and there's nothing that the people can do to stop it. And it's the Lord's doing, it's something that's an act of sovereign judgment, that's the key in some ways to understanding the whole chapter. When God is the one who's bringing the judgment, you can only seek refuge in God, any other covenant you make with death or any other arrangement you make will not avail. Running off to Egypt will not help. You have to go deal with God directly. He's the one that's bringing this judgment, but Israel would not. And so the Lord is bringing the Assyrian. Now, the Assyrian thinks he's doing it on his own, he's just adding to his empire, he doesn't think anything about Yahweh, about the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, it doesn't mean anything to the Assyrian, he's just taking over another small country. But he doesn't know who he's dealing with, and we'll get to that story later. But this invasion will be devastating. It will be like a hurricane, it'll be like a plague of locust, it will be like a tidal wave sweeping over the land, all kinds of images are used of the gentile invasions, like a flood of water sweeping away all the crops and flattening houses. Ephraim will be cast forcefully to the ground and adding insult to injury, not only will it be cast to the ground, but then by the hand of the Assyrian, then their boot will trample it, it's just gonna be completely crushed. Gobbled up like an early fig.
Season for figs was somewhere between August and through October, but sometimes in June, there might be a single fig for some reason that was ready to eat. It was an early fig, and they were delicious, especially if you had a taste for figs. I think this is what Jesus was looking for when he saw a fig tree, that had leaves on it, but no figs, looking for one of those early figs, and there was nothing there. And so, Ephraim, this fertile, beautiful, luxurious place will be like an early fig in the hands of the Assyrian invader. As soon as he sees it, he's gonna pluck it and gobble it up, it's gonna be that quick and it won't take long. And Israel will be gone. So it will be with Samaria, plucked by Assyrian, gobbled up. And so we have this fading crown of beauty laid low by wine, laid low by drunkenness, laid low by immorality, by idolatry and wickedness. What could have been glorious, was now fading and ugly. By contrast, though you have the glory of God on the head of the remnant. Look at verses 5 and 6. "In that day, the Lord Almighty will be a glorious crown, a beautiful wreath for the remnant of His people, and He will be a spirit of justice to him who sits in judgment and a source of strength to those who turn back the battle at the gate".
So Samaria, the capital city, was the crown of the people of Israel, but it was fading and it was made ugly by their drunkenness and by their sin. But by contrast, God has a remnant, a godly remain of people, survivors of the onslaught, who will be for the praise of his glory. And God's glory, God himself will be a diadem on their heads. God himself will crown those people with his own presence and with his glory. And he will transform them, and to the judge who must render judgment, God will be a spirit of justice, and he will enable the judge to render right judgments for the glory of God. And God will be a spirit of strength to the warrior, even to the point of turning back the battle at the gate, and so God will be with his remnant. And he will protect them and they will be his choice possessions, his survivors. The beginning of this prophecy in Isaiah chapter 1:9, Isaiah speaking for the people of God, the Jews, saying, "Unless the Lord Almighty had left us some survivors, a remnant, we would have become like Sodom, we would have been like Gomorrah. And in fact, we're no different than they are, we're just as wicked and just as sinful, but by the sovereign grace of God, he has chosen out for himself a remnant to love him and serve him, and he will crown that remnant with glory, and he will transform them and they will live for him". Again, in Isaiah 10:22, "Though your people, O Israel, be like the sand by the sea, only a remnant will return. So God has chosen his remnant and he will be for them a crown of glory, and that glory will last forever.” So what a contrast here we have a contrast between the fading glory of Ephraim, of human achievement, of human pride versus the eternal glory of God on the head of his remnant, verses 1-6. Now in verses 7-13, Isaiah brings it home to the southern kingdom of Judah.
II.God Speaking Through the Prophets vs. God Speaking Through Judgment
Now he's talking to his own people, he's talking to them and he's saying, “You have the same problems that the northern kingdom did just a little bit further down the line.” Look at these verses, he's speaking, God speaking, to the people through the prophet Isaiah and through godly prophets, but the people aren't listening. So God has another word to speak to them because they will not listen to the prophetic word. Listen to Verses 7-13, "And these also stagger from wine and reel from beer: Priests and prophets stagger from beer and are befuddled with wine; they reel from beer, they stagger when seeing visions, they stumble when rendering decisions. All the tables are covered with vomit, and there is not a spot without filth." Verse 9, "‘Who is he trying to teach? To whom is he explaining his message? To children weaned from their milk to those just taken from the breast? For it is: do and do, do and do, rule and rule, rule and rule, a little here, a little there.’ Very well then.” By the way, those words just bring a chill to me. “Very well then.” Okay. “With foreign lips and with strange tongues, God will speak to this people, to whom he said, ‘This is the resting place, let the weary rest’; and ‘This is the place of repose’– But they would not listen. So then, the word of the Lord to them will become: ‘Do and do, do and do, rule and rule, rule and rule, a little here, a little there– so that they will go and fall backward; be injured and snared and captured.”
Can I say to you, the key moment in your life every day, is the moment you hear the word of the Lord, and what you do with that? It's a key moment in your life. We've already seen it in the book of Hebrews again and again. Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts. It's a key moment. When God speaks to you through his word, maybe he uses a human intermediary, a preacher, in this case, a prophet speaking the word, or maybe you're just reading the scripture, which you have the privilege to do. When you hear God speak to you, do not harden your heart and certainly don't mock it as these people were doing here, but take it very, very seriously. The priests and the prophets, the false priests and false prophets of the southern kingdom of Judah were themselves given over to drunkenness. They were degraded also through wine. What a shameful thing that is.
The priests should have been speaking God's word. Malachi 2:7 says, "For the lips of the priest ought to preserve knowledge and from his mouth, men should seek instruction because he is the messenger of the Lord Almighty." The prophet should have been the one saying, "Thus says the Lord…” and speaking the true word of God. But it's so bad in verse 8 that the things coming out of their mouth is nothing but vomit, it could be taken metaphorically for their teachings, or it might be literal at the end of their drunken feasts, but it's so bad that there's not a clean place on the table, vomit everywhere. And the fundamental problem is these people were not listening to God as he was speaking, they were mocking it actually. Speaking of Isaiah, “Who is he trying to teach? We're the experts, we're the ones that know God's word very well, and he's speaking a baby message, like we're just children weaned from the breasts.” And then they say this, "Do and do, do and do, rule and rule, rule and rule, little here, little there." Well, that's the best we can do with a rhythmic kind of Hebrew that sounds like... I don't usually pronounce Hebrew, but it sounds like this “Sav lasav sav lasav, kav lakav, kav lakav”. That's literally what the Hebrew says. It's similar to “blah, blah, blah, yada, yada yada.” Okay, that's the 21st century version. That's what they were saying Isaiah was saying, “Oh, here we go. Some more, blah, blah, blah. Yada, yada, yada. Lots of talking.” That's what you get at church week after week, it's going on all around the world. People get up just like me and they talk. They talk God's word. And if the word of God to you is blah, blah, blah, yada, yada, yada, then this passage speaks directly to you.
And here's how it works, God says, "Very well then, I tried to speak to you through the prophets. I tried to warn you and tell you what was going to come, but you wouldn't listen. So I'm gonna talk to you again, and it's gonna sound kinda like that. Blah, blah, blah. Like that, it's gonna sound like that. I'm gonna speak to you through a foreign language, I'm gonna bring some people to your town, they'll come right to your hometown, and they'll speak a foreign language in your streets, and then the word of the Lord will be to you, do and do, do and do, rule and rule, rule and rule, a little here, a little there. And while you're hearing it, you'll go and fall backward and be injured and snared and captured.” So this is a very key moment for all of us. Fundamentally, here's a thing, God speaks a word of warning, and if we don't listen, then he speaks a word of judgment. So it's like a parent saying to the toddler, to the young person "That stove is hot doesn't look hot, but it is. Don't touch it. Okay? You understand, don't touch." But the child has to find out for him or herself, and so over they go and they touch it, and they learn. You learn by word, or you learn by life. It's so much sweeter to learn by word, friends. It's so much sweeter. Like God said through Moses, "These are not idle words for you, these are your life.” We don't disregard this message, we take it very, very seriously, and we certainly don't mock it. And what's so tragic is that in that prophetic message that Isaiah was giving, he wasn't just speaking judgment, he said, "Judgment's coming, but there is a refuge. There is a place of rest, there is a place where the weary can rest. I will carve out for you in the midst of this God ordained storm of judgment, I will carve out for you a resting place. Here it is." But they would not listen. Is that you? Oh, I pray not.
“God speaks a word of warning, and if we don't listen, then he speaks a word of judgment.”
This reminds me very much of what Jesus said when he said, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you'll find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” [Matthew 11:28-30] Here is the place of rest of Isaiah 28:12, it's, his name is Jesus. There is the place of rest, there's the place of repose. But they would not listen, are the next words, how tragic is that? The gospel is preached, the place of refuge is clearly identified, but the people just won't listen. Oh, is that you? I pray not. I pray that you're running to God's ordained place of refuge, because the storm is coming. Storm of judgment is coming, and Jesus is the refuge.
III. The Shaky Foundation of Self-Salvation vs. Christ, the Solid Rock of God’s Salvation
But these people sought to find their own refuge, they wouldn't listen to God's place of refuge, so they set out for themselves a different refuge, they sought to save themselves. So look at this in verses 14-15, it says, "Therefore, hear the word of the Lord, you scoffers who rule these people in Jerusalem, you boast, we have entered into a covenant with death, with the grave we have made an agreement. When the overwhelming scourge sweeps by, it cannot touch us. For we have made a lie our refuge and falsehood our hiding place." Well, he's speaking directly to the political leaders of Judah, and I think as you keep reading the chapters, you find out what their covenant of death is, they made a separate arrangement for this coming judgment, they didn't deny it was coming, they really thought the Assyrians were going to come, but they thought that they could deal with it by putting silver and gold on the backs of camels and donkeys and sending the money down to Egypt and hiring an army.
We'll get to that in due time, I won't talk about it fully today, but that's what it means why we have made a covenant with death. “We've made some arrangements. Okay? Death's coming. I know, I know, but we've made some arrangements. We're gonna be just fine.” So I've made some kind of a separate piece, but Isaiah shreds this thing completely, the refuge, he calls it a lie, and their hiding place is a falsehood. And he says, “God's judgment is gonna sweep it away, hail will sweep away your refuge, the lie, and water will overflow your hiding place. Your covenant with death will be annulled, your agreement with the grave will not stand, and when the overwhelming scourge sweeps by, you will be beaten down by it, as often as it comes, it will carry you away. Morning after morning, by day and by night, it will sweep through. The understanding of this message will bring sheer terror, the bed is too short to stretch out on, and the blanket too narrow to wrap around you.” Okay, what God is saying here is your separate deal will not stand up, it will not save you, your covenant with death will be annulled, your arrangement with the Egyptians to come rescue you from Assyria will not work. And when this judgment comes, you're gonna get swept away in it, you're going to get crushed by it.
And yet in the middle of all that, God shows again a refuge, a safe place, and this is the key verse in the whole chapter. Look at verse 16, Isaiah 28:16-17. So this is what the Sovereign Lord says, "Behold, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation, and the one who trusts will never be dismayed." Verse 17, "I will make justice the measuring line and righteousness the plumb line." Now, I love the word "behold.", the NIV translators do not, they give us "see." Friends, “see” and “behold” are not equal. Amen. Talk to me later. Alright, if you agree, that's fine. I just like “behold”. Well, they're saying, "We don't say behold anymore." Well, let's save behold for special, awesome things that God does. How about that? So when God does something special and awesome say, "Behold…" something like that. It's not a word we use every day. Let's save it for when God's doing something awesome. And God does lots of "behold" things in Isaiah. But this is the greatest of them all, friends. This is, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” That's what this “behold” is about. “Behold, a rock set in Zion on which you can build your whole eternity, you can build your house here and it will not move, it's a tested and sure precious cornerstone, and behold, I'm laying it there in Zion for you. And nothing will sweep it away.”
Everything man-made, all the man-made refuges will be swept away by this coming judgment. But the stone that God lays in Zion is a tested stone. It's tested, it's been proven. And it will work. It's a precious stone. It's valuable and precious, infinitely precious. It's a cornerstone, it's the base stone on which everything else finds its orientation, and it's a sure foundation stone, everything is built on this stone. And I keep saying "this stone," but it just says, “The one who trusts in him will not be put to shame.” So we know that Isaiah was talking about a man, he was talking about Jesus. Jesus is the tested stone, the precious cornerstone for the sure foundation. And, “Whoever trusts in him, whoever believes in him will not be in haste” is one of the translations. That's probably the simplest coming from the Hebrew. “I don't know what that means, all I can do is guess like a chicken with the head cut off, running around like a maniac, having no answer to the coming judgment, frazzled, annoyed, irritated, frantic”, as opposed to this is the place of rest, this is the place where the weary can rest, this is the refuge place where if you're in there, you're at piece, you're safe, you're secure. But if you have made a lie your refuge, then when it starts getting swept away, you'll be like that. You'll run around in haste. You'll run around like a maniac.
Three times in the New Testament, this text is quoted in reference to Jesus, three times. This is Jesus. New Testament writers tell us it is. Peter speaks of Jesus as a living stone rejected by men, but chosen by God and precious to him. And says that we're like him, we Christians are like him, we're like living stones built into a royal, royal priesthood. A structure and the priesthood alike. For in Scripture, it says, 1 Peter 2:6-8, "Behold, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in Him will never be put to shame." It says. Now to you who believe the stone is precious, but to those who do not believe, the stone the builders rejected has become the capstone, that's Psalm 118. And a stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall, that's Isaiah 8. So generally Isaiah 28:16 is quoted with Psalm 118, and Isaiah 8 brought in with the stone image, so we have the precious cornerstone set, and then we have the bad reaction of Jewish unbelievers do that stone, the builders reject him and people stumble over him. “They stumble because they disobey the message, which is also what they were destined for”, Peter says.
Paul quotes it twice in Romans, in Romans 9, and then again in Romans 10. Speaking of the Gentile believers, that's us. Who did not pursue righteousness have obtained it a righteousness that is by faith. But Israel, which pursued a law of righteousness has not attained it, why not? Because they pursued it not by faith, but as if it were by works, they stumbled over the stumbling stone. As it is written, "Behold, I lay in Zion a stone.", that's Isaiah 28. "That causes men to stumble.", that's Isaiah 8. So, Paul puts them together, “and a rock that makes them fall, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame”, he goes back to Isaiah 28 again. In Paul's mind, that Jesus is the precious stone set in Zion, and that all we have to do is trust in him and we will never be put to shame. It’s immediately connected with the rejection of Jesus by his own people, the builders rejected him, but he's become the cornerstone, and he is the rock of stumbling and they stumble because they can't deal with the fact that God's messiah would be dead on a cross. They don't understand why it had to happen. And that their own righteousness is not enough. They're pursuing their own righteousness, but they couldn't find it in the cross, and they hated that message. And they turned from it.
“Jesus is the precious stone set in Zion, and that all we have to do is trust in him and we will never be put to shame.”
He does the same thing in Romans 10, quoting this same text. Sweet verses. And there he says, "If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord’, and if you believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with the heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with the mouth that you confess and are saved. As the Scripture says, ‘Anyone who trusts in Him will never be put to shame’” that's Isaiah 28. “For 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.’” Oh, how sweet are those words, “Never be put to shame.” Not be ashamed now, you'll not be ashamed for the rest of your life, you'll not be ashamed in death, you'll not be ashamed on judgment day, and you'll not be ashamed for all eternity, and why? Because you're so righteous? Not at all, but because all of your shame and your wickedness and your sin were put on Jesus, that solid rock, and he shed his blood for you, and you are clean now and will be forever.
So are you trusting in him so that you will not be put to shame? Because if you're not trusting in Him, you will be put to shame. Your refuge will be swept away. Death is surely coming our way. Hebrews 9:27 says, "Man is destined to die once and after that to face judgment." Ecclesiastes 7:2 says, "Death is the destiny of every man." As death's coming. The overwhelming scourge of Isaiah 28 is coming our way. What is your refuge? That's the question of the text. Are people seeking a kind of a separate covenant with death? Make a deal with death. There are different ways to do that. People may be aware of death, may fear it in some way, aware of the death threat, they've seen others die, and so they want to, as the psychologist tell us, come to terms with death, will come to terms. Us and death will sit down at the negotiating table and we'll come to terms. We'll make an agreement. Alright? A covenant – death and I.
I mean there are a lot of different ways to do this. An atheist can do it by just facing the facts, square on, as they see it from their evolutionary slant. Okay? Just face the facts square on. Like Australian atheist Keith Cornish, quoting him, I hope he doesn't mind me quoting him, he's on the internet, so I think it's probably okay. He says this, "The simple fact is that all life forms end in death, and the elements of which they are composed return to the air and to the earth to be taken up and recycled in some new organism. This natural process is universal and is beyond dispute, what is challenged by atheists and free thinkers is the claim made by purveyors of religion," that's me. "Purveyors of religion, that humans alone of all living forms have a soul or a spirit, which survives death and carries the essential characteristics of the person to some supernatural existence in a supernatural realm." That's denied by Atheist and free thinkers. He continues. "Anyone weighing the evidence has no trouble in discarding the notion of the everlasting soul and accepting that death is the natural end to every human life. By accepting this, by accepting that life is only for a finite period short or long, the atheist is confronted by the question of how best to spend the available time, and therefore, if suitably informed, will most likely spend the time worthy of a human person."
How optimistic is that? We can debate that optimism and other time. But he's confident that if the atheist could just manfully or woman-fully face death, you will be able to live a good life and then become a worm, a part of worm anyway, or a plant or whatever as your elements breakdown, and then you're gone. So face facts and live a good life. That, friends, sounds like, I'm thinking, a covenant with death. Come to terms with it, understand it and don't fear it. And he goes on, “It would be difficult to imagine a more useless waste of time than that spent in the worship of an imaginary God or preparing for a non-existent everlasting life in some mythical supernatural realm of eternal bliss.” You, friends, according to him, are all wasting your time here today, listening to me talk about some mythical supernatural realm and the existence of the soul. So it's a Covenant, death, I have no fear of death because death is natural, it's what happens to every living organism, I don't fear it.
There are other covenants of death you can make, or seek anyway. Ponce de Leon was looking for the fountain of youth. He never found it, but he's looking for, according, if you drink the waters of youth,you can return to your youth and death can be at least deferred, I guess. So he discovered Florida, looking for the fountain of youth. There are actually a number of Ponce de Leon medical centers down in Florida, believe it or not. I ran out of time on research, maybe they do plastic surgery, I'm not sure what they do to defer aging. But at any rate, there is an effort to avoid death to make a covenant with death to defer it. We Americans are in love with youth, and we esteem it and we worship it to some degree.
Other religions have their own version of what I think Isaiah 28 would call a covenant with death. Friends, this is my world view, anything that's not Christianity is a false religion. False religions come from Satan. Satan tries to get people to make covenants with death. Generally, the recipe is: use your good works to pay for your sins and then heaven will be open to you. Could be an Islamic version of those good works, could be a Buddhist or Hindu version of the good works. Could even be a nominal Christian version of the good works. All of those things, covenant of death.
Practically, people knowing that death is coming, seek to amuse themselves. The word literally means to not think about it. To divert themselves with hobbies, all of these things stratagems. Can I give you a better answer? Find the true refuge from this coming onslaught. Don't deny that the onslaught's coming, it's coming. It is appointed to each one of us to die once, and after that to face judgment. It's coming. And it will be like a storm. There is a refuge, and his name is Jesus. If you build all of your hopes on Christ, you will survive the onslaught. That's what this text is saying. Final warning comes in verses 21-22, “The Lord will rise up as he did at mount Perazim, he will rouse himself as in the Valley of Gibeon – to do his work, his strange work and perform his task, his alien task. Now stop your mocking, or your chains will become heavier; the Lord, the Lord Almighty has told me of the destruction decreed against this whole land.” So it's a final warning saying, the storm is coming, the destruction is coming, God has decreed it. It is coming. And nothing will stop it, stop mocking the word, or it's gonna get even worse for you. And he says, “The Lord will rouse himself up back as he did at Mount Perazim in the valley of Gibeon.” Those were times when God delivered the Jews from their enemies, from the Philistines through David. But this time God's gonna rouse himself up and fight, but he's not gonna be fighting for the Jews; he's gonna be fighting against them. And therefore it calls it his work, his strange work and his task, his alien task, he's going to be behaving in a way that seems strange to his nature. Alien to his nature, and it'll be confusing to people who don't know what's going on. Now, the chapter ends with a parable of the farmer, which I'm not gonna go into it all today, I've reserved it for next time that I preach. So I'll just defer all comments about that to next week.
By application. Simply, I've already applied it to you: Come to Christ, trust in Him, build your life on the solid rock that God has established, it's the sure foundation. The storm is coming, it's coming. Both houses in the Sermon on the Mount were tested by the rains coming down, and the streams, rising and the wind, blowing and beating, they were both tested. The storm is coming. Death is coming, Judgment Day is coming. And there are two images of Christ in our text. And there are two invitations right in those images. The first image in verse 12, Jesus is the resting place. Let the weary repose. There's the invitation. Verse 16, this is the solid rock. Anyone who trusts in him will not be put to shame. So trust in him, come to Christ, that's the first and greatest application of this. Can I just urge? Don't leave this place unconverted. Don't walk out of this door and take your chances.
The text says, your covenant with death will be swept away, it will not work. Flee to Christ. But there are other applications in the text, and I just wanna say a few things. First, let's understand as Americans the danger of luxurious success. The Ephraimites, those that lived in Samaria, they were surrounded by some really fertile land. Really, really fertile land and the crops were good and the living was easy and comfortable, and there was luxury, and there was sin, there was indulgence, self-indulgence and corruption. It's not a bad thing to have wealth, it's not a bad thing to have land that produces abundant crops, that's not a bad thing, it's a good thing. But 1 Timothy 6 says,
“Command those who are rich in this world, not to put your trust in wealth, which is so fleeting, but to be generous and willing to share and live for God, even with your money.”
Secondly, understand the dangers of drunkenness, it speaks about those laid low by wine, they're staggered, staggering with wine and tables covered with vomit. I did not say a specific word against wine itself. Some would go that far. And here's the thing, as with so many things in teaching, you've got a safe center zone and you've got ditches on either side, and frequently those ditches have these names, legalism and license. This chapter is a warning against license. Others would be a warning against legalism, but in a chapter in which there's a warning against license, we must preach that way. And there's a clear warning here of the devastation of drunkenness. Do not take your license, saying Jesus drank wine which he did, and Jesus made wine for other people to drink, which he did, to be a license to over-indulge and corrupt your life. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. So it's a clear warning there, a slippery slope and the danger of alcoholic beverages without turning to the other danger of legalism and saying that anything for men, it is intrinsically wicked, which puts Jesus in a very bad way.
Third, application, respect the prophetic, the preached word. Respect the word of God. Respect the Bible, don't mock it. These people mocked the word, and they made fun of it. God has two ways of speaking. I would say this, God is bilingual to the human race. They're over 5,000 languages. You guys, Drew and Emily Maust... How many there are? I don't know what Wilckliffe is saying. God speaks them all. He's fluent in all of them, perfectly. I remember my Japanese language instructor being surprised when I said that to her. I said, Do you know that God speaks Japanese better than any Japanese person? She was surprised by that. She said, I think it's probably true. No, it's definitely true. Not probably. God speaks every language. He speaks right to the heart. He speaks heart languages, but essentially, he speaks two languages bilingual to the human race. He speaks by the written word or he speaks by the word of his judgments. And if you don't listen to the warning, you get the judgments. You get, life. You get it acted out in life, if your parents tell you don't touch the hot stove, you might get burned, if you then touch the stove, you're going to get burned. And so when the word of God warns you, against, certain things and you think that you're immune and you go ahead and do it, God will speak to you a second way.
So, let's say, like young people, there're warnings in the Bible about sex, about fornication. You may think you're exempt, you're not. God is giving you clear warnings against sexual immorality, you may think you're exempt, but it says, "Can you scoop coals into your lap and not get burned?" If you don't listen to the word of warning, then you get spoken to in the second language. And that's why I said it brings me chills when it says there, "Very well then, very well then." And God is patient, he doesn't immediately speak that second language, the language of judgment. He is patient, but he's patient for you to hear his word and bring your life through repentance to him. So don't mock the word. God has told us who he esteems, this is the one I esteem, the one who is humble and contrite, and who trembles at my word, not the one who mocks it like these people did in this chapter.
“God is patient, he doesn't immediately speak that second language, the language of judgment. He is patient, but he's patient for you to hear his word and bring your life through repentance to him.”
And forth, your covenant with death. You know what your covenant with death is? I hope it's the new covenant, amen? I hope it's the New Covenant in Jesus's blood. I hope that. I hope that your only trust is in the blood of Jesus. And I think the best hymn that I could sing, but I'm not gonna sing it. And you'll all thank me for that. Actually, I have an okay voice, but I don't start on the right pitch, I start too high, or too low. Ask the members or our home fellowship, alright? Way up high, giving the ladies a chance to sing solos. “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus blood and righteousness. I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus name. On Christ, the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.” Say it again. All other ground is sinking sand. So when you face trials in your life, short-term trials, financial, medical, relational, whatever, those are, just practice for the big trial coming, death, judgment etcetera. In those smaller trials, trust in Jesus the way you trust him for the big one. Okay? Like this, we're having financial troubles, having trouble making ends meet financially, the same God who gave his son, the same Jesus who shed his blood. He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all. He will also enable us to handle this financial struggle. Link the two. The blood of Jesus to the storm that you see coming in your life.
And finally understand that God's judgment and wrath are his strange work. It's not his homebase. God is love, God is mercy, he is tenderness. He will do his work, his strange work, he will perform his task, his alien task, and he'll do it to clean up the universe of the toxic filth of sin, he'll do it. Everything that causes sin and all those who do evil will be weeded out of his kingdom. But it's his strange work. It's not homebase. God, is love, he is mercy, he is tenderness. Flee to him and trust in him. Close with me in prayer.
Father, we thank you for the word of God. We thank you for Isaiah 28 and the things we have to learn from it. And I pray, oh Lord, that we would not make some separate covenant with death or some arrangement. I pray instead, we would build our lives entirely on the solid rock, Jesus Christ in whose name we pray. Amen.