In this sermon Tim continues our series in Ephesians, moving onto to the middle chapters of Isaiah. Tim tells us that the under oppression Israelites had to make a choice, who would they rely on? Would they make an alliance with Egypt or trust in God to deliver them? Tim brings this to today by asking us whether we rely on ourselves or choose to rely on God – trusting in Him to provide and deliver us. That we find our deliverance in repentance and rest!
Sermon preached by Tim Giovanelli on Sunday October 23, 2021.
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Isaiah Week 3 – The True Source of Deliverance
Welcome and Introduction
- Gift so you can take notes… from the Princeton Review
- “Note taking forces you to pay attention and helps you focus in class. It helps you learn. Studies on learning have shown that actively engaging with the topic by listening and then summarizing what you hear helps you understand and remember the information later.”
So we are in a series in the Book of Isaiah.
- The old testament prophet who wrote mainly to the southern kingdom of Judah, 700 or so years before the coming of Jesus.
- We’ve been going pretty quick, but I think this series has already been deeply encouraging and challenging for us.
- There are words of judgement, particularly on the people of God for producing bad fruit when they were meant to be a blessing and light to the nations.
- And there have been stunning moments of grace and hope as God continually offers mercy to his people and promises a future hope of restoration
- And we saw last week that that comes in the shape of this mysterious child who will reign on the throne of David and bring justice and righteousness for all nations!
So we are charging on today, and I think this is another great Word from God about who we will trust for deliverance and again pictures of future hope of salvation.
- So if you are following along closely, we are skipping a bunch of chapters that mainly deal with words of judgement on the surrounding nations of Judah.
- There is some great themes that emerge in them, but if we went through everything in Isaiah we would still be doing it mid next year.
- So we race ahead a little to chapters 28-35 that challenges the people of God as to where they will put their hope, and where deliverance comes from.
- Show on slide where we are up to….
- And chapter 35 tells us that when God moves to save, his glory will be on display and it will bring healing and restoration. OK?
Now it is worth a reminder of where we are up to in the people of God’s history.
- Remember they are originally called by God through Abraham to be a family that would be blessed and a blessing to all nations.
- They have gone through slavery in Egypt, been delivered by Gods mighty hand into the promised land, and they now find themselves in a covenant with God.
- And a covenant is like a contract or a marriage where each party makes vows to one another.
- They are to be obedient and choose God, and in doing so receive life and blessing, but if they become like the other nations and turn their backs on God, they will be devoured by the sword and destroyed.
- And this gets repeated regularly in their history documents like in 2 Kings 17:35-36
“When the Lord made a covenant with the Israelites, he commanded them: “Do not worship any other gods or bow down to them, serve them or sacrifice to them. 36 But the Lord, who brought you up out of Egypt with mighty power and outstretched arm, is the one you must worship.”
So in Isaiah 28-35, Isaiah speaks into the approaching calamites involving the threat of Assyrian invasion.
- Now remember the Assyrians have already defeated the northern kingdom of Israel and taken them away into captivity.
- You can read about it in 2 Kings 17. Having been defeated and taken into exile the Northern Kingdom get this explanation.
7 All this took place because the Israelites had sinned against the Lord their God, who had brought them up out of Egypt from under the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt. They worshiped other gods and followed the practices of the nations the Lord had driven out before them…
13 The Lord warned Israel and Judah (that’s the two kingdoms, north and south) through all his prophets and seers: “Turn from your evil ways. Observe my commands and decrees, in accordance with the entire Law that I commanded your ancestors to obey and that I delivered to you through my servants the prophets.”
14 But they would not listen and were as stiff-necked as their ancestors, who did not trust in the Lord their God. 15 They rejected his decrees and the covenant he had made with their ancestors and the statutes he had warned them to keep. They followed worthless idols and themselves became worthless. They imitated the nations around them although the Lord had ordered them, “Do not do as they do.”
Verse 18 So the Lord was very angry with Israel and removed them from his presence. Only the tribe of Judah was left.
So now Assyria that has wiped out the Northern Kingdom of Israel threatens the Southern Kingdom.
- And much of Isaiah is a warning to the southern kingdom of Judah not to go the way of the northern Kingdom.
- And Isaiah links this threat of invasion and exile, to the people of God’s relationship with their God, Yahweh.
- So we pick up the story today in the 14th year of King Hezekiah, the third King of Judah during Isaiah’s prophetic ministry.
Sennacherib, King of Assyria seeks to come against Judah.
- And the question becomes what is Judah to do? Surrender to the Assyrians? Put their trust in an alliance with Egypt to the south? Take things into their own hands and fight?
- But Isaiah’s message was simple to King Hezekiah and the people of God: The source of true deliverance is the Lord.
- Trust the God you are in a covenant with and see him move his mighty hand.
So we come to Isaiah 30 which correlates with 2 Kings 18, and Hezekiah sends for Isaiah.
- The field commander of the Assyrians is breathing bloody threats against Jerusalem
- And he mocks God’s people for believing that God would deliver them, when every other nation has fallen to the mighty Assyrian army.
- And in 2 Kings 18:32, he even mimics God saying if they surrender “choose life and not death.”
So in Isaiah 30 God speaks through Isaiah to the people of God and King Hezekiah.
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, but you would have none of it. 16 You said, ‘No, we will flee on horses.’ Therefore you will flee! You said, ‘We will ride off on swift horses.’ Therefore your pursuers will be swift!
Verse 18 Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; therefore he will rise up to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him!
And there choice is again contrasted in Isaiah 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 do not look to the Holy One of Israel, or seek help from the Lord.
Well next week we are going to see the outcome and I don’t want to ruin the story of Hezekiah found in the next bit of Isaiah
- But Hezekiah is one of the great Kings of Israel who chooses to trust God rather than making alliances or taking things into his own hands
- And in one of the great miracles or signs of the OT, the Assyrian army are destroyed and their King killed
- And the southern Kingdom of Judah enjoy a period of renewal and peace, the temple was restored… and well you have to wait until next week…
But here is what we learn from Isaiah…
- Isaiah 30:15 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.”
- Verse 18 “seek help from the Lord.”
- Rather than trusting in alliances and taking things into their own hands for their deliverance
- They trusted in their God, and saw him move powerfully to save them.
- It’s a remarkable story. It may have looked wise to make an alliance with the strength of Egypt… but what God required of them was to be dependent on him for their salvation.
Now in one sense that is a specific story with specific circumstances… but I think that Word of the Lord is relevant to us today.
- And I see two things
- How often do we as a church or individually seek to do things on our own strength.
- And a lot of that has to do with pride. We think I can do things my own way rather than God’s way, I exert my will instead of seeking the Lord’s will.
- And how often are we compromised by making alliances with the powers of this world?
Speaking to the church, where do we make alliances with political parties or corporate interests thinking it will help our cause?
- On the politics thing, I know us preachers are meant to avoid talking about it…
- And obviously it is great when Christians of conviction get involved in democracy and seek to find common grace for all of society.
- I spoke just last week about Wilberforce and his role as a Christian politician ending the transatlantic slave trade 200 years ago. .
But I think what I and many church leaders have become very wary of, is Christians becoming overly partisan.
- And trusting politics to bring the change that the local church should be seeking to bring.
- Particularly in the US, we’ve seen this hyper partisan approach and alliance with the church and political leaders who in many ways do not represent our values.
- And talking to a lot of church leaders over there, they have seen droves of young people leave the church because of the politicization of the church and the alliances made with corrupt leaders.
- And it stinks. Right?
- “Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help.”
Now don’t hear me wrong, there are wonderful Christian politicians on all sides of politics. I note in NSW that both leaders of the major parties are committed Christians.
- But the problem is we often think change will come, or deliverance will come by making an alliance with the kingdoms of this world.
- When true change comes, not from seizing power, but my being the local church.
- You know there are 12,000 churches in Australia. And what we are called to do is to seek the kingdom of God and be the hands and feet of Jesus in our communities.
- We are to trust God, seek his righteousness and do the work of preaching the good news and making disciples.
- What changes a person’s life is rarely tax policy… it is coming to know the love of God demonstrated in Jesus Christ.
So beware trusting in political alliances in order to seek change.
- You know the early church went from a small minority to being the religion of the ancient world.
- And that didn’t happen by making deals with the Romans Empire.
- No, they preached and prayed for the sick and cared for the poor and trusted God in awful circumstances.
- And they eventually overwhelmed the empire from below and within, not be wielding the powers of the state.
- And many church historians link the decline of the church in many places to the marriage between the church and the state.
Now all of this is a nuanced debate and worthy conversation.
- And as I said I am not against Christians in politics, I am not against the church working with the state on things of common grace.
- But I am against us trusting in the powers of this world to deliver us or to change the world around us.
- Revivals are not a state sanctioned event… they come from the prayers of God’s people and seeking of the Lord and asking him to move.
And I think that raises a good question: What does it mean then to trust the Lord? What does it mean that “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength.”
- For Hezekiah it meant not making alliances and not doing things in their own strength
- But instead choosing God, and depending on his Word and promises. And then waiting.
- And I don’t think that is something that we find easy to do.
- How much easier to compromise here and there, take a few short cuts, exert our wills, plot and plan to get ahead…
But so much of what we are called to do is trust God and believe in his promises.
- And I think much of this comes back to covenantal faithfulness.
- To trust God is to believe in his promises and do our part in keeping that relationship.
- That’s why marriage becomes such a powerful metaphor for being the children of God.
- As Christians we trust that God has by grace saved us from sin.
- As Christians we trust that God’s will for our lives is perfect and pleasing and leads to life
- As Christians we trust that the truth will set us free, that life and blessing is found in Christ.
But then as Christians, trusting God also means doing things his way! Learning obedience and faithfulness…
- Like a marriage we don’t cheat but remain committed. We don’t see people on the sides, but we love and cherish and care for our spouse.
- And in faith that looks like not bowing to the idols of today or making alliances or compromising our faith.
- Are you with me?
Well that brings us to one of the promises that God does make in Isaiah about future salvation, that we now know has been realized in Jesus.
- This wonderful section of Isaiah comes to a close.
- Having been challenged who they will trust, and reminded that God will deliver them
- In Isaiah 35 we again get this remarkable picture of how God will act to save them.
- Let’s have a look, Isaiah 35:3-6…
3 Strengthen the feeble hands, steady the knees that give way; 4 say to those with fearful hearts, “Be strong, do not fear; your God will come, he will come with vengeance; with divine retribution he will come to save you.” 5 Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped. 6 Then will the lame leap like a deer, and the mute tongue shout for joy. Water will gush forth in the wilderness and streams in the desert.
So this poem in chapter 35 comes at the end of the Assyrian period of prophecies delivered by Isaiah. And it declares the sovereignty of God to save.
- And it will be marked by a time of strengthening, healing and restoration.
- Now obviously some would have seen an initial fulfilment with the deliverance from Assyria, but as we know it’s ultimate fulfilment is found in Jesus.
- God who longs to restore and save his people will come once and for all and act in history.
So we fast forward 700 years to Jesus. And I want to take you to an amazing scene in Luke 7
- Now in the proceeding chapters Jesus has declared blessings on the poor and hungry and woes on the rich and comfortable.
- He has healed a paralyzed man and raised a widows son from the dead back to life.
- So we pick up at verse 18…
18 John (the Baptist) disciples told him about all these things. Calling two of them,19 he sent them to the Lord to ask, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?”
- Now that is a loaded question, steeped in the expectations of Isaiah’s prophecies about a saviour coming who would heal.
- Right? He is saying, we’re hearing reports of healing… are you who Isaiah promised would come, or should we expect someone else?
20 When the men came to Jesus, they said, “John the Baptist sent us to you to ask, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?’”
21 At that very time Jesus cured many who had diseases, sicknesses and evil spirits, and gave sight to many who were blind. 22 So he replied to the messengers, “Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. 23 Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.”
- Jesus, in relation to Isaiah 35 is saying it is happening… and it is me!
- God’s time to save and heal has come, and it is those who trust the Lord and respond in what?
- Isaiah in “repentance and rest is your salvation.”
- Your deliverance wont be through compromises, alliances, or your own strength…
- It comes through recognising that God is faithful, and trusting him to save.
It is interesting to me, that this scene in Luke 7 is proceeded by what story? Anyone?
- Well it’s the story of the faith of the centurion.
- Now I don’t have time to go into a theology of healing. You’ll have heard me talk about the now and the not yet of the kingdom
- And how we need always press into healing, even if we have little faith or have been discouraged…
- But I just note in the story of the centurion how so many of the themes of Isaiah come together.
- Here is someone from the nations, indeed an imperial officer of the occupying forces in Jerusalem.
- And in simple trust and waiting on the Lord, he believes in Jesus for the healing of his servant.
Clearly, the time has come, salvation for all nations and healing for the sick has arrived in Jesus Christ. God has come to save.
- Well let’s stop there because I want to have some time for ministry…
Isaiah 30:15 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… Blessed are all who wait for him!
Isaiah 35:4 say to those with fearful hearts, “Be strong, do not fear; your God will come… he will come to save you.” 5 Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped.
Luke 7:22 So he replied to the messengers, “Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor.