Holiness of God part 2

Holiness of God  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Introduction

It is estimated that by the end of the 1st century there were 5384 Christians in the entire world. What started out as a movement with the 12 disciples soon spread to thousands of people from multiple countries in the Middle East and beyond. These followers of Christ had seen Jesus’ earthly ministry, they had heard His teachings for years and they had an understanding of His saving power and their need of saving. Think for a moment, though, if these followers had quit the ministry after Jesus ascended back into heaven. What if these thousands of followers who had seen and heard Jesus’ message clearly had simply called it quits because life got hard and they no longer had the physical person of Jesus guiding and helping them along the way? They wouldn’t have been obedient followers! Jesus Himself told these men that the Holy Spirit would come upon them and that they would be His witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the most remote parts of the earth (). Understanding Jesus’ message, seeing His holiness and knowing that humanity falls woefully short of the standard naturally leads a huge emphasis on missions and sharing the hope and truth of the Gospel message! We see that in the life of the 1st century church, but we also see it in the Old Testament prophets. gives us a glimpse at Isaiah’s calling to Go out and tell the people the message that the Lord has. The incredible part of Isaiah’s calling by God is that the message is not a pleasant one. Often times whenever we think of calling we think of hope and blessing, what we find in is nearly the exact opposite. Even though God’s message for Isaiah is not one that will make him popular with the people, Isaiah obediently goes out and preaches this message. That should be our response to the Gospel message. Let’s read this text!
Isaiah 6:8–13 NASB95
8 Then I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?” Then I said, “Here am I. Send me!” 9 He said, “Go, and tell this people: ‘Keep on listening, but do not perceive; Keep on looking, but do not understand.’ 10 “Render the hearts of this people insensitive, Their ears dull, And their eyes dim, Otherwise they might see with their eyes, Hear with their ears, Understand with their hearts, And return and be healed.” 11 Then I said, “Lord, how long?” And He answered, “Until cities are devastated and without inhabitant, Houses are without people And the land is utterly desolate, 12 “The Lord has removed men far away, And the forsaken places are many in the midst of the land. 13 “Yet there will be a tenth portion in it, And it will again be subject to burning, Like a terebinth or an oak Whose stump remains when it is felled. The holy seed is its stump.”

God’s holiness leads to missions (8)

Seeing the Lord’s holiness, hearing His message and understanding the penalty of your sin leads to having your heart broken and open to share the Gospel message to the nations. is the basis for many songs and sermons regarding Isaiah’s willingness to actually go out and share God’s message to the people. Let’s dive into this verse a little deeper and expound upon the context of what happened in a very short period of time. Just before this, in verse 5, Isaiah could not speak because he knew that he was unholy and he was in the presence of the Lord. He knew that he was unworthy to be where he was and he was terrified that he would be struck dead! After being purified by the power of God, though, we see a completely different Isaiah in verse 8. This man who could not speak is now saying that he will go out and share the Lord’s message. What happened here? Isaiah experienced something that you have experienced if you are a child of God this morning. If you have been forgiven of your sins by the atoning work of Jesus Christ then you know that you are not saved to sit on your blessed assurance, you are saved to serve the King. That starts from day one of your new birth! That is not something that you have to wait years and years to do, it is something that we should be doing right away! Just as Isaiah heard the Lord call for a messenger to deliver His message to the people, we have a responsibility to go out and share the Gospel with a lost and dying world.
One of the cool parts of verse 8 is that we see the term “Us” whenever the Lord is speaking. This is most certainly a triune phrase as The Lord says, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Who can say this besides Yahweh, God? As we began our trinity discussion on Wednesday night, we talked about the fact that God is one in being but three in person. In this sense, the Lord is saying “I” will send someone but they will go for “us.” What a statement about our God and what a story about how He wills people to go out and enter His ministry.
One final portion about this opening verse. There are some people out there who say, “Why should Christians evangelize if God has already predetermined everything?” If God has His elect chosen before the foundations of the world then why does it matter if we go out and share the Gospel? We know from Scripture that we are chosen in Him before the foundations of the world, as Paul tells us in . But, we also see from the life of Paul that missions are certainly important, are they not? This was a man who traveled around the Roman Empire declaring the truth of the Gospel and pleading for people to be reconciled to Christ. Paul believed that God knows full and well, but he also believed that he did not know who would accept the message and who would not. Because of that, he had a responsibility to share with everyone! Charles Spurgeon was asked once why he even preached since he believed in election, his response was, “Because the elect don’t have yellow stripes down their back” meaning that Spurgeon had to preach because he’s not God and must preach the Gospel without discrimination. That is why missions matter, church. We know that God can work without us, He doesn’t need us, but we also know that He certainly does use us. Evangelism is one of the ways that He uses us.

Hardened hearts (9-10)

The scene we see is that Isaiah is obedient to the calling of God on his life to go out and tell the people God’s message. You would think that the result would be largely positive and that thousands of people would come to know the Lord and repent. That is not what is found in verses 9 and 10. In fact, it is the exact opposite. This is a message that will harden the hearts of the people. God says that there will be no positive results in the hearts of the people who hear what Isaiah says. Instead of bringing conviction, humility and confession of sins, Isaiah’s message will primarily harden people. Why on earth will this happen? Because these people have repeatedly chosen to refuse to follow God. Therefore, God has chosen to punish them by hardening their hearts. It is past the time of repentance and the time of judgment is at hand.
This is a tricky passage for us to figure out what to do with. For those who say that God only offers grace and mercy, the idea of God hardening someones heart is almost contradicting and very difficult to accept. Additionally, for those who affirm that humans have complete free choice and that God is not completely sovereign, the idea of God hardening someone’s heart might seem appalling. But the fact remains that sometimes God hardens the hearts of people (we see that with Pharoah in Exodus and we see Jesus mention this idea in the Gospels). Stephen, in , declares that the people of Israel are a stiff-necked people with uncircumcised hearts and ears. We know that Satan certainly blinds human eyes from the work of God ( shares this truth) and we know that sometimes people harden their own hearts and blind their own eyes as shows. But, from we see that there are also times that God hardens the hearts of people. These commands are meant to prevent the people from seeing, hearing, understanding, turning and being healed. Again, this is a tough message for us to hear, but it’s Bible and as uncomfortable as it might make us, we must preach and teach what Scripture says. says that God’s message will make it so that the people will not repent. Jesus had a similar response whenever people asked why He used parables. What did He say? “I use parables so that the people will not understand, turn and be healed.” . It is a weeding out process. To some, Jesus’ parables would be confusing and would drive them away. To some, the cross of Christ is foolishness and a stumbling block and they think Christianity is a silly. To some, the message of the Gospel is so otherworldly that they can’t make sense of it and they call it a fairy tale. But, to others the parables of Christ made sense and brought about conviction. To others, the cross of Christ makes sense as it frees them from bondage to sin and death. To others the Gospel message is life.
quotes and explains that the reason the Jews saw Jesus’ miracles and teachings and did not repent was because they had a hardened heart. Just as Satan strives to blind eyes and humans blind their own eyes, God also, according to Scripture, blinds eyes as well. If we believe that salvation is ultimately from the Lord, it follows that it is also He who removes the blindfold.

Hope in the midst of destruction (11-13)

For many of us, this idea doesn’t exactly sit very well with us. We don’t like to think of God’s message being proclaimed and ultimately hardening the hearts of the people rather than bring about conviction and repentance. The fact of the matter is that evangelism is not based upon results, always. Some of the most faithful missionaries never had a single convert for years and years. William Carey waited 7 years before he baptized his first convert in India. Adoniram Judson waited 6 long years before he baptized his first convert in Burma. Many people in modern Christianity would look at the ministries of these men and say that they were failures or that they didn’t do something right because they did not experience immediate results. Lots of people and pastors in America judge success by the thousands of people who attend their churches or the millions of dollars that are in their operating budget. The message from the Lord in would represent “failure” to many modern leaders because we see that the Lord does not promise large following, wealth or immediate conversions. In fact, the promise is the opposite! Isaiah is told that he will be the messenger of a very difficult and tough message of the hardening of hearts and he cries out, “How long Lord?” He is asking how long he will preach to hardened hearts. God replies by showing that this will take place until His judgments have been carried out. We see that it will be after cities are devastated, the people are in exile and the houses are without people. This might sound harsh, but this is the righteous judgment of a holy God against a sinful people. Again, comes into play here. God is not being unfair and he is not punishing the people just because He can, He is punishing them because He must remain faithful to His word. declares that
Deuteronomy 28:49–52 NASB95
49 “The Lord will bring a nation against you from afar, from the end of the earth, as the eagle swoops down, a nation whose language you shall not understand, 50 a nation of fierce countenance who will have no respect for the old, nor show favor to the young. 51 “Moreover, it shall eat the offspring of your herd and the produce of your ground until you are destroyed, who also leaves you no grain, new wine, or oil, nor the increase of your herd or the young of your flock until they have caused you to perish. 52 “It shall besiege you in all your towns until your high and fortified walls in which you trusted come down throughout your land, and it shall besiege you in all your towns throughout your land which the Lord your God has given you.
Similarly, there are times in our lives where we will minister to people around us and we cry out to God and we say, “How long Lord?” How long will we minister to these people before they understand? How many years do I have to pray for this person until he or she repents and turns their life over to you? How many years do I have to live with this situation? We want the answer to be that the end is in sight and that it will be answered exactly how we would like it to be. But many times the answer is not yet. The answer is “wait a little longer” or even worse the answer is no. In the words of David Jeremiah God answers prayer in 4 ways, “No. Slow. Grow. Go.” Sometimes our request is wrong and God simply says, “no.” Sometimes we ask God for something that is good and legitimate but not in the right time and the answer is “slow” Sometimes we have things going on in our lives that need to be fixed even though the request might be genuine and good and the answer from God is “grow.” Other times the request is right and the timing is right and the answer is “go.” We don’t really like the “No. Slow. Grow.” answers, do we? It’s tough to go on with our life whenever we are in the waiting period of sorts. Imagine Isaiah’s reaction and response to the Lord’s message here. He was told that he would preach to the people and that they wouldn’t repent. In fact, punishment and judgment would be coming their way! Yet, Isaiah was obedient to the Lord and faithfully served Him.
Church, this must be our response to the Gospel this morning. We must go forth and share this message with others! We know that some might laugh in our faces, others might be confused as to why this message matters to them, others completely reject the news, but we also know that God’s Word never returns back void. We must faithfully proclaim the truth of Scripture because it is the primary vehicle used by God to convict sinners and bring about repentance. How are we doing in this regard? Do we fall into the group that diminishes the importance of missions or do we genuinely care for and have a passion to share the Gospel with the lost? Taking this a step further: Do we have a passion to share with those who line up with our demographics and political viewpoints or do we have a passion to share with all the world as commands us to do? Isaiah was obedient to following the Lord’s command, even though it was a difficult message he was to bring. We must be completely obedient to declare the truth of the Gospel to all people regardless of their socio-economic level, race and background. Furthermore, we have a responsibility to proclaim the Gospel to the ends of the world. This is why ministry opportunities like the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering are incredible ways for us to help our brothers and sisters around the world. This is why Operation Christmas Child is such an awesome way for us to help those who are in need of the love and hope of Jesus Christ. But it doesn’t stop there. This is a great start, but it cannot be where we stop. We must proclaim this message. We must live it out daily in our actions and in our words. We also can literally go.
This message is not completely bad, though, for Isaiah. Verse 13 illustrates that there will be a remnant - as God has promised there would be! There is hope at the conclusion of Isaiah’s message as it declares that there will be some people who survive the destruction of the land (a 10th) and subsequent burning. These remaining people are compared to what happens whenever a tree is cut down and only a stump remains. Gary Smith puts it like this in his commentary on , “If someone told you that your house was destroyed by fire, but that one picture was preserved, it would not sound like a great message of hope. Relative to the great destruction of Judah, this was a very small ray of hope.” The hope is not that the suffering or judgment will be avoided, but rather that there will be a remnant that survives and serves as the stump that will flourish one day. This is similar to what Paul talks about in as he states that the Jewish nation was like an olive tree with fruitless branches because they have rejected Jesus Christ. The branches are stripped off and Gentiles are grafted in but the Holy root system remains.
declares that there will be a shoot that springs from the stem of Jesse and a branch from His roots will bear fruit. Most scholars note that this is talking about David and acts as a precursor to the coming Messiah from the line of David who would be even greater than David in the line of redemption as declares.
No matter how desolate the land will become, God is not finished with the Jewish nation. No matter how dark the night, God is not finished with these people. On that note, you might be feeling as though you are in the doldrums of life. Spinning in circles for no apparent reason. If this is you today, look to the Lord of Lords and understand that your life has purpose because you are His! Even in the most uncertain of times, we have a message to declare to the world. The message is both of caution (we are all sinners and in need of saving) but also of hope (Christ saves sinners)!

The Lord’s identity revealed ()

As mentioned last week as we began , there is another vision in the New Testament that has a lot of similarities to the vision from Isaiah: John’s vision in Revelation. Additionally, John quotes in as he reveals the true identity of the one whom Isaiah saw on the throne. Look over at . We see John state that “He had performed many signs before them yet they were not believing in Him.” Who is the “Him” in this verse? It is without question the 2nd person of the Trinity: Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Fast forward to verses 41-42 and here we see that Isaiah saw “His” glory and spoke of “Him.” Not only was Isaiah in the heavenly throne room but Andrew Davis makes the point that Isaiah saw the glory of Jesus. The live coal taken from the altar represents Christ and His purifying ministry. Isaiah saw the glory of the preincarnate Christ and wrote about Him.

Conclusion

When looking at the holiness of God there are only two options. You can either confess your sins or be hardened to sin so that judgment can be accomplished. You can either repent and be reborn or you can continue on your own way and suffer the consequences. His holiness and glory are awesome and beyond our comprehension, but even the veiled perception that we see in our world today is enough to require a response. To those who have never made that decision to make Jesus their Lord, be reconciled to God today! To those who have, let’s look at some practical application from in our lives. Worship God, repent of your sins daily, serve the King, speak the truth of Scripture to those around you regardless of the cost, offer hope in the face of disaster.
Again, the hardening of the heart can be tough for us to understand, but we must understand that God’s ways are higher than our ways and His thoughts are higher than our thoughts. Regardless of your personal view on this topic we can all agree on this: Only God knows who His children are and who are not. Therefore, we have a responsibility to share the truth of the Gospel with all! We should pray for those who have a hardened heart that God would convict them and that He would open their heart up. As shows us, God has the power not only to harden but to open hearts.
Acts 16:14 NASB95
14 A woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple fabrics, a worshiper of God, was listening; and the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul.
Pray that those in our life who do not know God would have their heart and eyes opened to the truth of Scripture and that today might be their day of salvation. Pray that you would be the type of believer who would respond to the Lord like Isaiah and say “Here am I, Lord send me!” Regardless of the cost, regardless of the destination or the duration, let us be obedient to God’s will for our lives. Let’s pray.
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