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©September 18th, 2022 by Rev. Rick Goettsche SERIES: Isaiah
Our world today doesn’t seem to be able to agree on much.
We disagree on politics, morality, religion, and even on silly things like sports and preferences that we give far greater importance than they deserve.
Strangely, the one thing that people from all walks of life and all sorts of backgrounds seem able to agree on is the fact that our world is profoundly messed up.
We may not agree about how it should look or what the solution is, but we all seem to agree that it’s not the way it should be.
Most of the time, we place the blame for the condition of our world on everyone else.
We tend not to admit any personal culpability.
This is in sharp contrast to the famous writer, G.K. Chesterton, who once responded to a newspaper article that asked the question, what’s wrong with our world today?
He wrote a simple response: “I am.
Sincerely, G.K. Chesterton.”
This attitude results in change—the blame game does not.
Our passage this morning is not a particularly fun one, but it is important and valuable, because I believe these verses will challenge us to adopt an attitude more like G.K. Chesterton, recognizing that we are part of the problem in our world today—and also part of the solution.
Why The Lord Feels Distant
Isaiah 59 can be broken down into 4 sections.
In the first section, Isaiah addresses his condemnations to “you.”
In other words, he is speaking to someone else about their sin.
1 Listen!
The Lord’s arm is not too weak to save you, nor is his ear too deaf to hear you call. 2 It’s your sins that have cut you off from God.
Because of your sins, he has turned away and will not listen anymore.
3 Your hands are the hands of murderers, and your fingers are filthy with sin.
Your lips are full of lies, and your mouth spews corruption.
(Isaiah 59:1-3, NLT)
Likely, Isaiah is speaking to people frustrated by their situation.
Remember, at this point Israel had been conquered by invading armies.
They had watched the destruction of their cities and had everything they held dear taken away.
Surely they found themselves wondering how, if they were God’s people, this had happened.
Isaiah speaks directly to this question.
He tells them that the Lord’s arm is not too weak to save them, and the problem isn’t that He is deaf and couldn’t hear them call.
He says the source of their problems is sin.
Their sin has cut them off from God, and as a result, God is distant from them.
That is why He is not acting.
Sin puts distance between us and the Lord.
God doesn’t tell us to live in a certain way because He wants to exert control over us, but because He loves us.
His way is the only way we can experience life as He intended.
When we sin, we are pushing God away and telling Him that we don’t care what He has to say—we’re going to do things our way.
Like in any relationship, that kind of attitude creates distance.
This is Isaiah’s diagnosis of the problem of the people of Israel.
They feel distant from God, but it’s not God’s fault, they have pushed Him away by their rebellion.
Maybe you’ve felt the same way as Israel before.
Maybe you feel that way now.
Can I humbly suggest that you look at your life and see if there’s an area where you are living in rebellion toward God?
In the times when God feels distant, we will almost always find that God hasn’t moved…we have.
If we turn from our sin, we start walking back toward Him.
The Futility of Sin
The second section, in verses 4-8, sees Isaiah switch his subject.
The first three verses are addressed to “you”, while these verses are addressed to “they”.
4 No one cares about being fair and honest.
The people’s lawsuits are based on lies.
They conceive evil deeds and then give birth to sin. 5 They hatch deadly snakes and weave spiders’ webs.
Whoever eats their eggs will die; whoever cracks them will hatch a viper.
6 Their webs can’t be made into clothing, and nothing they do is productive.
All their activity is filled with sin, and violence is their trademark.
7 Their feet run to do evil, and they rush to commit murder.
They think only about sinning.
Misery and destruction always follow them.
8 They don’t know where to find peace or what it means to be just and good.
They have mapped out crooked roads, and no one who follows them knows a moment’s peace.
(Isaiah 59:4-8, NLT)
Isaiah now seems to be describing the society as a whole.
He says they have abandoned justice and honesty.
Instead, everyone is looking out only for themselves.
Doesn’t this sound a lot like our world today?
We are consistently told not to worry about how our actions affect other people, but to do only what is best for us.
The result is frivolous lawsuits, broken families, people being unwilling to serve unless there’s something in it for them, and businesses that exploit customers and employees and vice versa.
Common courtesy and kindness have all but disappeared.
All that is left is an entitled and angry society.
The question is no longer, “What is right?”
It is, “What can I get away with?” or “What will get me what I want?”
This kind of attitude will destroy a society from the inside out.
Isaiah says that people who live their lives by this code will find that it is ultimately empty.
Misery and destruction always follow.
They will never know peace, because they are always looking for a new angle they can exploit.
This attitude of selfishness is pervasive…and destructive.
This attitude is everywhere in our society and we have to be on guard against it.
If we aren’t careful, these attitudes can creep in without our realizing it.
When we are concerned only with getting what we want, without regard to how we go about getting it, we can quickly find ourselves bypassing what we know is right in order to do what we think will get us what we want, and telling ourselves this is good in the process!
This is an insidious attitude of sin that we have to guard against diligently.
Doing things God’s way doesn’t guarantee that we will get what we want when we want it, but it is the only way that guarantees peace and satisfaction.
Getting Personal
The third section of Isaiah 59 sees another shift in Isaiah’s subject.
First, his subject was “you”, then it became “they”, now it becomes “we”.
9 So there is no justice among us, and we know nothing about right living.
We look for light but find only darkness.
We look for bright skies but walk in gloom.
10 We grope like the blind along a wall, feeling our way like people without eyes.
Even at brightest noontime, we stumble as though it were dark.
Among the living, we are like the dead.
11 We growl like hungry bears; we moan like mournful doves.
We look for justice, but it never comes.
We look for rescue, but it is far away from us. 12 For our sins are piled up before God and testify against us.
Yes, we know what sinners we are.
13 We know we have rebelled and have denied the Lord.
We have turned our backs on our God.
We know how unfair and oppressive we have been, carefully planning our deceitful lies.
14 Our courts oppose the righteous, and justice is nowhere to be found.
Truth stumbles in the streets, and honesty has been outlawed.
15 Yes, truth is gone, and anyone who renounces evil is attacked.
(Isaiah 59:9-15a, NLT)
You can hear the frustration and despair in Isaiah’s words.
But the shift in Isaiah’s choice of pronouns is telling.
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