Damariscotta Baptist Church
Wednesday, September 19, 2018
Growing personal relationships with God and community

03/18/18 Sermon - Take the Long View

“Take the Long View”

Isaiah 5:24-30

The closing verses of chapter 5 reveal that God is true to His Word. The vineyard chose to produce bitter grapes of greed, self-indulgence, cynicism, moral perversion and social injustice. God told them what would come of their decisions and today’s Scripture describes the taking away of the hedge, the breaking down of the walls, and the trampling of the useless vines. The LORD promised a sure and complete judgement, and that’s what happened.

Verse 24 has the fire devouring the straw and dry grass, which are both extremely flammable. It takes no time at all for them to be consumed by flames. Isaiah warned them that their judgement will be both severe and complete. He also explained the reason for such judgement. Judah had not only rejected the law of the LORD, they had spurned it, which means they rejected it with disdain or contempt.

By the time we read verse 25, the LORD’s anger was burning against His people.

Ouch! The wrath of God.

The disdain and contempt from His own people had continued long enough. His hand was raised and He was striking them down. The mountains were shaking and the streets were full of dead bodies. And as if natural disasters weren’t enough, God lifted up a banner to enemy nations from afar and whistled to them to join as a united group to come and invade Judah. God united nations that were most likely not generally used to working together, to come under one banner to invade Judah, His chosen people.

Ouch, again!

When you think about this, it seems backwards. God was strengthening pagan nations, to come and wipe out, His chosen nation. The armies God called were speedy and swift. They were in amazing shape as they did not grow tired or stumble. They did not waste time sleeping, and they were impeccably focused on even the smallest detail. We read that not a belt was loosened  nor a sandal broken. These armies were focused, prepared and ready. What were the men of Judah doing? Oh yeah, they were using their strength to see who could win a drinking contest. It doesn’t take a theological education to figure out what was going to happen to Judah. Darkness and distress were the results, the light was darkened by the clouds.

Can’t you just imagine what the response of God’s people must have been? We would hope it would have been something of repentance, of a realization that they had messed things up. Yet, I suspect a more realistic response may have been something like, “LORD, what are you doing? Since when do you allow our enemies to win? Why, we are your chosen people? You are supposed to take care of us, don’t you love us anymore? You certainly aren’t acting like the God we thought you were?

And yet, their destruction was the demonstration of God’s love.

God knew He had to destroy everything that had brought Judah to such a disgraceful place, in order to prevent their total and eternal destruction. Mercy comes in mysterious ways. The real question that should be asked is, “Will we listen to God’s warning?”

God’s church today, is in a similar position as Judah was in Isaiah’s day. We live in a culture that has slowly been dissolving the church’s commitment to the authority of God’s revelation. Our culture claims the importance of self over submission or sacrifice to a God of the Bible, which our culture would say is only a myth or at best a crutch. The fundamental core issue for both Judah and today’s Church is the issue of submission. In the book, Before Philosophy, Henri Frankfort states that the Hebrews replaced the pagan myth of nature with the myth of God. We can argue his use of the word “myth” but Frankfort’s is spot on.

The nations outside of Israel saw life existing within nature and recurring in cycles, that contained neither purpose nor a goal, other than to gain power. The Israelites, on the other hand, understood life in relation to a personal creator, who had a purpose for human life, outside of nature, and that purpose had to do with how they lived their life. The apostle Paul put it this way in Romans 12:1-2,

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Paul is reminding people, that God has a will for His people. He has always had a will.

Since Abraham, God has called His people to consciously give up something to God, and by doing so, they will live contrary to the nations around them. Paul describes this sacrifice with a New Testament motivation, the sacrifice of God’s Son. So what does it mean to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice?

God asks for us to surrender two things:

  1. Our right to decide what is right and wrong for us

  2. Our right to supply our own needs for ourselves

This battle has been going on since humans began, in Genesis. Adam and Eve refused to make that surrender and the world has been following their example ever since. The pattern of the world goes something  like this:

“I need to please myself by satisfying my desires at all costs and of determining what is right and wrong for me on the basis of what I believe will most nearly achieve that satisfaction.”

Yet, when we surrender these two things to God, we have seen by example through the stories of the patriarchs, that we no longer need to be grasping, self-serving people. Take Abraham, he chose to give his nephew Lot the best land, and Joseph who chose to abstain from an extramarital affair. Both men were delivered. Did they experience difficulties? Yes. I contend they would have experienced difficulties whether they submitted their needs to God or not, for in this world we will have troubles, but take heart, God has overcome the world.

God has a plan for victory over greed, self-indulgence, cynicism, moral perversion and social injustice and that is for us to surrender our lives to God. It means giving up what I think is best, and trusting God to supply my truest needs. Interestingly enough, He knows better than I do, and can do far better than I ever can. It means submitting to His will and then walking in that submission. However…..

There always seems to be a “However…”

However, patience needs to be remembered and exercised. We so often demand immediate results. We have been programmed that way in our culture. Growing up I had to plan in advance for dinner to be prepared in time. It used to take an hour to cook baked potatoes. Today I can have one in 3 minutes! When dealing with the God of the universe, we need to rearrange our view of time, we need to take the long view. When Isaiah wrote this warning to the Israelites and gave them the logical consequences of their behavior it did happen that the Northern Kingdom of Israel was exiled within Isaiah’s lifetime, however, the exile of the Southern Kingdom of Judah did not occur for another 150 years.  Jesus gives a parable in Matthew 13, of the wheat and the weeds, where he says the weeds will be permitted to flourish until the final harvest. Jesus is presenting the long view of things. He tells them that it is in the final harvest that the wheat and the weeds will be separated out and then they will be cast into the fire.

We need to be reminded that there are consequences to sin, and they will be administered in God’s time, not ours.

Today we are encouraged to not only surrender our right to decide what is right and wrong for ourselves and to surrender our right to supply our own needs for ourselves, but we must also surrender the outcomes to God’s timing.

Wow, letting go and letting God. Easily said, not so easily done. Paul gave excellent advice, we need to be “transformed by the renewing of your mind.”  That comes only by reading God’s Word, spending time in God’s presence, and surrendering our will for His will.

Let’s pray.