Damariscotta Baptist Church
Monday, May 21, 2018
Growing personal relationships with God and community

07/17/11 Sermon

Isaiah 29: 1-13, 30:1-18

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in Thy sight O Lord our Strength and our Redeemer, Amen

Our scripture today from Isaiah is the story of the prophet Isaiah speaking on God’s behalf calling the chosen people of God back to a trust and faithfulness in God.  And as we see this is some pretty rough language to them. First we see a warning to Israel and Judah for their spiritual blindness and laziness.  Because they’re so complacent and oblivious, God has brought over them a deep sleep; like a spell over them that made them even more lethargic. They’re in a drunken stupor doing nothing.  And even as Isaiah is speaking God’s words to them and warning them they just don’t get it.

Verse 11 and 12 says ----For you this whole prophetic warning is nothing but words sealed in a scroll. And you give the scroll to someone who can read, and they say, “I can’t read it; it’s sealed.” (in other words what your calling us to do is too hard)   Or for others, they answer, “I don’t know how to read.” These people are simply ignoring and refusing the warning given to them. 

We see more about their spiritual blindness and laziness in chapter 30 as God calls them rebellious people, deceitful children unwilling to listen.  Not only do they not want to listen they say to God “stop giving us these visions of bad news. Stop sending the prophets to tell us what’s right. We don’t want to hear it. 
We just want to hear good things, pleasant things…. stop confronting us with the Holy One of Israel!”  They don’t want to hear from God. They want to do what they want to do.  And these are religious people; the chosen people of God. They went to church every week; prayed all the time.

But God makes it clear that that’s not what he wants from his people. In verse 13 The Lord says: “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught.

So, because of their desire to not hear God’s warning, because they chose to be blind and spiritually drunk, they were stumbling around lethargic, lazy and uncommitted.  And if that wasn’t bad enough, we also read that the big bad, powerful Assyrian army was about to attack and invade them. They’re about to be conquered and plundered, killed and taken into captivity.

Now you would think that that they would wake up and turn to God for help. But do they?

No-----as we see in chapter 30 that they look to find security and protection from who of all people??------- Egypt.---------Now as you recall these were the ones that had held them in captivity; that Moses had to come and deliver them from.

So why did they turn to Egypt??

Well, Egypt was the only army strong enough to go up against the Assyrians. So Israel and Judah basically wanted to hire Egypt as their bodyguard.

So let’s recap----not only are the Israelites asleep,  rejecting God’s call to have his heart, and rejecting his warning to them from the prophets, they also don’t trust God enough to help them against this enemy and so they turn to the very people who had held them in slavery for hundreds of years.

But wait it gets worse!

To make it all even more humiliating, (we see in verse 4-5) the Egyptian officials came and looked at the people and they were useless to them.  The Egyptians were ashamed of them as they had nothing to even offer for their help. 

It’s like going to the bank and asking for a loan to help you and you have no collateral, nothing to offer and they turn you down and shake their head at how pitiful your financial situation.

So how does this scripture speak to us today?

Well today my job is to be one of those prophets that don’t necessarily paint a pretty picture.  I come to today with a message that confronts our church with the Holy One of Israel just as Isaiah did.  You see today in North America and around the world, there are many churches who are being threatened by an Assyria. Churches are finding themselves surrounded by a dark enemy.  A different kind of enemy, but an enemy nonetheless.

It’s a financial enemy that threatens to shut down the doors of church buildings, to close up organizations and institutions that have been doing church for hundreds of years.  It’s an enemy that threatens us too.

Several weeks ago the church had a meeting to discuss the financial situation of our church.  A portion of the meeting today will also be speaking to the harsh realities facing our church.  This can be a time of worry and gloom and fear just as it was for the people of Judah and Israel. 

And yet in the same way that God spoke to his chosen people thousands of years ago in Jerusalem, God is speaking to us today.  And he’s calling us to be a people who will wake up and seek to have his heart.

What kind of heart does God have?

Well we know that it’s a heart that looks to go out and love others because that’s what He did with us.  God’s heart came out of heaven to us in Jesus Christ to offer us grace and love.  He has a heart that was sent to the broken and the poor and the marginalized to bless and heal.

That’s the kind of heart that God wants his people to have. 

Now over the last several months I’ve spoken to you about the need for us to embrace a new vision. A vision that calls us to be a missional church.  I am officially going to change that to say that we need to be a faithful church; a faithful church that has the heart of God because it has a heart for others.  Now there have been those who have heard this message that calls us to go out and bless others, to be salt and light in the community and embraced it.  Still there are others who hear it and say this is too hard; kinda like those who couldn’t open the seal on the scroll.  Then there are those who have not attended or even bothered to pick up the DVD---perhaps these are those who get the scroll and say, Well I don’t know how to read so why bother! 

The point is that God is giving us the scroll, the vision to have his heart and go bless others but we’re not acting on it.  Meanwhile, we also find ourselves being confronted with an Assyrian army of expenses that exceeds our income.  And it can cause us to panic and look to find help.  And like Israel we can look for help in Egypt which is anything other than God.  Our Egypt can be money managing, cutting expenses, sound financial advice, fundraising. We can go to the bank for loans.  Whatever we can do to save the organization; to preserve things as usual, to somehow keep things as they are---to remain asleep.

But this is not an organization; it’s not a business or a corporation. We don’t make decisions like you would a company.  We are a people of faith; a movement of people who seek to do God’s will first and foremost. That’s where our commitment is to be.

You know, so often churches can have major meetings to discuss the finances of the church and how to save the organization.  And while it’s important to discuss these things I wonder if we ever have major meetings that people will attend where we actually discuss how we are going to go out and share God’s heart with others?   Do we have a concerted plan about how to make a difference in this community? Do we ever talk about the plan to be a blessing to God and a blessing to this community?

I think many churches can be guilty of putting their number one emphasis on saving the institution first.  You can even hear the argument that we have to save the institution first in order to be able to do God’s work.  It’s like saying, let’s use Egypt to help us get out of our mess and THEN and we’ll start doing better.

But in reality what we need to do FIRST is trust in God………………………………….

Mother Teresa of Calcutta had a dream. She told her superiors, "I have three pennies and a dream from God to build an orphanage."  Her superiors laughed and said, "Mother Teresa you can’t build an orphanage with three pennies. With three pennies, you can't do anything."   "I know," she said, smiling, "but with God and three pennies I can do anything!"  -Robert Schuller, You Are Wonderful 

So often we think if we can save the institution first, then we’ll start to do what God wants. But if that’s the case then why didn’t we do it before? Why haven’t we started now?  The truth is, we would prefer to save the organization so we can continue to be asleep and do business as usual.   We want to remain complacent and non-committed doing what we want to do. That’s what the Israelites wanted to do.  They did not want to have God’s heart. They didn’t want to hear the Holy One of Israel or the prophets who were stepping all over their toes.  Instead they wanted to hear pleasant things to make them feel good so they could continue to be asleep.

But God says I want your hearts--Seek after me and the kingdom of God………………………

A little boy came drenched in tears from a game of playing hide and seek with his playmates.  When his father asked him why he was crying and he said, “Well I went and hid as was expected but no one ever bothered to find me”. (Douglas Steere)

You know I think that must be the way God feels about us sometimes. He wants us to find him;  seek to have his heart.  That’s what God wants----We don’t need money or a building or even a full-time pastor to have God’s heart in order to do God’s work.

 Jesus had no place to call his own, owned nothing, even his tomb wasn’t his. But in a 3 year ministry look at the impact he made in our world.  His focus was trusting in his Father, having his heart and doing his work. He didn’t need money or a building with a steeple to do it.  What we need first and foremost is to have God’s heart; that comes before anything. That’s what’s urgent here.
We can’t say we need to save this organization in order to buy us time to embrace this new, faithful vision. This new faithful vision cannot wait. It is the heart of God. The time is now!

So today I am prophetically calling this church to seek what God is calling us to be.

I propose that while we talk about the finances of the church (and we should), we put that secondary to looking at seeking who and what God is calling us to be.

I propose that we form a task force of people who are willing to go and scout where we can be a blessing to others, where we can be faithful. I propose that we get serious about our commitment to put God first in our individual and corporate lives………. 

Assyria can seem so close, knocking on our door with fear and the threat of death and bondage.  We can be anxious and look to hunker down, cut expenses, or find some other way of Egypt to help save us. Or we can become a people who are serious about trusting God and following Him first.   

Let us repent and seek to do God’s will first and foremost. Let that be the top priority. 

God is gracious and compassionate. He will take care of us in greater abundance than we can imagine---that’s just how God works.

Today let us go and tell the story of God’s love in our actions and words to this community. Let us trust in God and turn away from Egypt……

Let us open up the scrolls God has given to us today; let’s read them and take them to our hearts.  

 

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen