A text of the message of Sunday, May 24, 2020 by Melvin Gaines for Akron Alliance Fellowship Church:
I am blessed to be able to work from home through this thing that we are calling a pandemic. We haven’t had an event like this in over 100 years, and because 100 years ago we didn’t have television, email or the internet, this is a completely new experience for me and everyone else. There were no jobs back then like there are now. I’m just blessed to be able to say that I do not lack anything—even in the midst of arguably one of the most sudden and unsettling events pertaining to our health and the economy in recent memory.
So beginning every work day, I turn on my work laptop, log in and start the day with a cup of coffee. After about an hour of work, I stand up and look outside. I see the trees and can sometimes hear the birds singing. Some days have been bright and sunny, some are cloudy and some are rainy. But in it all, it is still wonderful to see the beauty of nature—God’s glorious creation—outside my front door.
I want you to think about this a little bit more. When you look outside, what do you see? It’s nice to see things outside your front door, and even more outside while standing in your yard or your driveway, or even more as you observe the sunshine, trees, birds, squirrels and everything else.
Now let’s get a little deeper into this. What else do you see? Do you see people? Do you see your neighbors? Now let’s think a little more about this as we take a look at someone who also looked outside his doors at nature—the trees, birds and flowers—and also reflected on what he saw. Let’s look at Isaiah.
Isaiah most likely started his day in a similar manner as we do. I’m sure he was sensitive to the events of his day, as we are—after all, he was a man of God and was frequently in prayer. In Isaiah, Chapter 1, we see the beginnings of Isaiah’s life as a prophet for Judah and Jerusalem. There is some irony in the timing of the vision that God revealed to Isaiah. It was around the year 740 B.C., which was just after King Uzziah died, and there was a previous period of great prosperity, and it ended rather suddenly with a resounding economic crash.1 Fast forward to today, and look at where we are right now. Just a couple of months ago we were in a time that we could call “normal,” and for many, it was a time of economic prosperity. Then comes this thing called the Coronavirus, and the world suddenly and dramatically changed. What does a time like this make you do? It makes you think about what you have, where you are, and reflect upon what lies ahead in the future. I’m sure that Isaiah was thinking those very same things. And right then, God gave him a message that he was looking for.
Isaiah 1:1-4 HCSB
1 The vision concerning Judah and Jerusalem that Isaiah son of Amoz saw during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah.
2 Listen, heavens, and pay attention, earth,
for the Lord has spoken:
“I have raised children and brought them up,
but they have rebelled against Me.
3 The ox knows its owner,
and the donkey its master’s feeding trough,
but Israel does not know;
My people do not understand.”
4 Oh sinful nation,
people weighed down with iniquity,
brood of evildoers,
They have abandoned the Lord;
they have despised the Holy One of Israel;
they have turned their backs on Him.
Isaiah had prayed to the Lord for guidance, to see more than what he could see, and this was God’s answer.
He was given a vision of what God saw in His people, and what he saw, He did not like one bit. God was greatly displeased of the people, and it was because they knew who He was, but they had turned against Him.
God was calling out His people on their hypocrisy. Let’s pick up on God’s words to Isaiah in verses 10-15:
Isaiah 1:10-15 HCSB
10 Hear the word of the Lord,
you rulers of Sodom!
Listen to the instruction of our God,
you people of Gomorrah!
11 “What are all your sacrifices to Me?”
asks the Lord.
“I have had enough of burnt offerings and rams
and the fat of well-fed cattle;
I have no desire for the blood of bulls,
lambs, or male goats.
12 When you come to appear before Me,
who requires this from you—
this trampling of My courts?
13 Stop bringing useless offerings.
Your incense is detestable to Me.
New Moons and Sabbaths,
and the calling of solemn assemblies—
I cannot stand iniquity with a festival.
14 I hate your New Moons and prescribed festivals.
They have become a burden to Me;
I am tired of putting up with them.
15 When you lift up your hands in prayer,
I will refuse to look at you;
even if you offer countless prayers,
I will not listen.
Your hands are covered with blood.
Isaiah’s own suspicions about God’s people was confirmed in their vain efforts to please God with worthless gestures to give the appearance to others that they were following God. But they weren’t following God at all.
It was a fakery of faith. Well, God doesn’t want or need your fakery. He wants sincerity of heart in your effort to live according to His Word, His commands and His will.
He just wants you.
To summarize this section of the passage, note how the ever-gracious, ever-merciful, ever-wondrous God provides a remedy for those who followed the Lord, turned their back on Him, and pretended to others that they were sincere when they were not. The remedy is found in verses 16-20:
Isaiah 1:16-20 HCSB
16 “Wash yourselves. Cleanse yourselves.
Remove your evil deeds from My sight.
Stop doing evil.
17 Learn to do what is good.
Correct the oppressor.
Defend the rights of the fatherless.
Plead the widow’s cause.
18 “Come, let us discuss this,”
says the Lord.
“Though your sins are like scarlet,
they will be as white as snow;
though they are as red as crimson,
they will be like wool.
19 If you are willing and obedient,
you will eat the good things of the land.
20 But if you refuse and rebel,
you will be devoured by the sword.”
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.
So let’s review and summarize these three groups of verses with three key points for us to understand God’s important message to Isaiah that he was to share with those who would listen:
1. The people who knew the Lord were guilty of rebellion.
2. The people pretended they followed the Lord but their actions were repugnant.
3. The people had a way back to God, and it was rooted in repentance. This was God’s remedy for their reprehensible behavior.
Now, remember that we are looking at what was happening in Isaiah’s time. It was a time of great prosperity, and then it all ended very suddenly. There was a time of great wealth, and it quickly disappeared. But that wasn’t the most important thing to see. We need to see that all of the people who had been following God—whether they had a little or had a lot—had lost their way. Things seemed normal on the outside, and yet there was darkness in the hearts of many.
Jeremiah 17:9-10 ESV
9 The heart is deceitful above all things,
and desperately sick;
who can understand it?
10 “I the Lord search the heart
and test the mind,
to give every man according to his ways,
according to the fruit of his deeds.”
Here’s a truth for thought: Your heart reflects the real you before God. You may think you’re cool with God and that you are all that, but if you dare to go to Him with your works, your speech and your actions and say to Him that you were following Him, you may not want to hear what He has to say to you.
We are reminded by Scripture that none of us is good—no not one (Romans 3:10). Our goodness only comes from our relationship, rooted in faith and trust, in Jesus Christ. He alone is our righteousness.
So let’s take what God was saying to Isaiah in his prophetic statement to the people of Judah and Jerusalem, and apply the three previous points for us right now:
1. People who know the Lord are guilty of rebellion.
2. People pretend they follow the Lord but their actions are repugnant to God.
3. People have a way back to God, and it is rooted in repentance. This is God’s remedy for reprehensible behavior.
So we can clearly see what we are capable of. We can start out in accord with God, do our daily reading, pray for guidance, and all is well. Then, we get very sloppy. Sloppy in our faith. Sloppy with our prayers. Sloppy with our spiritual habits. We would rather trust ourselves than trust what God has told us time and time again.
Take a look at yourself. What do you see?
We get caught up in rituals. We get caught up with symbolism. We get caught up in idolatry. We get caught up with those things that satisfy the flesh, which are all repugnant before God. These are the things that cause us to sin and separate us from a healthy relationship with Jesus Christ.
Take another look at yourself. What do you see?
Matthew 6:19-24 ESV
19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, 23 but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!
24 “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.
What do you believe? Who do you serve?
Do you like what you see?
Thank the Lord Jesus Christ that there is a remedy. The remedy is in Jesus Christ. He is the Remedy for each of us through the power of the Holy Spirit. Without Jesus Christ, there is no remedy for our sin. He is our way back to God. Amen.
The times that we live in today have called us to reflect on matters of our lives that we normally would not have given much time to. The pace has slowed. You can see what Isaiah must have seen. Things appear peaceful and serene, but the reality is that life is hardly peaceful and serene—especially if you are not at peace with God.
Here is your opportunity to look at your life and seek Jesus Christ as your Remedy. He brings you the peace that you desperately need.
John 14:27 ESV
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.
Reflect on your life right now. Do you like what you see?
What do you see?
Isaiah was ready to deliver the truth to his people. He didn’t like what he saw because God didn’t like what He saw.
Our remedy to fix what we don’t like in our lives is to bear it all before Him and give it to Him. All of our regrets. All of our fears. All of our aches, pains and troubles. All of our desires for a better life in Him. Jesus says in His word to not let your heart be troubled.
Proverbs 18:10 ESV
The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous man runs into it and is safe.
You are made righteous because of God’s Remedy in Jesus Christ. He helps us to truly like what we see in ourselves, and He teaches us to see others the way He sees them. People need the Lord—some of them desperately need Him. Jesus wants us to share His gospel and His goodness, but before we can do that, we need to look at ourselves first. We need to look closely and honestly.
Do it now. What do you see?
1 Article – Nock, Albert (2008). Isaiah’s Job. Mises Daily Articles, June 21, 2008, Mises Institute, Auburn AL. Retrieved from https://mises.org/library/isaiahs-job
Copyright © Melvin Gaines