Saturday, January 25, 2014

Do You Take God at His Word? - Isaiah 7:1-14, 16

Do You Take God at His Word? - Isaiah 7:1-14, 16
By Pastor Lee Hemen
January 26, 2014 AM

James had to lay off some workers, there was no other way for his store to survive but he refused. He told his accountant, "I know it makes good business sense to layoff some workers at the store; but I can't. Take Fred, for instance, his wife is pregnant with their second child, and he needs this job. Fred cares about our customers, and I care about him. James' accountant told him to do whatever he thought was best, but he did not see how they would survive. James Cash Penny responded, "We'll find a way. We can trust God to get us through this tough time. God always has proven faithful, and I trust Him to help us again. Let's pray now." While this tale about JC Penny is fanciful, it reflects who the man was. After the 1929 stock crash, Penney lost virtually all his personal wealth, and borrowed against his life insurance policies to help the company meet its payroll. The financial setbacks took a toll on his health. Penney checked himself into the Battle Creek Sanitarium, where he was treated. After hearing the hymn "God Will Take Care of You" being sung at a service in the hospital's chapel, Penney became a born-again Christian. He lived his life by taking God at His Word.

We all face times of fear when circumstances are beyond our control. Isaiah teaches us how we can trust God by taking Him at His Word. Let's discover how…

READ: Isaiah 7:1-14, 16

During a dark time in Judah's history, Isaiah encouraged King Ahaz to trust in God. When Ahaz refused, God provided the sign of Immanuel. He informed Ahaz his current enemies Syria and Israel soon would be destroyed by the greater enemy Assyria, who then would dominate Judah. Isaiah teaches us to take God at His Word when we are…

I. Facing fearful circumstances! (Vv. 7:1-2)

  1. Ahaz, who ruled Judah from 735 to 715 B.C., faced a crisis brought on by the rise of the Assyrian Empire. Tiglath-pileser III became king of Assyria in 745 B.C. and immediately began to solidify and expand his empire. Rezin of Syria acknowledged Assyria's dominance by paying tribute, but soon he began trying to break free. When Tiglath-pileser III turned his attention to rebellions in other sections of his empire, Rezin struck. He enlisted Israel (the Northern Kingdom), Edom, Philistia, and other small nations to join in an alliance against Assyria. He was hoping their combined strength could defeat Assyria and restore their independence. Of course, this was impossible due to the size and might of the Assyrian forces. However, Rezin urged Judah's new king Ahaz to join but Ahaz refused. Rezin and Israel's king Pekah joined together in an attack on Judah to force Judah to join their alliance. So, they "marched up to fight against Jerusalem, but they could not overpower it." Ahaz and his people faced fearful circumstances. As the alliance's troops approached Jerusalem, terror seized Ahaz and the city's inhabitants, "so the hearts of Ahaz and his people were shaken, as the trees of the forest are shaken by the wind." They had forgotten the admonishment of King David who sang, "Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God." (Psalms 20:7 NIV) Like so many do in our day and age, they had begun to trust in themselves and look to their leaders for their personal deliverance instead of the Lord God. The object of David's faith was the name of the Lord. God's "name" is His nature, His reputation and character. David's faith came from meditating and pondering on the known reputation of God. Ahaz had a choice to make, trust in God or trust in himself. We have the same choice as well when we face fearful circumstances. Yet, here in Scripture, Isaiah teaches us to take God at His Word when we are facing fearful circumstances!

  EXAMPLE: Christians today often display a Sunday morning faith. They want to trust Jesus on their terms when they need Him and He should not muck up their lives in-between. We all want to trust God when times get tough, but it is during the good times we should show God just how much we truly trust Him. Crying out to God only when the enemy is at the gates or when the rope is short does not display our commitment or faith in God. We forget that often the tough times come because sin exists, we live in a sin-fallen world, and we may be paying the price of our poor choices. However, isn't it great to realize that we can take God at His Word when we are facing fearful circumstances!

We do not face the peril Ahaz and the people of Jerusalem faced but the events of world history affect our lives just the same. We also face difficult decisions regarding our future. Loss of job, loss of health, family tragedy, and crime create fear and uncertainty. God has not promised to spare Christians from life's difficulties, but He has promised to be with us and to help us move beyond loss to rebuild life. Isaiah teaches us to take God at His Word by…

II. Hearing the Lord's promise! (Vv. 7:3-9)

  1. God instructed Isaiah to "Go out, you and your son Shear-Jashub, to meet Ahaz at the end of the aqueduct of the Upper Pool, on the road to the Washerman's Field." This pool was a reservoir that held water from the Spring of Gihon near Jerusalem. Ahaz was there to inspect the city's water supply in anticipation of an attack by Aram. Without a secure water system, a besieged city could survive only a few days. Ahaz was preparing for the worst. Isaiah's son's name means, "A remnant will return". Isaiah counseled calmness. Isaiah compared Rezin and Pekah to dying embers in a fire. They had burned brightly for a time but now had almost burned out. Their alliance would not succeed. Ahaz could confidently ignore them and rule his kingdom. Ahaz was to "Be careful, keep calm and don't be afraid. Do not lose heart because of these two smoldering stubs of firewood!" Even though "Aram, Ephraim and Remaliah's son" had plotted Ahaz's ruin, by saying, "Let us invade Judah; let us tear it apart and divide it among ourselves, and make the son of Tabeel king over it." Ahaz had nothing to fear, he could depend upon God's promise! Isaiah was to remind Ahaz what the Sovereign Lord had spoken, "It will not take place, it will not happen, for the head of Aram is Damascus, and the head of Damascus is only Rezin. Within sixty-five years Ephraim will be too shattered to be a people." While they plotted to invade Judah and take its spoils of war, they would fail. Syria and Israel intended to conquer Judah and set up a puppet king who would submit to their control and fight against Assyria. But Isaiah brought a comforting word. Syria and Israel's plans would not succeed. Within 65 years, God declared, Ephraim (the Northern kingdom) would be too shattered to exist as a people. Just 12 years after Isaiah's prophecy, Assyria conquered and destroyed the capital city Samaria, effectively destroying the nation. In 670 BC, Assyria deported most of Ephraim's population. Isaiah mockingly reminds Ahaz, "The head of Ephraim is Samaria, and the head of Samaria is only Remaliah's son." And then warns him, "If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all." God challenged Ahaz to believe what Isaiah was telling him. Isaiah teaches us to take God at His Word by hearing the Lord's promise!

  EXAMPLE: My father asked my brother, "If your friends jumped off a bridge, would you follow?" Ed had to learn to trust in his father who loved him, not the voices of friends who did not have his best interests at heart. Isaiah employed a brilliant wordplay to guide Ahaz as he decided how to lead his nation. Using a word that means both to trust and to stand firm, Isaiah stated if Ahaz did not stand firm in his faith—trust God to keep His promise—He would not stand at all. Rezin and Pekah had made their decisions to rebel against God and Assyria based on political pressures and selfish dreams. They would suffer the consequences of their poor decisions. Ahaz had the opportunity to make the right choice based on trust in God. Isaiah teaches us to take God at His Word by hearing the Lord's promise!

Do we take God at His Word, knowing His faithfulness in the past indicates He can be trusted concerning the present and future? Do we trust God's promise to bring us through difficulties? Will we build our life on the shifting sand of self-satisfaction, fading fads, and empty promises? Isaiah teaches us to take God at His Word by…

III. Following the Lord's command! (Vv. 7:10-14, 16)

  1. Isaiah continued his conversation with Ahaz, providing him another opportunity to take the Lord at His Word. "Again the LORD spoke to Ahaz, 'Ask the LORD your God for a sign, whether in the deepest depths or in the highest heights.'" Usually we are not to test God by demanding something from Him, but here God asks Ahaz to do so! This is why Ahaz responds, "I will not ask; I will not put the LORD to the test." God wanted Ahaz to ask Him so He could strengthen Ahaz's faith. By not doing, what God had asked him to do immediately, Ahaz was trying God's patience! God desired to give Ahaz a sign, Ahaz feigned piety to cover up his insecurity in God's Word. Deuteronomy 6:16 states one should not test God; but that passage refers to rebellious people testing God, believing He can do nothing. God did offer signs to those who believed in Him to strengthen their faith. We can quote passages out of context and misuse God's Word to support our lack of faith. Disobedience characterized Ahaz's life. Isaiah bluntly tells Ahaz, "Is it not enough to try the patience of men? Will you try the patience of my God also?" Despite Ahaz's refusal, God would provide a sign, "Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel." The Messiah, the Salvation of Israel would come and Ahaz would eventually see the truth of God's word, "But before the boy knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right, the land of the two kings you dread will be laid waste." Ahaz ignored Isaiah's words and God's sign, choosing to trust in the military strength of a greater enemy to defeat lesser enemies. He and his nation would pay the price. We take God at His Word when we follow His command!

  EXAMPLE: How do children learn to make good choices in life? Sometimes as parents, we can do everything we can possibly do to ensure our children grow up making the correct choices for their lives, but at some point, all good parents must allow their children to suffer the consequences of their poor choices. Most parents want to think their child would never lie, cheat, or steal; but given the opportunity, we all make either good or poor choices in our lives. When children are not held to a higher standard, they will often strive for the lowest bar set. This is why we find folks in society waiting for others to continually bail them out of the circumstances they have placed themselves. Growing up I knew when my father said "yes" he meant it just as firmly as if he had said "no". I could trust my father's word. As believers, we show our trust in God when we take Him at his Word and follow His command!

Conclusion:

We take God at His Word when we face fearful circumstances, when we hear His promise, and when we follow His command!

This article is copyrighted © 2014 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Protecting human life! -- Exodus 1:15-20; Jeremiah 19:3b-6; 33:6-9; Romans 8:1

Protecting human life! -- Exodus 1:15-20; Jeremiah 19:3b-6; 33:6-9; Romans 8:1
By Pastor Lee Hemen
January 19, 2014 AM

Imagine that a 16-year-old girl from your church comes to you for advice. She knows you well and needs to talk to someone outside her family. She tells you that she recently discovered she is pregnant. She has not told anyone, not even her boyfriend. She is a Christian and has grown up in your church. What advice would you offer this girl? What options does she have? What should a Christian do in this situation? This story is imaginary, but I expect some of us have encountered similar situations. Some people in our society would condone an abortion. Others would suggest the girl give her child up for adoption; still others might insist that the girl marry and raise her child.

Many people in today’s world view life as cheap. Entertainment, including books, TV, movies, music, and video games, frequently exalts violence and killing. Constant exposure to portrayals of brutality tends to make people insensitive to the value of human life. God values human life and judges those who treat it casually or with contempt, but He will forgive and heal even the worst offenders. The value of human life is a biblical principle, and it opposes practices such as abortion, euthanasia, rationed health care, harvesting human embryonic stem cells, and human cloning. Sadly, in America we often devalue the best interests of children in favor of the self-expression of adults. The motivations for these practices include embarrassment, immorality, greed, and selfishness. Believers need to affirm the biblical doctrine of the sanctity of human life. Let’s discover how we can…

READ: Exodus 1:15-20; Jeremiah 19:3b-6; 33:6-9; Romans 8:1

The failure to uphold the sanctity of human life is not a new problem in history. The Bible provides many examples of barbarity and the devaluation of human life that occurred many centuries ago. The background for the warnings of God’s judgment in the Book of Jeremiah was the reign of Manasseh, the king of Judah. Manasseh was the son of Hezekiah but did not share his father’s love for the Lord or His Word. Jeremiah was to charge the people with all their monstrous sins.

I. We need to be warned about God’s judgment! (Jeremiah 19:3b-5)


  1. Jeremiah prophesied in the final years of Judah’s existence. The Northern Kingdom of Israel fell to Assyria in 722 B.C., and about 140 years later Judah fell to Babylon. He promised to bring disaster to Judah and Jerusalem. God then said the disaster would be so shocking that everyone who hears about it will shudder. And if God did not spare His beloved nation of Judah and city of Jerusalem, He will not spare America or any other nation that refuses to repent and uphold the sanctity of human life. The nation of Judah had abandoned the one true God and had pursued other gods. The morality of the idolatrous religions that Judah accepted from their pagan neighbors was opposite to the moral values of God’s Law. These religions actually demanded human sacrifice! “For they have forsaken me and made this a place of foreign gods; they have burned sacrifices in it to gods that neither they nor their fathers nor the kings of Judah ever knew, and they have filled this place with the blood of the innocent.” As horrendous as it may seem, they burned “their sons in the fire as offerings to Baal!” Since the Supreme Court decisions of 1973 that legalized abortion, it is estimated that over 60 million unborn innocents have been slaughtered. Ancient atrocities of child sacrifices cannot compare to the numbers aborted. We need to remember that Satan is the author of every false religion or shallow doctrine, and he has no regard for human life. He is a “murderer from the beginning” (John 8:44). Jeremiah warned, “So beware, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when people will no longer call this place Topheth or the Valley of Ben Hinnom, but the Valley of Slaughter.” Where Judah’s kings offered human sacrifices, the Lord predicted a judgment so severe that people would rename the valley. God punished His beloved nation for sacrificing children; we know He also will punish other nations, including our own, if we fail to take legitimate action to protect innocent human life. We need to be warned about God’s judgment!

  EXAMPLE: In Genesis 22 God tested Abraham’s obedience by commanding him to take Isaac, his son, and sacrifice him. God saved Isaac and did not allow human sacrifice because God made people in His image. God the Father sent Jesus Christ to die on the cross for our sins so we might understand the value of human life. Abortions occur behind closed doors, but the end result is the same—a baby always dies. The sacrifice of a child on a fiery altar is no more gruesome than the current abortion procedures. Aborted babies today are sacrificed to the gods of embarrassment, inconvenience, immorality, and greed. Sometimes pregnancies occur because of the tragic circumstances of rape or incest, but the right response to one sin is not another sin. A child conceived in such circumstances does not deserve to die. The circumstances of conception do not give or take away the value of a life. God acknowledges the sanctity of all human life and so should we. We need to be warned about God’s judgment!

Abortion not only takes the lives of unborn children, but it also can have devastating effects on those who have an abortion or abortions. Depression and suicide often follow. Is there hope and healing for these women? These passages in Jeremiah and Romans deal with God’s forgiveness and promise of restoration for those who need emotional and spiritual healing.

II. We must receive and proclaim God’s forgiveness! (Jeremiah 33:6-9; Romans 8:1)

  1. Jeremiah 33:1-5 records a revelation of God to Jeremiah concerning the future judgment of Judah. God would punish the people for their sins including the violations of the sanctity of human life described earlier. Jeremiah predicted the Lord would send the army of Babylon to chastise His people for their rebellious ways. In verse 6 there is a shift in the prophecy from judgment to a future deliverance. God’s promises to “bring health and healing”, that He would “heal” His “people and will let them enjoy abundant peace and security.” God promised the future restoration of the nation following the Babylonian captivity, “. I will bring Judah and Israel back from captivity and will rebuild them as they were before.” In these verses, God promised Judah and Israel that He would restore their fallen cities and shattered lives. Women who have had abortions and men who have enabled abortions may wonder if God will forgive them for such serious violations of the sanctity of human life. The histories of Israel and Judah reveal that God is a forgiving God. God judged Judah for sins, and God also forgave and restored the nation. God willingly forgives and restores our shattered lives! If we ask for forgiveness, God promises, “I will cleanse them from all the sin they have committed against me and will forgive all their sins of rebellion against me.” God’s answer to our sin problem was His sending Jesus Christ to die on the cross for our sins. Jesus Christ died and rose again so He might free us from the power and penalty of sin. No matter how grievous one’s sin may be, Jesus’ death satisfied God’s wrath against it. The restored city of Jerusalem would be a testimony to God’s grace and mercy, bringing Him “renown, joy, praise and honor before all nations on earth that hear of all the good things” He did “for it; and they will be in awe and will tremble at the abundant prosperity and peace” He provided. Every lost person who trusts Jesus as Savior and Lord becomes a testimony of God’s love and forgiveness. Women who have had abortions and some who have been involved in the business of abortion have repented of their sins and received God’s forgiveness through Jesus Christ. Today, God is using them to convince others to protect human life, not destroy human life. Paul said those who trust Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord are in Christ Jesus and have no condemnation for their sins. Christians experience forgiveness, healing, and peace of mind that comes from believing that on the cross God condemned Christ for their sins. He took our just condemnation and thereby freed us from condemnation. Those who break God’s laws, including the commandment against taking innocent life, can find forgiveness through faith in Jesus Christ. We must receive and proclaim God’s forgiveness!

  EXAMPLE: Perhaps you know a friend who is burdened with guilt and sick with grief because she chose to take the life of her baby before birth. Ask God to provide you an opportunity to share Romans 8:1 with your friend. Let them know God is loving and merciful and that He is the God of new beginnings. In a nation that allows the murder of the unborn and unwanted, we must be willing to seek God’s forgiveness and share it with those burdened by abortion. We must receive and proclaim God’s forgiveness!

In a culture that denies the existence of wrong, people resist the idea that they have done something wrong when they have had or encouraged an abortion or dishonored life in other ways. While many Christians can readily see that abortion and other practices that devalue human life are wrong, some Christians do not realize they can take constructive action to protect human life.

III. We must work to protect human life! (Exodus 1:15-20)

  1. When a culture of death threatens vulnerable lives, champions of life must arise to protect them. Joseph brought the young nation of Israel to Egypt during a time of famine for protection. Following his death, another king came to power that had no concern for the Israelites. But he feared an eventual uprising by the enslaved nation, and one way to prevent rebellion against his rule was to reduce the number of males. So, “The king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, whose names were Shiphrah and Puah, ‘When you help the Hebrew women in childbirth and observe them on the delivery stool, if it is a boy, kill him; but if it is a girl, let her live.’” Male children would grow to be potential soldiers and fathers of more children. Notice that “The midwives, however, feared God and did not do what the king of Egypt had told them to do; they let the boys live.” The king’s command to the midwives of Egypt and the response of two courageous women inspire Christians today to demonstrate their commitment to the sanctity of human life. The action and attitude of the king of Egypt continues today in countries, including our own, where abortion is for the purpose of birth control. Many today support abortion, euthanasia, the destruction of human embryos, and other attacks on innocent human life. Christians should work against these deeds of darkness to raise public opposition to all practices that threaten the vulnerable—from conception to natural death. This is the first instance in the Bible of a proper civil disobedience. Government is an institution of God, and citizens should obey its rulers. But when government acts in opposition to God, Christians must obey God instead. When the king of Egypt learned that the midwives had disobeyed his command, he summoned them and asked, “Why have you done this? Why have you let the boys live?” Shiphrah and Puah explained that the Hebrew women gave birth before the midwives could get to them. Clearly, the two women lied to the king to protect human lives. And God was good to the midwives because He was pleased with their efforts to save the Hebrew children. “So God was kind to the midwives and the people increased and became even more numerous.” Their example reminds us as God’s people, we must work to protect human life!

  EXAMPLE: Christian doctors, medical staff, researchers, legislators, judges, pastors, and others should stand for the sanctity of human life even if they pay a price for their commitment. But Christians must never use violence as a justification for protecting life. The Bible does not grant individuals the right to punish others or to act as vigilantes. While not acting in violence, the midwives were proactive in protecting the newborns of Israel. Christians in America are not doing all we can to protect life from conception to natural death. Christians should act on our convictions. We can become informed, get involved, contact legislators, write letters to the editor, encourage our church and fellow believers to take a stand for human life, encourage sexual abstinence before marriage, oppose pornography, and anything that devalues the sanctity of human life.

Conclusion:
To reward the midwives for protecting human life, God gave them families of their own. God blesses and rewards those who protect innocent human life. The courage and example of these midwives continue to inspire others today. We need to be warned about God’s judgment! We must receive and proclaim God’s forgiveness! We must work to protect human life!

This article is copyrighted © 2014 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Do You Serve? - Isaiah 6:1-11

Do You Serve? - Isaiah 6:1-11
By Pastor Lee Hemen
January 12, 2014 AM

Are You Being Served was a quintessentially British comedy that ran from 1972 to 1985. It was about a department store in London, which was very traditional. The social class structure within the store’s workforce, and how the clerks viewed and served its customers, was the source of the series character interaction. Sadly, what was often portrayed is exactly how many in our day view the service of others. Don’t you hate it when you go into a store and the clerks treat you as if it is your privilege that they serve you? Much of Christianity has morphed into such a ungodly notion as well. Instead taking the message of God to the lost, we ignore His call, and ask that the church to serve us!

Isaiah was either ministering or worshipping, or perhaps doing some other thing in the temple when God called him in a very vivid way to a life of service. Most of God’s folks are not called to serve Him in such a dramatic way, however, how Isaiah was called and what he was called to do for God can remind us that we are called to the same service. Therefore, this section of Scripture begs that we answer the question, “Do you serve?”

READ: Isaiah 6:1-11

As we draw near to God, He draws near to us. We begin to realize just how holy He is and how ungodly we are. Isaiah teaches us that we can serve…

I. When we recognize God’s presence! (Vv. 1-4)

  1. Isaiah presents to us a specific and very identifiable vision from God. Visions are recorded for other prophets, but this is the only one for Isaiah. We learn that it occurred “In the year that King Uzziah died.” Uzziah reigned for 52 years, during which he and his people had been prosperous. Victorious in war, he was also successful in commerce. The later years of his life were clouded, but on the whole, his reign had been a time of great well-being. His son and successor was a young man of about 25 years and now there were the dark clouds of war. It was during this time of uncertainty that Isaiah, “saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple.” God was still in charge, creator of all things, lofty and holy. In fact,” Above him were seraphs, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying.” Some suggest their wings were symbolic of reverence, humility, and service. In actuality it may suggest that being in the presence of God they covered their eyes, as Moses did, covered their feet as an act purity since feet were seen as dirty and crass, and they flew to signify their immediate and active service to God. “Seraphs” which means “to burn,” possibly suggests their zeal for God or that they were reflective of His Shekinah glory. We discover that “they were calling to one another: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.’” Their cry is significant in that they cry out three times the holy nature of God, which means that in fact He is indeed holy. Wherever there is creation, God is, and, there is nowhere God is not. He is omniscient and omnipresent. This was more than a vision because it also manifested itself in that “At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke!” We see the Shekinah glory of God, his holiness, and the cloud that signified His presence with His people in the wilderness! WOW! Isaiah had no problem in recognizing that he was in the presence of God. We serve when we realize God’s presence!

  EXAMPLE: I firmly believe Isaiah needed this vision of God because it would have to serve him for his entire lifetime of ridicule, hardship, and eventually his own capture and relocation. Christians do not need the same kind of vision to serve God. Isaiah lived when there was no Messiah. Jesus would remind Thomas, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:29 NIV) And God reminds us, “I will never leave you nor forsake you!” (Hebrews 13:5 NIV) In fact, as Christians, we “are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household…with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone!” (Ephesians 2:19-20 NIV) We are now “the people of God!” (1 Peter 2:10 NIV) God’s presence is always with us as His people and we serve when we realize God’s presence!

She found it difficult to give up certain things and relationships in her life, but Lisa discovered that God would not use her for His service until she did. We learn from Isaiah that we can serve…

II. When we surrender our sin to God! (Vv. 5-7)

  1. As we abide in Christ, walk with Him moment by moment something wonderful and terrible happens – we begin to hear His voice and experience His presence. We begin to realize how often we fall short of the glory of God. Isaiah discovered this as well. This vision of God’s majesty, holiness, and glory made Isaiah realize that he was a sinner. This is a common occurrence when God’s people come into His presence! Ezekiel, Job, Peter, Paul and John all responded in the same way. Isaiah cries, “Woe to me!” And then he realizes, “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty!” Too many think too lightly of their sin. We puff ourselves up with our pride, our goodness, and our compassionate feelings, but all fail in comparison to the holiness of God! The sinful soul that has once seen God by faith in Christ must confess “I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature” (Romans 7:18 NIV) or as Paul did when he declared, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:24 NIV) The answer is found only in the cleansing power of a holy God, “Then one of the seraphs flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar.” Our sin takes a special compensation. Our sin must be thoroughly burned away, cleansed, and purified to be in the presence of a holy God. “With it,” Isaiah remarks, “he touched my mouth and said, ‘See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.’” Here we see the application of pardoning grace! Paul would say we were immoral, sexually impure, idol worshipers, adulterers, prostituted ourselves; we were thieves, greedy, drunks, slanderers, or swindlers “But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God!” (1 Corinthians 6:11 NIV) The burning coal of Christ’s blood has purified us! And that is the first step in our life of service to God! Isaiah experienced all this for the same reason we do as well. We serve when we surrender our sin to God!

  EXAMPLE: The cleansing significance of fire plays an important role throughout Scripture. Fire came down from heaven to consume the evil and good sacrifices, the sacrifices in the temple and tabernacle were burnt up, and fire rained down on the evil of mankind to obliterate it from the face of the earth! Just as fire cleansed the sinful mouth of Isaiah, signifying his cleansing by God, Paul teaches us that “no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid; which is Jesus Christ. If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man's work.” (1 Corinthians 3:11-13 NIV) Service is a life of surrender to Jesus! Isaiah teaches us that we serve when we surrender our sin to God!

Joe said he did not like ministering to certain kinds of folks, guess where God sent him. Isaiah teaches us that we can serve…

III. When we are willing to go where God sends! (Vv. 8-11)


  1. After Isaiah grasped the presence of holy God, he recognized his sin condition. He was now ready to be used of God. He writes, “Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?’” The question “Who will go?” did not mean God did not know or that He hoped someone would respond. God asked the question to give Isaiah an opportunity to serve. Isaiah understood that Israel needed cleansing as well. He readily responds, “Here am I. Send me!” God’s people should be ready to serve God when He calls them. We discover the same kind of willingness in Mathew, who although a hated tax collector was called by Jesus and immediately, “Matthew got up and followed him.” (Matthew 9:9 NIV) This shows Isaiah’s confidence in God. He was now ready to bear God’s message to his countrymen. All believers should respond in like manner. God gives Isaiah an unusual command, “Go and tell this people” meaning the Israelites, “Be ever hearing, but never understanding; be ever seeing, but never perceiving. Make the heart of this people calloused; make their ears dull and close their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.” In other words, Isaiah would go and speak God’s message, but the people would not respond. They would not listen, they would refuse to understand or comprehend, and therefore be hardened by God’s warning. Isaiah is stunned and asks, “For how long, O Lord?” God tells him it would be until Israel was utterly destroyed! We can serve when we are willing to go where God sends!

  EXAMPLE: Les Lamborn writes for RBC, “Sometimes when the infinite God conveys His thoughts to finite man, mystery is the result. For example, there’s a profound verse in the book of Psalms that seems to present more questions than answers: ‘Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His faithful servants’ (116:15 NIV). I shake my head and wonder how that can be. I see things with earthbound eyes, and I have a tough time seeing what is precious.” Lamborn continues by stating, “We begin to unwrap the mystery, though, when we consider that what is precious to the Lord is not confined to earthly blessings.” Isaiah and the Israelites were not going to like the message he would have to convey from God, but that is what Isaiah had volunteered to do. When we come to God we come to a life of service, this is precious to God, and we can serve when we are willing to go where God sends!

Conclusion:

We serve when we recognize God’s presence, we serve when we surrender our sin to God, and we serve when we are willing to go where God sends us!

This article is copyrighted © 2014 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

Sunday, January 05, 2014

Am I a rebel? - Isaiah 1:2-5, 11-20

Am I a rebel? - Isaiah 1:2-5, 11-20
By Pastor Lee Hemen
January 5, 2014 AM

I have always wondered why the opposite sex has found those who are rebellious fascinating. Perhaps it has to do with the what I call the “Eve Gene.” There are those who are attracted to rebellion, thinking that in it they will find some kind of freedom. As a teenager, I found it downright humorous when many of my contemporaries wanted to be different yet often followed the same fads, dressed the same, and did many of the same things everyone else did! Kind of like tattoos and body piercings are today! Those who desired to be different soon were the same as everyone else! We may desire to think of ourselves as rebels without a cause when in fact we are just being disobedient.

God’s people are never to desire to be part of the crowd. In fact, we find that we are to be in the world but not of the world! When a child of the King desires to appear or appease themselves at the sake of their life in Christ, they are not just being a rebel; they are in full-blown rebellion against the Lord! The beginning of Isaiah relates God’s lawsuit against His people for breaking their covenantal contract with Him. God, through Isaiah, brought an indictment against Israel for her breach of contract, but also offered His forgiveness if they were willing to stop their rebellion, repent of their sin, and return to Him. As we study this section of Scripture, we should ask, “Am I a rebel?”

READ: Isaiah 1:2-5, 11-20

My mom often told me, “Young man, you didn’t hear a single word I said to you!” In helping to raise an active 4-year-old grandson, I now understand exactly what she meant. Isaiah relates that…

I. We rebel against God when we refuse to listen! (Vv. 2-5)

  1. As in a courtroom, God brings His case against those in rebellion by asking all of creation, both the heavens and the earth, to hear and bear witness to the charges He is bringing against them! He had “reared” them like His “children and brought them up, but they (had) rebelled against” Him! God had taken them from the land of the Chaldeans, watched over them in Egypt, brought them out of their slavery, continually rescued them and yet they blatantly refused to follow Him as He asked them to! God always views those He rescues and nurtures as His children. Yet, unlike brute animals like the ox or donkey, who know their master and feeding trough, God’s rebellious children deliberately do not know and do not understand! It is like a child who, when caught red-handed doing wrong, arrogantly says, “It’s not my fault!” Israel, like anyone who says they follow God but deliberately rebel against Him, is a “sinful nation, a people loaded with guilt, a brood of evildoers,” and “children given to corruption!” Therefore, be careful thinking we live a nation under God when we allow the murder of the unborn innocent, promote pornography, and cater to the corruption of what the meaning of family and marriage truly are! We are anything but one nation under God! But again, look at who had ignored the Lord in their disobedience. He was not speaking to the ungodly world at large, but to His own children! They were the ones who had “forsaken the LORD; they were the ones who had “spurned the Holy One of Israel and turned their backs on Him!” Like a willful child who refuses to listen to a parent who has lovingly sacrificed everything for them, God’s people arrogantly turned away from Him! Curiously, Isaiah asks two interesting questions, “Why should you be beaten anymore? Why do you persist in rebellion?” Just like someone who persists in going back into a destructive relationship, or as Proverbs reminds us, “As a dog returns to its vomit, so a fool repeats his folly.” (Proverbs 26:11 NIV) God’s rebellious folks had “wounds and welts and open sores, not cleansed or bandaged or soothed with oil” (v.6)! Why would they want to be beaten some more? Why would they persist in going back to sin? Yet they did! Like criminals who continually go back to a life of crime, or children who delight in going against their parents, we rebel against God when we refuse to listen!

  EXAMPLE: My mother would vehemently tell us, “If I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a thousand times!” Now did she really tell us that many times or was it the fact that in her frustration to get her message across Mom felt she had told us a “thousand times” -- probably the latter. Now I understand why my father would often ask us to repeat what we had just been told. This is where God was in His exasperation with His children. Kind of as God does with us, even now when we do not listen to His voice as we should. Maybe we have forgotten that God can love us and still be exasperated with our actions. That was where He was with the nation of Israel. Are you in rebellion against the Lord? We rebel against God when we refuse to listen!

Perhaps we gain a greater understanding of Jesus’ words when He related, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing.” (Matthew 23:37 NIV) However, it was not that His children had poor hearing; they thought they were okay in their relationship with God! After all, they did all the right things. We discover that…

II. We rebel against God when we sacrifice the wrong things! (Vv. 11-14)

  1. Do not think that evangelicals, including Baptists, do not have religious rituals we protect. In fact, we often forsake old ones for new ones! The Israelites were great at keeping their rituals. Yet, God asks, “The multitude of your sacrifices-- what are they to me?” They thought that by the sheer number of animals being slaughtered could make up for their ungodliness! It is like those who erroneously think that if their worship is grander, bigger, or louder it is more pleasing to God! Neither bigger buildings nor louder bands can bring one closer to the grace of God! It does not make up for spiritual shallowness. God tells them, “I have more than enough of burnt offerings, of rams and the fat of fattened animals; I have no pleasure in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats.” He was sick to death of their spiritual hypocrisy! Samuel asked Saul “Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.” (1 Samuel 15:22 NIV) In fact, God is not impressed with numbers either. This is why He tells them, “When you come to appear before me, who has asked this of you, this trampling of my courts?” Crowds thundered into the temple to offer hundreds of thousands of sacrifices, but God was not impressed! To Him, they were like a mindless mob going through the motions. He angrily tells them, “Stop bringing meaningless offerings!” I wonder if what transpires in some churches today is detestable to God. He tells them, “Your incense is detestable to me. New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations -- I cannot bear your evil assemblies. Your New Moon festivals and your appointed feasts my soul hates. They have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them.” Their worship was detestable, evil, unbearable, and weary and hated by Him! They were literally despised and burdensome because they were carried out hypocritically, with sinful hearts! Wow! They needed to sacrifice themselves! Do not think dear child of Jesus that you are immune, because this is exactly why Paul wrote, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God--this is your spiritual act of worship.” (Romans 12:1 NIV) We rebel against God when we sacrifice the wrong things!

  EXAMPLE: We live in a self-centered society whereby we think our prayers, our worship, and our churches are all about us. We leave a church when we no longer get anything out of it. We judge fellow believers or leaders by what they do or not do for us! And we attend and give when it is convenient to our lifestyle! Can you find personal sacrifice in any of this? Prayers, worship, and our church membership is to be God-centered and sacrificial! Paul wrote, “You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Ephesians 4:22-24 NIV) Seriously, do you think God is pleased with our worship of Him when He sees no change in our life? We can pray for others to be changed, for our church to be changed, or for more change in the offering plate but until we are willing to be changed ourselves, God will never be interested in our worship! Revival begins with God’s people! We rebel against God when we sacrifice the wrong things!

I have heard folks use prayer as an excuse as to why they treat others with contempt. “Pastor, I have really committed this to prayer…” and then the next words out of their mouths prove that their prayers were simply meaningless words uttered to justify their actions. What they fail to hear is that change begins at home. In fact, throughout Scripture we learn that…

III. We rebel against God when we refuse to repent! (Vv. 15-20)

  1. Jesus told the crowds to be careful not to follow in the false footsteps of the Pharisees, “They devour widows' houses and for a show make lengthy prayers.” He related that, “Such men will be punished most severely.” (Mark 12:40 NIV) God told Isaiah to relate to the Israelites, “When you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide my eyes from you; even if you offer many prayers, I will not listen.” Can you imagine God hiding His eyes and not listening to your prayers? Now I know God does not truly have eyes and ears, because He is Spirit, however, He does see us and does hear every word we speak (Matthew 12:36)! God simply would refuse to hear their many words! Like the adults in the Charlie Brown cartoons, God would only hear, “Wah, wah, wah, wah, wah!” Why would this occur? Their hands were full of the blood of their own people whom they were willing to sacrifice instead of themselves! The answer to their spiritual predicament was to “wash and make yourselves clean”! They were to seek God’s forgiveness and take their “evil deeds out of (God’s) sight!” The only way this was possible was if they were willing to “Stop doing wrong, learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow.” In other words, they were to repent of their sins and actually take care of God’s people! Now isn’t it interesting that we are encouraged to pray and do our deeds secretly (Matthew 6:1-8). Hebrews tells us, “See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called ‘Today’, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness.” (Hebrews 3:12-13 NIV) God’s people are to encourage one another! God then gently says, “Come now, let us reason together. Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.” There’s the key, repentance! In fact, “If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the best from the land; but if you resist and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword.” How could Isaiah, the Israelites, or believers today be sure this was true? “For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.” We rebel against God when we refuse to repent!

  EXAMPLE: When we were caught, doing something wrong, my Mother would tell us, “I’ll make you sorry that you were ever born,” while my Dad would say, “Being sorry isn’t good enough.” God teaches us that simply being sorry is not good enough either, He reminds us that “…if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land. Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place.” (2 Chronicles 7:14-15 NIV) David, when he was caught in his sin he knew God demanded more than being sorry, he related, “You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” (Psalms 51:16-17 NIV) Peter declared, “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord!” (Acts 3:19 NIV) We rebel against God when we refuse to repent!

Conclusion:

We rebel against God when we refuse to listen! We rebel against God when we sacrifice the wrong things! We rebel against God when we refuse to repent!

This article is copyrighted © 2014 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.