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Please open your Bibles to Isaiah chapter 6, as we continue our study through the Word of God.
1. King Uzziah died in 740 BC, the same year that Isaiah received his commission by God. And as I have said before, king Uzziah was a powerful, well-liked king. During his reign of 52 years he brought the nation to the point of military might, economic security, and they had abundant, fertile land. He invented military weapons, had strong military leaders, took much territory from their enemies, even having them pay a tribute tax to Judah. Things were going very well, and that may have been the problem for Isaiah and the rest of the nation. Isaiah grew up under the leadership of this great man, and he, like the nation, may have looked to this man, instead of the Lord for security. Thus, when Uzziah died, the throne was empty. What would they do? In this seemingly hopeless situation, Isaiah was able to see the Lord, that He was still on the throne, exalted, in majesty and in control. What or who are we looking to for security that is blocking our view of seeing God? It is not till those things are removed that we can see God in a proper perspective - sitting on His throne!
1. The Seraphim are one of God's created angelic beings, not the same as Cherubim. The Cherubim are around the throne of God, while the Seraphim are above the throne of God. Their name, Seraphim, means "the burning ones".
1. Many today want to focus on God's love, and they place God's love above all His other attributes or they just focus on God's love and ignore everything else. The problem is you can't pick and choose what you like and what you dislike. Yes God's love is rich and deep. His grace is abounding. He is rich in mercy. And you can go on-and-on, speaking of God's multifaceted attributes. But if you could just pick one, out of all the others, His holiness would have to stand out. "Holy" in the Greek is HAGIOS, which speaks of being set apart. We, as Christians are to be set apart for God. But in respect to God, it speaks of his perfection, that there is no darkness, no sin in Him at all. In I John 1:5 we see John sum this up for us when he says, "This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all." Thus, because God is holy and can't look upon sin, we see His love for us, "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life." John 3:16.
1. The throne in heaven was filled with smoke, representing the presence of God, the SHEKINAH glory. And as these Seraphim shouted out the holiness of God, the whole place shook and vibrated. This was not just an unemotional, monotone proclamation, they sung out what they saw, the holiness of God with passion in their voices!
1. As Isaiah gets a vision of God, he sees himself as destroyed, cut off, doomed to die! Why? Because any time sinful man has an encounter with a holy God, there is only despair. You can never be good enough, do enough good works, to make yourself pure before God. And maybe that was Isaiah's problem. In chapters 1 through 5 he is speaking of the sins of the people, how they have fallen away from God. And as Isaiah placed his spiritual condition next to the people of Judah, he felt pretty good about himself. He was clean in his own eyes until he came before a holy God, and then he saw himself just as he needed to see himself - UNCLEAN! Not only is the nation in this condition, but so too is Isaiah.
2. Now just recognizing this condition would be depressing. But God does not leave us there. The problem is many refuse to recognize their condition, and if you do, there will be no healing for you. Jesus said in Matthew 5:3-5, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, For they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek, For they shall inherit the earth." You must see the reality of sin in your life, that you are poor in spirit. You must mourn and repent over your sin, turn to God. And as you do God will transform you into a new creation in Christ. The joy is not found in the sin, but in our Savior!
1. You see, with our recognition of sin, God brings to us the cleansing. Here, the Seraphim take a "live coal" from the brazen altar or the altar of sacrifice, and touches Isaiah's lips, cleansing him. The sacrifice of Christ on the cross of Calvary, when applied to our life, cleanses us.
1. Now don't get the idea that God didn't know who He was going to send into this ministry. God is giving Isaiah an opportunity to step forward, take a step of faith, and go where God is leading. Obviously it is not always easy, but if God is calling, it is the best thing we can do. I like the way that Vine put it. He said: "There is no task laid upon us by the Lord which we shall not have power from Him to fulfill, when everything that would hinder our communion with Him has been removed." We see Isaiah resolve this issue with God, his sin, and now a door of opportunity has opened for him.
2. Also, God says "And who shall go for Us?" Who is He speaking of? Not the Seraphim or any other created being. I see this, as in Genesis 1:26, as a picture of the Trinity; the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. And I know some like to argue that the word "Trinity" is not used in the Bible, but either is "missionary" and yet both those ideas are definitely implied by the Scriptures. A beautiful picture of the Trinity is seen in Matthew 3:16-17. We read, "When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him. And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, 'This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.'"
1. You can almost picture Isaiah jumping up and down, shouting "Here am I! Send me! Send me!" Isaiah has experienced the forgiveness of God and he can now take that message to a people that need to recognize their sin so they too may experience the forgiveness of God.
2. Interestingly enough, Isaiah is ready to go, to represent God, and he hasn't even heard what that mission is going to be about. All he knows is he is going to represent God, and that is enough for him. He had a servants heart, willing to go and do anything the Lord wanted him to do. Also, God is going to tell Isaiah what this ministry is all about. He is going to go to his people with warnings of judgment and the hope of forgiveness, but they will not hear what he has to say. No one is going to respond to his words, they will fall on deaf ears. In the church today Isaiah would be seen as a failure because he didn't bring in the people, the church didn't grow at all. We must not get caught in that kind of mentality. God does not reward us with the fruit we bear in regards to numbers, but in regards to our faithfulness to what He has called us to do. You do your part, be faithful in that, and let God do His part!
1. Here is the ministry in a nutshell. Isaiah is going to go before the people representing God, but they are not going to see their sin, they are not going to understand their error, and because of that refusal to repent, they would not be healed, judgment was coming.
2. Turn to Matthew chapter 13, a section of scripture that gives us 7 kingdom parables, and lets begin reading in verse 1. "On the same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the sea. And great multitudes were gathered together to Him, so that He got into a boat and sat; and the whole multitude stood on the shore...And the disciples came and said to Him, 'Why do You speak to them in parables?' He answered and said to them, 'Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For whoever has, to him more will be given, and he will have abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him. Therefore I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. And in them the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled, which says: 'Hearing you will hear and shall not understand, And seeing you will see and not perceive; For the hearts of this people have grown dull. Their ears are hard of hearing, And their eyes they have closed, Lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, So that I should heal them.'" Matthew 13:1-2, 10-15.
Jesus came preaching very openly, doing miracles right before their eyes, and yet they kept rejecting Him. Back in chapter 12 the Scribes and Pharisees said to Him, "...'Teacher, we want to see a sign from you.'" Matthew 12:38. And Jesus rebuked them. Why? He saw through their pious behavior. They had seen the lame walk, the sick healed, and-so-on, and they were hardening themselves to the truth, not seeing or hearing what Jesus was all about. Thus, He now begins to veil the truth to those who are hard of hearing and allowing those who were open to the truth to see and hear it. Don't get the idea that God has hardened their hearts, He only made firm what they wanted in the first place. (We also see these verses from Isaiah in Mark 4:12, Luke 8:10, John 12:40, Acts 28:26-27, as well as Matthew 13:14-15).
3. One other point I would like to make here is this. In John 12:37-41 we read, "But although He had done so many signs before them, they did not believe in Him, that the word of Isaiah the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spoke: 'Lord, who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?' Therefore they could not believe, because Isaiah said again: 'He has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts, Lest they should see with their eyes, Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, So that I should heal them.' These things Isaiah said when he saw His glory and spoke of Him." Now I want you to notice verse 41. Isaiah saw the glory of God, and here in John we are told that Jesus, part of the Holy Trinity, was there!
1. Isaiah wanted to know how long he was going to preach this message, and God told him until they are taken into captivity. God was going to bring judgment upon them, like a giant lumber jack, and He was going to cut down this once fruit producing tree. And that is exactly what took place. In 606 BC the Babylonians came in and brought them into captivity, the first of 3 sieges upon the Southern Kingdom of Judah by the Babylonians, the last being in 586 BC, when the remaining people were taken into captivity, the city, the walls, and the temple were destroyed. Then, some 70 years later, under the king of Persia, Cyrus, a decree was made in which all Jews who wanted to return home, could. And so, under the leadership of Joshua and Zerubbabel, only some 50,000 returned out of some 2 to 3 million that were in captivity.
God said that the stump that was left, He would bring life back to it. God would spare a remnant and bring them back into the land. The rest that remained in Babylon did so because they had become comfortable in the world. And it was good that they stayed there because that meant only those that were really committed to go and rebuild Jerusalem and restore there relationship with God would return. The rest that remained had become worldly, carnal and would only infect the rest of the people with their idolatry. Yes, there were some dark days coming upon the Southern Kingdom of Judah, but in that darkness is a glimmer of light, as God promises to bring a remnant of His people back into the land.
1. Uzziah was a good king for the most part. At the end of his life he allowed pride to cause him to enter the temple to burn incense to the Lord, something only a priest was to do. And as these 80 priests got in his face to stop him, he became angry with them. And as he was angry, leprosy broke out upon his forehead, and he was quickly taken away from the temple, and lived the rest of his days in isolation, co-reigning with his son Jotham.
Now Jotham was a good king also, not as good as his father Uzziah, but he too did what was right in the sigh of the Lord. Now Jotham's son, Ahaz was another story. He was truly a wicked king! He worshipped the pagan god's, Baal, sacrificed his children in the fire to the god Molech. He obviously did not do what was right in the sigh of the Lord but served other gods.
It was during his reign that Rezin king of Syria and Pekah the king of the Northern Kingdom of Israel joined forces to defeat Ahaz and the Southern Kingdom of Judah. They wanted to place Tabeel as sort of a puppet king for them in Judah.
Now because of Judah's wickedness, God delivered them into the hands of Syria and the Northern Kingdom of Israel. At one point they killed 120,000 men and took another 200,000 people captive. At this point Ahaz is getting a little nervous, and he makes a deal with Tiglath-Pileser, the king of Assyria. In fact Ahaz takes some of the silver and gold from the temple, from the kings house, and gives it to the Assyrians to help pay for this alliance he made with them.
Now the Syrians and Assyrians are not the same people. The Syrians were to the north of Jerusalem and the Assyrians were North East. And it was the Assyrians who were gathering strength, and who were a very cruel people. Upon capture, they would take off your clothes, put a hook in your nose, and drag you back to Assyria, whose capitol was Nineveh.
Now in the beginning his plan worked beautifully. Tiglath-Pileser defeated the Syrians, killing Rezin their king, and giving Ahaz some security, but his security was not in the Lord. And in the end, the one he made a deal with turned on him, and the king of Assyria, Tiglath-Pileser was now distressing Ahaz. If you sleep with the snakes you will get bit!
1. Ephraim was where Samaria was located, and now the Syrian and the Northern Kingdom of Israel's forces were gathering together, preparing for battle against Judah. What happens when your trust is not in the Lord? You begin to shake like the trees when they are blown, and that is what we see here. Not only was the king distressed, but so where the people, and thus, out of that lack of trust, they make a deal with the Assyrians to fight for them instead of the Lord.
1. At this point Ahaz may be inspecting the water supply to the city in case of enemy attack. And God tells Isaiah to go and meet Ahaz at this aqueduct, and bring his son, Shear-Jashub. Isaiah, as we will see, named his sons prophetically. Shear-Jashub means "a remnant shall return". Judgment was going to come upon Judah, but God would also bring a remnant of His people back. It was a glimmer of hope in these dark times.
1. God wants Isaiah to tell Ahaz not to fear Rezin and Pekah, they would not prevail. Now when you are not trusting in the strength of the Lord or His promises, it is not easy to have a calm spirit in the midst of turmoil.
1. The plan was to invade Judah and put their own king on the throne, Tabeel. And God is saying that their plan will not come to pass. Why in the world would God comfort such a wicked king? I don't think that these words of encouragement and comfort are for Ahaz alone. He was to be the leader and comfort the people, but because he was shaking in his boots, so were the people. And God is saying that this conspiracy will not be victorious, don't be fearful of their plans.
1. Here is God's promise. Within 65 years they will be nothing. They Syrians will not be strong, Samaria will not even be a nation. If Isaiah spoke these words in 734 BC, by 732 BC the Assyrians destroyed Damascus, Rezin was dead, and the Syrians were taken into captivity. Then in 722 BC the Assyrians took the Northern Kingdom of Israel into captivity, and by 669 BC, 65 years after these words were spoken, Ephraim was completely wiped out, the Northern Kingdom of Israel ceased to exist.
When the Assyrians took you captive they would place their captives throughout the land, never allowing you to live with enough of your own people to cause an uprising. They then placed foreigners into the Northern Kingdom who married some of the remaining Jews, and these people were known as the Samaritans. We see in the New Testament the Jews hating the Samaritans because they thought of them as Half-breeds!
2. Now I don't know about you, but if someone told me these things and I had no faith in the Lord, I might smile at what this person said, but inside I would think he was a nut. I think that is what was going on in the mind of Ahaz.
1. Isaiah must have noticed something about Ahaz that showed a lack of trust. So Isaiah tells him to ask a sign from God so that he might see that what God has said is true and will come to pass.
1. Now that sounds very pious on the part of Ahaz, but understand his heart was far from the Lord, he was not being sincere in what he said. In fact he had already made a deal with Tiglath-Pileser and the Assyrians. And once they defeat Syria and the Northern Kingdom, Ahaz goes to meet Tiglath-Pileser in Damascus and he sees an altar they used to sacrifice to their gods. He is so impressed he sends plans back home and by the time he gets back to Jerusalem, they have this pagan altar built, and the brazen altar in the temple is removed to make room for this pagan one. The actions of Ahaz spoke louder than his words!
1. Isaiah was not fooled one bit by Ahaz's empty words. He saw the lack of faith towards God that Ahaz had.
1. Here is one of those passages of Scripture that has provided much controversy. We believe this to point to the virgin birth of Jesus. That is the long term fulfillment. But this was also to be a sign for Ahaz to show God's faithfulness. The Hebrew word for "virgin" is ALMAH, which means a young, unmarried women of sexual maturity. Now in those days she would have been considered a virgin, not so today. If Isaiah used the Hebrew word BETHULAH that would have solved the controversy, for it seems to mean virgin. So what is going on here? In Isaiah 8:18 we read, "Here am I and the children whom the LORD has given me! We are for signs and wonders in Israel From the LORD of hosts, Who dwells in Mount Zion."
In other words, their names were to be a sign to the nation. Isaiah's name means "Jehovah saves". His first son, Shear-Jashub means "a remnant shall return". At this point it seems that Isaiah's wife may have died and he married a prophetess who bore him a son named, Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz, which means "speed the spoil, hasten the booty". It was a reference to the Assyrians coming to take the land, but ultimately the Babylonians who would swiftly come and take them captive. Now some also feel that Isaiah called his second son, Immanuel, or "God with us", which was a common practice in those days. Thus, in the darkness of the day, God was still with them. And you will see in a few verses here, how this all plays out.
2. Now as much as some like to argue against the virgin birth of Christ because of the Hebrew word Isaiah used, when the Septuagint translation came out in around 250 BC, that is the Hebrew Scriptures translated into Greek, they translated the Hebrew word ALMAH into the Greek word PARTHENOS, which means virgin. Not only that, but when we get to the New Testament, the Holy Spirit once again makes things very clear. For in Matthew 1:23, a quote of Isaiah 7:14, He uses once again the Greek word PARTHENOS, which means virgin. Listen to what Matthew tells us, and I think you will see how clear this is. In Matthew chapter 1, beginning in verse 20, we read, "But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, 'Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins.' So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: 'Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel," which is translated, "God with us.'" Matthew 1:20-23. His name is Jesus, which means "Jehovah is salvation", but the reality of what was before them was Immanuel, "God with us!"
1. A simple lifestyle lived by Isaiah's son.
1. A Jewish boy reaches the age of accountability at the age of 12. The promise is that before this boy reaches the age of 12, you won't have to worry about Syria or the Northern Kingdom. What happened? Isaiah spoke this in 734 BC and within 2 years the Syrian's went into captivity, and 10 years latter, 722 BC, the Northern Kingdom of Israel went into captivity, just as God said.
1. The enemy will come upon the land like a swarm of insects. Ahaz looked to Assyria for help and they were going to be the ones oppressing them.
1. The guy he hired to protect them was now going to shave them bald!
1. A land that was once rich was going to become barren.
1. The judgment of God was devastating, and will be ultimately fulfilled when the Babylonians sweep through the land. But now, even in this time of judgment, when things are looking hopeless, God gives us hope. God will save a remnant to bring back, for God is with them. And that applies to us, no matter what we are going through, God is with us!