Are you a survivor? - Isaiah 3:1 - 4:6

This is a sermon by Lee McMunn from the Riverside Church service on 21st September 2014.

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Are you a survivor?

Isaiah 3:1-4:6

 

The point of no return. It’s a phrase that can and is used in many different areas of life.

 

Child goes too far. They pass the point of no return of parental discipline. The employee who is consistently late and lazy.  The suspect who gets increasingly closer to the Police firearms officer. The country that moves its troops increasingly closer to its neighbours border. Or even what we were close to last week – if Scotland had voted yes then they have passed the point of no return.

 

If you want to understand this section of the Bible then keep that phrase in your head – the point of no return. Because what we are presented with is God’s promise of what he would do at some point in the future – and nothing his people would do from that point onwards would stop it. Previous to this God had given them opportunities to change their behaviour which would have prevented further disaster coming upon them. But now in chapter 3, it’s too late. The possibilities for change are over. The future destiny is now set in stone. And it was terrifying.

 

Let me show you some of the details.

  • Look at vs 1. Siege mentality. Food and water gone. They had already experienced that in 701 BC when Jerusalem was surrounded by the Assyrians. Another day is predicted. Would it be any worse? Yes!
  • Look at vs 2. These people will be taken. That means they will be taken out of the land or killed in the land. And then as vs 4-7 make clear they will be replaced by people with no experience or expertise.
  • What else to we discover about this future disaster? Look at vs 17. Then a long list of luxuries that would be no more. But then listen to the ominous tones of vs 24.
  • The extent of the battle is described in vs 25 and 26.

 

What is this a description of? The staged destruction of Jerusalem under the Babylonians.

 

  • 605 BC. Daniel and his friends deported.
  • More deported in 597 BC.
  • Finally destroyed in 587 BC.

 

Why did it happen? Let me show you some of the reasons for this. They are scattered throughout this chapter.

 

  • Look at vs 8. Read vs 8-9.
  • Look at vs 11. They will be paid back for what their hands have done.
  • Look at vs 12.

 

Who should have been leading? Wise, male and servant hearted to point people to the ways of God. They had younger men and some females, who were oppressing the people. Ultimately, they were turning from God’s revealed ways.

 

What can we learn from all this?

 

Let’s be reminded that our God is a God who means what he says. He can be trusted in everything he says.

 

We need that in relationships.

 

  • Whether that’s in a parent and children relationship. A child feels safe when they know their parents do what they promise.
  • Marriage.
  • Employer or employee.
  • Friendship.

 

But we also need that in our relationship with God. So often we need to make decisions based on an outcome we cannot determine. If we are to keep on trusting God then we need to be convinced that he is trustworthy. That he is a God of his word.

And bizarrely this section of the Bible helps us to do that. The reason is because this devastating destruction was based on previous promises of God.

 

Lev. 26:31 “I will turn your cities into ruins and lay waste your sanctuaries, and I will take no delight in the pleasing aroma of your offerings.  32 I will lay waste the land, so that your enemies who live there will be appalled.  33 I will scatter you among the nations and will draw out my sword and pursue you. Your land will be laid waste, and your cities will lie in ruins.”

 

The gracious God had given them many chances but now they had passed the point of no return. He was now acting on his promised word.

 

So be encouraged dear friends to trust God’s words now and to respond in the light of them. Let’s do that in all areas. Whether, it’s the good of our individual souls, or the long term perseverance of our faith, of the good of the church, or wider world. Let’s trust that God will do what he says in his word – either in response to our obedience or our disobedience.

 

Christian or non-Christian examples.

 

Is there any hope for us as those who are trying to live our God’s ways in these dark times? Yes. Two things to point out.

 

First, look at vs 10. “Tell the righteous it will be well with them, for they will enjoy the fruit of their deeds.”

 

This doesn’t mean that those who are righteous will survive physically. But it does mean it will go well for them. Their caring God will decide what is best for them. Whether to continue to live on the earth or to start living in heaven. Do we believe this? And live in response to it. And talk as if we believe this.

 

Second, look at 4:2. Read vs 2.

 

  • In that day. The survivors.
  • All to do with someone called the Branch of the LORD or the Fruit of the land. Who is this?
  • A way of talking about the Messiah. A promised a future deliverer. Different titles to describe his identity and mission.
  • The Branch speaks of his ancestry. He would emerge at some point from the among the people.
  • The same idea is communicated by the Fruit of the land.
  • I think that’s why they are called holy in vs 3. Or the holy seed in chapter 6. They survive so at a later point the Branch will emerge from the chosen stump that remained.
  • Some of what they were hoping for is described in vs 4-6. Read 4-6.
    • Cleansing from sin
    • Comforting presence and protection.
  • And what we are told here is that on the day of Jerusalem’s destruction the survivors could hope in the future coming of the Messiah.

 

Of course Jesus has come. He is still to come again. We need to hope in that day. Particularly when the world seems to be collapsing around us. Now of course all Christians, all around the world, need to hope in that future coming day of Jesus but at the moment I think we should pray especially for our brothers and sisters in Iraq and Syria a clear vision of that future day.

 

How do we pray for our brothers and sisters in Iraq and Syria? Protection, provision and perseverance.

 

How? Pray that they are given a clear vision of the future coming of Jesus and all that this will bring.

 

Let’s pray.

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