Divine forestry - Isaiah 10:5-34

This is a sermon by Lee McMunn from the Riverside Church service on 9th November 2014.

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Divine forestry

Isaiah 10:5-34

 

One of the most comforting truths for our daily lives is the biblical announcement that God is completely in charge and completely in control of everything. The Bible declares that there is no person or power that can hinder or halt the plans of God. God always gets his way. His perfect plans and purposes are always successful. There is no filing cabinet in heaven with a drawer dedicated to God’s failures or God’s mistakes. And if there was, it would be completely empty.

 

Now understood rightly this truth is very reassuring if you are a follower of Jesus Christ. Just think about what it means day by day. It means that you can get up in the morning and you can know with absolute certainty that no matter what happens to you, God is completely in control and that he will be using every circumstance of your day as part of his greater plans for you and for his kingdom.

 

Now I find this truth very energising whenever I ponder it. It helps me not to panic. It helps me to persevere. It helps me to be patient. It helps me to be prayerful. And it helps me to be proactive.

 

However, this truth of God’s sovereignty, can also be challenging. And it can be especially challenging when we try and relate it to our human responsibility.

 

What I mean by that is how do we talk in a biblical way about God’s control of all things without it sounding like we are simply puppets on a divine string?

 

The reason I mention this issue this morning is because this section of Isaiah confronts us with it. And so what I want to do this morning is to show you how the Bible simultaneously speaks about God’s sovereignty and our human responsibility.

 

To make this chapter more manageable I’ve divided it into three.

 

  • The punishment of God (Vs 5-19)
  • The people of God (Vs 20-27)
  • The power of God (Vs 28-34)

 

Our plan is to work through each section and highlight the twin truths of God’s control and our culpability.

 

The punishment of God (10:5-19)

 

The first amazing thing we see is that God was using a godless nation to achieve his purposes in the lives of his own people. Look at vs 5. Read vs 5-6.

 

God was rightly angry with his people. The way he expressed this anger was by sending a godless nation to bring destruction to their towns and villages.

 

We find it incredible hard to get other people to do what we want. But that’s not a problem for God. He is able to do this because he is completely in control.

 

We’ve got a phrase. You can lead a horse to water but you cannot make it drink. Not the case for God.

 

Without compromising human responsibility God can use anyone to carry out his plans and purposes, whether they believe in him or not.

 

Acts 2:23, “This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross.”

 

Awesome truth. And it’s there for us to see in this section of Isaiah chapter 10.

 

However, alongside God’s complete control, we also see human responsibility. Look at vs 7.Read vs 7. And so as a consequence look at what is promised in verse 12. Read vs 12.

 

And if you want to know more of the details of the punishment God was planning to bring on Assyria, look at verse 16. Read vs 16-19.

 

Destroy their vast and proud army. Read more about this in 2 Kings chapters 18-19.

 

But for now, do you see how this section has presented us with the two great truths of God’s sovereignty and human responsibility? God in this instance used a nation that had its own ungodly plans to achieve his great plan and at the same time rightly held them accountable for their sin.

 

God was all-powerful but the Assyrians were not his puppets.

 

Let me show you these two truths again as we look at the second section.

 

The people of God (10:20-27)

 

The first thing we see is God’s sovereignty. Look at vs 20. Read vs 20-21.

 

In that day – the remnant who survive the Assyrian siege in 701 BC will truly rely on God. It’s a small taste of heaven.

 

How does God know people will survive and that they will rely on him?

 

Look at what we’re told in vs 22 and 23. Read vs 22 and 23.

 

God will carry it out. He will be in complete control over what happens.

Only a God who is completely powerful and in complete control can make assured predictions about the future. That’s what we have here.

 

But this section also speaks about human responsibility. Look at what God’s people are told in vs 24. Read vs 24-25.

 

God assures his people with a promise. But he tells them to take hold of this promise and apply it to their anxious hearts.

 

God had not promised an easy future for his faithful people but they could trust that God was working his purposes out.

 

God has not promised the followers of Jesus an easy time.

 

Romans 8:28, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him.”

 

Do we speak this promise of God to our wavering souls?

 

Whatever you boss is like, whatever that other parent is like, whatever that government employee is like, whatever your separated partner is like…the hearts of everyone are in the hands of God!

 

So don’t be afraid!

The power of God (10:28-34)

 

Now you’ll see from your handout that I’ve called the final section, the power of God. And the focus here is very much on the unstoppable, unshakeable and unmatchable power of God.

 

Now there is certainly a clear acknowledgement of responsible human choices being made in vs 28-32, as we read a very vivid description of the advance of the Assyrian army through town after town, making its way relentless towards Jerusalem. But the big focus of this section are the words in vs 33-34. Look at what we’re told. Read vs 33-34.

 

God is not phrased at all. He simply gets his axe out and chops down these arrogant troops.

 

Conclusion

 

We often fear in life because our view of God is too small. We rightly understand that we are responsible. Our decisions do count for something. But we are not in control. God is.

 

So as we leave today let’s be comforted by the great truth that the God we worship is all-wise, all-powerful, and all-loving. And because he is we don’t need to be afraid.

 

Let’s pray.

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