Saturday, January 12, 2013
“O house of Jacob, come ye, and let us walk in the light of the Lord”
Scripture Reading: Isaiah 2:1–22
Aaron Burr had the ability and the opportunity to rise high in the political life of his country. Historians say that his ambition, coupled with his inability to meet opposition, was his ruin. Following an illustrious career in the Continental army, he became one of the leading lawyers in New York State. At one time he was a candidate for the presidency of the United States, but he lost after a tie vote led to the House of Representatives electing Jefferson instead, leaving Burr as vice president. After killing Alexander Hamilton, his archenemy, in a duel, Burr’s reputation plummeted. Ambition led him to the Southwest, where apparently he hoped to raise his own army and conquer the area of Texas, perhaps establishing a republic with himself at its head. For this venture, he was brought to trial. Though Burr was acquitted, his reputation was ruined, and he lived the rest of his life a lonely, defeated man.
The root of the selfish ambition that destroyed Aaron Burr can be traced to an event that occurred while he was a student at Princeton, where his father and his grandfather, the great Jonathan Edwards, had both been president. During this time, the entire college was shaken by great revival. Burr shut himself in his room, saying that before the night was over he would decide the matter of his relationship to God. Tradition says that late that night the students living near him heard him raise his windows and exclaim, “Good-bye, God!” This was indeed the turning point of his life. In our time, the words of Aaron Burr have grown into a sweeping chorus as the multitudes continue to bid farewell to God and his holiness. Those who walk with the Lord, however, have successful lives on earth and a bright future with Christ in eternity.
1) They are made joyous by the promises of the future (Isa. 2:1–4).
The exaltation of the church.
Isaiah 2:1–4 presents the most beautiful and poetic descriptions of the future of the redeemed to be found anywhere in Scripture. “And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it” (v. 2). The temple was built on Mount Moriah, which was referred to as “the mountain of the Lord’s house.” This is a prophecy, in germinal form, of the future exaltation of the church of the redeemed. The church is destined to rise up like a veritable mountain so that all eyes will see it and none will be able to ignore it. The church may struggle amid trials during its earthly sojourn, and it may be at the point of despair because of loneliness experienced in a world filled with ungodliness, but it has a destined glory that no force will be able to deny. A time is coming when the church will be recognized by all as God’s instrument in bringing in his kingdom and in keeping his gospel before a perishing world.
Converts from all nations.
We often hear the expression, “It’s a small world.” Though it is a small world, it is far from being a unified world. However, the Scriptures affirm that the time is coming when multitudes will come from all nations and all walks of life to worship God: “And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem” (Isa. 2:3). Jesus himself spoke along these lines as he said, “That many shall come down from the east and west, and shall sit down . . . in the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 8:11). He was describing a worldwide pilgrimage that includes people of all races in the kingdom of God.
The peace of God’s eternity.
People have always hungered for peace and yet have never been able to achieve it. The Bible makes this promise: “They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more” (Isa. 2:4). Something about this promise quickens the heart of every person who reads it. However, we need to realize that Jesus added a footnote to this promise that helps us know when we can expect its fulfillment: “And ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom: there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places . . . and this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come” (Matt. 24:6–14). If I understand Jesus’ footnote correctly, he was saying that this promise is never to be experienced until his second coming. In other words, we should not expect this kind of peace until the millennium.
2) They avoid the pitfalls of a barren prosperity (Isa. 2:6–9).
Isaiah 2:6–9 speaks of a barren prosperity. One might well call it a prosperous poverty. We are urged to walk in the light of God lest we stumble into the hidden pitfalls that a barren prosperity holds for us. The people of Isaiah’s time, like people of our own, seem to have filled their lives with material things. Isaiah said that God had forsaken them because they were “replenished from the east.” In other words, they were filled up with goods and philosophies from the East. When a motel is full, the “No Vacancy” sign is hung out. This means there is room for no one else. There are many people today who, if they were honest, would put “No Vacancy” signs around their necks because they have filled their lives with their own fancies and activities so that there is no room at all for God.
The people are pictured as being filled with what the East has to offer. Of course, the East was the direction from which the caravans and tradesmen came bringing goods, riches, and foreign ways of life. Isaiah described the land as being “full of silver and gold . . . full of horses . . . full of idols” (Isa. 2:7–8).
It seems strange that barrenness is often brought on by prosperity, but history records the proof of the sequence. Thus this barrenness was not brought on by drought or famine or financial depression, but rather by abundance.
The most fearful part of the barrenness comes from the fact that God has turned his back on the people: “Therefore thou hast forsaken thy people the house of Jacob, because they be replenished from the east” (Isa. 2:6). It is a costly prosperity that achieves the wealth of the world while losing the treasures of heaven. People are in great peril when they forsake God, but they are without hope when God forsakes them.
Another result of a prosperous poverty is that of living by superstition instead of by faith in the will of God. Part of what the people were full of were the “soothsayers like the Philistines” (Isa. 2:6). From the East had come the astrologers and the fortune-tellers who practiced the same superstitious magic known by the Philistines. Again and again the Old Testament warns the people of God that these kinds of people are to be looked upon as enemies. Deuteronomy 18:10–12 firmly states: “There shall not be found among you any one . . . that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch, or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer. For all that do these things are an abomination unto the Lord.” There is only one who is able to guide our destinies, the heavenly Father himself. To attribute such force to anyone else is to depart from the faith. There is no more frightful way to live life than to live under superstition.
The barrenness was further evidenced in that the people lived without forgiveness: “And the mean [lowly] man boweth down, and the great man humbleth himself: therefore forgive them not” (Isa. 2:9). This describes a kind of universal apostasy wherein the lowly, as well as the rich, bow down before the trinkets of prosperity and worship them. Because of this, they live without a knowledge of God’s forgiveness. Life can be full of many things, but it will always remain void of peace and genuine happiness as long as life is void of God’s forgiveness. The solemn bell of history tolls, “In Adam all die,” while the silver trumpets of the sky call us to the message of the gospel: “In Christ shall all be made alive.”
3) They are delivered from certain judgment (Isa. 2:12–17).
When the world dies.
Everywhere in the Bible we are reminded that the world is to perish. The Bible tells us this will be brought about by the instrumentality of God, and that in that moment we shall all be summoned to the final judgment. Thus when heaven is rolled up like a scroll and we see the perishing of all things, we will know in all fullness what is meant by the day of the Lord.
When God shakes all things.
Scripture vividly tells us that the death of the world is to come about by God’s shaking of a dying world until all earthly things be released from its deathly grasp. Isaiah said, “And they shall go . . . into the caves of the earth, for fear of the Lord, and for the glory of his majesty, when he ariseth to shake terribly the earth” (v. 19).
The author of Hebrews expressed this same theme, writing that God has promised, “Saying, Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven” (Heb. 12:26). The day of the Lord will be a time when people find themselves shaken loose from the material abundance for which they have sold their very souls.
When people have waited too long.
God is pictured in the Scriptures as being patient and longsuffering, but he is also pictured as one who has a limit to his patience. There comes a time when a person takes one step too far and passes the point of no return. The tragic aspect of the day of the Lord is that it will find people who have waited too long to throw their idols away and to accept the living God: “In that day a man shall cast his idols of silver, and his idols of gold, which they made each one for himself to worship, to the moles and to the bats” (Isa. 2:20). In that day, it will be too late to throw away that which has brought about their downfall. This pictures people as being cursed by what they possess because they have been possessed by their possessions.
When self-sufficiency perishes.
There is coming a time when all people will realize that humans are nothing apart from God: “Cease ye from man, whose breath is in his nostrils: for wherein is he to be accounted of?” (Isa. 2:22). Where is the bank account that is able to buy off the trumpet of heaven that will mark the end of time and the power of God that will bring every person to account? We try to prepare for every emergency of life, but there comes a final emergency for which there is no preparation other than faith in God. Humans, who are so prone to trust in themselves, need to be reminded that their lives are no more certain than the breath that is in their nostrils —
it can cease at any moment.
Now in Conclusion
Someday life’s portrait will be given its last brush mark and will stand forever. In 1937 Evangeline Booth, the daughter of the founder of the Salvation Army, returned to the United States after three years of extensive travel. When asked by an interviewer, “What is amiss with the world?” she quickly answered, “There is just one thing wrong with the world, and it is this: The world is trying to get along without God — and it can’t be done.” Jesus Christ lived among us and died for us that by faith we might be born spiritually into his kingdom and walk in his presence. “Come ye and let us walk in the light of the Lord.”
God bless you all, Pastor Mike