“It’s Time” Isaiah 64-65
Isaiah 64:1-9 1 Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains would tremble before you! 2 As when fire sets twigs ablaze and causes water to boil, come down to make your name known to your enemies and cause the nations to quake before you! 3 For when you did awesome things that we did not expect, you came down, and the mountains trembled before you. 4 Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for him. 5 You come to the help of those who gladly do right, who remember your ways. But when we continued to sin against them, you were angry. How then can we be saved? 6 All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away. 7 No one calls on your name or strives to lay hold of you; for you have hidden your face from us and made us waste away because of our sins. 8 Yet, O LORD, you are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand. 9 Do not be angry beyond measure, O LORD; do not remember our sins forever. Oh, look upon us, we pray, for we are all your people.
I am not here this morning to alarm you, but I am here to sound an alarm to wake us all up to the conditions in which we are living. What do you mean, Pastor? Conditions in which we are living? WV is almost heaven, right? Sure the fall leaves are pretty, our counties are fairly safe, our schools are ranked among the highest in the state, our poverty levels are fairly low, but we are living in a confused, mixed up, increasing dark world in which the prince of the air, satan, is flitting around covertly as well as in our faces, to defy the Lordship of Jesus Christ in every pocket of our nation and planet. We may not have the problems some other communities have (yet), but our drug addiction and suicide rates are beyond alarming! And those aren’t the only issues.
I realize many of you come from Cabell and Kanawha counties, but since our church is smack dab in Putnam, let me just report that of the almost 57,000 people who live in Putnam County, only 28% report having a church affiliation! Only 28%. And the Mormons in our county are included in that number.
If Jesus is the Giver of HOPE and people are turning to drugs and suicide at an alarming rate in our county, do we see a correlation between the low percentage of people who have a church affiliation and the strongholds of drugs and suicide? 4% of our county’s population of people 12 and up considered suicide an option between the years 2006-2010. Do you know what 4% is of 57,000? 2280 people thought suicide was an option during that four year period in our county? I don’t call that abundant life. During that time, 16 people succeeded in ending their own lives and that doesn’t include the number of people who died due to drug overdoses. We need hope! We need Jesus. Not a little religion. Not just a quick prayer. Not on Christmas and Easter, but we need the power of heaven to invade earth in dramatic and transforming ways that usher in hope that can be realized and sustained in people’s lives.
Let’s broaden the scope of cheerful news this morning. Violent crime increased in America by 15% during 2013.
I’m not here to paint a picture of despair, but one of reality. We are at the place where Isaiah was when he cried out to God in desperation for major intervention. In Isaiah chapter 6 we read the famous passage about how Isaiah “saw” the Lord. Between Isaiah 6 and Isaiah 64 he also saw the world’s condition. He knew that the glory of God he had seen in Isaiah 6 in that brilliant vision, he knew that glory wasn’t visible on the earth at least not to the degree it should have been. Isaiah couldn’t shake that vision. It wasn’t a one-time dream to just tell his grandkids about. It wasn’t just a fond memory. It was a life-changing, life-altering cleansing, calling and commissioning that left him unable to shake that he was to go into the world as the mouthpiece of God. He was to let people know about God’s glory. He was to explain how things could be different if others would get into the presence of God and be changed by His awesome glory and power. Isaiah couldn’t forget that experience, and he couldn’t escape what God had called him to do. Part of his calling involved, listen, part of his calling involved interceding for a people who were far from God.
Do you believe our nation needs hope? Erin Coker is the youth pastor’s wife from our sister church, Southridge Church of God. The reign of terror through ISIS has so burdened her that she has sought the Lord, falling on her face to ask what she could possibly do to share God’s hope in the midst of this horrible situation. She has started an internet campaign asking all Christians to ring church bells, play loud Christian music or honk their car horns at 12:30 pm in their respective time zones on November 21st.
Her thought is that the sounding of bells will act as sounds of hope. Maybe as those who have had loved ones persecuted and killed because they are Christians hear the bells hope can be renewed in their hearts. Maybe someone who is held captive somewhere will hear the sound of bells and have a glimmer of hope that God is with them, and He does hear their cry for rescue. Her desire is that someone somewhere will hear the bells and believe hope is alive and help is on the way. Rather than adopt the belief that because ISIS is too far away to do anything about, she has sought the Lord to say, “What can I do to make a difference?” She couldn’t shake the burden she had about this situation.
What I want to say is that no one can bury their head in the sand and think that the atrocities facing our world don’t impact them. A person can travel around the world in just one day bringing an unwanted virus, an unwanted evil, right into the middle of our communities. Let’s not naively think we are removed from the powers of darkness. And let’s take some action! Just because we are in a spiritual battle, just because times are tough, just because the landscape of our culture has shifted at an alarming rate leaving us with confusion and questions doesn’t mean we are defeated! I choose to walk in Christ’s victory daily. I choose Christ’s peace daily. However, I also recognized I am called to be His mouthpiece, and I am called to be engaged in the spiritual war through prayer and so are each of you. It is time we take on Isaiah’s mantle and get busy interceding for our counties, country and world.
So let’s get started:
It’s Time to Admit Things Aren’t OK. “Live and let live” sounds great. It sounds fair. It sounds respectful. It is all those things. But in adopting that mantra we have also adopted the pervasive attitude that if someone wants to choose hell for eternity, why it’s their life and they can do what they want. Umm. No! Just as Isaiah was commissioned by God to go in His name, so too were we. It’s not ok that people have detached from church and a relationship with God. That should bother us. It’s not ok that people are worshipping trees. It’s not ok that people believe that there is a god within them and they just have to discover themselves in order to find him. IT’s not ok that drugs, pornography, alcohol and gambling control people’s lives and break up families, costing people their potential and steal their health. It’s not ok that people are using black magic and witchcraft. It’s not ok that people are atheists and live life as if this is all there is. It’s not ok to believe we evolved from monkeys or were the result of some cosmic random chance. The sexual exploration and adaptations being proliferated in our country are not ok. Freedoms of speech that are being restricted in places—that is not ok. Young children being stolen and put into human trafficking is not ok. Children growing up in broken homes with broken families-that is not ok. What is happening to our America? What is happening to our world?
Yes, people have free will. Yes, we must accept that they may choose differently, but if someone goes to hell it better be after we said all we could, did all we could, helped all we could, served all we could, and prayed all we could.
We have become so conditioned to accept so much that we hardly bristle anymore about what is wrong with our society. G&% D$#+ this and “What the blank” that are spoken without care of who is listening or what they might think. It’s just commonplace to be profane. (Or so it seems to me.) I was grieved in my spirit, disturbed in my mind and even moved to tears when I saw an image on FB recently. It was a picture of Jesus, flipping someone off with His middle finger, and the captain read, “Even Jesus thinks you’re a “%$&#.” It absolutely took my breath away and pierced my heart. Sacred? Well that’s a definition that is just relative. If something is sacred it is simply because you care about it. It doesn’t have to mean anything to me.
Over the three preceding weeks I preached on finding contentment in relationships. I believe everything I said. God does want you to be content in life. But He doesn’t want you to be content and ok with the things of this world and the state of current affairs. Our world has changed so much in the past six months and not for the good. My head is spinning, I am trying to respond, and I can’t imagine what God is thinking. Things need to change!
Change begins with discontent. Change begins with a burden. Change begins with a passion. Change begins with prayer. Look at verses 1 of our text again: 1 Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down
“God, things aren’t right! Come and invade the darkness, the wrongness, the injustice, the lies and deception. Please, God, do something! Oh, God, come down and visit every profane person, every addicted person, every hateful person, every persecuted person, every imprisoned person, every homeless person, every outcast person, every sick person, every impoverished person, every lonely person, and every godless person.”
Let me show you some things about this idea of rending the heavens. Do you remember a time in the NT when the heavens were opened? When God rent the heavens? It was when Jesus was being baptized by John the Baptist, right? When He came up out of the water, Mark’s Gospel (1:9-11) tells us the heavens opened (schizo) and the Holy Spirit descended on Jesus like a dove. When that happened, the Father proclaimed from heaven, “This is my beloved Son. With Him I am well pleased.” There was a pronouncement of blessing! There was an anointing for ministry upon Jesus when God opened the heavens and came down at His baptism. Don’t we need that? God was saying, “I am sending Jesus to break the barrier between heaven and earth. Here He is! The way to Me. I have sent Him for you. I have broken through the heavens to redeem you by My Son.”
Mark used that Greek word, “schizo” at the beginning of his Gospel as well as at the end. It means “to rend, to tear apart, to rip open.” Isn’t that dramatic? Mark was telling us that at Jesus’ baptism there was a ripping apart of some barriers between heaven and earth. Heaven had come to earth in the person of Jesus Christ in order to remove the barriers between God and people. Now, Jesus lives in us to enable us to lead people to God through His blood shed on the cross.
I said Mark used the word “schizo” near the end of his gospel too. That was the word he used to describe the ripping of the curtain in the temple that was torn from top to bottom when Jesus died (Mark 15:38). It was the last physical barrier representing that sin separated us from God. Mark bookended his Gospel with the rending, the opening of barriers that keep us from coming to God! That is what we need to pray for! “God, use us to tear apart the barriers that keep people from coming to You!”
Let’s go on with the Isaiah text: …that the mountains would tremble before you! 2 As when fire sets twigs ablaze and causes water to boil, come down to make your name known to your enemies and cause the nations to quake before you! 3 For when you did awesome things that we did not expect, you came down, and the mountains trembled before you.
Isaiah wasn’t asking for people to be obliterated, but for a demonstration of God’s power that would cause fear in the enemies of God. We don’t want to pray for God to bring catastrophe on people, but to display His power that people will see and fear Him, and that strongholds will come down. We need to put the enemy on the run!
It is time to pray for revival!
We have global problems on a magnitude that is unprecedented in my lifetime. We need a global revival! Isaiah was remembering when God would come down on the mountain and talk with Moses. There was a conversation between God and His people. Don’t you think our world needs a heart to heart with God? Shouldn’t we pray for a “Come to Jesus” meeting? What always followed was corporate repentance and renewal. Don’t we need that?
It is also time to confess our sin and prayerlessness. Look again at 5-6: You come to the help of those who gladly do right, who remember your ways. But when we continued to sin against them, you were angry. How then can we be saved? 6 All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away. The church around the world needs to own the part we have played which has resulted in the mess we are in. Everyone wants to blame government, but what about the church’s role? Have we been living for Christ? How many people have we prayed with to accept Jesus as Savior? How many people have we invited to follow Him? How many people have we walked alongside and disciple to become like Him? Have we lived distinctly enough from the world that what we could compel anyone to want to become like us? Have we stayed faithful to God or are we playing both sides of the fence? Have our hypocritical ways, our idolatrous ways, our selfish ways, our materialistic ways caused us to focus on self and forget those who were hurting, struggling and without hope?
You see there are sins of commission. Those are the things we do against God. Each of us has plenty of those to claim, confess, and repent from. I have often wondered why we don’t see more miracles and evidences of God’s power in our world today. I know God has His reasons for His workings, but I wonder how often our sin, the sins of God’s people who know better and have pledged by God’s help to be different . . . I wonder how often the church’s sin has kept His power from flowing into the places that desperately need His touch. Why in the world are we trying to walk in darkness and light at the same time?
There are also, however, sins of omission. Things we should have done but haven’t. I believe we have often looked to the government to play a role in the lives of people that the church is supposed to play! If that is true, we cannot abdicate our responsibility, leave our post, and walk away from our calling, handing it over to another entity and then be righteously angry about the decisions others make.
When morality, the kind that used to be agreed upon in general when I was a child, when it started to slip away and be eroded from our culture and the fabric of our country, where was the church? If we were asleep, those were sins of omission that need to be confessed and repented of.
How about verse 7? 7 No one calls on your name or strives to lay hold of you; for you have hidden your face from us and made us waste away because of our sins.
Have we really prayed for our country? Have we really prayed for our leaders? Have we really prayed for our community? Have we really prayed for change? Or have we just prayed for our protection, for our safety? Have we just asked God to put us in a little bubble or have we asked Him to put us on the front lines to make a difference? How honest will we be about our prayerlessness?
It’s time to rely on God’s Covenant.
Verse 8 reminds us that God is our Father. Several times in Scripture when God was reminded (not that He forgot) but when His covenant with His people was reiterated it brought about action. If anything relying on God’s covenant should give us hope. God has made promises to us in covenant with us, and He WILL KEEP THOSE PROMISES.
I know things are getting tough. But, we don’t have to be afraid. God hasn’t left us as orphans. We have not been abandoned. The Holy Spirit lives in us. We will be empowered to endure until the end of time. We are armed with all we need to push back the powers of darkness. God isn’t finished working in the world. Every great revival, every sweeping cultural reform, even in times worse than what we are facing, began with God’s people praying for God to see, hear, and remember them! II Chronicles 7:14 “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 I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”
The world doesn’t have to confess or admit anything. They don’t have to repent of anything. They don’t have to want or think revival is even necessary. God’s work in the world doesn’t depend on any government doing the right thing. It depends on God’s people praying! This is a promise from God in Scripture. How serious are we about seeking Him in order to bring healing to our world?
It’s Time to Be Remolded into God’s People
Look at the second half of verse 8: We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand. When God envisioned the concept of the church, what did He imagine the church would look like? How did He imagine we would be used of Him? How much different do we look than His original design?
As I have been dieting I have been reading a devotional called “Devotions for Dieters.” The author talked about this very concept, and it has been a real “aha” for me. He said we should ask God, “What did you have in mind when you created my frame? How much weight did You design for me to carry, God? What did I look like on your blueprints?” God began to deal with me about that. Rather than focusing on weight loss, I have decided to focus on becoming what God intended all along.
Shouldn’t we take that approach as the church? He is the Potter. We are the clay. Ok. It makes for a great song lyric, but do we really let Him shape us? Do we let Him grow us and change us? Do we let Him challenge the attitudes, actions, and habits we have just gotten used to? Do we seek to be informed by His Word? Do we let Him control our finances and decisions? Do we ask for His will to be done in our relationships and business practices? Is He just who we worship on Sundays or is He Lord in our daily lives?
I was sent to this passage in Isaiah 64 after Emily Stiltner posted the opening of Isaiah 65 on her FB page. I wanted to read more and God led me to this message. Look at Isaiah 65 as I close:
Isaiah 65:1-3 1 “I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me; I was found by those who did not seek me. To a nation that did not call on my name, I said, ‘Here am I, here am I.’ 2 All day long I have held out my hands to an obstinate people, who walk in ways not good, pursuing their own imaginations– 3 a people who continually provoke me to my very face…”
I read those verses and thought, “That is us. That is America. We are a nation that used to call on God’s name, but no more. We have been obstinate. We have walked in ways not good. We pursued and continue to pursue our own imaginations, our own ideas of what is good and right, and that latest FB page I commented on was a startling example of how in God’s face we have become.
Don’t you think it is time we do what we can to ask God to do all He can to see things change? “Oh, God that you would rend the heavens and come down!”