Salvation in Isaiah 29
The word WOE communicates to the reader a state of heavy calamity, of grief, misery and sorrow. Isaiah 28 was Woe to Ephraim – Isaiah 29 tonight is Woe unto Ariel. Where is Ariel? Who is Ariel?
Ariel means “lion of God”. The lion is the King of beasts and ferocious in nature. There are references to the Lion of Judah – that the tribe of Judah was lion like in its behaviour and stature. The whole of the people of Israel were described as those who “would rise up as a great lion” (Numbers 23). Men who are brave are noted to be “valiant, whose heart is as the heart of a lion,” (2 Samuel 17). Old Job said that God had “hunted him like a fierce lion” (Job 10) and in Proverbs 19 v 12 the king’s wrath is as the roaring of a lion;
So why is there woe pronounced against the lion?
It is because Jerusalem, the beautiful city, capital of Judah, the place where God had promised to come down to dwell with His people in His temple, is the place of the burnt sacrifice with all of its symbolism. A lion devours – but so does an altar of sacrifice – burnt offering – fire devours. Ariel therefore depicts Jerusalem, the place where King David lived, with all of its rich meaning.
So verses 1-3 spell out this woe. Something dreadful is going to happen to Jerusalem. God is saying through Isaiah that He intends to turn the whole city into a burnt sacrifice – because of Jerusalem’s rebellion! The people had rebelled the same as Ephraim that we read about last week in Isaiah 28.
One scholar thinks that this is a prediction of the Fall of Jerusalem in AD 70 when the Romans came and devastated the rebellious capital of the Jews. Another, points to Sennacherib’s siege in 701 BC. Still others conclude that Isaiah is dealing with spiritual conflicts and their consequences. He is involving a world view, centred on Jerusalem that includes the coming of the Messiah and the establishment of His kingdom. The lesson from this and the following chapters when speaking of the woes is that man is to look to God’s word and His deeds and to see Him at work in the events of history. Jerusalem (Zion) will be threatened and brought low – but not destroyed. The Lord God is in control as he works out his eternal purpose in and through man.
The first 12 verses describe this predicted devastation as
1. Fullness of Woe.
Verse 3 speaks of a siege and garrisons stationed outside the walls that will prevent people going out and coming in to the city. This is all intended to bring the proud people living in Jerusalem to a humbled position. Verse 4 is interesting – mediums who claim to summon and consult with the dead deceive their clients by speaking in a weak thin voice, sometimes using ventriloquism as though the words were coming out of the ground.
But then verses 5 – 8 change tack and describe how the Lord God brings low the heathen idolatrous nations who fight against Ariel, Jerusalem. Verse 6 is all too familiar – the natural forces of God’s nature conspire at God’s word to bring about terrible destructions on these nations. None can withstand Jehovah’s power when it breaks out – when it erupts like a volcano.
After all this woe one would think that the people of the city would be impressed, fear God and mend their ways! But it does not happen that way. The people were singularly unimpressed – they display a stupid spirit of dull apathy when Isaiah speaks. Verse 9 –10. They stumble around in darkness!
Verse 11 uses the illustration of a scroll with writing on it. To these contempories of Isaiah’s the whole vision and prophecy is nothing but words sealed in a scroll. There is some irony in theses verses that must not escape us – If the scroll is given to a man who CAN read he will say that he cannot read it because it is sealed. And if it is given to a man who CANNOT read he will say that he cannot read it because he doesn’t know how to read.
Isaiah is saying that the people are spiritually blind and illiterate. In this situation men in any age, yes in 2003, will grasp for any excuse for ignoring God’s revelation.
This fullness of woe is grave. God had revealed Himself and His plan for his people over and over again. He showed them through the prophets his purposes for them even for the City of David, Ariel. But they did not respond to the magnificent truths of His holiness and power. They were like a people in a deep sleep; their eyes were sealed and they could not see.
Moving from the fullness of woe we find next a classic description of Atheism. Characterised firstly by
2. False Worship.
Atheism has been around as long as the world. Adam and Eve were infected with this when they disobeyed God and acted without fear of God. Atheism is often described as not believing in God – of having no God, and of saying that there is no god. But when we think of the nature of the human being true atheism is impossible. We have been made worshipping creatures. We have the capacity to worship – something if not God. Some call themselves atheists, but make a god of themselves or their possessions. Religious people can act in atheistic ways, and atheistic people can behave in religious ways.
The Lord Jesus Christ quoted verse 13 when he addressed the scribes and Pharisees in Mark 7 after they had criticised the disciples for eating bread with unwashed hands. Their legalism and heartless worship classified them as atheists – they did not know God!
13 Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men:
True worship was absent from these men’s hearts – there was lip service but no real fear and reverence – which is an ever present danger for us who love the Lord Jesus Christ too – let us be on our guard and make sure that our worship is ever genuine and from the heart! Empty religion never goes un-noticed by the Sovereign Lord. Hypocrisy and formality in worship is a fruit of people’s spiritual darkness and deep sleep. We must not confuse empty formalism with godly reverence and fear. Worship must come from the heart and be motivated by LOVE for the Lord God. We have been thinking about this on Tuesday evenings.
The next aspect of Atheism is
3. Failed Wisdom.
Verse 14 – men thought themselves to be wiser than God. In his own wisdom apart from God’s wisdom, man is doomed to failure – and his failure will be exposed. Paul challenged this false wisdom in 1 Corinthians 1 v 19 – 24.
19 For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent. 20 Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? 21 For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. 22 For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: 23 But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; 24 But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.
4. Futile Works.
Verse 15. Atheistic people, who say that there is no God and therefore they are not under any scrutiny by any higher power, are according to the prophet foolish! Woe to them he says – those who think they can hide from God. “Who sees us? Who will know what we are doing?” This is always the reasoning of the wicked atheistic person. My friends our nation, the nations of Europe and the nations of the world are basically atheistic in their viewpoint today. Any nation who leaves God out of the picture will fail. Any group of people who think that they can act and plan apart from God is doomed to fall – because God knows all things and controls all things. Why won’t people see it? Why won’t Kings and Queens and presidents see it? Man’s grand schemes to run his world completely ignore that fact that this is God’s world.
5. Feeble Words.
The common view in our atheistic world today is that man is God – that he rules the world. This Isaiah says is upside down! What a perversion of the truth this is. Sin has so perverted man’s mind that he refuses to believe that He is a creature – He made me not is the cry of every evolutionist! Those who believe in the big bang and deny the existence of a Sovereign creator have, according to Isaiah, no understanding! Since God is infinite Man has no ground on which to argue with God. We are not made they say – we just happened! What a blind belief that is – and all in the interest of avoiding responsibility towards this creator! What feeble words the evolutionist atheist has!
The Bible, God’s word, has an answer to all this atheism – and that is the Gospel of Grace! The Good news that comes through the life and death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Fruitful Words of the Gospel.
V 17 Is it not yet a very little while, and Lebanon shall be turned into a fruitful field, and the fruitful field shall be esteemed as a forest? 18 And in that day shall the deaf hear the words of the book, and the eyes of the blind shall see out of obscurity, and out of darkness. 19 The meek also shall increase their joy in the LORD, and the poor among men shall rejoice in the Holy One of Israel.
Jesus Christ came as a light into a dark atheistic world. Whenever he comes to the individual soul of a man or woman the gloom and darkness of natural atheism is dispelled and the blind will see and the deaf will hear. Those who could not read will learn how to read. The scroll will be unsealed and the Scriptures become an open book to everyone who believes!
Do you know this experience my friend? I remember the difference that becoming a Christian made to reading the scriptures. Perhaps you find the Bible too difficult a book for you – well, when you are saved all will be revealed. God will give you enough light and information to enable you know the Lord Jesus and to know your responsibility to repent of your sins.
Isaiah spoke of a scroll that was sealed. Revelation 5 speaks of a scroll too which has seals. Only the Lamb who was slain could break the seals. A song was sung by the four creatures and the 24 elders –
9 And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; 10 And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth.
Do you know the Lamb that was slain? Who is he? He is the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. He is the one set apart to be the saviour of sinful men. A lamb is a sacrifice – but it has to be an acceptable sacrifice – a spotless lamb – a perfect lamb – the firstling from the flock. Innocent and pure – clean and acceptable to God.
The Lord Jesus Christ the God Man qualified in every respect – perfect and holy – sinless and pure.
He was therefore the one who could be qualified to open the truth of salvation, contained in the scroll of truth, and reveal it to His people – true believers.
But it was he who was also qualified to become sin on our behalf – to suffer as a substitute.
This is what he did my friends – Jesus died for sinners.
Has He died for you? Has He opened your blind eyes yet? Have your deaf ears been opened to the truth of His Gospel?
It is only through this Lamb of God that you have any hope in this life and the one to come.
How can you know Him?
First you must believe that He exists. If you are an atheist this evening that is the first thing that you must acknowledge – that God is the creator – His son is the, maker of the universe – we did not just happen!
Then when you have believed that He exists you must know what he is like – He is holy, perfect and righteous – all powerful and mighty. And you and I compared to him are but dust!
After this there must come a dawning in your mind and soul that you are estranged from Him and have been since you existed – this estrangement has come about through your sin – you need to repent of that and you need to reach out to Him and seek His forgiveness and grace, ask for His pardon for your many sins.
Will you trust Him tonight my friend? Go to Him – as soon as you can – confess your sins to Him and ask Him to save you and find in Him the one who will change your life forever – so that you may worship Him with all of your heart and soul and mind!