A Heart for God
Sermon Series: Isaiah: Judgment & Hope
Scripture Reading: Isaiah 29:9-14
Sermon Title: A Heart for God
Memory Verse: Because Your lovingkindness is better than life, my lips will praise You. (Psalm 63:3)
NOTE: “Scripture quotations are from the NASB." This manuscript is provided as a courtesy and is not intended for publication. The recorded audio/video message differs from the manuscript. Thanks for understanding.
The people of Jerusalem lack affection for God
Chapter 28-35 are written around 20 years into Isaiah’s ministry. They consist of six woes. The first woe is woe to Ephraim, the northern kingdom. The second woe in Isaiah 29:1 is a proclamation of condemnation to Ariel, the city where David once camped.
Ariel is Jerusalem. Ariel has two meanings in Hebrew. It is not known if Isaiah intends to be naming Jerusalem, “the Lion of God,” or “the Hearth of God.” Both are debated. Either way, the main idea of the passage is not changed. God is pronouncing woe upon Jerusalem. The reason is in verse 13.
- … “Because this people draw near with their words and honor Me with their lip service, but they remove their hearts far from Me, and their reverence for Me consists of tradition learned by rote, (Isaiah 29:13)
This verse may sound familiar to us because Jesus quotes this verse to the Pharisees of His day (Matthew 15:8-9). They were much like the people of Judah and Jesus pronounces woe upon them as well.
God’s people are going through the motions of religion. They are doing what they are supposed to do, such as give tithes to the priests and making a sacrifice for their sins, but in their religious acts, they are not loving God. Their heart is far from God.
Our heart and our affections
The Bible never talks about the human heart as being the organ which pumps blood in the body. In the Bible, the heart is the control-center of our affections. From our heart flows love, desire, fondness, cravings, and passion.
Our feelings of affection have varying degrees of intensity. The more intense our affection, the more valuable the object and the more we are willing to sacrifice to have it.
Jesus says, where your treasure is, that is where your heart is (Matthew 6:21). In other words, the things we value and treasure, we love. As any wife knows, “the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.”
Our love of things, our affections, direct our life. We make continual choices based on what we love. For example, we may hate the snowy weather of New England, but we may live here because we love being near family. Our affection for our family is greater than our affection for a warmer climate. We may love to sleep in on Saturdays, but, we may wake up very early during hunting season. We hate high car payments, but we love a new vehicle.
We make choices depending upon our affections. Which of these is a greater affection:
- A bath or shower?
- A blockbuster movie or a walk in the park?
- A McDonalds hamburger or a giant Snickers bar?
- The Red Sox or the Yankees?
We make choices every hour, and our choices are always guided by our heart. Everyone is tempted when we are carried away and enticed by what we desire (James 1:14).
King David is an example of someone who has affection for God
King David has great affections for God. God says that David is a man after His own heart (1 Sam. 13:14). God sees David’s heart and affection for Him. We know of David’s heart because of what he says.
- I said to the LORD, “You are my Lord; I have no good besides You.” (Psalm 16:2)
Imagine David is talking about someone we know. We walk by and hear him say, “I have no good apart from you.” Wow. He must treasure and love that person.
Here is another (of many) expression about David’s love for God:
- Because Your lovingkindness is better than life, my lips will praise You. (Psalm 63:3)
When our affections for God exceed life, then our affections for God are at the highest peak of passion. God’s lovingkindness is of greater value to David than anything in this world. David would rather have God’s lovingkindness than gold or silver, his family, position as king, or health. David loves God.
We know what is in David’s heart because his lips give evidence. David’s heart is filled with affection for God and his lips spill out words of praise. Jesus says, out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks (Matthew 12:34).
The greatest commandment
One more important thought on the topic of affections. The reason the people of Judah fall short and why God will punish them is because they fail to love God.
It is not acceptable to have a heart with no affection for God. The greatest commandment in Scripture is to love God with all our heart, mind, and strength (Matthew 12:30). The people of Judah are guilty of breaking the greatest commandment.
What does it mean to love God with all our heart, mind, and strength?
If the people of Judah love God with all their heart, everything in their heart is governed by God. They will love what God loves. God loves holiness, so they should love holiness. God hates idols, and they should hate idols. God desires justice, so they should desire justice. They are guilty of not loving what God loves.
If the people of Judah love God with all their mind, they will study the arts and sciences to promote God’s glory. Their intellectual endeavors are to be born out of their love for God. They are to banish from their understanding and memory every useless, foolish, and dangerous thought and every idea which defiles the soul and causes them to fall away from God. If they love God with their mind, they never think of entertaining evil thoughts or evil ideas. Their mind will be fixed continually upon how they may please God. The people of Judah do not love God with their mind.
If the people of Judah love God with all their strength, they will exercise and eat to the glory of God. They will use their God-given muscles, talents, skills, and influence to advance their relationship with God. Their hands and feet belong to Him. Their sweat and labor are joyfully spent for Him. Their army marches and their homes are built for God’s glory and fame.
God is not pleased. The people of Judah do not love God with all their heart, mind, or strength. He pronounces woe to Jerusalem because their heart is far from God. Their visits to the temple are only out of tradition, not to give Him glory. They enjoy eating the feasts of the covenant, but do not enjoy the God of the feasts.
God is to be our all in all; He is to be our everything. It is not an option. God commands that we have a heart full of affection for Him. We may not have a divided heart; half for this world and for God.
God will do a work in His people
Because the people of Jerusalem do not love God with all their heart, God will deal marvelously with them.
- Therefore behold, I will once again deal marvelously with this people, wondrously marvelous; and the wisdom of their wise men will perish, and the discernment of their discerning men will be concealed.” (Isaiah 29:14)
God sees their condition, and He will do a work in them so that they may love God. If God does nothing, they will not love Him. The Bible is clear. There is none who seeks after God by their own will (Romans 3:11). If we love God, it is only because God loves us first (1 John 4:19). We do not love God naturally, so God must do a work in our heart. God will deal marvelously with His people.
The sin of pride is an ongoing theme of Isaiah. Isaiah speaks about pride from the beginning of the book. Prideful people do not love God. God’s work is to make the wisdom and discernment of men perish.
The reason God will do this is that the proud people of Judah think they are wise and discerning and they are not. Their pride gets in their way and makes them spiritually blind. Verses 9-12 tell us that they do not recognize God’s wisdom. God’s word to them is like giving someone a sealed book and telling them to read it but they can’t because it is sealed (v.11). Or, it is like giving a person a book, but they cannot read (v.12). Their pride makes them blind.
God will humble Jerusalem for heartless religion
Isaiah reveals how God will deal wondrously marvelous with His people at the beginning of the chapter.
- 2 I will bring distress to Ariel, and she will be a city of lamenting and mourning; and she will be like an Ariel to me. 3 I will camp against you encircling you, and I will set siegeworks against you, and I will raise up battle towers against you. 4 Then you will be brought low; from the earth you will speak, and from the dust where you are prostrate your words will come. Your voice will also be like that of a spirit from the ground, and your speech will whisper from the dust. (Isaiah 29:2-4)
Isaiah prophecies that a great siege will overtake the city. Jerusalem will be surrounded by enemies. The siege will open their eyes, so they realize the foolishness of their ways. The alliance with Assyria will not save them. God will humble them, so they realize just how weak and foolish they are without Him. They will be brought so low, it will seem that when they speak, the ground is speaking and not them!
God will show His sovereignty
After they are humbled, God does a wondrous work. A wondrous work is the Old Testament way of saying God will do a miracle.
- 5 But the multitude of your enemies will become like fine dust, and the multitude of the ruthless ones like the chaff which blows away; and it will happen instantly, suddenly. 6 From the Lord of hosts you will be punished with thunder and earthquake and loud noise, with whirlwind and tempest and the flame of a consuming fire. (Isaiah 29:5-6)
Isaiah prophecies that the Lord of hosts will bring thunder, earthquake, whirlwind, tempest, and a consuming fire upon the enemies. The prophecy gives Isaiah great credibility. A year or two after this prophecy, the siege takes place. And, just as Isaiah says, the Lord of hosts does a miracle. A heavenly host of the Lord singlehandedly, suddenly, and instantly kills 185,000 men in the Assyrian army.
God shows the people of Judah it is He they should trust. The wisdom of the people of Judah fails. Their alliance fails. Their army fails. But, God does not fail. In their humility, God realigns the hearts of the people of Judah. They see His sovereignty amidst their humble state. Their fear of Him returns and God becomes a valuable treasure in the hearts of His people.
As He changes the heart of His people, God punishes the enemies of Judah for turning against the Israelites. Assyria and allies will not realize their dream of being satisfied with the riches of Jerusalem
- 7 And the multitude of all the nations who wage war against Ariel, even all who wage war against her and her stronghold, and who distress her, will be like a dream, a vision of the night. 8 It will be as when a hungry man dreams— and behold, he is eating; but when he awakens, his hunger is not satisfied, or as when a thirsty man dreams— and behold, he is drinking, but when he awakens, behold, he is faint and his thirst is not quenched. Thus the multitude of all the nations will be who wage war against Mount Zion. (Isaiah 29:7-8)
God’s people learn through lamenting, mourning, and humility. Their pride vanishes, and they humbly see and worship the glory of God.
God’s Work of Humility is for our Good
What may we learn from this passage? From conversations with people in the church, we know we are people who believe in the sovereignty of God. We know God is miraculous. Everyone here has great confidence in God and His ability to do wonderous works. The people of Judah forgot about God’s sovereignty, and they slipped away from their confidence in God. We need to make sure we don’t slip away as they did.
What brought about the decline in their love of God? God reveals that the enemy of Judah is not the Assyrians. The enemy of God’s people is their pride. God hates pride and, God will go to great lengths to humble His people. God’s people learn humility through lamenting and mourning. He desires for their pride to vanish and that they see their weakness God’s glory.
- Everyone who is proud in heart is an abomination to the LORD; assuredly, he will not be unpunished. (Proverbs 16:5)
We can learn from the decline of the people of Judah. We also may be slowly led away by our pride. If Jesus is our Lord and Savior, we have the advantage of God’s Holy Spirit. We will not be led completely astray. Our salvation is secure. We will not lose our salvation.
But, those who are in Christ still must be warned against pride. We are not immune to the dangers of pride and our pride will bring about God’s punishment (because He loves us).
We can never speak too much about pride. Pride is especially evident amongst those who are American. When God grants us success, pride is evident. And, pride is especially evident among those who are reformed in their doctrine. We must be very vigilant to guard against pride.
James teaches that the source of our quarrels and conflicts among us is our heart seeking to satisfy our desires for those things we want. When we strongly desire something, and we don’t have it, we are willing to sin so that we may have it. Why do we get angry at people? Maybe our heart has an affection for respect, and that person doesn’t show us respect. Maybe we enjoy food and we see someone take the bigger piece of cake.
James says the answer is humility. We are to humble ourselves in the sight of the Lord. God is opposed to the proud but gives grace to the humble. (James 4:1-10)
It is important for us to understand the relationship between pride and our love for God. Our pride gets in the way of our loving God with all our heart, mind, and strength.
Think of how pride damages our affections for God. Pride has us think and live as though we don’t need God as much as we do. Pride makes us independent, so we don’t live under God’s authority or obey His commands. Pride makes us think we are wise and discerning. People with pride don’t pray as they should for God’s wisdom. People who think themselves to be wise don’t study God’s word to seek His wisdom. People with pride don’t need or listen to the counsel of others.
We might say, “I am so glad I don’t have pride like the people of Judah. My pride is under control.” Here are a few questions we may ask ourselves.
- How much do I pray and ask for God’s help?
- How often do I give thanks and recognize God’s providence?
- How much do I study the Bible to understand God’s purpose and plan for my life?
- How independent do I live from God?
- Am I teachable and accountable to others in the Body of Christ?
Listen carefully. We have no love or affection for the things we don’t need. What do we do with things we don’t need? They end up in the rubbish.
We might say, “I don’t put God on the rubbish pile” and we would agree with anyone in this church who would say that. We love God. He is important to us. The question is, how important? Where does God sit on our affection scale? May we say, like David says, “Because Your lovingkindness is better than life, my lips will praise You” (Psalm 63:3)? Is God our all in all? How much do we love the world?
Love God Humbly
God’s word offers instruction on how we may battle pride. The people of Philippi did not love God as they should, and it showed in the way they argued and complained.
- 3Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; 4 do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. 5 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. 8 Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Philippians 2:3-8)
There are five simple commands to help us love God in this passage.
- Do nothing from selfishness or conceit (v.3).
- Regard others as more important than ourselves (v.3).
- Don’t just look out for our interests, but also the interests of others (v.4).
- Don’t seek a high position but be a servant. Become empty in our importance (v. 6-7)
- Be obedient to God, even to the point of death (v.8).
Memorize this passage. (I did a few years ago, but I forgot it already. You are welcome to hold me accountable.) Read it often. If we follow these simple instructions every day, we will be pleasing to God. Our love for God will increase. We will better understand God’s heart.
We can’t do this on our own. We must start by humbly asking God for His help. We need to die to self, daily. In seeking humility, our affections for God will grow. We will grow in our obedience to love God with all our heart, mind, and strength.
MAIN IDEA: Plead with God for a humble heart which genuinely loves Him.