God Keeps His Covenants
Sermon Series: Isaiah: Judgment & Hope
Scripture Reading: Matthew 13:10-17
Sermon Title: Here Am I. Send Me. (Part Two)
Sermon Text: Isaiah 6:8-13
Memory Verse: For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. (1 Cor. 1:21)
MAIN IDEA: Worship God, who in His wisdom, reveals Himself to the humble.
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.
God is Faithful to His Covenant
The Lord God is a God of covenants. He made covenants with Adam and Eve, Noah, Abraham, and the people of Israel (through Moses and David). Today, God makes a covenant with all people who put their faith in Jesus; God the Son. Those who are willing to submit to God’s covenant, God sees as humble. Those who refuse to submit to God’s covenant, God sees as proud.
When reading through the book of Isaiah, it is important for us to keep in mind two of the covenants. The first is the Abrahamic Covenant. God makes many promises to Abraham, but the most important is that God promises that Abraham’s offspring will be a blessing to all the nations (Gen. 22:18). The seed God is referring to is the Messiah, God the Son. The Abrahamic Covenant is an unconditional promise of blessing.
The second Covenant we need to keep in mind when reading Isaiah is the Mosaic Covenant. This Covenant God makes through the prophet Moses and is made with the Nation of Israel. The covenant tells how to worship God, how to love one another, and how the Israelites may receive forgiveness through sacrifices. The Mosaic Covenant is a conditional covenant of blessing and curse. God promises the Israelites that if they keep the covenant, they will be blessed. But, if the Israelites turn their backs on the covenant, they will be cursed (Deut. 28).
In the time of Isaiah, God’s people are filled with pride. They reject God and the Mosaic Covenant. God is faithful to the covenant by fulfilling His promise to curse them for not keeping the covenant. God communicates His displeasure and judgment through the prophet Isaiah. Mixed in with the message of judgment, is the message of hope. The hope is that God is faithful to the Jews because of the Abrahamic covenant, which is unconditional.
In chapter six of Isaiah, we read of how God calls Isaiah to the mission of being a prophet to the Israelites. God presents Himself to Isaiah in a vision. Through the vision, Isaiah is overwhelmed with the holiness of God and sees how he and the people are filled with sin. Isaiah declares his and the people’s condemnation for being unclean by God’s standards.
God, in His grace, cleanses Isaiah of his sin and asks, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us (Isaiah 6:8)?” Isaiah gives himself for service. He says, “Here am I. Send me.”
After Isaiah responds, God gives him his prophetic assignment.
9 He said, “Go, and tell this people: ‘Keep on listening, but do not perceive; keep on looking, but do not understand.’ 10 “Render the hearts of this people insensitive, their ears dull, and their eyes dim, otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and return and be healed.” (Isaiah 6:9-10)
God gives Isaiah the difficult task of proclaiming repentance to a people filled with pride and who refuse to listen. Isaiah is announcing judgment for breaking the Mosaic Covenant. Even though the people will not listen or see, Isaiah is to continue with his proclamation to the nation.
Because they refuse God’s call, God will break the rebellion of the nation. A repeated phrase of Isaiah is:
The proud look of man will be abased and the loftiness of man will be humbled, and the Lord alone will be exalted in that day. (Isaiah 2:11)
God will break the pride of the people by bringing them great hardship. The people Judah will be made low and humbled.
Some people, very few, will respond to Isaiah’s message. They hear God when He says, “Come now, and let us reason together (Isaiah 1:18).” They repent, and God forgives them of their sin. They will still face heartache and trials because God will punish the entire nation. However, they are still children of the living God, and they have hope of eternal life.
Most of the nation refuses to humble themselves before the Lord. They refuse God’s call to reason. Because of their refusal, God promises they will be devoured by the sword (Isaiah 1:20).
Isaiah asks God how long should he proclaim this message of judgment. God responds.
"Until cities are devastated and without inhabitant, houses are without people and the land is utterly desolate, the LORD has removed men far away, and the forsaken places are many in the midst of the land. (Isaiah 6:11-12)
God pours His wrath on Judah. God keeps His promise to curse the people and the land (Deut. 28:15). The curse is devastating. Cities become desolate. Houses have no people. The land is empty. The Kingdom of Judah looks like a ghost town. Inhabitants are few and far between. A once mighty nation becomes a wasteland.
The mighty days of being a nation of superior military strength during the reign of King David are forever gone. The great wealth of the nation that is amassed during the reign of Solomon is gone. Fields that once yielded abundant crops are unable to feed the people.
Isaiah’s prophetic ministry is not complete until the Kingdom of Judah has nothing left. Isaiah’s prophetic ministry is a message of doom and heartache. Isaiah obeys and completes his task.
After telling Isaiah to proclaim judgment, the Lord adds a final truth about what He will do with the Kingdom of Judah. God says,
Yet there will be a tenth portion in it, and it will again be subject to burning, like a terebinth or an oak whose stump remains when it is felled. The holy seed is its stump.” (Isaiah 6:13)
The losses will be a tragic 90 percent, leaving only ten percent of the people in Judah. Of those who remain, God says they will suffer a burning refinement.
God’s judgment is never His last word because God promises to fulfill His covenant of blessing. God keeps a remnant because God is faithful to His covenant with Abraham. God will bring forth the Messiah from the remnant. The latter part of Isaiah, chapters 40-66, speak more about the remnant and the holy seed which will make Israel a blessing to the other nations.
God’s promise to keep a remnant is spoken of at the very beginning of Isaiah. He writes:
Unless the Lord of hosts had left us a few survivors, we would be like Sodom, we would be like Gomorrah. (Isaiah 1:9)
Isaiah will continue to proclaim this truth throughout his ministry. “Judgment shall come; but have hope because a remnant will remain.” Judgment is taking place for breaking the Mosaic Covenant, but have hope because God will keep the Abrahamic Covenant.
The Bigger picture
The scripture of Isaiah chapter six is among the most profound sections of Scripture. It is a text we need to be familiar with because it has profound implications, even to this day. The writers of the New Testament see Isaiah six as vitally important. If we are to understand our salvation in Christ in the same way as the writers of the New Testament, then it is important for us to make the connection of God’s prophetic truth spoken to Isaiah and with what God is doing with the Nation of Israel.
700 years after Isaiah, in the first century, God makes a New Covenant (prophesied in Jeremiah 31:31-34). We know the covenant as Christianity. The basis of the New Covenant is the same as with all of God’s covenants. God reveals Himself to the humble and God resists the proud. God calls the humble to reason together with Him to have their sins forgiven. The humble recognize their need for a savior and answer the call to repentance. The proud resist God’s call, and in doing so, they are not part of the New Covenant. They are unwilling to bend their knee to God and prefer to live life under their own rules.
In the first century, just like at the time of Isaiah, the religious leaders of Israel are filled with pride. Jesus, God the Son, walks among them. He is the Messiah King. Despite how many miracles He performs or how truthful is His teaching, those filled with pride resist Jesus. They refuse to follow Him and outwardly express their rejection of Jesus as Messiah. They go so far as to say His miracles are performed by the power of Satan and not God. In doing this, they blaspheme the Holy Spirit (Matt. 12:25-32).
In the first century, just as in the time of Isaiah, a national rejection of God is occurring. Jesus identifies this rejection as being the same as in Isaiah’s time and that it is a fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy and He quotes Isaiah 6:9-10. This occurs when one of His disciples ask Him about why He speaks in parables.
Matthew, Mark (Mk. 4:10-12), and Luke (Lk. 8:9-10) record the same conversation Jesus has with His disciples and all three gospels reference Isaiah 6.
And the disciples came and said to Him, "Why do You speak to them in parables?" Jesus answered them, "To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been granted. … Therefore I speak to them in parables; because while seeing they do not see, and while hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. "In their case the prophecy of Isaiah is being fulfilled, which says, 'YOU WILL KEEP ON HEARING, BUT WILL NOT UNDERSTAND; YOU WILL KEEP ON SEEING, BUT WILL NOT PERCEIVE; FOR THE HEART OF THIS PEOPLE HAS BECOME DULL, WITH THEIR EARS THEY SCARCELY HEAR, AND THEY HAVE CLOSED THEIR EYES, OTHERWISE THEY WOULD SEE WITH THEIR EYES, HEAR WITH THEIR EARS, AND UNDERSTAND WITH THEIR HEART AND RETURN, AND I WOULD HEAL THEM.'” (Mat. 13:10-17)
Jesus speaks in parables as a fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy. Isaiah’s prophecy is continuing to be fulfilled. National Israel once again, as in the time of Isaiah, rejects God because of pride. Jesus knows God only reveals salvation to the humble, so He speaks in parables trusting God’s Holy Spirit to open the eyes of those who God calls. Jesus speaks of this earlier when He says:
“I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants.” (Matthew 11:25)
In John’s Gospel, John also tells of how the proud leaders of Israel resist God and the Messiah.
37 But though He had performed so many signs before them, yet they were not believing in Him. 38 This was to fulfill the word of Isaiah the prophet which he spoke: "LORD, WHO HAS BELIEVED OUR REPORT? AND TO WHOM HAS THE ARM OF THE LORD BEEN REVEALED?" (John 12:37-38)
John quotes the first verse of the chapter which speaks of Jesus as the suffering Messiah, Isaiah 53. Jesus is the Arm of the Lord. Yet, nobody believes the report of Jesus as the Messiah. John explains the reason for them not believing is because of Isaiah’s prophecy of the Nation of Israel resisting God just as Isaiah prophecies.
39 For this reason they could not believe, for Isaiah said again, 40 "HE HAS BLINDED THEIR EYES AND HE HARDENED THEIR HEART, SO THAT THEY WOULD NOT SEE WITH THEIR EYES AND PERCEIVE WITH THEIR HEART, AND BE CONVERTED AND I HEAL THEM." (John 12:39-40)
Another reference to Isaiah 6:9-10 occurs toward the end of the Apostle Paul’s ministry. Paul gathers the Jewish leaders of Rome to share the gospel. He tries one more time to have the Jewish community recognize Jesus as the fulfillment of the Jewish hope. But, he sees in Rome what he experiences throughout all his missionary journeys. Some Jews, a remnant, believe, but National Israel rejects the Messiah. Paul attributes their unbelief to Isaiah’s prophecy.
Some were being persuaded by the things spoken, but others would not believe. And when they did not agree with one another, they began leaving after Paul had spoken one parting word, "The Holy Spirit rightly spoke through Isaiah the prophet to your fathers, saying, 'GO TO THIS PEOPLE AND SAY, "YOU WILL KEEP ON HEARING, BUT WILL NOT UNDERSTAND; AND YOU WILL KEEP ON SEEING, BUT WILL NOT PERCEIVE; FOR THE HEART OF THIS PEOPLE HAS BECOME DULL, AND WITH THEIR EARS THEY SCARCELY HEAR, AND THEY HAVE CLOSED THEIR EYES; OTHERWISE THEY MIGHT SEE WITH THEIR EYES, AND HEAR WITH THEIR EARS, AND UNDERSTAND WITH THEIR HEART AND RETURN, AND I WOULD HEAL THEM."' "Therefore let it be known to you that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will also listen." (Acts 28:24-28)
In Paul’s treatise in the book of Romans, he explains what God is doing. Paul tells us that God is keeping a remnant, but the Nation of Israel rejects the Messiah. Paul sees some Jews coming to faith, but most reject Christ. He writes:
In the same way then, there has also come to be at the present time a remnant according to God's gracious choice. (Ro. 11:5).
He further explains, again quoting from a similar passage in Isaiah (Is. 29:10):
7 … What Israel is seeking, it has not obtained, but those who were chosen obtained it, and the rest were hardened; 8 just as it is written, "GOD GAVE THEM A SPIRIT OF STUPOR, EYES TO SEE NOT AND EARS TO HEAR NOT, DOWN TO THIS VERY DAY." (Romans 11:1-8)
But, God will not always hide salvation from the Nation of Israel. Paul explains:
25 For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery—so that you will not be wise in your own estimation—that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in; 26 and so all Israel will be saved; just as it is written, "THE DELIVERER WILL COME FROM ZION, HE WILL REMOVE UNGODLINESS FROM JACOB." 27 "THIS IS MY COVENANT WITH THEM, WHEN I TAKE AWAY THEIR SINS." (Romans 11:25-27)
Paul quotes Isaiah 59:20. He is looking past Isaiah 6 and into the latter part of Isaiah. He sees a future prophecy which needs to take place. God will take away the sins of Israel and save them.
28 From the standpoint of the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but from the standpoint of God's choice they are beloved for the sake of the fathers; 29 for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. (Romans 11:28-29)
In other words, God’s judgment on Israel is not His final word. His final word is His covenant with Abraham which says Israel will be blessed. God’s calling and gifts to the fathers of Israel, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and David are irrevocable. God will do as He promises.
- Why is it so important for the Lord to “broadcast” what is happening with Israel during the time of Isaiah and once again in the time of Jesus?
- How do we apply Isaiah 6:9-13 to our lives?
Both questions have the same answer.
The Lord desires that we understand His master plan. If we do not, we will have problems with assurance of salvation and having trust in God.
We put our faith in the Messiah of Israel. But, let’s evaluate that decision based on the relationship between God and Israel.
Everything with Israel has a great beginning. God makes a nation starting with Abraham. God promises Abraham that the nation will be great and will be a blessing to the world. Israel gets in trouble, and God rescues Israel from captivity in Egypt. God brings Israel through the wilderness, defeats their enemies, and establishes Israel as a mighty nation of superior wealth and military power. But, that’s about it. It is less than 400 years of greatness as a nation.
Around 1000 bc, Israel has a civil war and falls from power. It is overrun by the Assyrians and Babylonians. They finally come back as a nation but remain very weak. The nation has a history of defeat. They are overrun by the Romans, Byzantine, and Arabs and then disappear as a nation completely in 1100 ad.
Based on God’s promises to Abraham, why should we put our faith in the Messiah of Israel? We have no reason to trust God based on Israel’s history. At face value, it is reasonable to conclude God does not keep His promises. The fall of Israel is a failure on God’s part.
We need to have the assurance that God is faithful. Because of the book of Isaiah, we know God never abandons Israel. Israel abandons God. But, despite Israel turning from God, God remains faithful to His promises and His covenants. God keeps a remnant.
The Israelites downfall in 700ad is part of God’s plan. Israel’s turning their back on the Messiah in the first century until today is part of God’s plan. God’s plan does not get off track. God’s plan is perfect and holy.
The book of Isaiah is instrumental to our understanding of God’s big plan. Think of what we learn in reading Isaiah. We learn of how God judges idolatry and pride. We learn how God is sovereign over the nations, he whistles for a nation, and it comes swiftly to do His bidding (Isaiah 5:26). We read the beautiful prophecies of how the Messiah is to become the King of kings and the Lord of lords. Our faith in the Messiah is not misplaced but rightly placed.
There is a day coming when the Messiah will judge between the nations. People will go to the mountain of the Lord (Isaiah 2) and learn how to walk in the ways of God. Nations will stop their wars and people will turn their swords into plowshares.
Isaiah teaches us that the pride of Israel leads to their downfall. We need to learn the importance of declaring war on pride. God hates pride which is idolatry. We must always seek to be humble before God for He is high and lifted-up, the train of His robe fills the temple.
“But to this one I will look, to him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word.” (Isaiah 66:2)