God’s Chosen Witnesses
September 16, 2018
The Bride of Christ
The Bible speaks of those who are God’s children as the bride of Christ. We are familiar with the New Testament references. But, we must also remember that the Old Testament also speaks of those who are God’s children as the bride of Christ.
The bride of Christ consists of those who put their faith in the Messiah. Being born as a descendant of Abraham is not an automatic pass to be the bride of Christ. Ishmael and Esau are a testimony to this truth. Also, not being born of Abraham does not exclude us from being the bride of Christ. The bride of Christ consists of those who are Jew or Gentile who put their faith in Christ.
The book of Isaiah is about the life of the bride of Christ during Old Testament times. Sadly, Isaiah writes chapter after chapter telling us of the sinful Israelites. They are a nation of people specially chosen by God to be the betrothed bride to His Beloved Son. Despite God the Father blessing the chosen bride for centuries, the bride-to-be turns her back on the Father. She scorns and rebels against the marriage covenant God makes with her. She boasts with pride about her accomplishments that she never would achieve had she not been betrothed to God’s Son.
She is a scandal in the Universe the Father created. She is a liar, cheat, and deceives in the courtroom and the marketplace. She has no regard for widows or orphans. She is an adulterer who commits blasphemous treason against God by embracing and worshipping false gods. God, the Father is within His right and perfectly just to call off the wedding and have the betrothed bride forever condemned.
God is Glorious
In stark comparison to the sinful bride Israel, Isaiah reveals a glorious revelation of the God of the universe. God is painted as the glorious, majestic, and powerful Creator. He is a holy God sitting on His throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple. Seraphim stand above Him, and they call out to another saying, “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of hosts, the whole earth is full of His glory.”
Isaiah reveals that God the Father is powerful. He sovereignly and providentially moves kings and armies about the earth like they are pieces in a chess match. He raises armies up and sets them down. His sovereign power extends to the entire universe as He controls the directions of the stars, calling to them by name. There is nothing that may stand in His way and obstruct His purpose and plan.
Isaiah gives us a vision of God’s coming Kingdom. The Kingdom is created for the bride. The ruler of the Kingdom is the Son who sits on the throne of David on Mount Zion. All the nations of the world journey to His throne and the knowledge of Him fills the earth as the waters cover the seas. The King ushers in eternal peace and joy. Swords turn into plowshares. Deserts bloom with lush grass. The lion and oxen eat straw together in the field. There is no want, but only bountiful blessings.
We may imagine the angels of heaven whispering. “Why doesn’t the Father to break off the marriage covenant. He is God and may create another bride for His Son. These Israelites are not worthy. God is not wrong in calling off the marriage because they did not live up to the covenant.” And, as we hear them whisper, we cannot help but agree.
But, God’s ways are not our ways. God’s thoughts are not our thoughts. He is operating on a level that is a billion times greater. God has a purpose, and a plan and His is far more glorious and wiser than we may imagine. Isaiah gives us insight into God’s glorious purpose and plan.
Call to the Witnesses of the World
As the purpose and plan of God unfold, He desires that His plan is made known. He desires to spread His glory throughout the earth. Knowledge of God’s plan is the best thing for this world is for God’s glory to be made known.
God seeks to compare His plan with the plan of men. He wants to compare His plan with the plan of the gods of men. God calls out the spiritually blind and deaf people of the world. They are blind and deaf because they can’t see or hear the things of God. They are ignorant of His truth. They don’t worship Him as Creator, but they worship false gods; idols made by men.
Just as He does in chapter 41[i], God summons the gods of this world to state their case. It’s as though God is saying, “All of you who worship these gods, come and be a witness for the gods so we may know that they are worthy of worship. As a witness, give testimony to how your gods declare the future or how they explain the past. Sit on the witness stand in this great courtroom of the earth and present justifiable evidence that your god is a true god worthy of glory.”
If they are unable to present witnesses to justify their worship of false gods, then they have only one alternative. The need to hear the testimony of the witnesses of the God of Israel and say, “It is true.”
God is making a bold statement. We have a crude way of saying it in our culture. We might say something like, “put up or shut up.” Either your god is a god, or they are not. And if they are not, and the God of Israel is the one true God, then you need to agree.
There is only one truth. All religions may not be right. Christianity claims to be an exclusive religion. The God of the Bible leaves no room for other gods. Either He is God or He is not. And, if He is God, there are no other gods.
When is the last time we asked people to explain how their god prophecies? It is a great question to ask when sharing our faith.
Israelites are God’s Witnesses and Chosen Servant
As God calls to the other nations to be witnesses for the other gods, He calls upon His people to be His witnesses. He says, “You are My witnesses and My servant whom I have chosen.”
Being a witness is a position. A witness is a person who gives testimony. God chooses His witness, and they have a testimony to give. Every child of God is a witness with a testimony.
Every witness is given an assignment. This passage sums it up nicely. They are to know, believe, and understand that God is the one True God.
To know is to have an intimate relationship. God wants to know us, and He wants us to know Him. He wants us to be familiar with Him. When we have an intimate relationship with someone, we know what they like and dislike. We spend time with the person. We seek to please the person. We serve them. Think of an ideal marriage relationship, and we get the idea of what it is like to have an intimate relationship.
God wants us to believe in Him. Without faith, it is impossible to please God. And, God wants us to understand that He is God. As a witness, we are to be able to explain His purpose and plan. We are to be able to proclaim to others the gospel. We are to study the Bible to show ourselves as an approved servant.
In the text, we find basic truths we are to know and understand. We are to know that God is the Alpha and the Omega, He is the beginning and the end. There are no gods before Him nor any gods coming after Him. He is eternal.
God is the only God who may deliver us and save us from our enemies. Our enemies are spiritual; we have an enemy who prowls around like a lion seeking to devour those who are weak. And, we have the enemies of sin and death. God defeats them all and saves us from condemnation. There is no Savior besides God.
Furthermore, God is powerful. When God’s mighty right arm saves us from our enemies, there is none who may snatch us out of His hand. Jesus quotes this truth in John 10:29, when He says God gives Jesus His disciples, and “My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one can snatch them out of the Father's hand.”
When God acts, there is no god who may reverse what He accomplishes. Nobody may make crooked what God makes straight.
Witnesses of God’s Blessings to His People
God tells His people His purpose and plan. He speaks to His people as their Redeemer. He tells them that He will go to Babylon and bring down everyone as though they are fugitives. It has a “The Sheriff is coming to town” ring to it. All of them will be defeated, including the Chaldeans who put their faith in their fleet of ships. They will lay down never to get up again. The flame of the wick of the Babylon army will be snuffed out and extinguished forever.
God’s witnesses are to say, the Lord our Redeemer tells us this will happen. He is the Holy One of Israel. Notice how the passage says, “Thus says the Lord, Who makes a way through the sea and a path through the mighty waters, Who brings forth the chariot and the horse, the army and the mighty man.”
We need to ask ourselves when we are sharing about God, how often do we speak of God as the one controlling the armies and the tanks? It seems God wants us to speak this way. He wants us to be bold in saying that He is the One who is controlling the events of the world.
In addition to bringing down the Babylonians, God promises He will do something new for His people. He tells the Israelites not to think about what He did in the past. He is going to do new work.
He is going to make a roadway in the wilderness and spring forth rivers in the desert. This means He is going to make do a work that will make things good for His people. Having a road in the wilderness makes the going easier. Having rivers in the desert means we will never be in a place where we will thirst.
But, God is not talking about a physical road or river. He is talking about a new spiritual work. He is going to do something He has not done before. He is going to make a new creation. The Apostle Paul alludes to this verse when he says, “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
God is going to make His people new creatures. He is going to give drink to His chosen people. And, when God does this new spiritual work, His people will declare His praise. All of creation will rejoice at the revealing of the sons and daughters of glory.
Witnesses of Grace
Isaiah explains this new work later in the passage, but first, he talks about something else. He wants the people to know that this new work is an undeserved work. There is nothing the people of God have done to deserve God’s blessing.
If anything, the people of God are undeserving of God’s goodness. Just as we discussed in the beginning, God’s chosen bride for His Son is unworthy of God’s favor. They don’t call upon God and even become weary of talking about Him to one another. They don’t fulfill the covenant by bringing offerings and sacrifices.
God’s covenant of offerings and sacrifices are not given to the bride as a burden. They don’t have to follow the covenant because it is extra work. The covenant is what brings them great blessings. It is a way for the bride to have a life of prosperity and blessing. But that is not how the bride sees it. She sees fulfilling the covenant as a chore which brings her no joy.
Instead of finding joy in the relationship with the Father, the bride has only given back to the Father disrespect, disloyalty, and disobedience. She burdens God with her sins, and God is grown weary of her iniquities.
God’s Word of Grace
God does an incredible work by forgiving the sins of the bride. God wipes out her transgressions. He does it, not for the bride, but for His own sake. She is called by His name, and God will not allow His name to be marred by the sins of the bride.
God wipes out the sins of the bride and promises not to remember them.
God makes it clear to His people that the forgiveness of sins is nothing they deserve. He says to them, let’s put everything that has taken place with God in remembrance. Let’s argue our case together. If you think the forgiveness is justified, argue your case and prove yourself right.
God says, “Your first forefather sinned.” He is talking about Adam. The first man to have a relationship with God, is he guilty and undeserving of forgiveness or is he innocent? May Adam stand before the throne of God and say, “My sins must be wiped away for my sake because I am innocent.” We know the answer to that question. Adam is guilty of sin. He has no grounds for a pardon.
God continues by saying every person who is a spokesman for mankind is also guilty. As we go through the list of people, we may not find one person who speaks on behalf of mankind as being worthy of a pardon. No one may stand before the throne of God and say, “My sins must be wiped away for my sake because I am innocent.”
Even after salvation, we still are a scandal in the Universe our Father created. As the bride of Christ, none of us may say we are free from sin. We still lie, cheat, and deceive. Too often we overlook the needs of others because they are an inconvenience. None of us may say we are free of idols. God, the Father is within His right and perfectly just to call off the wedding and have His betrothed bride forever condemned.
But, the gospel is not about how good we may be, but it is about God’s forgiveness and mercy. God wipes away our sin, not for our sake, but for His sake. We are the bride of Christ, and we are chosen to carry His name into eternity. For God’s glory, He wipes away our sins and remembers them no more.
The book of Isaiah is about the coming together of this great, powerful, and glorious God and the sinful, immoral, unthankful, and idolatrous Israelites. It is about the perfect goodness of a holy God and the grossly disobedient and rebellious people and how God turns all things into good for those who He loves.
We are recipients of an incredible, undeserving work of grace. Our witness to the nations is based first and foremost on God’s deliverance He gives us from our sin. We may talk about God’s miraculous work to free His people from bondage in Egypt. We may witness of how God brings His people as conquerors into the Promised Land. But the greatest witness, the witness of the church to the nations, is that God offers forgiveness of sins for those who put their faith in Him.
Not one of God’s people is deserving. As Jonathan Edwards says, “You contribute nothing to your salvation except the sin that made it necessary.” To God be the glory.
These words in this passage are one of the reasons for us to go through this incredible book. Isaiah presents an incredible, God-glorifying, God-centered gospel. In today’s culture, a man-centered gospel is rampant in the church. But, for those who know and understand the book of Isaiah, they will never make the mistake of making too little of God and too much of man. Again, we say, “to God be the glory!”
Witnesses Empowered by God’s Spirit
After talking about the undeserved salvation of grace, the passage turns back to speak of the new work God will do in His people. The new work is the pouring out of His Holy Spirit into all those who are the bride of Christ. God knows that without Him we are nothing but a dry and thirsty people. We are nothing without Him. What He will do is pour out His Holy Spirit like water on dry and thirsty land.
He begins by telling His people, again, do not fear. Don’t fear. We belong to Him. We are the bride of Christ. He helps us change to be the spotless bride. Because of His work, the chosen people of God will spring up from the pouring out of the water. They will become vibrant. They will no longer find God as burdensome nor will they be weary of His covenant. They will have new life. They will receive the empowerment of His Spirit. The same Spirit that raises Jesus from the dead will indwell in His people.
As we might expect, the pouring out of God’s Spirit will have a wonderful effect. Instead of being ashamed of God, we gladly and joyfully say, “I am the Lord’s.” The work that they do as God’s servants is joyful work. The hands the bride have on the plow have a brand, a mark, saying, “Belonging to the Lord.”
When they are in Babylon, God’s people are filled with shame. But, when God’s Spirit empowers them, they are no longer filled with shame, but they will see being part of Israel, being the bride, is a great honor and privilege.
As God’s chosen people, filled with His Holy Spirit, we may walk with our heads held high. We may say, I belong to the Lord. I am His, and He is mine.
I Am the One True God
The passage finishes with God once again speaking to the nations. “Thus says the Lord, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the Lord of hosts: ‘I am the first and I am the last,
And there is no God besides Me. ‘Who is like Me? Let him proclaim and declare it; Yes, let him recount it to Me in order, from the time that I established the ancient nation.
And let them declare to them the things that are coming and the events that are going to take place.”
If there is another God who is to be worshipped, let them tell of how they redeem their people. Have the other gods tell of how they have ordained the history of the world. Let them declare the things that are coming in the future and let them proclaim the events that are going to take place.
Again, as God’s chosen witnesses, we can see that God desires for us to tell of how God prophetically brings about the events of history. We may boldly proclaim how the prophecy of God’s word comes true. We can talk about how God prophesies the Exodus from Egypt and how God prophesies the deliverance of His people by sending Cyrus to Babylon.
Most importantly, we may talk of how God forgives sin on the cross of our Savior and how He pours out His Holy Spirit on those who put their faith in Him. No other God may make such claim. We need to boldly tell the nations to witness to us how their god delivers and then we may turn to God’s word and prove without a doubt that the Lord, King of Israel is our Redeemer. He is the lord of the hosts of angels, and He is coming again leading the armies of heaven to defeat evil and to deliver His bride to His eternal kingdom.
And You Are My Witnesses
Again, God tells us, “Do not tremble and do not be afraid; have I not long since announced it to you and declared it?”
Yes, God you have. We have a reason not to be afraid, but to be confident in declaring that You alone are God. You have told us from the beginning. We have confidence in Your holy, prophetic Word.
God says, again to His people, “You are My witnesses. Is there any God besides Me, or is there any other Rock?” God says, “I know of none.”
God is right. We know of none. He is our Rock and our Fortress. He is our mighty deliver and Savior. We have no reason to be afraid because if God is for us, who may be against us.
Go and proclaim to the world of this great God who forgives sin, not because we deserve to be forgiven, but because He is glorious!