God’s Work of Transformation
Trust in a Glorious God
Isaiah gives two metaphors to illustrate the nature of God and to build our faith in Him.
The first metaphor describes God as a young lion who growls over His prey (Isaiah 31:4). Isaiah describes a band of shepherds calling out and trying their best to scare away a lion. The lion is standing over its prey; perhaps livestock belonging to one of the shepherds. We can hear the lion growl like a dog with a bone, except he weighs over 500 pounds and is all muscle and claws. The lion is outnumbered by the shepherds, but he is not moving. The shepherds may shout, scream, and wave their arms all day long, but the lion stands his ground.
God does as He pleases. Those who try to move Him off His purpose and plan are like shepherds waving their arms and shouting to scare a lion off his prey. God is neither terrified or disturbed but only growls at those who oppose His will. Take note people of Judah. If God seeks to satisfy the hunger of His wrath, there is nothing to keep Him from doing what He desires.
The second metaphor reveals God as protective and loving (Isaiah 31:5). The Lord is as flying birds who protect their young in the nest. God is tenderhearted with affection for His children. Take note people of Judah. God is your loving parent who is swift-winged to protect you; His defenseless young.
The purpose of these illustrations is simple. God’s people need to trust Him. God is a sovereign, powerful lion capable of defeating enemies. God is a loving bird who cares for His young and protects them from harm.
The people of Judah fail to see God as the young lion and protective bird. Instead, they turn to Egypt for protection (Isaiah 31:1). They trust in worldly wisdom and choose to forget the long history of God’s powerful and miraculous deliverance of His children from evil.
God’s wing of protection is not enough for the people of Judah. They want help from the horses and chariots of Egypt. The more horses and chariots, the better.
Isaiah states the obvious to open their eyes to the folly of their thinking. Isaiah says, “Now the Egyptians are men and not God, and their horses are flesh and not spirit” (Isaiah 31:3). In other words, you do know they are not God, right? We have an answer for such an obvious statement. We say, “Duh!”
Isaiah tells them that the Egyptian men and their horses will fail to save them from the Assyrians. Of course, they will fail. They are not God.
Isaiah states four short truths about God (Isaiah 31:2). He writes, 1) “God is wise.” They may infer from that statement that God knows the evil of the Assyrians. 2) God “will bring disaster.” God can bring disaster to the enemy. 3) God “does not retract His words.” God does what He says He will do. 4) God will “arise against the house of evildoers.” God hates evil-doers and promises to oppose them.
Therefore, God, the lion, will bring an end to the Assyrians and nothing will stop Him. And, God will be the loving bird that spreads His wings to protects His young.
As we sum up all these truths, we see the foolishness of looking to Egypt for help when the people of Judah have God waiting to come to their aide. It’s like hiring a body-guard for protection when your father is Superman.
Failure to See God
Sometimes, we are unable to see a clear answer to our problem. That is the case with God’s people in the time of Isaiah. They are blind to the ways of God.
Isaiah tells them they need to return to God who they have left (Isaiah 31:6). He reveals two spiritual conditions that prevent the people from seeing God as the answer. We need to pay attention because we may be just as easily blinded to the goodness of God because we are susceptible to the same heart conditions. One condition is idolatry (Isaiah 31:7) and the other is complacency (Isaiah 32:9-14).
Cast Away Idols
God’s people need to cast away idols. This is not the first time Isaiah speaks about idolatry. He addresses this topic in chapter two (https://redbarnchurch.com/Archives/walk-in-the-light/).
Idols blind us from seeing God and trusting in Him for deliverance. An idol is anything we turn to for comfort, security, and satisfaction. For the people of Judah, the idols are made of silver and gold. They pray to their statues because they believe it will help. It is like a good luck charm from a false god with special powers.
We may not have statues or pray to false gods. However, we do have idols. The Bible says covetousness is idolatry. Anything we covet is an idol. An idol is a person or thing that is wanted very badly. Think of what things in our life that we think and talk about the most. Those things may be idols.
John Piper describes idolatry as, “the thing loved or the person loved more than God, wanted more than God, desired more than God, treasured more than God, enjoyed more than God.” (https://www.desiringgod.org/interviews/what-is-idolatry)
Idols may be movie stars, singers, or athletes. Idols may be a fancy car or a beautiful home. They may be intangible such as a successful career or a position of power. Some people idolize leisure time and vacations. Others idolize the approval of others or having many likes on their Facebook posts. Sometimes idols are good things with wrong priorities. Our family may be an idol.
Imagine a person from another culture observing our life. Think about how often we turn to entertainment to find joy and satisfaction. They will likely determine that we idolize the flickering lights of computer screens, phones, and televisions. What might they say about how the amount of time we spend making our homes and gardens perfect? Perhaps they will conclude we are obsessed with food because we watch cooking shows and post recipes on social media and our favorite time of day is mealtime.
Idolatry interferes with our relationship with the Lord. Idolatry is a sin which has us place our trust in our idols for joy, security, and comfort. The stronger our idols, the less we trust God. Pray and ask God to show you if you have idols in your life. Ask your friends. Be willing to examine your life. It is for your good.
Complacency is another heart condition which interferes with our relationship with the Lord. This is the only occurrence of Isaiah speak against complacency. He uses the word three times to describe the women of Judah (Isaiah 32:9-11). The women reflect the general attitude of society.
The world is falling apart around them, but the women are carrying on as if nothing is wrong. They are walking around at ease when they ought to be mourning and in prayer over the trouble lying ahead.
When an enemy surrounds a city, it is rather odd for the people inside the walls to act like nothing is going on. For them, it’s just another day in Jerusalem. They are complacent when the threat of having no food and being a slave to the Assyrians is imminent.
It is a sin to live life with no concern about what is going on around us. The people of Judah are self-absorbed in their little bubble of life, and they are oblivious to the crumbling of the world around them. They are not crying out to God.
What about us? Are we complacent? Do we care that there is a spiritual war taking place outside the walls of our church? Are we mourning and lamenting about people being taken captive by the enemy? Are we carrying on like nothing is the matter?
Our sin of complacency is dangerous. There are many things which mobilize us and get us off our couch. But, we know too well that the gospel is not one of those things.
Think about a person that doesn’t know Christ. Do we care that they are going to hell? Does it keep us up at night? Are we crying out to God to save their soul? Are we willing to tell them we love them enough to share the gospel? How bad does society have to get for us to be fervent in bringing the gospel to the lost?
Listen to the words of Charles Spurgeon: “If sinners will be damned, at least let them leap to Hell over our bodies. And if they will perish, let them perish with our arms about their knees, imploring them to stay. … let not one go there unwarned and unprayed for.” “God save us from living in comfort while sinners are sinking into hell!”
Saving souls is not easy. We will get singed and will smell like smoke if we are going to pull people from the fire. If we are going to save those who are drowning, we need to expect that we are going to get wet. Our heart will be torn apart when engaging in the lives of others whose souls are lost. Soul-winning is dirty, exhausting, and difficult work.
The Covenant: Be a Blessing to the Nations
The problem with idol worship and complacency is that the people of Judah fail to fulfill the Covenant they made with God. They want the blessings of living in peace and joy, but they also want to be in the world. They pick and choose which commands to obey.
They people of Judah are not blessing the nations by carrying out the commands of the Covenant. The commands include living a life of holiness and demonstrating how to be in a relationship with God. They are to influence the nations, not be influenced by the other nations. The people of Judah are allying with the devil. They may not receive God’s while disobeying the Covenant.
The same goes for us. Our Covenant with God is not a one-way street. When we put our faith in Christ as our Savior, He becomes our Lord. Our Lord gives 1,050 commands in the New Testament. We can classify them under 800 headings. The commands address every aspect of life regarding our relationship to God and others.
God does not want us to be complacent nor does He want us to have idols. Just like the people of Judah, we are a chosen people who are to be a blessing to the nations. The way we bless the nations is by living holy lives and making Jesus known. We are not living by the Covenant when we live like the world. We are not to be conformed to this world, but transformed (Romans 12:1). God calls us to be a peculiar people (1 Peter 2:9). Our life is not our own (Galatians 2:20).
Hope in the Spirit-Filled, Kingdom of Christ
Why should God’s people put aside idols and complacency? Why should God’s people turn to God with complete trust and obedience? Why should we turn to God and be wholly devoted to Him?
Isaiah repeatedly answers these questions. He gives God’s people reason to devote themselves to God. The motivation to fulfill the Covenant is the promise of the coming Messiah’s kingdom.
For forty years, Isaiah builds a picture of the promise of the Messiah. Thus far, he has revealed that the Messiah is the Branch of the Lord who springs from the stem of Jesse. He sits on the throne of David. He is miraculously born of a virgin and the government rest on His shoulders. He is a bright light which shines in a dark land.
He is not a judge of only one nation, but He judges between the nations. No leader in history stands as judge of all the nations. Isaiah reveals that there is no end to the increase of His government. The hallmark of His government is ever-increasing peace. Nobody in His kingdom learns of war. They turn weapons into tools for farming.
The Messiah is endowed with the Spirit of the Lord resting upon Him. He is filled with wisdom, understanding, and knowledge of all things. He looks with favor upon the oppressed and afflicted and judges with fairness and righteousness. All evil comes to an end because He strikes the earth with the rod of His mouth, and with the breath of His lips, He slays the wicked.
Those who live in His kingdom have special names for this king. He is called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, and Prince of Peace.
Isaiah tells people of this great king who will reign on Mount Zion. At this juncture in His ministry, Isaiah adds to the already glorious picture of the Messiah. He reveals what it is like to live in the kingdom of the Messiah.
Living in the kingdom of the Messiah is like being in a shelter, safe and secure, while outside there is a raging storm. His kingdom is a secure haven. His kingdom is like living in a place with an abundance of streams of water to quench our thirst. His subjects never thirst. His kingdom is like being under the nice cool shade of a big rock when the sun is blazing hot. His kingdom is protective.
Each picture conveys a sense of relief. Shelter in a storm. Water a thirsty land. Shade next to a big rock. These are things which have us say, “Ahhhhh!” (Isaiah 32:1-2). Do we want to continue holding onto a world filled with storm and thirst or do we want to submit to the kingdom of the Messiah?
In the Messiah’s kingdom, people are free from disability. People are no longer blind, deaf, or unable to speak. The King will bring healing and restoration and will make the people whole. The eyes of people can see, and ears will hear. People will know the truth. And, people will speak clearly. (Isaiah 32:3-4).
Do we want to have eyes to see, ears to hear, and be living in a kingdom of truth? Or, would we rather hold onto a world of lies and deceit?
The righteous rule of the Messiah will rid the world of ungodly fools who use their power unjustly. The leaders of the world are corrupt fools lacking nobility. The world is filled with princes and kings who blaspheme God and mock His ways. All too often relief effort for the poor ends up in the hands of corrupt government officials. Because of them, people go hungry and without food. They don’t allow the thirsty to have water. They devise wicked schemes with weapons. They slander the righteous with false accusations.
The Lord Jesus Christ will have none of that in His kingdom (Isaiah 32:5-8). Those who have a heart inclined to practice wickedness and bring hurt to the poor and destitute will be eliminated. In Jesus’ kingdom, noble men will make noble plans. Society will be filled with morality, honor, and decency. We have great hope of one day living under the rule and reign of a righteous King who will appoint just people to rule by His side.
Again, which kingdom do we want to choose? The kingdom of the Messiah or the kingdom of this corrupt, evil world?
Spirit Poured Out
Isaiah adds to the motivation. He tells of how there is a pouring out of God’s Holy Spirit upon all His people. (He will again prophesy about this in the second half of his book – Isaiah 44:3; 59:21.) Not only will we live with a perfect King whose governing is directed by God’s Holy Spirit, but every inhabitant of the Kingdom will be drenched with the Spirit of God. The ministry of God’s Spirit brings about a transformation of holiness and peace in all people. Our labor in the kingdom is filled with peace and righteousness. We live forever in quiet, tranquil, peaceful habitation. God’s Holy Spirit keeps us safe and secure, and our dwelling is undisturbed by evil-doers because we abide in a place of justice (Isaiah 32:15-18).
Isaiah makes a strong case for God’s people to turn from their idols and their complacency and to turn to God who longs to be gracious to His people.
Already, Not Yet
We live in an already, not yet state.
Jesus is already come. He is building His kingdom. But, Jesus’ kingdom is not yet here. God’s Spirit is poured out, and we experience His inner peace, but we still live in a war-torn world full of injustice and evil. We taste the goodness of Jesus’ kingdom, but we have yet to be fully immersed. God gives us enough taste, so we know His word is true. Let go of the world and place hope in the coming kingdom of Jesus Christ.
Transformation is painful
The ushering in of the kingdom of the Messiah and the outpouring of God’s Spirit has a cost. God will destroy evil. But, at the same time, God will lay low our cities. In other words, some of the possessions we hold as dear will be lost (Isaiah 32:19). God wants us to trust Him through the process.
The Apostle Paul expresses it like this:
- I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ (Philippians 3:8)
In our loss, we gain. We lose wood and hay to gain gold, silver and precious gems. We lay aside turbulent times to gain times of quiet peace. God promises that we will live beside still waters and in a place of abundant harvest (Isaiah 32:20).
God makes a covenant with the people of Judah. They broke the covenant and became lovers of this world. God is calling them back, and He gives them a great incentive; those who let go of the world gain the kingdom of the Messiah.
God makes a covenant with us. Don’t be like the people of Judah who stray from the Covenant. Trust God. He is wise. He does what He says and does not retract on His words. He is the powerful, sovereign lion and the loving, protective bird. When we give our life to Him, we never go wrong.
MAIN IDEA: Glorify God by keeping the New Covenant and hoping in the Spirit-filled kingdom of Christ.
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.