Sermon Series: Isaiah: Judgment & Hope
Scripture Reading: Psalm 8:1-9
Sermon Title: Let’s Reason Together
Sermon Text: Isaiah 1:18-20
Memory Verse: Isaiah 1:18
MAIN IDEA: Receive God’s gracious offer of forgiveness and mercy
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.
Isaiah’s proclamation to the people of Judah is, “The Lord speaks.” When the Bible says, thus says the Lord, there are two ways we may respond. We may respond and receive
the word from the Lord, or we may respond and reject
the word of the Lord. The Bible says that the way we respond to God has far-reaching consequences. Our decision affects every aspect of our life on earth and our life after we die. We have much to gain or much to lose.
But, how does the way we respond affect God? Does our decision affect whether God gains or loses?
- God’s is perfect and good. Whether we receive or reject His word, God will remain perfect and good. Our response does not affect
- God is all-powerful. Whether we receive or reject His word, God remains all-powerful. In other words, our response is unable to take away or add to His power.
- God is all-knowing. Our response to God’s word will neither add or take away from His wisdom and knowledge.
- God is sovereign. Whether we receive or reject His word, God remains sovereign and completely in control of creation.
- God is immutable (unchanging). Therefore, our choice to receive or reject His word will not change God or His character.
- God is holy and separate from creation. Our reception, and most importantly, our rejection of His word will not stain or blemish His perfection. He always was and always will be perfect.
If God has nothing to gain or lose by giving us His word, why does He speak to us? God’s existence is perfect. He does not give us the words of Scripture, so His existence is improved. He tells us what to do for our good, not His.
When we read the Bible, we are not reading the words of a God who is telling us what to do so He will be happy. We are reading words God gives for our happiness. He gives them to us as a loving Father.
The Lord Speaks
God is a loving Father to the people of Judah. Verses 1-17 tell us of the Father’s view of His children.
His children have strayed. They do not understand. They are a people weighed down with iniquity. They abandoned the Lord by turning away from Him. They are not living as though God is their Father, but they are living as the “offspring of evildoers, sons who act corruptly!” They despise the Lord God. God says that even an ox and a donkey have more sense than the people of Judah.
Their religion is supposed to make their relationship with God better. But, because they live in sin, the religion God tells them to practice, God hates. God doesn’t hate the religion, but he hates the sinful hypocrites who make believe. God takes no pleasure in the blood sacrifice they place on the altar. He hates the smell of their incense. They are unwelcome guests in the temple as they trample His holy place with the filth of their life. God is weary of their religion of hypocrisy, and He is tired of bearing it.
During the time of Isaiah, God sees the people of Judah just as wicked as the people of Sodom and Gomorrah. The people of Judah are wicked, rebellious, selfish, prideful, controlled by the lust of the flesh, and lacking in mercy. It is only because of God’s mercy that He does not rain brimstone and fire upon Judah just as He did on Sodom and Gomorrah.
It is hard for us to wrap our minds around this situation. The relationship between God and His people spans thousands of years. God rescues them and helps them time and time again. At this point in history, we lose count of how many times God has shown great blessing to undeserving people. God makes a Covenant, not with all people, but the descendants of Abraham. God teaches them how they may prosper according to the Covenant. He gives them a Law to guide their home and business, so everything is they live life in fairness and justice. God gives them prophets, judges, and kings. God raises up mighty warriors like Samson and David, so the enemies fall at their left and their right. God gives the descendants of Abraham the choicest land, a land so fertile; it takes two men to carry a single cluster of grapes.
God spoils the descendants of Abraham. None of us have come close to blessing our children as much as God blesses His chosen people. We may pluck an orphan out of the ghetto and bring them into our home and provide them the best education and healthiest of living conditions and our actions would not compare to the goodness of God shown to the people of Judah.
The reason we may not grasp the depth of goodness God shows toward the people of Judah is that we are humans. We have limited wisdom and understanding. But, we need to get this: everything God does for the people of Judah is perfect and holy. In return for God’s perfect goodness, they choose to betray God
. Rather than live according to God’s righteousness, they will rather practice evil. They abandon God’s holiness for the lust of the flesh. Even after being spoiled and having known God’s goodness, they would rather choose to live in sickness and a land of desolation than give up their sin. The people of Judah choose to rebel and spit in the face of God rather than obey the commands of the One who has spoiled them.
Is there a greater vision of betrayal? The people of Judah are treacherous mutineers. They justly deserve brimstone and fire from heaven. God is perfectly right in His judgment and condemnation.
How will we respond in this situation? If we experience rejection after showing acts of love and goodness, we will not speak to the person. When we think of them, words of cursing and condemnation will cross our lips. We will go to the other side of the street if we see them walking on the sidewalk. We expect everyone who is our friend or relative to hate them for how they have treated us. That is our heart.
Revelation of the heart of God
How does God respond to this situation of betrayal and rebellion? His true self comes forth. God shows His hand and reveals what is in His heart.
"Come now, and let us reason together," Says the LORD, "Though your sins are as scarlet, they will be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they will be like wool. 19
"If you consent and obey, You will eat the best of the land; 20
"But if you refuse and rebel, You will be devoured by the sword." Truly, the mouth of the LORD has spoken. (Isa 1:18-20)
Our character springs forth bitterness and an eagerness for revenge upon those who spurn our love. Not God. God is good. God doesn’t respond with bitterness and revenge. Instead, His response of offering forgiveness and be mercy flows from the lips of the Father. Love, hope, and the beauty of holiness pour out of God continually. God is full of grace. We are unable to comprehend the depth of such love.
Jesus describes the Father’s love well with the parable of the prodigal son. Even though the son went to a different country and squandered his estate with loose living, the father sees the son while he is still a long way off, and feels compassion for him, and runs and embraces him and kisses him and restores him. (Lk. 15:11-24).
God is calling out to prodigal Judah. “Let’s reason together; you and Me. Let’s arrive at a conclusion which will demonstrate your wisdom and Mine. I offer you a reasonable choice.”
God’s offer of reconciliation is one-sided. God has nothing to gain by offering reconciliation. At any point, He may choose to annihilate the people of Judah and adopt another nation as His own. If He does, He remains perfectly holy, righteous and wise. He loses no position of power nor does He suffer any ill-will. God remains the same.
In making the offer of reconciliation, God’s glory shines brightly. The offer of reconciliation demonstrates His glory perfectly.
We all remember the account of God’s proclamation of glory to Moses. Moses asks to see God’s glory. God tells Moses, you may not see My glory because if you do, you will die. However, I will declare My glory. Moses stands in the cleft of a rock as God passes by and says, “… the LORD God, is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression, and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished (Ex. 34:6-7).
If the people of Judah accept His offer to consent and obey, God’s glory shines in His forgiveness of their sins. If they do not accept His offer, and they choose to rebel, God’s glory is to punish the guilty. Either way, if they choose to obey or rebel, God demonstrates His glory.
God’s invitation to the people of Judah reveals His heart of love and compassion. It also reveals a heart that hates and judges evil.
Revelation of the heart of man
God’s reveals heart His heart with His invitation to the people of Judah. God’s invitation to the people of Judah will reveal what is in the heart of the people of Judah. They have in their heart to accept or reject the invitation. They may have a soft heart to consent and obey, or they may have a hard heart which chooses to refuse and rebel.
If they receive the offer and choose to obey God, they reveal they have a soft heart towards God. As a result, they will eat the best of the land. In other words, God is willing to go above and beyond forgiving them of their sin; He is willing to bless them with abundance. The offer to eat the best of the land is an enticing, attractive offer.
If they refuse the offer, they reveal that they have a heart filled with wicked rebellion. God makes a promise that He will bring war against their rebellion. He promises rebellion leads to being devoured by the sword.
Let’s Reason About Judah’s Situation
God tells them to reason
about the choice. In other words, the people of Judah are to sit down, evaluate the situation and think about the alternatives. We know from verses 1-10 that the people of Judah are not in a very good position. Because of their rebellion and despising God, they have fresh, open, unbandaged wounds from the top of their head to the soles of their feet. Their abandonment of God has led to the burning of their cities and strangers devouring their land.
God does not call them His adopted children, but children of disobedience. Their hypocritical worship of Him is an abomination to God. He is tired and grown weary of them. They are worthy of being destroyed just as Sodom and Gomorrah because of evil and wickedness. If they refuse God’s invitation to obey, God promises things will not get better, but will become worse; the sword will devour them.
If the people of Judah consent and obey, even though they are guilty beyond a shadow of a doubt, God is offering complete forgiveness and mercy. God give them a picture of a garment stained with scarlet, the most difficult of stains to wash clean, as being made white. All the blessings of being God’s chosen people are theirs. They will eat the best of the land. God will be their God, and they will be His people.
What will the people of Judah decide? Decisions, decisions. From our perspective, there is absolutely nothing to reason about. The people of Judah should not hesitate to respond to God’s invitation to consent and obey. They have everything to gain and nothing to lose if they receive God’s offer and repent of their ways. As we say in today’s vernacular, “it’s a no-brainer.”
We know from history that, some people in Judah make the right choice. They choose to repent and obey God. God forgives their sin. They will still face hardship, but as the children of God, they know God is faithful, and they will receive an inheritance of God. They believe God is good. They believe God does as He promises.
We also know from history that for some of the people of Judah, the choice to consent and obey is not attractive to them. They have a hard heart and they continue to refuse and rebel. Their heart is so inclined toward sin; they would rather sin against God and do as they please and face hardship and misery. They enjoy their sin so much that they will gladly face the possibility of the sword.
At the very root of their choice is unbelief in the goodness of God. They believe they have better control of their destiny. They don’t believe God will fulfill His promise. The concept of the goodness of God is a fairy-tale. They don’t see God as judge of the universe. They say, if there is a God, why is there evil in the world. Or, they go so far as to believe God is the source of all evil. They don’t believe in the glory of God.
We know what happens to those who make the wrong choice. God judges the people who rebel. They die by the sword just as God promises.
Let’s Reason: What about Us?
God is still inviting people today:
"Come now, and let us reason together," Says the LORD, "Though your sins are as scarlet, they will be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they will be like wool.” (Isa 1:18)
There are two kinds of people here today. There are those who have never received God’s invitation of salvation. The Bible calls those of you who have never received God’s offer unbelievers. The second group of people listening to this message have made a choice and have received God’s offer of salvation. The Bible calls those people believers.
Unbelievers do not believe God, but should. They are living in rebellion to God. Believers are people who believe God exists and they are to obey His commands.
God’s Call to Unbelievers
To those who have never asked God to save them, let me ask you. Are your hearts so dead-set towards sin you will reject His words? Do you believe yourself to be in control of your destiny? You are making a mistake of eternal consequences. Will you repent and receive God’s invitation to be saved? If you don’t, the Bible promises there is hell to pay. God is the judge of our thoughts, words, and actions. God judges everything we do. Receive the invitation. God invites you for your good.
God is inviting all people to be saved. Truly, the mouth of the LORD has spoken. Do you hear Him calling?
Receive God’s gracious offer of forgiveness and mercy
God’s Call to Believers
God’s invitation does not end once we choose to receive His invitation to salvation. God’s invitation extends to every day of our life. He desires for us to obey in every part of our life. We are to read His word searching for ways to please Him by obeying His commands.
When we receive His invitation, we put our faith in the goodness of God. We have faith to know He gives us books like Isaiah, James, the Gospels, and all of Scripture because He loves us. He wants the best for us. God is good. None of His commands are for His benefit. God is satisfied in being God. God’s invitation is for us to find our satisfaction in God.
Think of the times we disobey God. What is at the root of our disobedience? Do we believe we know better? Do we think of ourselves as wiser than God? When we choose to sin, is it because we do not believe His call to holiness is for our good? Do we think, God promises us happiness, but this sin is going to make me happy? It is very healthy for us to think about what is the root cause of our choice to sin.
God tells us not to lie. We need to believe that the lie we want to tell is not going to work out for our good. God tells us not to gossip. Do we believe we are going to get more joy than what God offers us in telling that juicy piece of gossip to our friend? God tells us to be committed to other members of the body for our good. Do we believe forsaking fellowship will bring us more joy? God’s commands for us to be generous. Will our selfish ways bring us more joy?
God desires for us to live in obedience to Him in our marriage, husbands loving their wife as Christ loves the church and wives submitting to their husbands as to the Lord. God teaches us to yield to Him at work, doing our work as to the Lord. God is telling us that our leisure activities are to be holy. God knows what video games we play and the internet sites we visit. He wants our leisure life to be holy for our good.
God’s call for us to consent and obey is not just an invitation for us to be saved and have our sins forgiven. God’s invitation is the beginning of a life of obedience. Salvation and forgiveness is not the only goal. Living a life of faith and trust in God for all things is the goal. God desires for us to yield our life to Him, so we may live a life of blessing. God invites us to a life of blessing because He is a good, loving Father.
The book of Isaiah is a love letter from God to His children. The Lord speaks love to you and me. Receive God’s gracious invitation of forgiveness and mercy and consent to obey Him for our joy and His glory.