Sermon Series: Isaiah: Judgment & Hope
Scripture Reading: Isaiah 9:8-12
Sermon Title: The Arrogance of a Nation
Memory Verse: Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you. (James 4:10)
MAIN IDEA: Be humbled knowing that God is sovereign and just in His elimination of pride.
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 wants to help us!
As we go through Isaiah, we can’t help but say, “Okay God, I get it. The people of Israel are wicked idolaters, and You are going to punish them. Lord, couldn’t you have just said this once? Do you need to repeat over and over that You are bringing judgment? We get it already!” We read the passage for the week and think, “Here we go again, more judgment for the people of Israel.”
The introduction of Isaiah is not only about judgment. The Isaiah 2 and 4 prophecies of Mount Zion are a encouraging and last week’s message on Isaiah 9:1-7 about the Messiah being the Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, and the Prince of Peace is uplifting. The temptation we face is to ignore the passages on judgment, so we can skip to the next uplifting section of Isaiah.
The solution is not to skip over these passages. It is not healthy to read Scripture and to just skip over passages to only study passages that we enjoy. The Bible calls that tickling our ears (For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires. 2 Timothy 4:3).
This week, as we look at another passage on God’s judgment, let’s stop and ask why God emphasizes this truth. Is it because God likes to repeat Himself? No. Is it because God enjoys speaking about judgment? No. What then is God’s motivation? God’s motivation is love. God’s reason for stressing judgment in the Scripture is God doesn’t want us to fall into the same sin. It is for our good.
God wants to help and He is teaching us. Whatever is written in earlier times is written for our instruction (Romans 15:4). God will approach this subject from multiple angles so that we have a thorough understanding of the sin of the people of Israel.
Let’s always ask the question, “How does God want to help us this week?”
Getting to the heart of sin: Pride
God wants to help us with our pride.
As Christians, it’s not too hard to think of ourselves as being surrounded by very sinful people. We look around at the culture and see great problems of immorality. We will have to avert our eyes during some of the commercials during the Super Bowl. Television and movies are made with immorality as the main staple. We see and read about problems of deceit and lying. We lament knowing the truth is difficult to find in our nation. Murder is rampant as maniacs go on shooting sprees at concerts, schools, and the marketplace. There is a complete loss of civility. Gone are the days of politeness, courtesy, and respect. We live in very dark times.
God is declaring war on evil. We applaud God’s work to eliminate crime and murder. We are joyful knowing God will put an end to corruption. We are giddy in thinking, in the end, righteousness and holiness will prevail. We look forward to the hope of a perfect life with no evil.
In our applause and cheers in response to God’s work to eliminate evil, do we ever look at our own heart and think God is busy working to eliminate evil in our life? Do we see the evil? Chances are we think of ourselves as being pretty good. We are not murderers. We do our very best to speak the truth. We are not out pursuing illicit relationships. We seldom speak a curse word. Compared to everyone else in the culture, we are well-behaved.
We need a reality check. Once we become a Christian for a few years, we learn how to get rid of or hide some of the more noticeable behavior identified as sin. In other words, we learn to tell fewer lies, we control our appetite for lust, we don’t steal, and we refrain from saying cuss words. While we look at our outer behavior, the inner-root of sin is still present. We will change our behavior and speech to fit the norms of Christianity, but we fail to go deep into our heart and work at uprooting the sin God hates the most, which is our pride.
We may say, I am not proud. Our pride will make us think we don’t have pride when we do. Our pride will tell us; I don’t need to listen to this message as much as some other people in the church. Our pride will say, God loves me, I don’t need to worry about pride. Your pride will ask, “How can Allen stand there in his pride and say I have a problem with pride?” And, my pride will respond, “How dare you say that about me!”
Very little is said about pride in Christian circles. Once we identify the behavior of pride, we will find it is rampant in Christianity.
The reason for bringing up the topic of pride is God pours out His wrath on Israel is because they are filled with pride. God wants us to know the invasion takes place because the people are arrogant and not because the invading armies are superior. God wants us to know He hates pride and will not tolerate it whatsoever.
Everyone who is proud in heart is an abomination to the LORD; assuredly, he will not be unpunished. (Proverbs 16:5)
Isaiah writes four stanzas of varying length to express what God will do because of their pride. Each section ends with the phrase, “In spite of all this, His anger does not turn away, and His hand is still stretched out.” The phrase means, despite giving them this punishment, which seems like it is enough, God will give them more. His judgment will be complete and thorough.
With each stanza, we will have three parts: 1) We will identify the manifestation of pride (what it looks like), 2) We will look at God’s response, and 3) we will take a pride test to see if we have any of the same pride in our life.
Pride of Self-Reliance (9:8-12)
The pride of self-reliance is seen in verses 8-10. The people of the northern kingdom receive a message from God, and all the people know the message. The message is that they face the loss of houses and crops. The message Isaiah may be referring to might be from the prophet Amos or Hosea or both. The point is they have received warning and did not respond with repentance.
Instead of being humble, the people respond with childish defiance, “smash our mud house and we will build a house of stone which is better.” It’s almost like saying, you will do us a favor by getting rid of the old house. We will build a better one. Cut down the sycamore trees. We will plant cedars. We will show God.
God’s response: He allows defeat
God response to their arrogance is in verses 9-12 (we read already during the scripture reading). God removes the restraint of His protection and allows the armies of their enemies to march in and devour the land. King Rezin, who once was their ally, now becomes their enemy. Also, the Philistines join in plundering the northern kingdom.
Let’s examine their pride and see if we have a similar manifestation of pride in our life. We don’t raise our fist against God and say, do what you want, we will recover with success. We are not that foolish. However, let’s ask ourselves, do we respond similarly toward people?
This is between us and God. Therefore, how will God answer these questions?
Have we ever said in our heart, “I’ll show them what I’m made of!”? “I will make them think twice before they do that again to me.”
Do we boast in our accomplishments?
Are we slow to admit when we are wrong?
Do we find it hard to admit defeat? Do we hide our mistakes?
Do you see a man wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him. (Proverbs 26:12)
Pride of Godlessness (9:13-17)
Yet the people do not turn back to Him who struck them, nor do they seek the Lord of hosts. (Isaiah 9:13)
Instead of using their loss to realize their need for God and to follow His ways, the people turn away even further from God. They turn to their leaders who will tell them other ways to live. The people don’t look to God for direction.
God’s response: allowing anarchy
God responds to their godlessness by allowing the structure of society to go into chaos. God withholds His grace of keeping life good and decent.
14 So the Lord cuts off head and tail from Israel, both palm branch and bulrush in a single day. 15 The head is the elder and honorable man, and the prophet who teaches falsehood is the tail. 16 For those who guide this people are leading them astray; and those who are guided by them are brought to confusion. 17 Therefore the Lord does not take pleasure in their young men, nor does He have pity on their orphans or their widows; for every one of them is godless and an evildoer, and every mouth is speaking foolishness. In spite of all this, His anger does not turn away and His hand is still stretched out. (Isaiah 9:14-17)
The people don’t turn to God for guidance but turn to godless leaders who will tickle their ears and condone their sin. So, God removes the palm branch, which symbolizes the top echelon of leaders and the bulrush, which symbolizes the common leader. God removes their political and false religious leaders.
God shows no pity for their godlessness. A godless widow and a godless orphan are just as guilty as everyone else. God is not a respecter of persons. All who reject God are judged equally.
How will God answer these questions?
Do we go a day without prayer?
Do we consult God’s word for counsel on a regular basis? Or, does our life reflect that we don’t really care how God wants us to live?
Do we find ourselves only reading Christian books or listening to speakers who tickle our ears and make us feel good about ourselves?
Do we believe we may get by in life without Christian fellowship? Do we not allow ourselves to be accountable to other believers?
Do we think that because we are elderly, a widow, a teenager, or handicapped in some way that God will overlook our pride?
Pride of Anger (v.18-21)
18 For wickedness burns like a fire; it consumes briars and thorns; it even sets the thickets of the forest aflame and they roll upward in a column of smoke. (Isaiah 9:18)
The pride in Israel is out of control like a wildfire.
God’s response: He allows murderous rage
19 By the fury of the Lord of hosts the land is burned up, and the people are like fuel for the fire; no man spares his brother. 20 They slice off what is on the right hand but still are hungry, and they eat what is on the left hand but they are not satisfied; each of them eats the flesh of his own arm. 21 Manasseh devours Ephraim, and Ephraim Manasseh, and together they are against Judah. In spite of all this, His anger does not turn away and His hand is still stretched out. (Isaiah 9:19-21)
God allows them to take their anger to the extreme. God doesn’t restrain them in their anger. He pulls away His grace and allows them to take their anger to completion. We get angry when we don’t get what we want.
The people of the northern kingdom are in a rage. In their rage, they don’t even spare their brother. Verse 20 is another way of saying they cut off their nose to spite their face. Their problem is not only the invading armies but themselves. To eat the flesh of their arm is an expression which means they fight their kin. Civil war will break out.
Do we get angry at customer service people because they didn’t help us the way we think we deserve (too slow, not accurate, etc.)?
Do we find ourselves explaining, I wasn’t angry, I was just frustrated with the situation?
Do we hold a grudge? When we look at people, are we remembering how they wronged us in the past, and therefore, we will be slow to say hello or invite them over for fellowship?
Do we find ourselves taking out frustration on inanimate objects (throwing things, breaking things, swearing at things)?
Are there people in our life that we are not on speaking terms?
Do we get moody, melancholy, anxious, or depressed (which is sometimes a mild form of anger) when life doesn’t go the way we think it should go?
Is there any strife in our life whatsoever?
Where there is strife, there is pride (Proverbs 13:10)
Pride of Injustice (v.1-4)
1 Woe to those who enact evil statutes and to those who constantly record unjust decisions, 2 So as to deprive the needy of justice and rob the poor of My people of their rights, so that widows may be their spoil and that they may plunder the orphans.
The people use the law for their own needs. They are selfish and want gain and see the law is a means increase wealth. They see themselves as being above the law. The law is a tool to satisfy their desires. Other people are below them. They are superior and more deserving.
God’s response: He allows poverty
3 Now what will you do in the day of punishment, and in the devastation which will come from afar? To whom will you flee for help? And where will you leave your wealth? 4 Nothing remains but to crouch among the captives or fall among the slain. In spite of all this, His anger does not turn away and His hand is still stretched out. (Isaiah 10:1-4)
God removes the grace of His provision. The material goods which help make them strong are now gone, and they become weak. They have nowhere to hide. They can’t hide in their nice house. They have no gold to hire a bodyguard for protection. They are left cowering.
How will God answer these questions?
Do we bend the rules to fit our needs? Is there a more lenient set of rules in our house for us? When others are gone, do we abide by our own rules?
Are we discontent with what we have because we think we deserve more? Does our discontent cause us to cheat on our timecard or expense report?
Do we demonstrate good manners? Do we have common courtesy? In other words, do we go out of the way to make others feel special or do we expect others to make us feel special?
Are we continually late making others wait for us?
God wants to help us
God wants us to learn from the people in Israel. God destroyed the ten tribes of Israel because of pride. He does not want us to walk away unaffected. He wants us to look in the mirror of Isaiah, see our pride, and walk away wanting to change.
Do we realize the depth of our pride? Do we realize our pride is an abomination to God? How much pride is acceptable to God? No amount of pride is acceptable.
Do we realize the depth of our pride? Do we realize our pride is an abomination to God? How much have we thought about pride since we started the book of Isaiah? Do we look at the people of Israel and think of their wickedness without contemplating our own sin? Does this book cause us to be more active in our fight against pride?
We are all guilty of being filled with pride. If it were not for the grace of God restraining us, we would be no different than the people of Israel. The questions in the pride test prove that each one of us still has pride present in our flesh.
We need to align ourselves with God’s war on pride. We are much better served if we walk through life saying to ourselves, I need to fight pride. Don’t say, I need to fight sin. Say, I need to fight pride.
God fights against pride because for our good. Imagine if God did not fight our pride. Imagine living life thinking we are better than reality. People die every day because they think of themselves too highly. They think they are strong and attempt feats that are beyond their capability. They think of themselves as very smart and find themselves getting caught.
Paul told the Romans:
For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment … (Romans 12:3)
Our fight against pride is the most difficult fight we will ever encounter. Just when we think we have won have overcome pride, we will likely be proud of how humble we have become. We can have joy in knowing that where we fall short in our fight against pride, God’s grace fills in the gap.
Humble yourself in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.