July 19, 2010 David Balzer

Isaiah 24-27: Longing for that day

We all love movies where justice is done. When the big bad corporation, or government department, gets exposed. When the small struggling underdog comes out on top. When truth, justice and the American way wins.

Whether it’s Batman, Spiderman, and X-men. Or Jason Bourne, Erin Brokavitch, or Indiana Jones.

We LOVE it. There’s something satisfying about seeing justice done. It strikes a chord with us. Because, no matter however imperfect we might be, we all have a sense of fairness. Of right and wrong.

When we’re falsely accused, or suffer unjustly, we want to get even. Set the record straight.

Even something as simple as people pushing in in a line. Why should they get something they don’t deserve? So we say, “Hey mate, the queue starts back there!”

And yet when it comes to the Bible talking about the idea of Judgment Day, we cringe. It’s got to be one of the most unpopular things about Christianity with people.

Perhaps we need to call it JUSTICE Day instead. Because that’s what the day will be about. And the picture, in the new AND old Testaments, is that it will be a day when God’s people CHEER that justice is done. And PRAISE GOD because he brings JUSTICE.

I guess it just depends on which side of the fence you’re sitting on.

As Isaiah describes it in these chapters, there are two distinct sides when it comes to God’s justice. There’s his FRIENDS, and there’s his ENEMIES.

  1. The story so far.

We’re picking up the story in Ch 24. And jumped about 12 chapters since last time.

  1. Who will you trust (1-12)

The big question so far has been, “Who will God’s people TRUST?” The nations around them are threatening. But God promises that if they stick with him, there are better days ahead.

But King Ahaz turns his back on God, and looks to others. Just like us. Our temptation is to trust what we can see and touch, even trusting ourselves, rather than trusting the promises of God.

  1. Oracles of judgment (13-23)

And so God turns away from King Ahaz and his family. And he promises to bring judgment on the whole nation. And chs 13-23 are basically a whole series of oracles of judgment, not just against Israel, but all the nations around.

If you just skim through those chapters, you can see a prophecy against BABYLON in ch 13, Assyria and Philistia at the end of 14. Moab in 15, Damascus in 17, Cush in 18, Egypt in 19. Even against Jerusalem in 22. And then Tyre in 23.

Which all happened in history. Without a couple of hundred years of Isaiah’s time, around 700 BC.

  1. That day for the World (24:1-25:5)

Which brings us to ch 24. Where we get the big picture. Not just THOSE nations. But EVERY NATION. THROUGH ALL HISTORY. Called to account. On the FINAL DAY OF JUSTICE. When Jesus returns, and God brings this whole world to an end.

  1. The scope of judgment (24:1-3)

First up, we see the SCOPE of judgment. No one will escape. Everyone is in God’s spotlight. From v1

See, the LORD is going to lay waste the earth and devastate it; he will ruin its face and scatter its inhabitants– 2 it will be the same for priest as for people, for master as for servant, for mistress as for maid, for seller as for buyer, for borrower as for lender, for debtor as for creditor. 3 The earth will be completely laid waste and totally plundered. The LORD has spoken this word.

Nobody is beyond God’s reach. No one is too IMPORTANT to ESCAPE. No one is too SMALL to be OVERLOOKED. No one too ISOLATED to MISS OUT.

You can’t BUY your way out. Or DEAL your way out. Or EARN your way out.

If there’s to be ultimate justice, then EVERYONE has to come under scrutiny.

  1. The reason for judgment (24:5)

Next we come to the REASON for judgment. If the bar was set only for REALLY BAD sins – like murder or rape or armed robbery – most of us would have reason to be hopeful. Which is why we have problems with the idea of God judging EVERYONE.

But that’s not the root cause of the problem. Look at the heart of the matter in v5.

5 The earth is defiled by its people; they have disobeyed the laws, violated the statutes and BROKEN THE EVERLASTING COVENANT.

God GAVE us the earth, to look after and care for. But we’ve DEFILED it. Turned it into a rubbish dump. With our greed and selfishness. God gave us laws, we’ve disobeyed them. Thinking we know better.

We’ve violated his statutes. Swapped one thing for another. Replaced what God gives with what WE think is best.

And we’ve broken the everlasting covenant. God says, “I’ll be your God, and you can be my people.” But we say NO THANKS. We’re REBELS. Insurgents. Revolutionaries.

Thinking WE know best. Refusing to recognise the authority of the one who rules us. “I’ll do WHAT I want. WHEN I want. Everyone of us.

And whether the rebellion is passive or active. The result is the same. We refuse to allow God to play any part in our lives. We’ve made A DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE.

Who’s heard of the Hutt River Province? In 1970 Leonard George Casley declared his farm, near Geraldton in WA, to be an independent nation. It was all to do with wheat quotas. He decided he didn’t want to be part of Australia any more. He now calls himself His Royal Highness Prince Leonard of Hutt.

Now, the principality of Hutt River isn’t much bigger than his farm, but it claims to be an independent sovereign state. It produces its own stamps and coins. Even has its own defence forces!

Australia has never officially recognised it. The photos show Prince Leonard, as well as the shop keeper, tour guide, and museum guide. Who all look very similar.

It’s laughable to think that Prince Leonard could seriously challenge the might of Australia. And it’s no different with us and God. Rebellion against God is futile. Look down to v20.

20 The earth reels like a drunkard, it sways like a hut in the wind; so heavy upon it is the guilt of its REBELLION that it falls–never to rise again. 21 IN THAT DAY the LORD will punish the powers in the heavens above and the kings on the earth below.

But the news isn’t ALL bad. The devastation isn’t TOTAL. Just like we’ve seen before. There are SOME who escape. The remnant. V6 gives us a hint.

Therefore earth’s inhabitants are burned up, and VERY FEW ARE LEFT.

It’s a bit clearer down in v12.

12 The city is left in ruins, its gate is battered to pieces. 13 So will it be on the earth and among the nations, AS WHEN AN OLIVE TREE IS BEATEN, OR AS WHEN GLEANINGS ARE LEFT AFTER THE GRAPE HARVEST.

God will give the tree a huge shake, but some olives will remain. He’ll harvest the grapes to squash them into wine. But some will be left. God’s people. His REMNANT.

And it’s that remnant who are able to see the GOOD side of justice. That is, that God has done what’s RIGHT.

  1. The goal of judgment (24:14-16, 23)

Have a look at what the remnant are singing. There in v14.

14 They raise their voices, they shout for joy; from the west they acclaim the LORD’s majesty. 15 Therefore in the east give glory to the LORD; exalt the name of the LORD, the God of Israel, in the islands of the sea. 16 From the ends of the earth we hear singing: “Glory to the RIGHTEOUS One.”

God is RIGHTEOUS because he is pure and holy. But also because he always DOES what’s RIGHT. No one is dealt with Unjustly. The guilty are punished. And the innocent are protected.

  1. That day for God’s people (25:1-26:6)
    1. Justice for all

For God’s people it will be a day to sing. Because there’ll be justice for all. A bit further on, into ch 25. Here’s what they’ll sing. V4.

4 You have been a refuge for the poor, a refuge for the needy in his distress, a shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat. For the breath of the ruthless is like a storm driving against a wall 5 and like the heat of the desert. You silence the uproar of foreigners; as heat is reduced by the shadow of a cloud, so the song of the ruthless is stilled.

I was talking to Bruce and Lynette during the week. About how UNFAIR things seem to be. About how people seem to get away with things NOW. Someone they know who’s done TERRIBLE things. But he’s just walking around like nothing’s happened.

And then there’s Lynette’s sister. Going through a really tough patch. And she’s done nothing to deserve it.

And it’s not RIGHT.

But on God’s judgment day, EVERYONE will get what’s coming to them. It will be JUSTICE FOR ALL.

  1. The ultimate party (6)

Which is GREAT NEWS. And so, when that happens, it will be a time to party. The ULTIMATE party. The same party Robert was talking about LAST week that Jesus was inviting everyone to. The worldwide, eternal, victory party. There in v6

6 On this mountain the LORD Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine– the best of meats and the finest of wines.

God’s PEOPLE, in God’s PLACE, with God’s PROVISIONS.

Back in the book of Exodus God had given the people a TASTE of this feast. Moses and the 70 elders had gone up on Mt Sinai. And Exod 24:11 says they SAW GOD, and they ate and drank!

But it was only a select group. And only for A MOMENT.

But AT THE END, God’s promising to open it up, not just to all the people of ISRAEL. But to ALL PEOPLES. Every nation.

And not just for a DAY, but for EVER.

The NT book of Rev refines the picture a bit. And calls it a WEDDING RECEPTION. With Jesus as the bridegroom, and his church as his bride. Not only are we INVITED to the party. But it’s OUR CELEBRATION. A celebration of our relationship with the Bridegroom.

  1. No more suffering or death

And it will be the ultimate party because it will be FOR ETERNITY. Death will be destroyed. V7.

7 On this mountain he will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers all nations; 8 he will swallow up death forever. The Sovereign LORD will wipe away the tears from all faces; he will remove the disgrace of his people from all the earth. The LORD has spoken.

It’s a wedding, not a funeral. So there’ll be no more tears for God’s people. The death shroud will be flung away. And death itself will be gobbled up, like IT’S gobbled up so millions before.

  1. Waiting for that day (26:7-21)

And so, it’s understandable that God’s people will praise him. V9.

9 In that day they will say, “Surely this is our God; we trusted in him, and he saved us. This is the LORD, we trusted in him; let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation.”

Which is fine THEN. But what about NOW? What do we do in the meantime? When we see injustice, and pain, and death all around us? And things seem to be getting WORSE, rather than BETTER?

How does the reality of that day make a difference TODAY?

Flip on a bit to the start of Ch 26. Where we see ANOTHER song. But it’s a song the people THEN seem to be singing for the benefit of US NOW. Giving us the perspective we need to make it through ‘til THEN.

There in v1. “In that day this song will be sung” And then it goes on. Look for example at v3. Singing to God.

3 You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you. 4 Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD, the LORD, is the Rock eternal. 5 He humbles those who dwell on high, he lays the lofty city low;

Whatever is going on around you, God promises to keep his people in perfect peace. The peace that comes from knowing that God IS in control. That his plans CAN be trusted.

And what must we DO to get that peace? Have A STEADFAST MIND. To fix our trust on him. A steadfast mind means that whatever life throws at us, we don’t let it knock us down. Whatever injustice occurs, trust that God WILL bring justice ONE DAY. A steadfast mind means not seeking revenge. A steadfast mind means not worrying about tomorrow.

A steadfast mind means continuing to DO good, and to THINK good, even as others do EVIL to you. That’s what trusting God in the face of injustice LOOKS like. Patience in the face of anger. Love in the face of hatred. A strong stand for justice in the face of overwhelming injustice.

A steadfast mind means fixing our eyes on THAT DAY. And on the God who never changes. SO THAT WE DON’T GET OFF COURSE.

Sometimes when you’re bushwalking, you need to follow a compass bearing. And it’s not as easy as it sounds. Because it’s very easy to get off course. You’ve only got to be a couple of degrees off course, and you’ll miss your target.

The BEST way to do it is to line up your compass bearing with an object a short distance away. Like a tree or a rock. Then walk to the object. Don’t take your eyes off it. Head straight for it, because that’s exactly where you want to go. Have a steadfast mind. Don’t get distracted by the view, or the pretty flowers.

Then, when you get there. You do the same thing again. Line up the bearing with ANOTHER OBJECT a BIT FURTHER ALONG. And SO on. And if you keep THAT up, eventually you’ll end up at the END. Because you’ve STEAFASTLY followed the right bearing. And let nothing SWAY you, or DISTRACT you.

Keep your eyes on GOD. He’s the TARGET, the GOAL. The one we need to keep our bearings on.

Keep a steadfast mind on THAT DAY. The promise of a day of ultimate justice. Of the ultimate party. A day when all pain will be over.

Listen to a little more of that song. The sort of attitude we need to have as we long for that day. V7

7 The path of the righteous is level;

O upright One, you make the way of the righteous smooth.

8 Yes, LORD, walking in the way of your laws, we wait for you;

your name and renown are the desire of our hearts.

9 My soul yearns for you in the night; in the morning my spirit longs for you.

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