Are You (Made) Willing?

whiteassnow

Isaiah 1:1-20

The vision of Isaiah the son of Amoz, which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah.  (2)  Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth; for the LORD has spoken: “Children have I reared and brought up, but they have rebelled against me.  (3)  The ox knows its owner, and the donkey its master’s crib, but Israel does not know, my people do not understand.”  (4)  Ah, sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, offspring of evildoers, children who deal corruptly! They have forsaken the LORD, they have despised the Holy One of Israel, they are utterly estranged.  (5)  Why will you still be struck down? Why will you continue to rebel? The whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint.  (6)  From the sole of the foot even to the head, there is no soundness in it, but bruises and sores and raw wounds; they are not pressed out or bound up or softened with oil.  (7)  Your country lies desolate; your cities are burned with fire; in your very presence foreigners devour your land; it is desolate, as overthrown by foreigners.  (8)  And the daughter of Zion is left like a booth in a vineyard, like a lodge in a cucumber field, like a besieged city.  (9)  If the LORD of hosts had not left us a few survivors, we should have been like Sodom, and become like Gomorrah.  (10)  Hear the word of the LORD, you rulers of Sodom! Give ear to the teaching of our God, you people of Gomorrah!  (11)  “What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices? says the LORD; I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of well-fed beasts; I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of goats.  (12)  “When you come to appear before me, who has required of you this trampling of my courts?  (13)  Bring no more vain offerings; incense is an abomination to me. New moon and Sabbath and the calling of convocations— I cannot endure iniquity and solemn assembly.  (14)  Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hates; they have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them.  (15)  When you spread out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood.  (16)  Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil,  (17)  learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.  (18)  “Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.  (19)  If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land;  (20)  but if you refuse and rebel, you shall be eaten by the sword; for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”

INTRODUCTION

Since the fall of humanity in the days of Eden, one word has summarized our collective attitude toward God: rebellion. We are a stiff-necked and stubborn people, happy to believe in our own self-righteousness, our own inherent goodness, all apart from the goodness and working of God. Of course, this self-righteousness is an evil fruit of our rebellious and fallen nature.

Who will serve the Lord? Who will stand for Christ? Truthfully, no one is willing to go the Lord’s way apart from the working and power of God in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Left to ourselves, no one is worthy, no one is willing.

Isaiah is given a vision to share with the people of Israel and Judah. Charges are leveled by God concerning their rebellion, pride, and waywardness. Sweet Gospel promises, too, are proclaimed to those who recognize their helplessness and yield to mercy alone.

The question today is really no different than it was in the days of Isaiah: Are you willing? As we study our scripture lesson, it is my prayer that God does the work only He can perform, drawing His people to Himself, making us willing in the day of His power!

OUTLINE

V1. The vision of Isaiah the son of Amoz, which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah.

Isaiah saw a vision from the Lord, a clear window into the future dealings God would have with His people. Visions such as Isaiah’s were not drummed up by man, but rather given by the power of the Holy Ghost (1 Peter 2:21).

V2. Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth; for the LORD has spoken: “Children have I reared and brought up, but they have rebelled against me.

The prophet calls the heavens and the earth to come and hear the Word from God. Isaiah speaks what God has said, so the importance of his vision cannot be overstated.

In courtroom-like fashion, God acts as both prosecutor and judge. The charges are presented by God Himself, ‘They have rebelled against me.’

V3. The ox knows its owner, and the donkey its master’s crib, but Israel does not know, my people do not understand.

Even farm animals recognize the voice of their master. Yet, the people whom claim to worship and serve the one true God of heaven and earth amble blindly and ignorantly, not understanding or recognizing God, their Sovereign Lord (John 1:10).

V4. Ah, sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, offspring of evildoers, children who deal corruptly! They have forsaken the LORD, they have despised the Holy One of Israel, they are utterly estranged.

What are the signs of this depravity, the sign markers of this fallen state? The people were ‘laden,’ weighted down, with iniquity, continuing in rebellious ways generation after generation. Far from a benign neglect of religion or religious precedent, these are the ‘offspring of evildoers’ who despise the Holy One of Israel, and those who have utterly ‘forsaken the Lord’ (Romans 1:28).

V5. Why will you still be struck down? Why will you continue to rebel? The whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint.

Why will you be struck down?’ Isaiah asks this question of the people quite bluntly. Even in the face of the Lord’s wrath, these blinded men and women continue in full-blown rebellion against the only one who could deliver them. Truly as the prophet wrote, ‘the whole head is sick, the whole heart faint.’ What is this but the language of total depravity? They could no more cease this behavior than a leopard could change its spots!

The question serves only to illustrate the dire circumstances in which the people find themselves.

V6. From the sole of the foot even to the head, there is no soundness in it, but bruises and sores and raw wounds; they are not pressed out or bound up or softened with oil.

The rot of their depravity is total in its scope and reach; from the sole to the head. Righteousness is impossible in their own strength because, ‘there is no soundness’ in the people, all of them rotting in their own sin and shame.

V7. Your country lies desolate; your cities are burned with fire; in your very presence foreigners devour your land; it is desolate, as overthrown by foreigners.

Already the people have experienced a measure of God’s displeasure. He had made them a laughing stock among the nations, their lands taken from them by foreigners.

V8. And the daughter of Zion is left like a booth in a vineyard, like a lodge in a cucumber field, like a besieged city.

The once great cities have been made desolate. The prophet describes these cities as shells of the once mighty places they were. This is also descriptive of the lives of sinful, unbelieving men – his exterior may be intact. But the center is hollowed out – he is a shell of himself, rotten with sin from the inside out, a tomb filled with dead man’s bones.

V9. If the LORD of hosts had not left us a few survivors, we should have been like Sodom, and become like Gomorrah.

Hopelessness give way to grace in verse 9, although it may be difficult to discern this sea change at first glance. The grace of God, the unmerited favor of God to be demonstrated by Christ, is on the scene nonetheless! Isaiah declares that the only reason, the only reason, any of them are still standing is because of God’s mercy! God’s people, no different in their sin than Sodom and Gomorrah, were shown mercy because of God’s election according to grace!

V10. Hear the word of the LORD, you rulers of Sodom! Give ear to the teaching of our God, you people of Gomorrah!

Leaving no room for doubt, Isaiah addresses the people as God sees them in their own strength: Sodom and Gomorrah!

VV11-15 What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices? says the LORD; I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of well-fed beasts; I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of goats.  (12)  “When you come to appear before me, who has required of you this trampling of my courts?  (13)  Bring no more vain offerings; incense is an abomination to me. New moon and Sabbath and the calling of convocations— I cannot endure iniquity and solemn assembly.  (14)  Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hates; they have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them.  (15)  When you spread out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood.

The impotency of the law-keeping rituals cannot save. In fact, empty ritual apart from faith in Christ, the true object of saving faith, angers the Lord! Self-righteousness was their forte, empty ritual gave the people of Israel and Judah a false sense of security. While most every religious program deals heavily with the doing of sin, God was angered at their self-righteous sin of doing!

VV16-17 Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil,  (17)  learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.

How could a people who were in all ways unsound ever do all of the things called for by God? It would be the work of another that would go their way, securing for God’s people, the sinners thou they were, the white as wool garments of righteousness.

V18. “Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.

Though sin-stained and destitute of any personal holiness or righteousness in the sight of Almighty God, the Father had lovingly set His seal upon them before the foundation of the world! The righteousness He demanded, He performed in the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. Praise God!

V19 If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land;

If you are willing and obedient….. what a contrast to the fallen sinners we’ve only just read about! Isaiah is not calling these totally depraved sinners to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps. He is explaining the general demeanor of one who has been granted repentance of dead works and faith in the living God! God’s saved people are ‘made willing in the day of His power.’

Has God made you willing to own and confess your sin? (the doing of sin)

Has God made you willing to repent of dead works and personal merit? (The sin of doing)

Has God made you willing to call on the Lord Jesus Christ for mercy and grace?

Has God made you willing to confess and bow to Him as Lord?

Are you willing? If so, it is only because of the powerful working of God’s great power and might!

V20 but if you refuse and rebel, you shall be eaten by the sword; for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”

To those not willing, those left in their sin-cursed rebellion: you will continue on unchanged by the hearing of this blessed Gospel promise. You will refuse the truth of this message until the day you breathe your last! Ultimately, you’ll stand not in God’s graces, but at the point of the sword of His wrath.

CONCLUSION

Dead religion will not save you! Do you think that mere ritualistic actions are sufficient to propitiate the wrath of God concerning you? Isaiah wrote to the children of Israel first to judge their lives by God’s righteous standard. Then, as if to rescue them from the pit of total despair, Isaiah lovingly writes about a righteousness that is wrought by God alone, a righteousness that makes our scarlet sins white as snow. The question is this: are you willing? If so, it is the Lord of Hosts who has visited with you in the working of the Holy Spirit, regenerating you unto life so that you, by His power, can rest in the perfection of another, Jesus Christ, apart from the dead rituals and sin-cursed works of sinful hands. Truly, this is the work of God, ‘to believe on the One whom He has sent!’ Only he can MAKE us willing!

Lord, add blessings to the preaching of Your Word today, Amen.


Jason K. Boothe  serves as Pastor of Horizons Baptist Church of Piketon, Ohio. For more information concerning the ministries of the church, please visit http://www.HorizonsBaptist.org.

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