I've just about finished writing an article on 'Preparing to Preach Isaiah', and having deposited 4k of weariness onto the treadmill, I'm in a position to type a few brief thoughts on the folly of unbelief and the overwhelming reasons Isaiah provides for faith in Israel's God.
My targets in this article are Doubting David's and Skeptical Sarah's - which in the end basically means all of us at one time or another. in life's varied faith-shaking circumstances.
- Isaiah shows us what unbelief leads to - idolatry, rebellion, moral decay, judgment and exile as he explains in chapter 1 (and at various other points in the book).
- Isaiah shows us what is in store for believing people from all nations who stream to Zion in chapter 2.1-6.
- Isaiah shows why God really hates unbelief and idolatry because He is Holy, Holy, Holy and has given us a holy calling, so if you are tempted to doubt fall down on your face before God in chapter 6.1-8.
- Isaiah makes the most stupendous predictions (in spite of what some continue to insist) of the most remarkable events such as the Virgin Birth of the Saviour in chapter 7.14, the everlasting Government of the Messianic Son of David in chapter 9.6-8, the naming of exile-reversing King Cyrus 200 years before his birth in chapter 45.1, the foretelling of the ministry of John the Baptist in chapter 40.1-8, the depiction in wonderful detail of the sin-bearing sufferings of the despised, rejected, Messiah who will sprinkle many nations and heal us with His stripes in chapter 52.13-53.12, Christ's anointing with the Spirit and His synagogue ministry in Nazareth in chapter 61.1, so the far-side children of the Gospel have no excuse for doubting and every good reason for trusting.
- Isaiah depicts God, in the events of prophecy, exile, return and redemption, as the Only Living God, the Alpha and Omega, who announces events beforehand, and works them out in history; the contrast is stark when compared to deaf, dumb, handless idols who do not speak, write, or declare world events in advance - these utter no-good no-gods cannot bring anything to pass, as he says in Isaiah 46.8-11.
- Isaiah tells us that trusting in what our own hands make is a piece of ridiculous madness, whether it is idols of wood or stone, another risible, false religion, or the kinds of things people still trust, like riches, fame, sex, power, wealth, ambition, or some other 'insurance policy' - the kinds of things we think will make us happy but can never make us holy; the sorts of objects we trust in to make the present more bearable or the future more secure - he mocks satirically as he watches workmen building idols and invites us to join the crowd and laugh along at ourselves, in chapter 44.9-20.
- Isaiah shows how stupid Ahaz was to trust in false alliances when threatened by Assyria, and how wise Hezekiah was not to fear Sennacherib's Rabshakeh, in chapter 36.1-38.22. The believing king trusted and prayed, when threatened by armies and sickness, and it turned out to his deliverance.
- Isaiah gives us an enormous, stupendous vision of a High and Holy God, who commands subservient angels, and sustains the stars in courses, before Whom nations like Assyrian and Babylon are just like dust on weighing scales, and the heaving masses of people are like insects - he raises rulers up and topples vicious tyrants, he shreds their legislation when they trample on His Laws: this is the Sovereign King of kings who rules history for His Church, which is the message of chapter 40.
- Isaiah tells us that it is this God "Your Redeemer the Holy One of Israel" (His favourite title for God, used 25 times in this book, and very rarely anywhere else), who is the Covenant God of Promise, who can never forget Jacob, and if you wait on Him, he will strengthen trembling joints, reinvigorate unnerved hearts, and finally bring about saving, covenant blessings through the blood of the Son of David, in chapter 40.27-31: simply put, there is no one like this Yahweh, this incomparable, unsearchable, most-wise, sovereign, mighty, God.
- Isaiah pictures a banquet, with Messiah lifted up, an ensign for sinful, rebel, children from all nations - He invites needy sinners warmly, to stop binging on unsatisfying junk food, and take our seat by grace at this delightful, delicious, feast of faith: another amazing bonus is that the admission price is free, in chapter 55, that they may share not just return, in His final glorious redemption.
So here are ten truths for Thomas to drive out unbelief - are you facing financial ruin, are you unable to pay the mortgage, has you child gone off the rails, is your church wrecked by dispute, have you lost you wife or parent, are you about to be laid off, are you worried about travel with terrorists, are you afraid of LGBT lawsuits, do you think God's forgotten your cancer, that you'll get no strength for sickness, that this grief will drown or kill you, that there's slim hope for the Gospel, that you'll never get a husband, that you're headed for divorce, that this dark tunnel will never end, that your faith is too flaky to walk the narrow way or hold the party line, or that temptation is too strong, that faithful, monogamous, marriage seems too stressful or impossible?
Well, it is time to bow down before Isaiah 6.1-8! Look right away to those healing stripes of Isaiah 53.4-6! Don't let the Devil deceive you that this mighty Sovereign has forgotten, or that this tender, compassionate Redeemer lacks the care or power to help you - pray to see with faith as you gaze at the God of Glory of Isaiah 40! If you, broken, weeping child of Father God, ask the Good Shepherd of Isaiah 40.11 to tend, to guide, to hold you, there is no doubt that He will and none can pluck you from His hand! If you are an idol worshipper, can you not see you're ridiculous?If you are fighting like a rebel it's high time you owned your master, Isaiah 1.2-3! Don't fob God off with lip service - Christ is not impressed with false worship Isaiah 1.12-15! Are you all mucked up inside, with life and lips unclean and unfit; or shrivelled up like a leaf, utterly hopeless in yourself, like Isaiah 1.16-17, 64.6-7? Stop doubting in your God, remember your Saviour is Sovereign - put your trust in this mighty God, who has sent His Son to save, and bring you through this life, in the hands of the God the Everlasting, who never tires or wearies, to the holy world beyond.
Have you got those Ten truths Thomas? Then today it's time to trust!