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Guilty of Hope August 7, 2012

Posted by roberttalley in Acts, Hope, Paul's Life.
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GUILTY OF HOPE
Acts 24

When I was a kid we had two girls in our church, who used to sing a country gospel song. The song was called “Guilty of Love in the First-Degree.” It speaks of the condemnation of Jesus Christ to the cross and that the real reason for His crucifixion was his love for us.

Today I want to talk about what we are guilty of. I trust you are guilty of love in the first-degree. Our Lord desires us to be guilty. There is, however, another crime that I trust you are guilty of, the crime which Paul here claims to be guilty of, guilty of hope.

A. We, who hope in the resurrection, strive to live differently (Acts 24:14-16; compare 23:6). Christians do not need a bucket list. I was asked last week if I had played in the band the same way that my son does now. I replied that I had not but that sometimes I thought that would have been nice (I did not have the opportunity), but then I added but it really doesn’t matter. I have all I need. Christians can be content because the best is yet to come. Christians can rejoice in suffering because of the hope of resurrection. The greatest adventure in our life is still to come.

1. We strive to have a conscience without offense before God. There are steps in which it is possible to have a conscience without offense before God. The first is in that we have put our faith and trust in the crucified and resurrected Christ for salvation from sin.

The second step is that we continually cleanse ourselves as believers before God. This is evidence which shows we have taken the first step according to 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Often people apply this to the unsaved but the question being answered is “How do you know that you have fellowship with God?” Through agreeing with God’s evaluation of your sin and depending on His Son for salvation from sin, you show that you are a righteous son or daughter of God, cleansed from every stain of sin. Why do we do this? We do this because we hope in Jesus. First John 3:1 reminds us that everyone who has this hope in Him purifies Himself.

Let me illustrate what it means to be without offense before God. “Dr. Roy Gustavson, working with the Billy Graham Association [is credited with a story about] a man in England who had purchased a Rolls Royce. The man decided to take a holiday in Europe and he wanted to take his Rolls Royce with him to tour through the French countryside. So he put the Rolls Royce on the ferry and went across the English Channel. He was going through Europe, looking at the sights, when suddenly his Rolls Royce broke down and there was nobody there who could fix it. He sent a cable back to the company in England and they flew a man over who did the repairs. He got the car running again, then left and went back to England. The man thought to himself, “This is going to cost me a ton of money.” They never sent a bill. When he finally got back to England, never having received a bill, he sent a letter to the company telling what had happened, how the mechanic had come over, and wondering what the charge would be. He got a letter back from the Rolls Royce Company, saying as follows, ‘Dear Sir, Thank you so much for your letter. You need to know that we have no record in our files that any Rolls Royce has ever broken down at any place, at any time, for any reason’” (Taken from Ray Pritchard’s “Keep Believing” website, http://www.keepbelieving.com/sermon/1995-02-26-Justification-Not-Guilty!/).

2. We strive to have a conscience without offense before men. Part of the point that Paul is making here is that he is not guilty of any crime. There are, however, other places where Paul maintains that he has sinned against no one. First Thessalonians 1-2 seem to indicate that this is one of the reasons their ministry in Thessalonika was so effective.

There’s a cemetery outside Florence, Alabama, near the remains of an ante-bellum mansion called Forks of Cypress. The mansion was built in the 1820s by James Jackson, an early settler of northwest Alabama. A quarter-mile away is the Jackson family cemetery. There is no sign marking the spot, only a five-foot high stone wall surrounding about 50 graves. Inside is a tall marker over James Jackson’s grave with a long inscription extolling his virtues, which were many. There is, however, another marker for one of his sons, William Moore Jackson. There was his name, the dates 1824-1891, and this simple five-word epitaph: “A man of unquestioned integrity.” Five words to sum up an entire life. Sixty-plus years distilled into five words. But, oh, what truth they tell (adapted from Ray Pritchard at http://www.keepbelieving.com/sermon/1996-08-18-Five-Words-on-a-Tombstone/).

B. We, who hope in this life, strive to get what we can out of this life (verses 24-27).

1. When we live for this life, we have little interest in righteousness (compare Philippians 3:8b-10). Paul writing here notes that there are those who are interested in righteousness but are looking in the wrong place, that is, they are keeping the law in order to become righteous. Paul, however, makes it clear that righteousness is only possible through the resurrected Christ.

What good, however, is righteousness to Felix. Righteousness cannot buy fine clothing. It can’t build a villa in the country. Righteousness does not buy very much down here. I wonder if Paul was thinking about Felix when he wrote these words in Philippians 3:18. “For many walk…. [as] enemies of the cross of Christ: whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame – who set their mind on earthly things.”

2. When we live for this life, we have little interest in self-control (compare 1 Corinthians 9:24-27). Paul writing here notes that what we do in this life matters in the life to come. We practice self-control in order to win an eternal gold medal. That is the type of crown spoken of here. We win.

What good, however, is self-control to Felix. Self-control can accomplish much in this world but self-control apart from the hope of the resurrection gains nothing imperishable. Ariston of Ephesus wrote about his Olympic experience competing in and winning the pankration (wrestling) at an ancient Olympiad, “As soon as we arrived the Hellanokikai divided us according to our age and told us: ‘If you have worked to such an extent that your are worthy to go to Olympia, and if you haven’t done anything despicable or proven idle, take heart and move on. Those of you that didn’t work go wherever you want’…. On the day of the inauguration of the Games we all assembled in front of the statue of Zeus Orkios, to take an oath that we have rigidly followed the training for ten consecutive months. …I faced the winners of the other matches and defeated them all. The crowd cheered and applauded, as the judge crowned me with the kotinos, the wreath from a wild olive tree branch. I accepted modestly the crowd’s applause, proud that I bestowed glory and everlasting fame on my city” (accessed at http://www.fhw.gr/olympics/ancient/en/ariston.html on July 30 2012). Ephesus is still known but not because of Ariston. In fact Ephesus is best known by men like Paul, Timothy, John the Revelator, and Polycarp: men who disciplined themselves for an eternal crown, bestowing glory and everlasting fame on an eternal city.

3. When we live for this life, we have little interest in the judgment to come. Paul told Felix in Acts 24:15 “that there will be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and the unjust”. Paul implies that the just, the righteous, those whose self-control was to gain a heavenly crown will be judged and rewarded but those whose God is their belly, whose self-control was to gain an earthly reward will be judged because they have no righteousness with which they can stand before God at that final day.

Remember those who attempt to gain righteousness by keeping the law. They will suffer the same fate as those who do not seek righteousness at all because they did not seek their righteousness in the death and resurrection of God’s Son, Jesus Christ the Righteous.

Next Week: Meeting Jesus (Acts 26)

First in a series from Isaiah January 30, 2012

Posted by roberttalley in Covenant, Forgiveness, Hope, Isaiah, Mercy, Promises of God, Prophecy, Righteousness.
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HOPE IN DISASTER
Isaiah 54

Introduction: One of the key principles in understanding the Bible is to recognize that it is not written to us but rather for us. Understanding that principle is why we don’t build a tent for animal sacrifices after reading the book of Leviticus. Most people want instant understanding of the Bible and don’t work to understand to whom and for what purpose it was written.

That does not mean that God’s Word was not given with future people in mind. The last half of the book of Isaiah is an excellent example of a book written with a future people in mind. Isaiah predicted that Babylon would take the Jews into captivity. Jerusalem along with the Temple would be destroyed and the people would be taken captive to a land with no hope of ever seeing their homeland again. They would have questions that Isaiah addresses. “Has God failed? Is He really as great as the law and the psalms and the prophets had proclaimed? Were His promises to Abraham and Moses and David in vain? Had their sin been too much even for God?”

Over the past few years we have seen serious economic problems. Although America has been a promised land to many for hundreds of years, many are fearful today, predicting the demise of America. What should we as Christians do as we look down the barrel of the gun of possible economic, moral, and political disaster? How can we prepare ourselves and how should we live when that disaster strikes?

A. When disaster strikes, turn to God’s promises (verses 9-10). David Jeremiah tells of some words written on the wall of a cave where a young Jewish girl in the Warsaw ghetto of Poland was hiding from the Nazis.
“I believe in the sun, even when it is not shining.
I believe in love, even when I cannot feel it.
I believe in God, even when He is silent.”

Job put it this way, “Even if He slays me, yet will I trust Him.” When disaster strikes, we turn to God’s promises.

1. His covenant is as dependable as a rainbow (vs. 9). We think of the rainbow as being a promise that God will not destroy the world with water again. Verse 9 points out that every promise of God is dependable. As a kid there was a song we used to sing that ended like this, “When it looks like the sun wouldn’t shine anymore, God put a rainbow in the cloud.” The skeptic looks at the laws of nature and declares there is no God but we look at nature and understand there must be a God who holds this all together, who holds His children in His hand.

2. His kindness is everlasting (vs. 10). In Isaiah 43:2-4 the Lord says, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you… I am the LORD your God…and I have loved you.” Jeremiah in Lamentations describes the death and destruction, the hunger and nakedness that these people endured when Jerusalem was taken. They recognized that God had allowed this judgment. In chapter 3:21-23, “This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope. Through the LORD’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.” Those are not the words of someone for whom it is going well but rather for those who are in deep despair. His kindness is everlasting.

B. When disaster strikes, hope in abundance from God (verses 1-3). “But we are in captivity! Our homes are destroyed! Our children are dead! We have no where to turn!” Isaiah reminds them that God will bless them abundantly. Paul in prison in Philippi put it this way, “My God will supply all my need through His riches in Christ Jesus.” What disaster do you see ahead? It is not forever. There is abundant blessing to be found in Jesus Christ. Hope in Him and in His riches.

Our problem comes when we try to dictate to God how His blessings should appear. We expect financial security, a healthy body, freedom from tragedy. Those are all wonderful things but none of them indicate God’s abundant blessings. His blessings are found in an eternal abundance. “Lay not treasures up for yourself on this earth where moth and rust corrupts but lay up treasures for yourself in heaven.”

C. When disaster strikes, depend on a restored relationship (verses 4-8). The picture here is of a woman who is forsaken because of her wickedness and is then received again to a loving husband (Read verses 7-8).

John Oswalt in his commentary on this chapter relates the story of an old man in a hospital, on his deathbed, wondering if the next life will be as bitter as the one he has just lived. In comes his daughter. Her life has also been hard but “out of her eyes shine eagerness, humor, hope, and love.” He says to her, “I know what you want to say to me, and you might as well save your breath. It’s too late.”
“But Dad, it’s never too late! Look what Christ has done for me! I was in the gutter, drinking myself to death…But he saw something in me to love! Everybody else said I was no good, and he told them to ‘shut up.’”
The old man replies, “…you don’t know what I’ve done. I was a preacher! … If your God is so good and loving, he wouldn’t have anything to do with me. I’m too far gone.”
His daughter demands, “Daddy, you look at me! Nobody is too far gone for Jesus Christ! … He died for Hitler! Do you think you’re worse than Hitler? No, you’re just like Hitler, too proud to get down on your face and ask God to forgive you. He will forgive you, Daddy! He will!”
“The old man turned his head to look at his grown daughter…he saw what was undeniably true-she was being transformed from the inside out…hesitantly, he reached his hand out from under the sheet and took hers. In the next moments … [he] confessed his sins… and disgrace became the welcoming embrace of the world’s Maker…”

D. When disaster strikes, trust in His deliverance from your enemies (verses 11-17). What danger is it that you fear? Turn in trust to the hand of God through Christ.

1. This is the heritage God will protect (verses 13, 17). What do you have that will last? People have been discussing this week what Joe Paterno’s legacy will be. In a hundred years few will remember him. Accumulate wealth. Those to whom you leave it may waste it. A heritage that will last is only to be found in Christ.

2. This is the righteousness we have in Christ (verses 14-17). Hebrews calls this the Sabbath rest we have in Christ. The angels proclaimed it as peace on earth, good will to men. When disaster comes, when the bankbook is empty, when cancer grips your body, when tragedy rains on your family, remember in Jesus Christ there is rest and peace. All is right in Him.

“There is nothing more God needs to do for his ‘covenant of peace’ to be ours forever” (Oswalt). Isaiah 53:4-6 tells us that Jesus has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows. He was wounded for our transgressions and by His stripes we are healed. Will you enter this new covenant that Jesus made for you on the cross? Will you turn to Him? Saved and unsaved alike, believer and unbeliever alike, turn to Him today!

Next week: An Invitation in Disastrous Times – Isaiah 55

Seeking God’s Favor After Sinning March 12, 2010

Posted by roberttalley in Adultery, Confession, David, Depravity, Faith, Forgiveness, Hope, Mercy, Psalms, Religion, Repentance, Second Samuel, Sermons, Sin.
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Seeking God’s Favor After Sinning
2 Samuel 12 with Psalms 51 and 32

David was entrusted with God’s people. In His disobedience to God, He betrayed God’s people. What we sometimes forget is the awful cost of betrayal. There is an emotional cost. When you read John’s Gospel carefully, it seems that a huge part of the emotional turmoil exhibited in the Garden of Gethsemane had to do with his knowledge of the betrayal of Judas.

Many of you today feel betrayed. Some of you have so often felt betrayed that you have deep scars on your soul. If you have been betrayed, then understand this sermon touches on those events in which you were betrayed.

There is, however, hope and healing. The path to hope and healing, however, is not an easy path. I do not want to mislead you and tell you that this one sermon will answer all your questions and solve all your problems. What I desire is that we begin our path through the valley of the shadow of death together. It will not be easy. In fact, our path begins with the destruction left behind by sin.

I. Sin is destructive (2 Samuel 12). It starves the malnourished and leaves the helpless unprotected. Sin is like a whirlpool pulling all those close by under the water. Sin leaves its victims with no where to turn. Sin, like Satan goes about as a roaring lion, seeking who He may devour. Yes, sin is destructive eternally in the lake of fire but it is also destructive physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually in this life, right now.

a. One of the reasons sin is so destructive is that when I sin, I do not care about others (2 Samuel 12:1-6). You see sin is manipulative, coercive, controlling, and predatory. Look at David’s sin. David in this case did not care who he harmed.

That is the point of Nathan’s parable. Nathan did not even address the lies David told and the murder David ordered. He simply points out that the sinner, in this case, David, did not care about the welfare of others. He did not care about his kingdom, he did not care about his family, and he did not care about his army. All he cared about was self.

Let me at this point say something very important. When I say these things, I know what I am talking about. I am an experienced sinner. I wish that I could tell you that I would never sin against you but my forty-six years have taught me this much. I sin when I am selfish. Sometimes my sin is acceptable to those around me and sometimes it is not but it is always selfish.

Sin destroys trust because sin uses trust as a weapon. When trust is destroyed, it is then that people begin to lose hope. Without trust, how can you hope in friends, family, and church? Without trust, how can you feel safe? Without trust, how can you hope in justice? Would you trust David as your king, your husband, your father, your commander in chief? No. Yet you need those in whom you can trust. What do you do? Perhaps the one damaged by sin withdraws into a world they feel they can control. Maybe they put up an impenetrable front through which no one can break through. Or perhaps they simply walk away when trust is demanded.

But when I sin, I do not care about that.

b. When I sin, I show a lack of contentment with God’s blessings (2 Samuel 12:7-8). This is the second point of the parable of Nathan but this point is so important that Nathan explicitly emphasizes it.

“In Our Daily Bread, Philip Parham tells the story of a rich industrialist who was disturbed to find a fisherman sitting lazily beside his boat.
“Why aren’t you out there fishing?” he asked.
“Because I’ve caught enough fish for today,” said the fisherman.
“Why don’t you catch more fish than you need?” the rich man asked.
“What would I do with them?”
“You could earn more money,” came the impatient reply, “and buy a better boat so you could go deeper and catch more fish. You could purchase nylon nets, catch even more fish, and make more money. Soon you’d have a fleet of boats and be rich like me.”
The fisherman asked, “Then what would I do?”
“You could sit down and enjoy life,” said the industrialist.
“What do you think I’m doing now?” the fisherman replied.

Again, I speak from experience. When I sin, it is often because I am not content with what God has given me. I want more. I am not convinced that what I have is enough. I am not convinced that the resources, whether physical or emotional or spiritual, that God has given me are sufficient. It is in that moment that my heart becomes fertile ground for sin.

c. When I sin, I despise the wisdom of God and His Word (2 Samuel 12:9-10). I will refer to this when we celebrate the Lord’s Table. It is important for you and me as believers to realize that when we sin, it is because we despise God’s wisdom. A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned that He is God and we are not. When I sin as a believer, it is usually because I feel I know better than God does.

II. But repentance is possible (Psalm 51). The consequences of David’s sin were long-lasting. A daughter abused. A son murdered. Another son, Absalom leads a rebellion against his father in which not only is he killed but thousands of others die in a civil war. Those were some of the special consequences God visited on David and Israel. Yet there was repentance on David’s part and this repentance resulted in God’s blessing on God’s people.

a. No excuses are allowed (Psalm 51:1-6). David made it clear where his sin came from. He was born a sinner. Environmental factors played no role. He was the source of his own sin. That is why he begged for mercy. He could not wipe away the consequences. Neither could he eliminate an already done deed. He needed God to intervene. For God to intervene, David realized that there could be no excuses.

It is essential that we be honest with ourselves. We must acknowledge the destructiveness of our sin. It is only when we are honest with ourselves that we can truly repent.

b. A return to dependence on God’s mercy is demanded (Psalm 51:7-12). There used to be a saying, “The Devil is no friend of grace.” We forget so easily that healing is only to be found in God’s grace and mercy. We, each of us, are in the midst of spiritual warfare. We are defenseless against Satan, against the world, and most of all, against our own evil flesh unless we depend on God’s grace.

c. Repentance unlike penance focuses on loving God and others (Psalm 51:13-17).

One of the big dangers is that one admits to guilt but there is not change. Repentance demands a change. David repentance drives him away from his selfishness. John the Baptist tried to explain this when he preached on repentance in Luke 3:7-14. Penance simply says I am guilty and I will start doing good works. Repentance says, there is no excuse, I am sinful to the core but I will throw myself own God’s mercy and begin to live as He commands, “To love the Lord my God with all my heart and my neighbor as myself.”

d. Repentance of the individual brings healing to the congregation (Psalm 51:18-19). You see, each one of us is negatively affected by the sin of the other. That is clear. First Corinthians 12:26 says, “…if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it…” This psalm also makes it clear that true repentance in one of us, positively affects each one of us. Last week, Dale preached on forgiveness from Matthew 18:21-35. Earlier in the chapter, Jesus warns against the consequences of sin in verses 1-10. Yet there is hope in verses 11-14. Jesus wants to save the lost, protect the weak, revive those without hope, and nourish the starving. He does that regardless of whether the offender repents or not.

But what about the sinner? Not every sinner repents and Jesus threatens that one with punishment. But if he repents, Jesus will not cast him out and according to Matthew 18:15, we have gained a brother. It is of profit to each of you when I repent of my sin. How? Because then we are viewed as acceptable before God.

What is your sin? It is destructive to yourself and to all those around you. You need to quit making excuses and repent. You may need help being honest with yourself. You may need help on the road of repentance. God’s mercy is available and we extend our hand to help you.

I have spoken primarily to believers who have already trusted Christ. If you have not trusted Christ, you need to recognize that He paid the penalty for your sin on the cross. He died for you. You need to be honest also. You need to admit that you are a sinner and that you cannot save yourself. You need the mercy available through faith in Christ. Will you trust him today?

The Hope of Christmas (A Sermon for First Advent from Isaiah 8:1-22) November 29, 2009

Posted by roberttalley in Advent, Christmas, Faith, Hope, Incarnation, Isaiah, Jesus, Messiah, Religion, Sermons, Signs and Wonders, Virgin Birth.
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THE HOPE OF CHRISTMAS
Isaiah 8:1-22

INTRODUCTION: This advent season we are looking at “Christmas According to Isaiah”. Chapters 7-11 of the book of Isaiah all come from the same time period of Isaiah’s ministry. It is about 700 years before Jesus Christ would be born. Ahaz, king of Judah is looking to Assyria for help against his two enemies to the north: (1) his relatives, the northern kingdom of Israel and (2) their ally, Syria. Isaiah’s message to Ahaz and to Judah is depend on God not man for help. You will be judged, in fact, God will use your ally, Assyria, to judge you. However, God will not forsake His people. There is hope but only for those of His people who turn to God.

This is the hope of Christmas. These are tough days for many but there is hope for a glorious future for those who turn to Christ.

I. God confirms this hope through a child (vs. 1-4). Now this is not the first sign that is given to Ahaz and the people of Judah. In Isaiah 7:13-17, Isaiah tells Ahaz to ask for a sign and Ahaz refuses. God, however, through Isaiah gives him a sign anyway. It is the sign of a child. We know that this prophecy is referred to in Matthew as the prophecy of the virgin birth of Christ. However, as is not uncommon in Old Testament prophecy, there is a double fulfillment: a near fulfillment and a far off fulfillment. The fulfillment through the virgin born Christ is still at this time 700 years in the future but God also gave another child, Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz, to be born and the purpose of His birth was to confirm the prophecy and to confirm the hope that would be connected to that prophecy.

a. How the prophecy concerning the child is given is described in verses 1-2. Now there are several important things that we need to notice.

i. First, this prophecy was intended to be public. It was written on a large scroll so that it could be easily and readily read. Witnesses were named who would be able at the fulfillment of the prophecy to confirm that the prophecy had been given before the fulfillment.

It is very important to God that people have good reason to believe His message of hope. When God speaks of hope, He speaks of a certainty, a guarantee. If you purchased something this past Black Friday, you undoubtedly saved your receipts. If you decide to return an item, the receipt tells you whether your hope of getting your money back is a wish or a certainty. In the same way, God gave the sign of this child as a confirmation, an assurance that He would not forsake His people but would save them in the end.

Is this not one reason why the virgin birth of Christ is important? That Christ was born of a virgin confirms for us that we have hope in eternity. If it were to be proven that Jesus was not the far future fulfillment of this prophecy, then our hope in Him would be based on the lies of Matthew and Luke. He was, however, born of a virgin. Both Matthew and Luke point to verifiable eyewitnesses who could verify that Jesus truly was born of a virgin.

Once I spoke with an evangelical pastor who felt that it did not really matter if Jesus was born of a virgin. What was important was that one believes in Jesus. Why then did God give the prophecy? Faith in Christ must be based on the certainty that Jesus alone fits the prophecy of the Scriptures. Anything less is like going to the store without a receipt and wishing for an exchange.

ii. Let’s look now at the prophecy (verses 3-4). Isaiah and his wife, the prophetess, would have a son named Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz. His name was actually the prophecy: “hurry to the loot, swift to the prey.” (verses 3-4). According to the prophecy, before this baby would speak his first words, the meaning of his name would come to pass.

b. The prophecy concerning the child is fulfilled. The beginning of the fulfillment of this prophecy is found in 2 Kings 16:9, “So the king of Assyria heeded [Ahaz’s call for help]; for the king of Assyria went up against Damascus and took it, carried its people captive to Kir, and killed Rezin.” Chapter 17 then describes the fall of Israel to the Assyrians.

II. So what is the message of hope that is found in this prophecy? It is this, “God protects His people even in judgment” (vs. 5-10).

a. This judgment comes because of lack of faith in God (vs. 5-7). The northern kingdom depended on man rather than God as represented by their rejection of the waters of Shiloah and because of their rejection, the Assyrians came like a flood and wiped out their armies and took their people captive.

b. Mercy, however, is available to God’s people (verse 8a). We see this in that the flood of judgment would not overwhelm them but rather come up to their neck. This is exactly what happened. The Assyrians who defeated Syria and Israel were not able to overcome Judah. Judah suffered much because of the Assyrians but God delivered Judah from destruction.

c. Why? Because God is with them (verses 8b-10). Isaiah reminds them in these verses that Immanuel, “God with us,” will deliver them from their enemies. Because God is with His people, they can have hope. Their future, even in the day of judgment, is certain and victorious because “God is with us.”

“No wonder when John Wesley lay dying in 1791, he roused from his sleep long [enough] to open his eyes and exclaim, “The best of all is, God is with us!” Then he closed his eyes and died” (from Ray Pritchard’s sermon “Overcoming Loneliness”).

III. With this message of hope, God warns of the danger of rejecting His confirmed Word (vs. 11-15).

a. He tells Isaiah, “Do not fear those who reject Me” (vs. 11-12).

“Isaiah’s message must have seemed crazy: ‘Don’t fear the mighty army you see arrayed against you. Though they have far more soldiers, you have something they don’t. You have Immanuel on your side.’” (from Ray Pritchard’s sermon “Are You Prepared to Suffer for Christ?“). For that reason, many accused Isaiah and other prophets of the LORD of collusion with the enemy. This is similar to what Jesus said to His disciples in Matthew 10:28 when He said, “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”

b. “Do not fear those who reject Me but rather fear the One who is to be hallowed (vs. 13-14a).” To hallow God is to set Him above all others. No one can veto His Word. He is the LORD and there is none else.

c. Destruction is the end of His rejecters (v. 14b-15). It is not just that those who reject God, who reject Christ, will stumble and be offended. The picture in these verses is that they will be destroyed by the very one they stumbled over. The one who they found so offensive will be their judge.

IV. God gives hope only to those who trust His Word (vs. 16-22), that is, believe in His confirming signs. In those days it concerned Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz but today the sign in whom we must believe is the virgin born Son of God, Jesus Christ, Immanuel, God with us. The apostle Paul in Romans 9:33 took part of verse 14 and another portion from Isaiah to make this very point, “Behold, I lay in Zion a stumbling stone and rock of offense, And whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.”*

a. Our hope is confirmed by His works (vs. 16-18). The signs that God gives confirm His word and give us the ability to wait, to hope. The difficult part of the certain hope of the Christian is the waiting. The first verse of one of the carols we sang today, written by John Wesley’s brother, Charles, describes very well the difficulty of waiting, of hoping.

“Come, Thou long-expected Jesus,
Born to set Thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us;
Let us find our rest in Thee.
Israel’s strength and consolation,
Hope of all the earth Thou art;
Dear Desire of every nation,
Joy of every longing heart.”

Isaiah and his two sons (Shear-Jashub is mentioned in Isaiah 7:3 and means “the remnant shall return”) were signs of hope in their day but men had to wait 700 years before Immanuel was born. Immanuel, God with us, Jesus lived and died and rose again and returned to His Father’s side at the right hand of the throne of God 2000 years ago and we wait, we hope, we sing…

“Come, Thou long-expected Jesus…
Born Thy people to deliver,
Born a Child, and yet a King,
Born to reign in us forever,
Now (can you not hear the longing in this carol?) Thy gracious kingdom bring.
By Thine own eternal Spirit
Rule in all our hearts alone;
By Thine all-sufficient merit,
Raise us to Thy glorious throne.”

That is the hope of Christmas!

b. Our insight, our ability to see the truth, to wait, to hope is conditioned by faith in His Word (vs. 19-22).

There were those who offered an alternative to God’s Word, God’s law, God’s signs. They said, “Go to those who can speak with the dead and find out what God is doing!”

As in those days, many “In our relativistic age… are offended by any suggestion that there is only one way of salvation. But that is precisely what Jesus meant when he said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). Those words must be taken at face value. We have no right to water them down. Sometimes people speak of Jesus as if he were some kind of great moral teacher. The people who say that generally don’t like John 14:6. It doesn’t fit the concept of a great moral teacher. If Jesus isn’t the way, the truth, and the life–if there really is another way to the Father–then Jesus isn’t a great moral teacher. He’s either the most self-deceived man in all history or he is a liar. In either case, he’s not a great teacher. You can’t pick and choose with Jesus. Either take what he says at face value or reject him altogether. Those are the only two choices you have.” (from Ray Pritchard’s sermon “Stumbling Stone or Cornerstone?“).

That is what Isaiah is saying in this prophecy. Believe God and His Word and you will know the truth. You will not be plunged deeper and deeper into darkness but will be enlightened and will have hope even in a dark world.

CONCLUSION: Our Future is Absolutely Certain.
 There are many fulfilled prophecies related to Jesus Christ in Isaiah (that Jesus will be born of a virgin), in Micah (that Jesus would be born in Bethlehem), in the Psalms (that Jesus would suffer, die, and rise from the dead), in Daniel and Hosea and elsewhere. When we look at those prophecies we know that we can expect that our hope for the future will also be fulfilled in Jesus Christ.

INVITATION: Would you bow your heads and close your eyes for a few moments? This is good news. Perhaps you have heard this good news before, perhaps many times. Is it not time that you believed it? Is it not time for you to say, I am going to trust Christ alone as my salvation. Would you do that today? Would anyone like to do that at this moment?

Perhaps you are here and you are interested but are not yet ready to make a commitment to Christ but would like me to pray for you today, that God would help you to know the truth. My prayer for you is nothing magical but the God who hears and answers prayer wants to bring you to Himself. If you would like prayer today, would you raise your hand?

If you raised your hand, you need to talk to someone you can trust. I would be glad to speak with you. There are others who would be glad to speak with you. Perhaps you would like to speak to the person you came with and ask them to show you how to trust Christ as Savior. Do it today!

Maybe you have a lot of questions. We can help you to get connected with someone who will take the time to meet with you weekly and answer your questions. Please let us know today, if we can help you in this way.

(Thanks to Ray Pritchard for the quotations from his sermons.)