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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

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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?

When God Wakes Up… Psalm 78:40-72 June 7, 2009

Posted by roberttalley in Judgment, Mercy, Psalms, Religion, Sermons.
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WHEN GOD WAKES UP (Psalm 78:40-72)
THEME: God’s Purposes in the Lives of Sinful Men are Eternal.
The idea for the title of this sermon is found in verse 65. This portion of Psalm 78 portrays a God who has forsaken His people. They have rebelled against Him, generation after generation. Finally, God says, you are on your own. After a long period in which it seems that God has forsaken His people, God wakes up. Not literally, we know that God does not sleep. He is always aware. Verse 65 says that God’s sudden action was as if God had just woken up. The next phrase makes it even more vivid. God’s sudden action is like a drunken giant, a man of war, roaring in wrath against His enemies.
These are images that we are too refined today to use but I want us to keep them in mind. God will accomplish His purposes and when it becomes evident that God is accomplishing His purposes in the lives of His people it will be with overwhelming power and might.
God shows both wrathful judgment and loving mercy in His dealings with men (verses 40-64). Before we look at the verses, we need to remind ourselves that God’s wrath and God’s mercy are always tied together. When God put Adam and Eve out of the garden, doomed to death; He promised that Eve would have a seed that would destroy the power of the evil one. When God destroyed the world with water, one man found grace in God’s eyes and eight people, Noah and his extended family, were saved in the ark. We see this truth set forth in the following verses.
His judgment serves the purpose of redeeming His people from the enemy’s enslavement (verses 40-51). Notice what Asaph writes (verse 42), “He redeemed them (Israel) from the enemy.” Specifically, God ransomed or redeemed them from slavery in Egypt. Now how did God do this? Did He give Pharaoh great riches in exchange for His people? Did He allow Pharaoh to conquer other nations and extend His political power as a ransom for Israel’s release? Now, the price Pharaoh had to pay was a terrible price. It was the price of judgment.
These judgment are described for us in verses 43-51. God began by turning the great Nile River and all the streams flowing into it into blood. As a result, the fish in the rivers died and the river stank. Exodus 7:18 says that the Egyptians would grow weary of drinking blood polluted by dead fish but Exodus 7:22-23 tells us that Pharaoh’s heart was not moved. The ransom price of judgment was not yet high enough.
Then God began to send other judgments. He sent a plague of frogs. This had to be a miracle because all the tadpoles had just died. Pharaoh began to bargain with God, “Pray to God to take the frogs away and I will let the people go.” But when suddenly the frogs died, Pharaoh changed His mind (Exodus 8:14-15).
When God sent the swarms of flies, Pharaoh came to the bargaining table again (Exodus 8:24-29), “Can’t you sacrifice to God in Egypt?” Moses said, “Nope.” “Well then, go but don’t go far.” Moses prayed to God, God took the flies away, and Pharaoh backed off of His offer again.
God sent hail and fire and frost to destroy the crops and the cattle left in the field. Pharaoh said, “I have sinned,” but when the hail stopped, he sinned even more by refusing to let God’s people go (Exodus 9:27-34).
Eventually, Pharaoh drove Moses out of his presence but when God brought locusts on the land, he begged for Moses to come and said, “I have sinned,” but when the locusts were gone, so was Pharaoh’s repentance and he did not let God’s people go (Exodus 10:11-20).
During all this time, there were four other plagues that God sent on Egypt and other ways in which Pharaoh tried to bargain but then God put His final offer on the table, the death angel, killing the firstborn of every house and in every stable in Egypt (Exodus 12:29) except for those who obeyed the command of God in putting the blood on the doorpost. Pharaoh said, there is no reason more to bargain. You may go. That is how God redeemed, ransomed, Israel out of slavery in Egypt. The price paid for God’s people was God’s wrath on Egypt.
His care serves the purpose of establishing His eternal possession (verses 52-55). These people were slaves. Why would God show such concern for them. Asaph writes that God guided them like a shepherd guides his sheep, protecting them from all danger, even to the point of destroying Pharaoh’s army in the Red Sea. Why? That God has show great judgment on Egypt and great love to Israel. Why?
I can imagine Asaph, the first time he sings this psalm before the people. He tells them that they are going to learn something life transforming. He reminds them of past rebellion against God. He reminds them of God’s mercy and judgment down through history. Then he takes his cymbals and gives a mighty clang and declares, “And He brought them to His holy border.” Then he looks around at the mountain on which the tabernacle sits and on which he is leading God’s people in their service before them and clangs the cymbal again and shouts, “This mountain which His right hand had acquired.” This is where God has chosen to meet with man. This is where God has place His name. This is the center of the universe. This is God’s home on earth forever. This land is God’s land and He has given it to us and established us in it. Can you imagine that? What a song service!
God’s purposes involve more than just judgment and mercy. God wants to dwell among men in glory. He accomplishes that purpose through His care for His people.
His temporary rejection of His people serves the purpose of calling them to repentance (verses 56-64). “Yet…” It seems that God’s purposes are frustrated. All the things that the first generation in the wilderness had done, they did also. They were like a deceitful bow. God’s aim was dead on but they missed the mark every time. Even their worship, their submission to God was polluted by their tendency to go their own way, going to high places instead of to the tabernacle to worship, taking images and saying this is Jehovah-God (verse 58). Even some began to worship other gods according to the book of Judges. Finally, God said, I have had enough. You are on your own.
So God in His anger forsook them. We have this recorded in the early chapters of 1 Samuel. The Philistines were coming against Israel. The leaders decided that if they had the ark of the covenant with them, they would win the battle. After all, that was the presence of God among men. When they went into battle, not only were they defeated but the priests, Hophni and Phinehas, Eli’s sons were killed, and the ark was captured by the Philistines. When news came back, the shock of the ark’s capture caused Eli to fall of his seat and because of his weight, in falling broke his neck and died. The youth of the nation were destroyed in that battle. A generation of young men and young women bore the brunt of God’s wrath, just as happened with that first generation in Egypt.
The picture of what happened though is best told in verse 64. Suddenly, the ark was gone and the adult priests were dead. One of them, Phinehas, had a wife who was bearing a baby into the world as the word came of Israel’s defeat, the ark’s capture, and her husband’s death. She bore her son and named him, Ichabod, meaning “the glory has departed.” God has forsaken us, she recognized. There is no glory more in Israel. What an awful name. What an important reminder. When God forsakes man, there is no glory.
But then God woke up…
Now, God’s inactivity is simply the precursor of unrestrained intervention (verses 65-72).
His judgment is again decisive in its purpose (verses 65-66). The Philistines, after winning their mighty battle brought the ark into Ashdod, into the temple of their god, Dagon. The next morning, Dagon, the statute god, was face down, bowed in submission, in worship, of the unseen God of Israel. The set Dagon up and the next morning, not only was he bowed before the ark but his head and palms were broken off. Outside of the temple, God struck the men with burning tumors of some type, perhaps some type of debilitating hemmhroid. Everywhere they moved the ark, the plague of burning tumors followed. God brought them down in His anger toward them.
His choices are eternal in their purpose (verses 67-69). Shortly afterward, God made a choice. The leading tribe had always been Ephraim. It had been the biggest and strongest and most centrally located of all the tribes. It had received the birthright of the firstborn from Joseph. The house of God, Bethel was in their land. The tabernacle of Shiloh had also been in Ephraim. God said, I have picked out somewhere better, Jerusalem. The mountain there is where my name will become great and will be established forever. There is just one problem. Jerusalem is not even under Israelite control. The Jebusites live there and the mountain fortress city is strong. What will God do?
His servant will accomplish His purposes (verses 70-72).
Asaph has taken the people through a long history lesson. They know these stories. Now they know what it is that God is doing. God chose David. David brought the glory of God, the ark of the covenant back to Israel. David led his people with righteous wisdom. David put God back on the pedestal, where He belongs. Asaph is saying, “God knows what He is doing and He is doing it right! Set your hope in God, get your strength from Him! He will do as He has promised.”
Do you hope, do you get your strength from a merciful God. Yes, He is a God of judgment and yes, He is to be feared but for those whose faith is in God, there is hope in the purposes of God to redeem His people. He would redeem you also, if you will trust Him. Jesus said, “I did not come to be served but to serve and to give my life a ransom for many.” 1 Timothy 2:5 reminds us that there is One God and One Mediator between God and man, the man, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all…” You do not need to bargain like Pharaoh did. Trust Christ today!
Next week’s sermon: LESSONS FROM CREATION: WHO GOD IS AND WHY IT MATTERS (Romans 1:16-25)