John Dowling devotional bible study blog

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A warning message from God leads to a call from God to repent

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A warning message from God leads to a call from God to repent and return

Isaiah 1:2-20; Ephesians 4:17-24

The prophet Isaiah’s message is really a warning message from God to the people of Israel delivered through God’s spokesmen, it is a message that comes with a call to respond to the God Who has seen what they were doing and is ashamed of His chosen people. This call is summarised for us in verses 18-20:

Despite their unfaithfulness and great sins which were many and had led to the judgements on the nation that had already taken place, God reasons with them to respond to the call and He promises to wipe the slate clean – whiteness talks of a purity.

I remember one time seeing sheep on a hill when on a training exercise in the army and considering how white they looked against the green backdrop, however during the night it snowed quite heavily and when it was light the same sheep looked absolutely filthy against the fresh snowy backdrop.

This illustrates the point God is expressing and  – God says that they will be as white as the snow itself and the wool is the same being both substances are both naturally white and have no stain or blood guiltiness.

They will be to Him as clean and pure as these natural substances, from the way which we see things, what we consider as clean pure or good look like the sheep against the snowy backdrop – absolutely filthy.

Jesus, being both fully God and fully human, was our sinless substitute who places on Himself our sinful blood guiltiness and imputes His sinless state onto us and this is how God sees that one who has responded to the call to repentance.

For the people of Israel and for us today it will be as though we have never sinned, but only if our response to the grace He offers is responded to positively through true repentance.

The call itself in Isaiah 1:19 is the call to consent and obey and there will be a restoration in the land which was under judgement. The famine conditions would be removed

The message was also detailing a warning against continued rebellion and rejection of the message, which would lead them to destruction –death by the sword.

Verse 10 says that the people of Israel were to hear the message that was being declared to them and I have to admit that I am always impressed by the prophets (God’s spokesmen). Their message always seems to follow the same process of commissioning, declaring, continued rejection of the message and the persecution that undoubtedly followed delivery: –

  • They were often opposed by false prophets diluting or leading people astray from the truth of God’s real message.
  • Their message was not popular and often fell on death ears.

Sounds familiar does it not?

In our day, we have a similar message to proclaim to the world – that the Lord is soon to return but this time not as saviour.

Our current days are when everyone seems to do, ‘what is right in their own eyes’ similar to the accounts in Judges.

Many who profess Christianity are spreading false teachings aimed at diluting the message or leading the people astray from the truth of God’s word. The message He has for mankind today, how He sees mankind and how mankind must respond if they are to escape the final judgement. 

Despite all of this, their faithfulness to the message they had been given by God is staggering despite the opposition and persecution, they did not ever stop declaring it to the people – the job they had was to declare it so that the people hear the message, the response of the people was not in their power to secure.

The people’s wilful disregard of these warning messages was all too often the case and acted as the cause of the eventual downfall to certain destruction that followed. In our day the same failure to respond seems to be the case – but that should not mean that we stop declaring it to them.

I remember study certain aspects of law with regard to Health and Safety law. One of the aspects we needed to study was ‘Volenti-non-fit-injuria’, which basically means knowingly accepting the risks.

This would not provide any defence to parties accepting the risk or their organisation in a court action.

Another aspect that is probably even more significant is that firms who fail to recognise the risks and fail to attempt to eliminate risks at source, or at very least control them could not then go into a court of law and plead ignorance of the legislation that covers the risks, or indeed the application of the identification of any risks and applying a subsequent risk assessment process to known risks.

In other words, wilful ignorance of the message is no defence!

God will be no different to those who wilfully disregard the message and fail to respond positively. 

In the case of the prophets – delivering the warning message to the people

The message spoken would act as a sword against those who heard the message and failed to act in light of it.

Subsequently It would act as the witness against them.

The literary format of the passage is a declaration or a revealing of the message in a form of a lament by God through His prophet over the shameful acts of the people of His chosen nation Israel and the consequent judgements that are befalling all in the the nation – His countrymen, the ordinary folk also come under that judgement that is befalling them too.

It concerns the the people of Judah as a result for the social sins that were being committed by the nation and was the reasons why they were coming under judgement for these actions. The declaration speaks of God’s patience finally running out and if they do not respond further more severe judgements will come upon them.

What are the reasons:

Verses 4-9 Give us clues to the nature of the things they were doing

Verse 4 tells us that they had turned away from the Lord and turned back from Him to sin in their lives.

His own people were being unfaithful to Him 

The people of God, His chosen nation who were meant to be shinning lights (witnesses) and different to the nations that surrounded them –declaring to them the one true living God, their relationship to Him and Him to them. The blessings they had with Him, that their enemies were subdued and their allies would blessed by God. That they were to uphold righteousness and justices defending the weak and marginalised in their society. That matter would be dealt with fairly and that there would be a release and freedom for all (every seven years slaves would be freed; gleaning of fields would ensure the poor were able to feed and so on, those in debt would be released every so often, etc).

They had become like the wicked nations that surrounded them, described as son’s behaving corruptly and doing evil. They were also not upholding social justice defending the weak and marginalised in society look at the descriptions in verses 16 and 17

These were the reasons for the judgements that had befallen the nation for its turning away to do evil

Look at verse 5, despite what had befallen them they were continuing in what they were doing, they were in rebellion – they were not asking why has this befallen us? After God had so many times before hand promised blessings for obedience and curses for disobedience upon them and the promised land, when the children of Israel were delivered out of Egypt – for which they were to teach to their children throughout their generations.

This was a full blown rebellion or rejection of the God who had chosen them to be a people unto Himself – His people, in His place under His rule receiving His blessings

Verse 5 finishes with the statement that their hearts had grown faint – they had gone far away from the Lord and had grown cold and they had hardened themselves in their heart. How had they got to this state of apostasy against the rule of God in the hearts? They had rejected the call to live differently and separate from the nations that surrounded them and had over the course of time began to accept the norms of their living for themselves and had indeed lost their blessing.

This can happen to believers today when they no longer keep themselves separated from the world that surrounds them – they try to balance the two lifestyles, they begin to accept what is normally accepted as acceptable within society as okay to live by and accept. They no longer defend the weak and marginalised or the social moral fabric required by God to prevent society drifting into an anything goes anarchical society that oppresses protection and sanctity of life. Their own personal walk with God with their life being marked by change in Jesus Christ and the ambassador role of reconciliation back to God in 2 Corinthians no longer holds true to them for they have one foot in and foot out – not really marked by becoming a shining light to the world.

For some the world has just become a nice place to settle in to live out their days, get married, raise a family and live out their days running through the motions – just going to the church, maybe even serving there, but not really dedicating oneself to the life of others in the church and to the whole work of the church to witness and save souls. The life of the early Christians was markedly different from that in Acts 2:40-47 gives us a glimpse of what they were like – they combined the spiritual and social needs of people together, not one or the other that seems to happen today. Even those who were married built their social life around the life of the church.  We are not to make our home here to be comfortable with the world and all it offers. There are dangers here that will dull us in our heart when we begin to love the world, the flesh and the devil. The pride of life and the love of money all have dangers for the Christian.

The Israelites here were going through the religious motions in pretence for their hearts were far away somewhere else, verses 13-15 shows us their actions and how God sees them. The circumcision was only outside not inside in their hearts.

Their religiousness was ticking all the boxes but was only before men and in fact their hearts were not even there when they were carrying out their practices of religious festivals expected to be done – they had over time become only traditions rather than the worship of the one true living God.

For some of us we can separate the areas which we allow God to teach us through the Holy Spirit, but there are no go areas in certain places where we refuse His direction, teaching and correcting to equip us. The word of God requires full submission but all too often we can refuse a teaching based on our current age that we live in or that it does not fit with what we choose to believe, often our own theology has been made higher than the word of God. It is easy to eradicate huge lumps of the word of God because their message is one which is difficult to take – we sometimes like the nice parts but reject the parts that are challenging us with regard to wrong-doing or judgement and so on. Some like to just give half the message of great promise but leave the part out that covers the warning or obedience required by the promise. 

The Israelites rejection of God is rebuked before them that the animals understand from whence they came and know more of the God who had created them than the people in verse 2-3.

The warning is that God has had enough with them and their rebelling against Him and they are instructed to hear the message God has for them. It is a last warning given to children to stop repent and return by responding to His call. If they do respond positively they will be restored in their land and famine conditions upon it would stop. If they do not respond and continue they would face death by the sword that would come upon them.

Verses 16 and 17 declare that not only are they to repent but they are to bear the fruits of repentances by beginning to live clean and doing good deed with upholding the rights and justice of the weak and marginalised – in Luke John the Baptist declared to people that they were to repent and be baptised with evidence of the fruits of repentance. These are the proofs of a decision in heart to want to change and live accordingly doing the law written upon their hearts.

The Message Isaiah delivered can be easily referred to us in today’s age and to us, since Christ coming the first time was for the purpose to bring salvation for all peoples who respond to the call to repentance and faith in Him.

Following His death and resurrection He ascended into heaven leaving His followers a message to declare that He will return again, but this time it would be to act as judge. There is a judgement to come which will be final, but grace through faith in Christ is on offer to all who will respond to His first coming. Through His salvation the coming kingdom of God can be assured as your home. The warning is that failure to respond to this message will mean that there is no other way to enter this kingdom of God for the temple veil was torn in two at Christ death – the only way to God the Father is through the atoning sacrifice of God the Son (Christ Jesus). Judgement is certain, but avoidance is available today, but one day that way will be closed off with no other way to enter the kingdom that is the seriousness of this message, the bible only discusses two place where anyone can go following death and that is either heaven or hell.

If you have not made choice yet then you face a serious predicament in that you are not able to enter the kingdom of God any other way and hell would be your final dwelling place.

Will you hear and respond?

If you are a Christian who is not really living as you should with no fruit being produced in your life then you are not fulfilling an essential requirement of your calling. In the creation account there was a mandate from God to be fruitful and multiply. This mandate takes on new meaning in the scheme of things when you become a Christian for all of creation is to declare the glory of God. This is our chief end. For in Christ Jesus we are to declare Christ Jesus to the world around us to bring glory to His name, our fruitfulness and multiplication is about bringing others the message of the kingdom of God through Christ Jesus so that they can enter the kingdom (Mark 1:15).

As Christians we are to keep ourselves separated from the world, we have to be in it but not of it. It means that we become obedient to the word of God with the Spirit’s help and guidance to equip us to declare the glory of God to the lost and to uphold righteousness as lights in the world. It means that we can no longer live like those around us despite the pressures to do so. It means standing for what is truth and what is right even if in our day and age that message is not accepted.

It means that we need to be in daily communion with God in His word and in prayer so that we grow day by day and receive strength for every days fresh challenges. How often do we pray for opportunities to arise to share the gospel with someone? How often do you carry Christian tracks with you to hand them out to passers-by?

How many of us after having received the light then hide it under a bucket? No having received the light we then place on a lampstand to guide others to the light.

We must also put off the sin that so easily entangles, cut it off, put it off, put it to death like we would do with any other cancer. Sin is the starting place where destruction of body, soul, and spirit occurs against the believer – Satan’s strategy to destroy the relationship we have with God. 

We must treat it as a major enemy and pour out our wrath upon it like God poured out His wrath on Christ Jesus His only Son at the cross, who became sin – it cannot become a friend to us for it is the reason Christ had to suffer and be slain for us.

We still have our sinful natures and we will fall – the difficulty arises when we no longer fight it and it becomes for us us habitual.  When we fall we do have Him who died for us as our intercessor before the throne who can give strength to fight the good fight with all our might. 1 John 2:1

With Him only can we stand

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Written by johnldowling

March 5, 2013 at 10:00 pm

One Response

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  1. Thank you so much for this message! Truly amazing!


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