Summary: Isaiah’s description of the "Day of the Lord" reveals God’s Faithfulness to His people.
Although I am going to return to the book of Isaiah over the next few weeks for some other purposes, we’re going to wrap up our look at the “Day of the Lord” in Isaiah this morning in chapters 65 and 66. This is the continuation of the message that I began last week, so I’ll begin by briefly reviewing the main points I made last week. Since chapter 66 also addresses those points, I’m also going to read a few brief passages from that chapter that will reinforce those concepts.
FICKLENESS OF MAN (65:1-7)
As God answers Isaiah’s prayer for mercy, the first thing he points out is that no one is deserving of His mercy because of their fickleness in turning away from Him even after God had initiated the relationship and had persistently pursued that relationship. The people had forsaken God by failing to listen to Him and by choosing to follow their own ways rather than God’s. As a result, what the people deserved was God’s judgment, not His mercy.
Many of those same points are repeated again by God in chapter 66, particularly in these verses:
These have chosen their own ways,
and their soul delights in their abominations;
I also will choose harsh treatment for them
and bring their fears upon them,
because when I called, no one answered,
when I spoke, they did not listen;
but they did what was evil in my eyes
and chose that in which I did not delight.”
Isaiah 66:3b, 4 (ESV)
But even though the people did not deserve God’s mercy, there was a bridge that God had built that moved His people from the realm of their fickleness to the realm of God’s faithfulness. That bridge was, and remains to this day, God’s grace.
THE BRIDGE - GOD’S GRACE (65:8-16)
Even though no one is deserving of God’s mercy, God, in His absolute sovereignty, has determined to preserve a remnant of His people by the operation of His grace. Last week, we discovered two characteristics of those who would make up that remnant:
• Seekers – God’s remnant would first of all consist of those who were earnestly seeking after Him
• Servants – This was the focus of chapter 65 as seven times God described those in the remnant as “my servants.” The picture here is of those who will make Jesus their Lord, or master, and obey His commands and carry out His desires.
In chapter 66, God provides us with another glimpse at the character of the remnant:
But this is the one to whom I will look:
he who is humble and contrite in spirit
and trembles at my word.
Isaiah 66:2b (ESV)
Here, we find two more important character traits of those who will make up the remnant:
Earlier in Isaiah, we saw how God confronted the arrogance of the people of Judah. And here at the end of the book, that arrogance is still evident. The people are religious, but their religion is all based on their own ideas about how to worship God. They are making sacrifices, but certainly not in the manner that God had provided, and even more importantly, they were merely going through the motions without having their hearts right with God.
But God is much more concerned about our hearts than our outward actions. That is a lesson that David certainly learned well after he was confronted by Nathan about his sin. David wrote Psalm 51 as his response to God and in the midst of that Psalm we find these words:
For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it;
you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
Psalm 51:16, 17 (ESV)
As we saw last week, it is certainly important to make Jesus our master and Lord and obey His commands and carry out His wishes. But that really only has significance and meaning if those actions are carried out with a sense of deep humility where we recognize our sinfulness and our dependence on God and those actions are a response to the goodness and faithfulness of God and not an attempt on our part to earn or merit favor with God.
• Reverent awe for God’s Word
I’m sure for Isaiah, and for many of the other Old Testament prophets, their hearts must have been heavy as they faithfully preached God’s word day after day and yet saw such little evidence that the people had even heard God’s word, alone changed their life in any way in order to respond to that word.
The “Day of the Lord” judgment that Isaiah has described throughout his ministry is a scary thing, or at least it should have been for the people of Judah. They certainly should have trembled at that word and it should have been the motivation for them to adjust their lives to God’s word. But instead, in their arrogance, they just kept living their lives according to their own ways and expected God to adjust to them.