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Summary: Like us, Isaiah cries out for REVIVAL, but God answers surprisingly: He can’t bring it because the people really want RELIGION and he wants RELATIONSHIP

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Religion or relationship? Isaiah 64:1-65:7

WBC 4 May 2003 pm. Kate Chapman’s Baptism

Revival

Good to have you here tonight. Good to be here!

- Folks here with all kinds of outlooks, spiritually

o you’re ALL v welcome!

- Those - Seeking. Unsure. Tentative

- those who feel no need to seek… no compulsion

o already decided. Or “Tried and found lacking” or “thought lacking & so not tried”

 but are here for Kate.

- Those confused as to what this all means!

- Those who thought (!) all irrelevant

o Until see it in someone’s life!

And many, here- for whom it has all clicked… and they feel like Isaiah, in a passage I’m going to read!

- “oh, Lord. You’ve done so much in my life. It works! …

- … do something MORE” “For THEM”

- rend the heavens, come down! Bring it on. Set the earth alight. Cause the fire to boil. Do it, Lord!

- …. Bring revival and awakening!

Read Is 64: 1-5a

When you’ve been ‘touched by God’ it is so easy… understandable… to feel like that

- have… DO… myself

- you know what others are missing

Oh, it’s a good thing to want… pray

But there’s a problem, here.

- God answers. And it’s not as expected

Background is:

- It’s speaking (prophetically) into a context somewhere about 530 BC. Judah, the S Kingdom of the Jews has been carted off to Babylon (Iraq). Jerusalem has been destroyed. God’s temple burnt, desolate

o They’re either just starting to come back, or still there

Isaiah cries out… along with us… “revive them! Restore their fortunes. Do what you did in days of old! Come do it again”

But God almost replies – I can’t. There’s a problem

Read Is 65:1-5

God says

_ I can’t do it. They won’t let me. You see, the problem is they’re

religious

Religion

These folks (Jews) look keen. They look zealous.

- offering sacrifices (v3)…burning incense on altars… keeping vigils (v4)

They look holy and devout

- in fact they actually SAY they are (v5- describe themselves as ‘sacred’)

So- outwardly, it’s all there.

- They dot every I and cross every t. They keep the letter of the law, it seems. They go to church, if you like. They have their rituals. They say their prayers. They believe in God. They believe in His laws. They believe He saves. They perform their ceremonies.

- but, in fact, they are just closed …. and inside, it’s a sham

Isaiah wants God to revive them, revive the land, nation

- but He says ‘I can’t’. They don’t want it! Outwardly they make out they do, but inwardly they don’t want me

- v2 “all day long I’ve ACTUALLY held out my hands to these people

o (the Jews…. But it could be any race, today)…

but really they say: (v5) : ‘No, keep your distance. Keep way. WE’RE actually too holy for YOU

- “keep away, God! We’re fine as we are. We’ve got the status quo. Got our religion. And we don’t want anything like YOU messing that up”

o actually, the religion they REALLY practice is hocus-pocus mixed with any bit that titillates them

 v3 offer sacrifices

• but it’s in gardens (where they’d worship ‘life forces’)

• and it’s on brick altars (God had said ‘no stone of man’ because ‘no brickwork can nail me down, box me in’. ‘I’m the I AM’)

 v4 keep vigils- but it’s mixed with contacting the dead (rather than God!)

 v4b eat religious, special foods –but it’s the kind God told them not to (for health reasons)

… and yet tell God to keep His distance because they’ve got it all nailed down, sussed out

Maybe they didn’t actually do all these things… probably they did… certainly it’s God’s hyperbole for describing the reality of their hearts:

• they were religious

• inside they were actually unclean and unconcerned

Isaiah speaks for their hearts in 64: 5-7 (read)

Truth is- they were indifferent, thought they’d arrived…

- and all the ‘righteous acts’ they did were like ‘menstrual cloths’ (v6b)

- couldn’t really be bothered… and their hearts were closed to God

“Religion stinks”

What Kate is doing tonight is not out of religion. She doesn’t think she’s got it sussed, or is ‘practically perfect in every way’ (in fact you’ll find she’s not!). In fact she’s not religious at all.

She’s just open. Wanting to learn more. Wanting God to teach her.

- this is

o a SIGN of that… of what’s happened in her life

o a START to walking with Jesus and having Him lead and direct her for the rest of her life. Being a ‘follower’

- it’s not for those who are religious or think they have arrived.

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