Summary: This is the first sermon in a series of sermons on Isaiah revealing Jesus as a major focus of this prophetic book. Starting in Chapter 1, we see God’s redemptive plan unfolding through the promised Messiah
The Justice and Mercy of God
SCRIPTURE READING: Isaiah 1:18-20
I’ve heard people say that the God of the Old Testament is different from the God of the New Testament. But Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. The Old Testament introduces us to the character of a changeless God. He is a God of perfect justice who cannot overlook sin. But He is equally a God of overwhelming mercy who has provided a way of salvation. That is the Gospel message; and it is the message of the Old Testament as well as the New.
For 8 Sundays, we’ll be focusing on the book of Isaiah.
I’d like to start by giving you some BACKGROUND information about this important book of prophecy.
I. BACKGROUND OF ISAIAH
• We know little about Isaiah, His name means, “The Lord is Salvation”
• He is son of Amoz (not Amos the prophet) who may have been related to the royal family of Judah
• Some believe Isaiah belonged to the tribe of Levi because of his description of the temple in Ch. 6.
• From ch. 7-8 we know Isaiah was married (to a prophetess?) and had two sons, Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz (“quick to the plunder, swift to the spoil” warning of God’s swift judgment), and Shear-Jashub (“a remnant shall return.” The promise of God’s mercy)
• Isaiah lived during the reigns of 5 kings of the southern Kingdom of Judah:
• Uzziah, 790-739 b.c.
• Jotham, 751-736 b.c.
• Ahaz, 743-728 b.c.
• Hezekiah, 728-695 b.c.
• Manasseh, 695-642 b.c.
The “Dead Sea Scrolls” have uncovered for us a complete manuscript of Isaiah (The St. Marks Isaiah Scroll), and the Hebrew University Scroll which contains portions of the book especially from chapter 38 to the end of the book. Several other fragments of Isaiah were discovered in Cave 4. Since the St. Mark scroll has been positively dated at around 150 b.c., this rules out the assertion by liberal scholars that parts of Isaiah were written in the 2nd or 3rd century a.d.
II. THE GOSPEL OF ISAIAH
The book of Isaiah is sometimes called the Gospel of Isaiah. Often called the “Gospel” of Isaiah because of “Good news” content of book. Also called the “Romans” of the O.T. because it sets forth God’s case against sinners, unveils the wretchedness of the human heart, and reveals the way of salvation for Israel and the world. (in Romans, Paul quoted Isaiah 17 times.)
N.T. alludes to it frequently and quotes from Isaiah 62 times.
Isaiah’s message calls sinners to repentance and promises forgiveness for those who humble themselves and turn to God
The Jews of Isaiah’s day had big heads, full of all the correct doctrines, but their hearts had grown oh so cold! Look at the words in Isaiah 1:2-3
I reared children and brought them up, but they have rebelled against me. The ox knows his master and the donkey his owners manager. But Israel does not know, my people do not understand.”
What is Isaiah saying? Even dumb animals know where they get their privileges; but not my people. When God speaks to the people Isaiah is called to preach to He calls them Sodomites! (vs. 10). This is really rough language! It is like using a cuss word. Isaiah is obviously not out to smooth over anything. He is being brutally frank.
In vs. 11-17 we discover that God is fed up with their religious practices. He is tired of everything they do to attempt to worship Him. Notice what he told them, (vs. 11-17)
“The multitude of your sacrifices – what are they to me?” says the Lord. “I have more than enough of burnt offerings, or rams and the fat of fattened animals; I have no pleasure in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats. When you come to appear before me, who asked this of you, this trampling of my courts? Stop bringing meaningless offerings! Your incense is detestable to me.
New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations – I cannot bear your evil assemblies. Your New Moon festivals and your appointed feasts my soul hates. They have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them. Whey you spread out your hands in prayer I will hide my eyes from you; even if you offer many prayers I will not listen.
Your hands are full of blood; wash and make yourselves clean. Take your evil deeds out of my sight! Stop doing wrong, learn to do right! Seek justice; encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless; plead the cause of the widow.”
Let us stop to realize something here. Who commanded all these religious observances in the first place? God did. Why? It was to aid them in remembering their purpose. The problem was not in the rituals themselves. The problem was that they forgot their purpose, but kept up the rituals anyway.