How far would a nation walk away before it turns back to God? How far would a nation have to fall before it looks up? How bad do things need to get before a nation will cry out to God? What message would they need to hear? What message would they need to receive? What can we do? What can we say? What will it take to have people’s hearts turned back to God? Can we start a revival before it’s too late? Can we revive the nation so that it is back in alignment with God? How can we make today count? God so loves the world that He gave us Jesus so that we could be reconciled once and for all with Him! Will you point people to Jesus?
This morning’s reading comes from Isaiah and speaks to when Israel was faced with just such a dilemma….
1 This book contains the messages about Judah and Jerusalem which God revealed to Isaiah son of Amoz during the time when Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah were kings of Judah.
God Reprimands His People
2The Lord said, “Earth and sky, listen to what I am saying! The children I brought up have rebelled against me. 3Cattle know who owns them, and donkeys know where their master feeds them. But that is more than my people Israel know. They don’t understand at all.” 4You are doomed, you sinful nation, you corrupt and evil people! Your sins drag you down! You have rejected the Lord, the holy God of Israel, and have turned your backs on him. 5Why do you keep on rebelling? Do you want to be punished even more? Israel, your head is already covered with wounds, and your heart and mind are sick. 6From head to foot there is not a healthy spot on your body. You are covered with bruises and sores and open wounds. Your wounds have not been cleaned or bandaged. No medicine has been put on them. 7Your country has been devastated, and your cities have been burned to the ground. While you look on, foreigners take over your land and bring everything to ruin. 8Jerusalem alone is left, a city under siege—as defenseless as a guard’s hut in a vineyard or a shed in a cucumber field. 9 If the Lord Almighty had not let some of the people survive, Jerusalem would have been totally destroyed, just as Sodom and Gomorrah were. 10Jerusalem, your rulers and your people are like those of Sodom and Gomorrah. Listen to what the Lord is saying to you. Pay attention to what our God is teaching you. 11 He says, “Do you think I want all these sacrifices you keep offering to me? I have had more than enough of the sheep you burn as sacrifices and of the fat of your fine animals. I am tired of the blood of bulls and sheep and goats. 12Who asked you to bring me all this when you come to worship me? Who asked you to do all this tramping around in my Temple? 13It’s useless to bring your offerings. I am disgusted with the smell of the incense you burn. I cannot stand your New Moon Festivals, your Sabbaths, and your religious gatherings; they are all corrupted by your sins. 14I hate your New Moon Festivals and holy days; they are a burden that I am tired of bearing. 15“When you lift your hands in prayer, I will not look at you. No matter how much you pray, I will not listen, for your hands are covered with blood. 16Wash yourselves clean. Stop all this evil that I see you doing. Yes, stop doing evil 17and learn to do right. See that justice is done—help those who are oppressed, give orphans their rights, and defend widows.” 18The Lord says, “Now, let’s settle the matter. You are stained red with sin, but I will wash you as clean as snow. Although your stains are deep red, you will be as white as wool. 19If you will only obey me, you will eat the good things the land produces. 20But if you defy me, you are doomed to die. I, the Lord, have spoken.”
The Sinful City
21The city that once was faithful is behaving like a whore! At one time it was filled with righteous people, but now only murderers remain. 22Jerusalem, you were once like silver, but now you are worthless; you were like good wine, but now you are only water. 23Your leaders are rebels and friends of thieves; they are always accepting gifts and bribes. They never defend orphans in court or listen when widows present their case. 24So now, listen to what the Lord Almighty, Israel’s powerful God, is saying: “I will take revenge on you, my enemies, and you will cause me no more trouble. 25I will take action against you. I will purify you the way metal is refined, and will remove all your impurity. 26I will give you rulers and advisers like those you had long ago. Then Jerusalem will be called the righteous, faithful city.” 27Because the Lord is righteous, he will save Jerusalem and everyone there who repents. 28But he will crush everyone who sins and rebels against him; he will kill everyone who forsakes him. 29You will be sorry that you ever worshiped trees and planted sacred gardens. 30You will wither like a dying oak, like a garden that no one waters. 31Just as straw is set on fire by a spark, so powerful people will be destroyed by their own evil deeds, and no one will be able to stop the destruction. –from Isaiah 1
Will you help rekindle the passion for God? Will you be the spark that gets people’s lives started back to God?
1Here is the message which God gave to Isaiah son of Amoz about Judah and Jerusalem: 2In days to come the mountain where the Temple stands will be the highest one of all, towering above all the hills. Many nations will come streaming to it, 3and their people will say, “Let us go up the hill of the Lord, to the Temple of Israel’s God. He will teach us what he wants us to do; we will walk in the paths he has chosen. For the Lord’s teaching comes from Jerusalem; from Zion he speaks to his people.” 4 He will settle disputes among great nations. They will hammer their swords into plows and their spears into pruning knives. Nations will never again go to war, never prepare for battle again. 5Now, descendants of Jacob, let us walk in the light which the Lord gives us!
Arrogance Will Be Destroyed
6O God, you have forsaken your people, the descendants of Jacob! The land is full of magic practices from the East and from Philistia. The people follow foreign customs. 7Their land is full of silver and gold, and there is no end to their treasures. Their land is full of horses, and there is no end to their chariots. 8Their land is full of idols, and they worship objects that they have made with their own hands. 9Everyone will be humiliated and disgraced. Do not forgive them, Lord! 10 They will hide in caves in the rocky hills or dig holes in the ground to try to escape from the Lord’s anger and to hide from his power and glory! 11A day is coming when human pride will be ended and human arrogance destroyed. Then the Lord alone will be exalted. 12On that day the Lord Almighty will humble everyone who is powerful, everyone who is proud and conceited. 13He will destroy the tall cedars of Lebanon and all the oaks in the land of Bashan. 14He will level the high mountains and hills, 15every high tower, and the walls of every fortress. 16He will sink even the largest and most beautiful ships. 17-18Human pride will be ended, and human arrogance will be destroyed. Idols will completely disappear, and the Lord alone will be exalted on that day. 19People will hide in caves in the rocky hills or dig holes in the ground to try to escape from the Lord’s anger and to hide from his power and glory, when he comes to shake the earth. 20When that day comes, they will throw away the gold and silver idols they have made, and abandon them to the moles and the bats. 21When the Lord comes to shake the earth, people will hide in holes and caves in the rocky hills to try to escape from his anger and to hide from his power and glory. 22Put no more confidence in mortals. What are they worth? –from Isaiah 2
Chaos in Jerusalem
1Now the Lord, the Almighty Lord, is about to take away from Jerusalem and Judah everything and everyone that the people depend on. He is going to take away their food and their water, 2their heroes and their soldiers, their judges and their prophets, their fortunetellers and their statesmen, 3their military and civilian leaders, their politicians and everyone who uses magic to control events. 4The Lord will let the people be governed by immature boys. 5Everyone will take advantage of everyone else. Young people will not respect their elders, and worthless people will not respect their superiors. 6A time will come when the members of a clan will choose one of their number and say to him, “You at least have something to wear, so be our leader in this time of trouble.” 7But he will answer, “Not me! I can’t help you. I don’t have any food or clothes either. Don’t make me your leader!” 8Yes, Jerusalem is doomed! Judah is collapsing! Everything they say and do is against the Lord; they openly insult God himself. 9Their prejudices will be held against them. They sin as openly as the people of Sodom did. They are doomed, and they have brought it on themselves. 10The righteous will be happy, and things will go well for them. They will get to enjoy what they have worked for. 11But evil people are doomed; what they have done to others will now be done to them. 12Moneylenders oppress my people, and their creditors cheat them.My people, your leaders are misleading you, so that you do not know which way to turn.
The Lord Judges His People
13The Lord is ready to state his case; he is ready to judge his people. 14The Lord is bringing the elders and leaders of his people to judgment. He makes this accusation: “You have plundered vineyards, and your houses are full of what you have taken from the poor. 15You have no right to crush my people and take advantage of the poor. I, the Sovereign Lord Almighty, have spoken.”
A Warning to the Women of Jerusalem
16The Lord said, “Look how proud the women of Jerusalem are! They walk along with their noses in the air. They are always flirting. They take dainty little steps, and the bracelets on their ankles jingle. 17But I will punish them—I will shave their heads and leave them bald.” 18A day is coming when the Lord will take away from the women of Jerusalem everything they are so proud of—the ornaments they wear on their ankles, on their heads, on their necks, 19and on their wrists. He will take away their veils 20and their hats; the magic charms they wear on their arms and at their waists; 21the rings they wear on their fingers and in their noses; 22all their fine robes, gowns, cloaks, and purses; 23their revealing garments, their linen handkerchiefs, and the scarves and long veils they wear on their heads. 24Instead of using perfumes, they will stink; instead of fine belts, they will wear coarse ropes; instead of having beautiful hair, they will be bald; instead of fine clothes, they will be dressed in rags; their beauty will be turned to shame! 25The men of the city, yes, even the strongest men, will be killed in war. 26The city gates will mourn and cry, and the city itself will be like a woman sitting on the ground, stripped naked. –from Isaiah 3
1When that time comes, seven women will grab hold of one man and say, “We can feed and clothe ourselves, but please let us say you are our husband, so that we won’t have to endure the shame of being unmarried.”
Jerusalem Will Be Restored
2The time is coming when the Lord will make every plant and tree in the land grow large and beautiful. All the people of Israel who survive will take delight and pride in the crops that the land produces. 3Everyone who is left in Jerusalem, whom God has chosen for survival, will be called holy. 4By his power the Lord will judge and purify the nation and wash away the guilt of Jerusalem and the blood that has been shed there. 5 Then over Mount Zion and over all who are gathered there, the Lord will send a cloud in the daytime and smoke and a bright flame at night. God’s glory will cover and protect the whole city. 6His glory will shade the city from the heat of the day and make it a place of safety, sheltered from the rain and storm. –from Isaiah 4
The Song of the Vineyard
1 Listen while I sing you this song, a song of my friend and his vineyard: My friend had a vineyard on a very fertile hill. 2He dug the soil and cleared it of stones; he planted the finest vines. He built a tower to guard them, dug a pit for treading the grapes. He waited for the grapes to ripen, but every grape was sour. 3So now my friend says, “You people who live in Jerusalem and Judah, judge between my vineyard and me. 4Is there anything I failed to do for it? Then why did it produce sour grapes and not the good grapes I expected? 5“Here is what I am going to do to my vineyard: I will take away the hedge around it, break down the wall that protects it, and let wild animals eat it and trample it down. 6I will let it be overgrown with weeds. I will not trim the vines or hoe the ground; instead, I will let briers and thorns cover it. I will even forbid the clouds to let rain fall on it.” 7Israel is the vineyard of the Lord Almighty; the people of Judah are the vines he planted. He expected them to do what was good, but instead they committed murder. He expected them to do what was right, but their victims cried out for justice.
The Evil That People Do
8You are doomed! You buy more houses and fields to add to those you already have. Soon there will be no place for anyone else to live, and you alone will live in the land. 9I have heard the Lord Almighty say, “All these big, fine houses will be empty ruins. 10The grapevines growing on five acres of land will yield only five gallons of wine. Ten bushels of seed will produce only one bushel of grain.” 11 You are doomed! You get up early in the morning to start drinking, and you spend long evenings getting drunk. 12At your feasts you have harps and tambourines and flutes—and wine. But you don’t understand what the Lord is doing, 13and so you will be carried away as prisoners. Your leaders will starve to death, and the common people will die of thirst. 14The world of the dead is hungry for them, and it opens its mouth wide. It gulps down the nobles of Jerusalem along with the noisy crowd of common people. 15Everyone will be disgraced, and all who are proud will be humbled. 16But the Lord Almighty shows his greatness by doing what is right, and he reveals his holiness by judging his people. 17In the ruins of the cities lambs will eat grass and young goats will find pasture. 18You are doomed! You are unable to break free from your sins. 19You say, “Let the Lord hurry up and do what he says he will, so that we can see it. Let Israel’s holy God carry out his plans; let’s see what he has in mind.” 20You are doomed! You call evil good and call good evil. You turn darkness into light and light into darkness. You make what is bitter sweet, and what is sweet you make bitter. 21You are doomed! You think you are wise, so very clever. 22You are doomed! Heroes of the wine bottle! Brave and fearless when it comes to mixing drinks! 23But for just a bribe you let the guilty go free, and you keep the innocent from getting justice. 24So now, just as straw and dry grass shrivel and burn in the fire, your roots will rot and your blossoms will dry up and blow away, because you have rejected what the Lord Almighty, Israel’s holy God, has taught us. 25The Lord is angry with his people and has stretched out his hand to punish them. The mountains will shake, and the bodies of those who die will be left in the streets like rubbish. Yet even then the Lord’s anger will not be ended, but his hand will still be stretched out to punish. 26The Lord gives a signal to call for a distant nation. He whistles for them to come from the ends of the earth. And here they come, swiftly, quickly! 27None of them grow tired; none of them stumble. They never doze or sleep. Not a belt is loose; not a sandal strap is broken. 28Their arrows are sharp, and their bows are ready to shoot. Their horses’ hoofs are as hard as flint, and their chariot wheels turn like a whirlwind. 29The soldiers roar like lions that have killed an animal and are carrying it off where no one can take it away from them. 30When that day comes, they will roar over Israel as loudly as the sea. Look at this country! Darkness and distress! The light is swallowed by darkness. –from Isaiah 5