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The last few years have added some new words to our word bank. Words rarely, if ever used, have all of a sudden become common place. Words like pandemic, social distance, Zoom. Essential, Quarantine. Critical race theory. I like to mention these words just to see the tension rise in the room.
Another word that has become common place in headlines: collusion.
Collusion: secret or illegal cooperation or conspiracy, especially in order to cheat or deceive others
“the armed forces were working in collusion with drug traffickers”
Did Trump collude with the Russians? Did Hillary collude with the Russians? Was there collusion or wasn’t there? It’s a big issue. If there was collusion, then there was a hidden attempt to cheat in order to gain office. People touting to be for our nation and yet selling it out for their own promotion. One person said if collusion happened then the greatest threat to our country comes from within. Collusion undermines trust and integrity.
I don’t know if Trump or Clinton colluded with Russia or if there was collusion in the election or not. But that is not my biggest concern. The concern we should have isn’t political, but spiritual, and the issue for us today is this: are God’s people colluding with the world? Putting on a good show, but in secret living for the world.
We are beginning a new series on the book of Isaiah. I was going to do a couple weeks in this book to talk about Christmas. It has some incredible passages that point to the coming of Christ. But as I read it, I thought, this book really speaks to us and our situation today.
The book of Isaiah was written around 740 BC. It was written to God’s people living in Judah and Jerusalem, the nation of Israel. It was written to God’s people in God’s holy city. God’s people turned away from him. They put on an outward show, but in reality, they sold him off like a worn-out vacuum on Facebook marketplace.
God’s people were not following him. They were following the world. They were trusting in other things rather than God. They put on a show that they were following God, but they were colluding with the world. God is calling the prophet Isaiah to confront this people and restore their relationship to him and restore their land and city.
The vision of Isaiah the son of Amoz, which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah. 2 Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth; for the LORD has spoken: “Children have I reared and brought up, but they have rebelled against me. 3 The ox knows its owner, and the donkey its master’s crib, but Israel does not know, my people do not understand.” 4 Ah, sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, offspring of evildoers, children who deal corruptly! They have forsaken the LORD, they have despised the Holy One of Israel, they are utterly estranged. 5 Why will you still be struck down? Why will you continue to rebel? The whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint. 6 From the sole of the foot even to the head, there is no soundness in it, but bruises and sores and raw wounds; they are not pressed out or bound up or softened with oil. 7 Your country lies desolate; your cities are burned with fire; in your very presence foreigners devour your land; it is desolate, as overthrown by foreigners. 8 And the daughter of Zion is left like a booth in a vineyard, like a lodge in a cucumber field, like a besieged city. 9 If the LORD of hosts had not left us a few survivors, we should have been like Sodom, and become like Gomorrah.
- The Lord Pursues His People
The first five chapters of the book of Isaiah help us understand the situation in which Isaiah is called to preach. It’s messy. The people have turned from God like people turn from spoiled food. They want nothing to do with him. There are some hard things said here, but the intent of all this is God is drawing his people back to him.
Isaiah’s name means The Lord is Salvation. Vision. God has revealed himself and his plan/ways.
But God made a covenant with this people, he has called them to a special place. They are his children. He birthed them, cared for them, provided for them, drove them to basketball three times a week and on the weekend. But now they do not recognize him.
God is trying to get his people to see what he has done for them. Even cattle recognize their masters and managers. They are sinful. Guilty. Missed the mark. Breach a law – you become guilty.
They have left the Lord to go their own way. V4. Leave that and do this. Kids to do their school work. Left their grammar in the room so they could go do something better. Left God so they do what they think is better. Abandoned his ways.
V1 states hear oh heavens. That is not just literary eloquence. It is covenant language. When you make a covenant, like a contract on a house, you promise to pay the bank back and you appeal to witnesses who state they have seen your promise. Who can be a witness for God? He calls the heavens and earth. A reminder of his accommodation to people while still being absolutely transcendent above them.
There are books of the Bible that address the wrong that nations are doing. There are books like Daniel that address the wrong actions of the leaders of other nations. But this book is to address the problem within God’s people. It is written to [Judah and Jerusalem (v1). That is the audience. God’s people and God’s holy city are main themes in this book. Isaiah is calling them to do the things God called them to do.
I know there are many concerns with leaders in our country, with the way issues are being handled, but I believe that the most important thing for the church right now is that we be the people God has called us to be. It’s easy to call out all the problems others are doing, say repent, and then never reform our own actions and lifestyle. The problem in the church is that it is called to be separate from the world but it has secretly colluded with the world.
- The Lord is Calling his People to Account
There are problems in the nation. God uses problems and adversity to draw his people back to himself. They function as a warning strip on the median of a highway that wakes you up.
[7 Your country is desolate, your cities burned with fire; your fields are being stripped by foreigners right before you, laid waste as when overthrown by strangers.
The hardship and mess of the nation is no accident. The nation of Israel is unique in all of history. God chose this nation as his holy people. God is the architect of the world, and if you go against his purpose it never goes well.
Can you imagine people rioting and burning cities, other nations owning your country-pilaging/maybe debt.
They are murdering. They are distorting justice. They were to take care of the weak of society: orphans and widows who have no one to care for them or protect them. They didn’t care. They were only concerned with themselves.
The Holy One of Israel is the name used for God. Holy emphasizes God’s transcendent character. If you follow the Holy One of Israel, you should be holy too. You do things differently. Don’t lie, don’t cheat, don’t steal. Imagine how many problems would be solved today if people didn’t lie. Did not distort situations. Didn’t distort data. It’s amazing today how different sides have their own data. Science is a methodology. It is a tool. It is only as good as the people who use it. I think we feel the same thing today that Isaiah felt. We’re caught in the middle of a tug of war. If you are not trusting God, you are going to do some of those same things. When you don’t have clear morals then everyone makes their own morals. You have chaos.
Stop doing wrong. Seek justice. Defend the fatherless. Help the widow. Encourage/strengthen the oppressed.
Could God be using all the turmoil in our country to rouse us to serve him?
And yet a clear teaching here is that their social and national problems are the result of a spiritual problem. This is the source of their problems and it is what God most wants to address.
Everything people do is done with some reference to God.
The collusion of the people is that they do one thing in public but another in private. They are not really serving God. They are doing the motions of religion but their hearts are not in it. Making offerings but not caring. Appearing in the temple after they trampled God’s word in the public.
[11 “The multitude of your sacrifices– what are they to me?” says the LORD. “I have more than enough of burnt offerings, of rams and the fat of fattened animals; I have no pleasure in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats. 12 When you come to appear before me, who has asked this of you, this trampling of my courts? 13 Stop bringing meaningless offerings! Your incense is detestable to me. New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations– I cannot bear your evil assemblies. 14 Your New Moon festivals and your appointed feasts my soul hates. They have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them. 15 When 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;
Religion has an outward form. People will ask me if I am religious. I always say no. Religion is about outward actions. Go to church. Celebrate this way. Say this at this point. Know when to stand and sit. Religion is done and it doesn’t matter if your heart is in it one bit. Isaiah will say of the people of God: “They praise me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.”
God prescribed these outward acts. They were to be done. But these are being done and the people are in listless obedience. God has had enough. He has no pleasure in this. The offerings are meaningless.
Offerings are vain and empty. V13. Festivals are a burden and God hates them. Literally my soul hates, “hates with all his heart.”
They are bringing offerings, doing church and there is blood on their hands. Worshipping God in church. Killing people when no one else is around. Lying, cheating stealing. God wants their hearts!
But here is the thing. Who is this message to? It’s to Judah and Jerusalem. The people who had God’s word. Some passage addresses pagan kings like Daniel. Some books are a call to preach to the pagan nations. This is where I had to change my message. Who are God’s people? It’s the church. It’s not President Biden. It is not Hillary. It’s not Trump.
God’s people are what he brings renewal through. It was his design that he would bless the earth through a family of people.
If we are going to see change in our country, I think people are going to have to get over their indifference to him. God can use you! Are you willing to do it? Are you praying for that? Are you committed to helping others know who God is, know what his word says? We can sit back on our nice comfortable sofa and not challenge people to live for God. And that challenge begins with us and to challenge those around us.
I’m concerned with our political environment. I’m concerned with social environment. I’m concerned with medical advice. I’m concerned with a lack of truthfulness in our world. And I believe the way a nation is restored is through a church. A gathering of people who are following God. Trusting in him and doing things the right way.
We need to create a church culture that we are eager to follow God. Eager to restore the church. Eager to do things in a way that shows the world our hope is somewhere else.
Jonathan Leeman in his new book Rediscover Church: why the Body of Christ is Essential. He talked about being at a church in Washington DC and the hope that the culture of the church brought him. People loved him, invited him to breakfast and devotions. He said it was an election year and noticed many of the people would leave church to go to various senator’s offices or political campaigns. He said the church had political interests, but politics was not ultimate. It was important but not an idol.
The world doesn’t agree with you so they hate you. We need to disagree but still show love. Seek the rights of others. You disagree and you lose your rights. Watch out for that because it can change as soon as another gets into office.
Willing to stand up to injustice with love in our eyes.
Isaiah was called to a hard task. All of god’s people are called to a hard task. It involves standing up for what is right. It involves telling others who God is and what he requires. Most Christians today want it easy. They don’t want to do hard, or awkward. I’ll go through the motions while people are looking at me but I don’t want to do anything too difficult.
Give the lesser. Withhold the greater. I know all about that. I got through high school. Chasing after bribes. What benefits me most rather than what is the right thing to do.
God’s people are called to be holy. Distinct from the world.
Calling of the church. We live between the old Jerusalem and the new. We are between Eden and Heaven. God redeems his people and they are to be in community. They are to live differently than the world. They are to conduct themselves differently than the world. This is the calling of the church, of Christians, to not just be isolated individuals but a people connected and bonded with a common goal and mission. Organized and living by a different standard than the world. Don’t give up on God’s church! Don’t give up on his plan. Religion has overtaken the church. It doesn’t mean the place of the church is broken. It means we need to appeal to people to go in with all their heart. To be a community committed to God’s word, committed to loving others, so committed to God’s word they are willing to give everything up for it.
The Lord is after the purity of his people. The purity of the church.
God gave his people a city and called them to be holy. But here it says the faithful city has become a harlot v21. A concern for the book of Isaiah is the holy city. A place for God’s people. God created his people to be in community and to live righteously. Cities are known for problem, but God has a good purpose for cities and people. The problem is not cities; the problem is unrighteousness. And in heaven there is a new Jerusalem that shines in glory. People working, living, worshipping in complete righteousness – it is a glorious thing.
- The Lord Offers Hope to His People
God is bringing judgment on his people. He is bringing the pains of the curses on his people so that they might return to their obligations of the covenant he made with them and experience blessing.
What would you do to a political leader who colluded with another country for his own self profit? What would you do with someone with blood on their hands for how they treated another person. Someone who has lied, cheated, stolen, hurt others for their own gain.
16 Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil, 17 learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause. 18 “Come now, let us reason together,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool. 19 If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the best from the land; 20 but if you resist and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword.” For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.
God promises redemption. It is in his nature. Forgiveness for what has brought his judgment on them. And while there are rays of his redemption in Isaiah, Isaiah looks ahead to the perfect one that will take away the sins of the world. Jesus is the perfect sacrifice for sin.
Washing was a ceremony in the Old Testament. God is not calling them to abandon the structures of worship and sacrifice he gave. He is calling them to do it the right way, with all their heart. This is a word for us today. Are there problems in churches today? Yes, absolutely. Have they focused on the wrong thing? Yes, absolutely. Does that mean we abandon God’s purposes? Absolutely not. It means we do it the right way, with all our heart.
This is the goodnews of the gospel. We want to tell people to honor the Lord. Listen to his word. This should wake us up from our indolence. This should give us peace in the turmoil. It should anchor you when people say bad things. You can be forgiven. You can be washed clean.
V15 learn to do good. Discipleship. Following Jesus. Open you Bible and read it with others. Pray about it. Follow it. Don’t give lip service in Bible study and go home to be a jerk to your wife and kids.
This news is powerful. We live in an anxious world. A fragile world. Seen people that I think that they might pop at any moment.
Don’t collude with the world!
God promises his people a place. A heavenly city. New Jerusalem. We must be cleansed for it.