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Crisis and change often bring people to times of self-examination and reflection and even prayer

02 May

Crisis and change often bring people to times of self-examination and reflection and even prayer. It was just such a time for young Isaiah when he went to the temple to pray (Isaiah 6:1-9). 

King Uzziah’s reign had begun with such promise, but unfortunately, pride overtook Uzziah and he presumed to do, in the temple, what was forbidden. He was struck with leprosy and he died, not in the palace, but the leper ward.

Any crisis, even a small one, can be an opportunity for a fresh vision of God. If we consider what Isaiah saw, it might help our spiritual eyesight. Like Isaiah, we can find new inspiration and renewed commitment.

John 15:5 (45 kb)Isaiah saw his Lord: It was a time of reverence. He needed to see God. He had placed so much confidence in a visible king that he had previously felt little need to reach out to the invisible king. He saw God in all His majesty; God was “high and exalted.” 

He saw God in His power: “The train of his robe filled the temple.” He also saw God in His holiness. The seraphs, covered in humility, sing “Holy, holy, holy.” The seraphs’ song underscores the fact that we have a holy God.

In our desire to stress the love of God, we should never rob Him of His awesomeness.

Isaiah saw his sin: It was a time of repentance. This is a natural reaction after coming to terms with the holiness of God. When we capture a vision of God, we must be willing to see ourselves as we really are, even if it grieves us. It is a refreshing thing to see that Isaiah mentioned his own sin before he mentioned the sin of his neighbors.

Isaiah saw his own sin and said, “I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips.”

Isaiah saw his cleansing: It was a time of restoration. God did not deny Isaiah’s sinfulness, but he did provide an escape. A seraph took a coal from the altar, where the sacrifice for sin was made, and seared Isaiah’s lips, sterilizing them.  There was no reason for Isaiah to continue to feel unworthy. He had been made pure.

Isaiah saw his mission: It was a time of recognition. When God says, “Go!” we go. There is no debating. We don’t say, “There he is, send him.” We don’t worry about how the people will respond. Isaiah was warned ahead of time that the people would not respond as they should. [1]

It doesn’t matter what the people do, we must be faithful. God sent the people a message not because they wanted it, but because they needed it. The message Isaiah would bring his people was the message he had received. There is forgiveness and purpose with God, if you will just turn your life over to his care and authority.

There is change and chaos in the world, but I say to you, “God is still on the throne.” If you doubt it, just look around. He might be closer than you think. Maybe you can say, “I saw the Lord, high and exalted, and that has made all the difference.”

How does God reveal Himself?  One way is in nature. David proclaimed that ”The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. {2} Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. {3} There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. {4} Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. In the heavens he has pitched a tent for the sun, {5} which is like a bridegroom coming forth from his pavilion, like a champion rejoicing to run his course. {6} It rises at one end of the heavens and makes its circuit to the other; nothing is hidden from its heat.” (Psalms 19:1-6)

Paul lays a heavy responsibility upon every human being, who can learn at a stated level that he is left without excuse if he does not respond with a changed life:  “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, {19} since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. {20} For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. {21} For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. (Romans 1:18-21)

The Apostle Paul taught us that God reveals something about His holy standards through man’s conscience. (Romans 2:14-16) Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, {15} since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.) {16} This will take place on the day when God will judge men’s secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares.

But none of these give us very many particulars about God’s personality or nature. We need something more. We need to have Him talk with us. And He does that, not through spooky voices or mystical experiences, but through Scripture.

They are God’s words to us. They were given by the breath of His mouth: (Matthew 4:4)  Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'” (2 Timothy 3:16-17)  All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, {17} so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Peter 1:20-21)  Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation. {21} For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

In the Bible God tells us what He is like. We learn how He thinks, how He feels, and how we can expect Him to act. If we want to know God, we must begin by opening the Bible and reading what He has to say about Himself.

But God is infinite, and we are finite human beings. How can the finite ever really understand the infinite? How can the human ever truly know the divine?

It seems that God must reveal Himself to us in some way more personal than mere written words if we are ever to know Him genuinely. And that is exactly what He did through Jesus Christ. (John 1:14-18)  The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. {15} John testifies concerning him. He cries out, saying, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.'” {16} From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another. {17} For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. {18} No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known. (Hebrews 1:1-3)  In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, {2} but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. {3} The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.

Jesus Christ is the out-shining of God’s glory and the perfect expression of God’s essential being. To know Him is to know God. Jesus Himself made that claim when He said: “If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; from now on you know Him, and have seen Him. (John 14:7).

While Jesus has returned bodily to Heaven, God has given us both the inspired record of His life as well as the spiritual faculties we need to know Him personally. We can know Christ just as intimately as if we walked with Him on earth as His first disciples did. And to know Him is to know God.


[1] Sermon Outlines For Seekers by J. Michael Shannon.
 
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Posted by on May 2, 2019 in Sermon

 

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