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Isaiah 24-27: The Other Side of Judgment Print E-mail
Isaiah
Sunday, 23 November 2008

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The year that Glenna and I got married (2003), I kept a calendar to count down the days till our wedding. I kept it up in my room and loved marking off another day. I waited expectantly for the joy that was to come. Let me ask you a question in light of that: how many of you are counting down the days until judgment? I would dare say that very few of us would respond positively to such a question. Granted, unlike my marriage day, we do not know when the day of judgment will come. Yet, we can say that every day that passes brings us that much closer. We are closer today than we were yesterday and the same will be true tomorrow. But most of us do not think about that Day as one to wait for expectantly, even less longingly.

Our problem is that we often fail to understand both sides of Godís future judgment. We focused on one side last week. It is the side that speaks of severe punishment. It is the side that warns us of the coming wrath of Almighty God. Just as His judgment fell on the nations, so will it fall on the whole world. Thus, most of us do not look forward to such a day (and understandably so).

Yet, there is another side to judgment. In fact, we even saw it some last week. It is the side that speaks of glorious reward. It is the side that encourages us with the notion that this life is not all there is. Just as the Lord promised to restore Israel, so has He promised to deliver all of those who place their faith in Christís work at the cross. Even though we looked at this last week, our focus was more on the negative side of judgment. This morning we will focus on the positive side, while still keeping in mind the punishment to come. We do all of this because this is what Isaiah is doing. He is going back and forth between the warning of punishment and the promise of deliverance. He is teaching us to see both sides of judgment.

As we think about the more positive side of judgment, I want us to consider some reasons that Isaiah gives us to rejoice in that Day.

First, we rejoice over the Lordís majestic justice.

We have seen this in the imprecatory psalms as well as in other places in the Old Testament: the biblical writers speak of Godís people rejoicing over His justice. At times, this is hard for us to read and understand. Yet, the exaltation of Godís justice is something for us to rejoice in because it means all the wrongs will be righted. How do we see this in these chapters?

First, we see that God will show no partiality due to class or status. Look at 24:1-3. We exalt the rich and the famous. We struggle with being jealous of their easy lives. We look down upon the poor and weak. We are thankful that our lives are easier than theirs. We are partial in our judgments. Yet, the Lord is not like us. He will not judge based upon how much money a person has or how famous they are or are not. His judgment will come to all. Such a truth should change our perspective about how we view such things as well. The question is never how much money do you have or how popular are you. Rather, the Lordís will judge the righteous from the wicked. This is the true line in the sand.

For the wicked, they will receive severe punishment. Look at 24:4-6, 20 and 26:10, 21. The Lord is going to punish people for their sins. Once again, this is the difficult side of judgment. The punishment will be terrible. Yet, the point I want us to see this morning is that it will be just. Those judged on that Day will receive what they deserve. The judgment they receive will coincide with their iniquities against a holy God. As for the righteous, they will receive deliverance. Look at 24:13-16a. In the middle of this pronouncement of coming punishment, Isaiah speaks of those who will sing for joy; over the majesty of the Lord they shout from the west. The rejoicing of the wicked will be snuffed out (24:4-12), but not so with this group. They will sing praises to the Righteous One for His just judgments. We hear more of this singing in chapters 25 and 26. Look at 26:1-10. It is only the righteous nation that can enter the city of the Lord. He will make their paths level and will teach righteousness to all the earth.

Therefore, the dividing line is between the righteous and the wicked, which of course begs the question: how can we be righteous before God? In the only way that anyone can: by repenting of our sins and placing our faith in His provision of atonement. Christ has paid for the sins of the world and our faith in Him grants us imputed righteousness as well as strength to actually obey the commands of the Lord. Thus, we look to Christ to be found among the righteous on that Day. We rejoice in His majestic justice and His provision of righteousness, which leads us to our second reason to rejoice this morning.

Second, we rejoice over the Lord glorious provision.

It is amazing to read the chapters asking the question: what exactly will the Lord provide for His people. Let me give you a brief rundown of what I found. First, we see that He provides for shelter for the poor and needy. Look at 25:1-5. The Lord reduced the wicked city to rubble and was a stronghold to the poor, a stronghold to the needy in his distress, a shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat. The Lord protects His people.

Second, He provides His people with a great feast. In 24:4-12, Isaiah speaks of the lack of wine in the wicked city. Yet, look at what he says about Godís provision for His people in 25:6. The Lord is preparing a feast of well aged wine and rich food. Such language points us to the great Wedding Supper of the Lamb that we read to begin our service in Revelation 19.

Third, He provides victory over death and sorrow. Look at 25:7-8. The covering of death that looms over all nations will be swallowed up by the Lord. He will wipe away every tear and put an end to the reproach of His people. Again, such language points us to the picture we get in Revelation of the New Heavens and the New Earth (particularly chapter 21).

Fourth, going over into chapter 26, we see that the Lord provides peace for His people. Look at 26:3, 12. Here we are seeing more of the description of the city of the righteous. We are told that those who are there are given perfect peace. This happens because the Lord will ordain peace for us. The Lord will provide us with peace.

Fifth, as we mentioned earlier, the Lord will provide level paths for the righteous. Look again at 26:7-8.

Sixth, He provides new life, or resurrection. Look at 26:19. This is a remarkable verse. Old Testament references to resurrection are limited, but here we clearly see that a future hope of Godís people is not in this life alone, but in being raised from the dead. The doctrine of God raising His people from the dead will be further developed in the pages of the New Testament.

Seventh, the Lord will give us victory over chaos and evil. Look at 27:1. In Isaiahís day, the Leviathan represented chaos and evil that was untamed. Yet, he tells us here that the Lord will slay the dragon that is in the sea. The Lord will give His people victory over evil.

Finally, we will mention one more: the Lord will provide atonement for His people. Look at 27:9. We are not told exactly how this atonement will be made, but as those who live after the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, we know how God has provided atonement for us.

Now that is a list of provision. What amazing provision the Lord has promised to His people. When I worked at the Bible Book Store after college, I remember having to occasionally do inventory lists. We would work with a particular section of the store and try to get an accurate number of every product we had. That way we would know exactly what we had. It is probably not a bad idea for us to take spiritual inventory on occasion. And by that I mean this: we should take the time to pause in our busy lives and remember all that the Lord has done and has promised to do for us. A good example of this is Paulís writing in Ephesians 1. We often get sidetracked there by his mentioning of predestination and election, but we need to rejoice in the blessings that we have received in Christ. Listen to what he says in verses 3-14. What an inventory!! God has blessed us and promised to bless in such glorious ways! May we rejoice over such provision.

Third, we rejoice over the Lordís wondrous plan for all peoples.

We have already mentioned this in passing in our study of Isaiah, but I want to point it out again. The above provisions will not just come to Israel or Judah. No, Godís plan is to give them to the nations. Chapter 24 tells us that judgment will come to the nations, but we also see deliverance for them as well. Look again at the description of the singers in 24:14-16a. They will shout from the west and in the east give glory to the Lord. Even in the coastlands of the sea they will give glory to the name of the Lord, the God of Israel. He ends with this thought: From the ends of the earth we hear songs of praise of glory to the Righteous One. East, West, coastlands, ends of the earth, all singing praise to the Lord. Look at 25:6-7. The great feast is for all peoples and victory over death and sorrow is for them as well. Men from every tongue, tribe, and nation, will be seated at the Wedding Supper of the Lamb. He has a wondrous plan for all peoples.

Brothers and sisters, this is the hope that we have for our adopted people group the Dongxiang. We pray for them in hope because we know that they will be represented on that Day. This is why we as Southern Baptists are committed to foreign missions (at least it should be). We pool our resources together to train, send, and support missionaries all over the world because the Lord is preparing a feast for all the nations. We should take great hope in such a wondrous plan.

Can you see the other side of judgment this morning? Yes, the Lord is going to judge and punish the wicked, or all of those who persist in their sin outside of Christ. The warnings that the Bible gives us for this coming Day should motivate us to preach and pray for all of the lost. Yet, we also have reasons to rejoice at the coming judgment. On that Day, we will rejoice over His majestic justice, His glorious provision, and His wondrous plan for all peoples.

These truths should also motivate us to faithfully sharing the gospel with others. May we warn our friends and our neighbors of the wrath to come, but may we also tell them of the blessings of being in Christ. May we sing and shout and rejoice over His provision. On that Day, by faith we will be numbered among those who proclaim: Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us. This is the Lord; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation (25:9). Brothers and sisters, we are counting the days for the great Wedding Supper. As we do, may we wait expectantly and faithfully by rejoicing in the salvation of our God through Christ and calling others to join with us. Amen.

~ William Marshall ~

Last Updated ( Thursday, 04 December 2008 )

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