The Lord revives His people for His glory
Series: Isaiah: Hope in the Holy One
BIG IDEA: The Lord revives his people for his glory.
1. Remember who the Lord is (43:22-28)
2. Remember who you are (44:1-5)
3. Return to the Lord (44:6-23)
The Prophecy of Isaiah: An Introduction Commentary by Alec Motyer
Isaiah: God Saves Sinners (Preach the Word Commentary) by Ray Ortlund
ESV Study Bible
We are weary. Do you feel it? There is a reason why the Lord Jesus says “come to me all who are labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.” We are weary. Do you feel it? Some of us are weary from our sins and temptations, others of us are weary from our responsibilities and decisions, and others of us are weary from our trials and afflictions. We are weary. Do you feel it? In our passage this morning, Isaiah is writing to a weary people. They were weary of the Lord himself. Do you feel it? Isaiah 43:22 – “Yet you did not call upon me, O Jacob; but you have been weary of me, O Israel.” Because we are both frail and fallen, we are weary and we feel it. But in our passage this morning, Isaiah shows us the way of revival. He shows a weary people the way to be renewed, refreshed, and revived. Who doesn’t need more of that?! The way of revival is the Lord himself. The heart of our passage is the Lord’s promise in Isaiah 44:3 – Isaiah 44:3 – For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour my Spirit upon your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants. The Lord revives his people, and our passage makes clear that he revives us not because we deserve it, but so that the world will see he outperforms all created things that we might look to for hope and happiness, significance and security. That brings us the big idea of our passage: The Lord revives his people for his glory. He is so gracious. We are weary, often with him, but he revives his people for his glory. Ok – how do we participate in that? We don’t work revival up personally or as a group, it comes down to us from above. But is there any way that we can cooperate with the Lord’s promise to revive his people for his glory? Yes! The Lord tells us how to cooperate at the very end of our passage. Isaiah 44:21-22 – “Remember these things…Return to me, for I have redeemed you…” Remember and return – that’s our part. The Lord revives his people for his glory. How do we participate? Two “remembers” and one “return”: 1. Remember who the Lord is (43:22-28) 2. Remember who you are (44:1-5) 3. Return to the Lord (44:6-23).
REMEMBER WHO THE LORD IS (43:22-28)
Our passage begins by diagnosing the true root of weariness. Contrary to popular belief, we aren’t weary or burnt out from working too hard. The true root of weariness is forgetting who the Lord is. When we forget who the Lord is, we become weary with him, which is the root of all other forms of weariness. Let me show you that the true root of weariness is forgetting who the Lord is. Isaiah 43:22-24 – “Yet you did not call upon me, O Jacob; but you have been weary of me, O Israel! 23 You have not brought me your sheep for burnt offerings, or honored me with your sacrifices. I have not burdened you with offerings, or wearied you with frankincense. 24 You have not bought me sweet cane with money, or satisfied me with the fat of your sacrifices. But you have burdened me with your sins; you have wearied me with your iniquities. These verses help us diagnose the true root of weariness. It sounds like the Lord is rebuking Israel for not worshiping him in the temple. It sounds like they quit going to church. But that can’t be right. All the Old Testament scholars agree that there was never a time before the Lord sent Israel into exile in Babylon that Israel quit gathering at the Temple for sacrifices and worship. They weren’t weary from going to church. They were weary from forgetting who the Lord is and, so they went to church for the wrong reason. They turned even worship into a means of trying to obligate God and earn his favor. Even their worship was wearying because they had forgotten who the Lord is. That’s the true root of weariness; forgetting who the Lord is.
Ray Ortlund explains the situation this way: “God was not saying that his people were not worshiping. He was saying that their worship wasn’t really about him. He was saying that the very sacrifices they were bringing, far from removing sin, were themselves sins and iniquities. God searched the inner reality of their worship. What did he find there? Weariness. And to God, that’s a problem…God never meant it to be a wearying imposition…And Isaiah is saying that God himself doesn’t enjoy it…What then are we learning here about worship? Simply this. We violate worship when we turn a means of grace into a means of weariness…But here’s the depth of our problem: We long to save ourselves. And we drag that way of thinking into our relationship with God. We give in order to get. Our natural drift is to worship God not to unburden ourselves but to obligate him. That denies the very being of God.”
We are weary. Do you feel it? It’s not because you’re working too hard, it’s because you’ve forgotten who the Lord is and so you’re trying to save yourself, you’re trying to measure up, and you’re even making Christian activity part of that. It’s exhausting to us and even wearies Him. Are you weary from trying to perform to get God to like you? I have good news. The Lord revives his people for his glory. Remember who the Lord is. Who is he? Isaiah 43:25 – “I, I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins.” Remember who the Lord is! The Lord is the one who blots out your sins like a stubborn stain. Can I tell you something sort of embarrassing? I get a bloody nose all the time. It’s a legit nuisance in my life. This minor ailment has taught me just how difficult it is to get a blood stain out of a white shirt. You can spray, scrub, and wash, but eventually you’re throwing the shirt away. Our sins are like that blood stain. No amount of working or worshiping can blot it out. The more you try to rid yourself of the stain of your sins, the more religious activity you participate in to cover it up, the more weary you get. Remember who the Lord is! The Lord Jesus Christ took every staining sin of yours upon himself at the cross and wiped you clean. The Lord revives his people for his glory. Remember who the Lord is; He blots out your sins. Don’t worship so he’ll do that, worship him because he’s done that at the cross! Stop trying to do enough to get him to remember your sins. He’s already taken all your sins upon himself at the cross, died and rose for them, and they’re gone. He remembers them no more! Remember who he is! Come to worship not to manipulate him, but to remember who he is! That’s how we cooperate with the Lord who revives his weary people for his glory. The Lord revives his people for his glory. Step one: awaken from your gospel-amnesia and remember who He is. Maybe we need to take a moment right now, during our worship gathering to repent of wearying the Lord with performative worship and ask him to help us remember who he really is. Pause. The Lord revives his people for his glory. Step two in cooperating…
REMEMBER WHO YOU ARE (44:1-5)
Israel refused the Lord’s invitation to turn from their false-worship and remember who he is. Therefore, the Lord allowed their temple to be destroyed and for them to be hauled away to exile in Babylon (43:26-28). But that is not where the Lord left them. You may be wearying the Lord by trying to earn his favor and manipulate him into your debt, but that’s not where he leaves you. Listen to how tenderly he speaks to his chosen in Christ, despite the fact that we’ve wearied him with our performative worship. Isaiah 44:1-2 – “But now hear, O Jacob my servant, Israel whom I have chosen! 2 Thus says the LORD who made you, who formed you from the womb and will help you: Fear not, O Jacob my servant, Jeshurun whom I have chosen. Not only does the Lord speak tenderly to his chosen people in exile. He makes them an amazing promise. He promises to revive them from their weariness. Isaiah 44:3 – For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour my Spirit upon your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants. The Lord’s promise to revive his people with water and the Spirit is a very important promise that he repeats throughout the New Testament. What exactly is the Lord promising to do for his weary people? He is promising to give them a new birth! A whole new birth! The Lord Jesus himself picks up on the imagery of water and the Spirit and explains it this way. John 3:3-5 – Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 4 Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” 5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. Ok – what is the Lord promising through Isaiah? What is he himself promising in John 3? He is promising to give us the ultimate revival of new birth. The Bible says that we are dead in our trespasses and sins, but God makes us alive with Christ who died and rose for our sins. Through Christ we have the ultimate revival of new birth. Remember who you are!
When my children were born they received their name and took on our family name. When we are born again through Christ, we receive a whole new identity. Isaiah 44:5 – This one will say, ‘I am the LORD’s,’ another will call on the name of Jacob, and another will write on his hand, ‘The LORD’s,’ and name himself by the name of Israel.” Everyone in the world is trying to figure out who they are. In traditional cultures people would look outward to their community to find their identity and be told who they are. In contemporary western culture, we tend to do the opposite. We tend to look inside ourselves, try to discover who we are, and then we announce it to the world and expect to be unconditionally affirmed. The gospel provides a third way entirely. We don’t look outward and we don’t look inward, we look upward. When we are born again, born from above, through Christ, we receive a new identity: Christian. Christ becomes our identity. And notice in Isaiah 44:5, the people call themselves both “I am the Lord’s” and call themselves “Israel.” When we are born again we call ourselves Christian and church. We are the Lord’s and we belong to his people. The two can’t be separated. And the Lord Jesus Christ has prescribed a way for us to take on his name and identify with his people: baptism! Matthew 28. Explain.
The Lord revives his people for his glory; remember who you are! Stop trying to make a name for yourself through what you do. That will only weary you more. Remember who you are when you wake up: “I am the Lord’s.” Remember who you are when you go to work: “I am the Lord’s.” Remember who you are when times get tough, you’re angry, and want to explode: “I am the Lord’s.” Get baptized, join the community, and live in vital fellowship with others. This is how we cooperate with the Lord who revives us for his glory.
This is why we don’t just attend church, but join it. It’s the way we say to one another, “you are the Lord’s and your name is Israel.” Are you weary? The Lord loves to revive his weary people for his glory. Remember who the Lord is and remember who you are. Three of the best ways to remember who you are: get baptized, join the church, and live in vital membership. Brief explanation. Step three…
RETURN TO THE LORD (44:6-23)
You probably noticed during our Scripture reading that Isaiah returns to the subject of idolatry in our passage this morning. You may wonder why the Lord returns to idols again and again. It’s because they’re our real problem. When we are weary, we tend to trouble our troubles by turning to created things, rather than the creator, to revive us. Idols always leave us more weary than when we started. Therefore, the Lord makes great promises to us and fulfills them so that we will remember that he alone is God and that there is no other (44:6-8). The Lord could simply say to us, “idols are wrong,” but sometimes what we actually need to be revived is to hear the Lord mock our idols so we can really remember just how foolish idolatry is. For the sake of being revived from our weariness, let’s simply listen to the Lord mocked our wearying idols. I am going to read from various portions of Isaiah 44:12-20 – The ironsmith takes a cutting tool and works it over the coals. He fashions it with hammers and works it with his strong arm. He becomes hungry, and his strength fails; he drinks no water and is faint. 13 The carpenter stretches a line; he marks it out with a pencil. He shapes it with planes and marks it with a compass. He shapes it into the figure of a man, with the beauty of a man, to dwell in a house. 14 He cuts down cedars, or he chooses a cypress tree or an oak and lets it grow strong among the trees of the forest. He plants a cedar and the rain nourishes it. 15 Then it becomes fuel for a man. He takes a part of it and warms himself; he kindles a fire and bakes bread. Also he makes a god and worships it; he makes it an idol and falls down before it. 16 Half of it he burns in the fire. Over the half he eats meat; he roasts it and is satisfied. Also he warms himself and says, “Aha, I am warm, I have seen the fire!” 17 And the rest of it he makes into a god, his idol, and falls down to it and worships it. He prays to it and says, “Deliver me, for you are my god!” 18 They know not, nor do they discern, for he has shut their eyes, so that they cannot see, and their hearts, so that they cannot understand. 19 No one considers, nor is there knowledge or discernment to say, “Half of it I burned in the fire; I also baked bread on its coals; I roasted meat and have eaten. And shall I make the rest of it an abomination? Shall I fall down before a block of wood?” 20 He feeds on ashes; a deluded heart has led him astray, and he cannot deliver himself or say, “Is there not a lie in my right hand?” Your idols are nothing. Remember who the Lord is, remember who you are, and now return to the Lord. Isaiah 44:22 – The Lord speaks. “I have blotted out your transgressions like a cloud and your sins like mist; return to me, for I have redeemed you.” The Lord Jesus Christ is our redeemer who bought us back from slavery at the price of his life. Return to the Lord. Return. Maybe you’ve been wearying yourself trying to earn God’s favor with your worship rather than worshiping out of your righteousness in Christ. Maybe you’ve been building your identity on what you can accomplish or what others say about you. Return to the Lord. Maybe in the weariness you’ve been grumbling against the Lord and turning to idols. Return to the Lord. You are already redeemed in Christ, return to Him again and again. I want to give you time to return to the Lord, but first communion. Communion reminds you that he has redeemed you. You’re not returning to get his favor, but because you have his grace and redemption.