Isaiah 48

Sunday Morning Bible Study

February 20, 2000

Introduction

It seems that one of the main overall themes of the last few chapters of Isaiah has been the prophecy of the coming defeat of Babylon and the return of the Jewish captives back to Israel. This chapter continues with the same focus.

:1 which are called by the name of Israel

The name "Israel" means "governed by God".

:1 are come forth out of the waters of Judah

In Isaiahís day, the one tribe of Judah, along with some of Benjamin, was the main one that was continuing as a nation. The other tribes had been scattered by the Assyrians conquest.

:1 which swear by the name of the LORD Ö but not in truth

These are people who arenít afraid to say that they follow Yahweh, but in reality, itís only a bunch of words. Jeremiah said of these kinds of people Ė

Jer 5:2 And though they say, The LORD liveth; surely they swear falsely.

They use the name of the Lord as if they know him, but itís only words, they donít really know the Lord.

Lesson

Christian in name only?

There are people who think that because they live in the United States that they are a Christian. Others take a more religious approach and think that if they go to church, that they must be a Christian.

Going to church doesnít make you a Christian any more than going to McDonaldís makes you a hamburger.

Being a "Christian" means that you have come to believe that your own sins have separated you from having a relationship with God. Being a Christian means that you have come to know that Jesus Christ died on a cross to pay for your sins and that you have received the free gift of forgiveness that He offers you as a result of paying for your sins. Being a Christian means that you are in the process of letting Jesus change your life, taking away the bad stuff and putting new, good things into your life.

People who have not admitted that they are sinful cannot be a true Christian. People who have not received the forgiveness that God offers through Jesusí death on the cross cannot be a true Christian. People who are not allowing God to change their lives cannot be a true Christian.

:4 Because I knew that thou art obstinate, and thy neck is an iron sinew, and thy brow brass;

obstinate Ė qasheh Ė hard, cruel, severe, obstinate; stubborn, stiff of neck, stiff-necked

neck is an iron sinew Ė the idea is that of unwilling to bend, not bowing to another, not putting on the yoke of obedience to the Lord.

thy brow brass Ė or, "bronze forehead", this might mean simply "hard-headed", but it might carry the idea of being unable to blush, the idea of not being ashamed of things that you should be ashamed of. A parallel verse in this idea is Ė

Jer 3:3 Therefore the showers have been withholden, and there hath been no latter rain; and thou hadst a whore's forehead, thou refusedst to be ashamed.

:5 lest thou shouldest say, Mine idol hath done them

God is showing the people what He will do in the future because God is concerned that when He once again rescues Israel and destroys Babylon (as He said He would in chapters 46-47), that these stubborn people will say that the idols did it rather than God.

Lessons

Hypocrisy defined (:1-5)

1. Lack of truth (vs.1)

Jesus said,

Joh 4:24 God [is] a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship [him] in spirit and in truth.

A problem I see from time to time is that people donít want to admit the truth.

Sometimes theyíre ashamed of their actions. Sometimes they just donít want to get caught or admit they have a problem.

Illustration

Charles Swindoll, in Growing Deep in the Christian Life, tells about a man who bought fried chicken dinners for himself and his date late one afternoon. The attendant at the fast food outlet, however, inadvertently gave him the proceeds from the dayís businessóa bucket of money (much of it cash) instead of fried chicken. Swindoll writes:

"After driving to their picnic site, the two of them sat down to enjoy some chicken. They discovered a whole lot more than chickenóover $800! But he was unusual. He quickly put the money back in the bag. They got back into the car and drove all the way back. By then, the manager was frantic.

"Mr. Clean got out, walked in, and became an instant hero. ĎI want you to know I came by to get a couple of chicken dinners and wound up with all this money here.í

"Well, the manager was thrilled to death. He said, ĎLet me call the newspaper. Iím gonna have your picture put in the local paper. Youíre one of the most honest men Iíve ever heard of.í

"To which the man quickly responded, ĎOh, no. No, no, donít do that!í Then he leaned closer and whispered, ĎYou see, the woman Iím withósheís, uh, somebody elseís wife.í "

God desires that our truthfulness permeate every aspect of our life, not just certain times that it is convenient.

You wonít grow up if you donít live in the truth.

(Eph 4:15 NASB) but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him, who is the head, even Christ,

2. Lack of righteousness (vs.1)

Some people have the mistaken impression that being a good Christian is all about saying the right things. God doesnít want you just to be talking about what is right, He wants you living it.

Illustration

The other night I was watching Larry King interview a gal known as "Judge Judy". Sheís on one of these TV court shows and has a reputation for being up front and direct with people.

Larry King asked her about this recent case where a judge ordered a lady to take pregnancy tests every two months and that if she got pregnant in the next two years, sheíd go to jail.

Judge Judy said that she didnít see it as an act to get media attention by the judge, but an act of frustration. She shared how she had been a judge in family court for several years and all the various cases sheíd seen of women who were on drugs and had gotten pregnant and given birth to children who were addicted to drugs. She shared about the many times she had gone to the hospital and seen these premature babies who were fighting for their lives because their mothers had passed on a drug addiction to them. She then shared how frustrated sheíd be with these mothers who would stand before her in court and say that they just couldnít get off the drugs. The mothers would complain about how hard it was and that they just couldnít go through the discomfort of getting clean. But what about the babies who were being forced to go through those same withdrawals? And they didnít even have a choice of whether or not to be addicted to the drugs.

God desires that His people live in "righteousness". That means that He wants His people to be doing the "right things". That doesnít mean that life will always be comfortable. It doesnít mean that life will always be easy. If we truly have come to know God, we too will want to live lives that are right.

(1 John 1:5-7 KJV) This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. {6} If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: {7} But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.

3. Stubbornness (vs.4)

A true blue hypocrite is one who is too stubborn to change what they know is wrong.

Be careful about your stubbornness over making the changes God wants you to make. It leads to callousness, where you will no longer care at all what God thinks.

4. Lack of shame (vs.4)

Sometimes guilt and shame arenít that bad.

Sometimes they are the indicators that God is at work in our lives. In talking about the Holy Spirit, Jesus said,

(John 16:8 NASB) "And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin, and righteousness, and judgment;

If you are involved in something thatís wrong, and you have no sense of guilt over it, I highly doubt that God is at work in your life.

Illustration

We have nerves in our fingers that can sense things like heat, pressure, and pain. Though we donít like to feel pain, it is the very thing that tells us that something is wrong.

The disease we call leprosy is a deadening of those nerves. A person with leprosy will eventually have no feelings in their limbs. The reason why people with leprosy would start losing fingers and limbs was not because leprosy made them somehow fall off. Itís that without their ability to sense pain, the limbs could become damaged and the person wouldnít know it. A rat could come and gnaw on a personís finger in the night and they wouldnít know it.

Donít run from your guilt. Godís way of handling guilt is to admit your problem, turn away from your sin, and receive His forgiveness.

(1 John 1:9 KJV) If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

5. Giving credit to the wrong person (vs.5)

Sometimes weíre very reluctant, sometimes just forgetful, to give God the credit for what He does for us.

Itís like a person who is on their deathbed, they pray for healing, and when the doctors change their medication, or perform surgery, or whatever, they are healed. Donít forget to give God the credit for this. Weíre thankful for the doctors, but God is the one who makes it all work.

Illustration

One of the worship leaders (Heather) for the womenís ministry had a desire for a new keyboard. It occurred to her that she ought to pray and ask God about it. She asked the Lord if He might give her a new keyboard before the Ladiesí Retreat. When her husband called her up from work on Friday morning and asked to meet her at the music store, her first response was that she didnít have time to do that. Then it occurred to her that God was answering her prayer, right before her eyes! Sheís playing that keyboard this weekend.

:6 I have showed thee new things from this time Ö and thou didst not know them.

Lesson

Avoiding the ruts

Sometimes we have a craving for something different, yet when it comes down to it, weíre pretty comfortable with the way things are.

If God wanted to start a new thing in your life, would you see it?

Isa 43:19 Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, [and] rivers in the desert.

Sometimes those "new" things that God wants to do for us start off as something that just annoys us. It annoys us because itís new and uncomfortable. Donít be quick to dismiss "new" things. It might be Godís new blessing for you.

Illustration

As I was preparing my study, I kind of stumbled on some notes for a Bible Study I taught on Sunday night, September 4, 1994. At the time, I was an assistant pastor at Calvary Chapel of Anaheim. I was teaching from Ė

(Heb 11:8 KJV) By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went.

God had been stirring me up for a couple of months as I struggled with this sense I had had in my life for the previous 20 years that God had called me to be a Senior Pastor. It was all coming together and we had begun to ask counsel of various people as to what we should do. We finally came to the conclusion that God was opening an opportunity for us to start a new church in Fullerton. But it meant leaving the safety of a loving fellowship, and at the time we didnít know if more than four or five people would be helping us. But God had been clearly speaking to us and telling us to do it. I had originally told the Lord that I wouldnít do it unless we had at least 30 adults coming with us. But when I taught that night about Abraham and his faithful obedience to Godís call, even though he didnít know where he was going, Deb and I felt that we needed to step out and obey.

Illustration

Jonathan and his armor bearer Ė Jonathan was the crown prince, the eldest son of his father, King Saul. The nation was weary of the oppression from the Philistines. Then one day, an idea occurred to Jonathan:

(1 Sam 14:6 KJV) And Jonathan said to the young man that bare his armour, Come, and let us go over unto the garrison of these uncircumcised: it may be that the LORD will work for us: for there is no restraint to the LORD to save by many or by few.

Jonathanís heart was simply willing to be available to the Lord and to just see what God was going to do. As a result, God did a "new" thing and brought a great victory to Israel simply because of two guys willing to step out and obey.

:8 thine ear was not opened

This may only be talking about whether or not a person is listening to the Lord, but there is a concept in Jewish culture that helps us understand that thereís a little more behind this.

The Jews were not allowed to make other Jews lifetime slaves. A Jewish servant was required to be offered their freedom at the end of seven years. But sometimes a servant did not want to leave his master.

(Exo 21:5-6 KJV) And if the servant shall plainly say, I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free: {6} Then his master shall bring him unto the judges; he shall also bring him to the door, or unto the door post; and his master shall bore his ear through with an awl; and he shall serve him for ever.

Piercing the ear and putting a ring in it was a sign that you were a voluntary, lifetime servant of your master. Your ear was considered to have been "opened".

I believe David was referring to this when he wrote about his own love for the Lord Ė

(Psa 40:6 KJV) Sacrifice and offering thou didst not desire; mine ears hast thou opened: burnt offering and sin offering hast thou not required.

Isaiah talks of this in a prophecy regarding the Messiah Ė

Isa 50:5 The Lord GOD hath opened mine ear, and I was not rebellious, neither turned away back.

Lesson

Show your commitment.

I guess I could have labeled this lesson, "Wear an earring". The whole point of an earring was that it showed your commitment to your Master.

Can other people visibly see something in you that shows who you are committed to?

Illustration

A wedding ring is just like this. We have the custom of wearing wedding rings to show others that we are committed to our spouse. I kind of have a problem with people who donít wear their wedding rings. What are they ashamed of? I want the whole world to know that Iím committed to a special lady.

Can people tell from your desk at work that youíre a Christian?

I donít want to get legalistic and say that we all ought to have bumper stickers on our cars, Bibles on our desks at work, and Scripture verses on our computer screens. But the point is this, can people tell who youíre committed to?

I understand that itís just as important that our lives match the thing we profess. Itís great to tell people youíre a Christian, but if youíre the one whoís always late to work, telling the off-color jokes, etc., then we make it all a sham. But I donít think that means that we shouldnít let people know about our commitment. If you are a carnal Christian at work, straighten up! Donít hide your commitment.

:8 for I knew that thou wouldest deal very treacherously

(Isa 48:8 NLT) "Yes, I will tell you of things that are entirely new, for I know so well what traitors you are. You have been rebels from your earliest childhood, rotten through and through.

:9 For my name's sake will I defer mine anger, and for my praise will I refrain for thee

refrain Ė chatam Ė to hold in, restrain; muzzle; seal, "stop my nostrils" that the smoke and anger might not go forth to destroy them.

This isnít a picture of some angry person whoís having a bad day. Godís wrath is never because Heís "moody". We ought to be destroyed because of our sins. It is but for His mercy that we are not destroyed.

:10 Behold, I have refined thee, but not with silver;

This phrase is difficult to understand / interpret. I found about six different ways it could be understood. It seems it would be better to translate this, "but not as silver". The idea is that God has not yet used the same intense heat on Israel to refine them as would be needed to refine silver.

:10 I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction.

chosen Ė bachar Ė to choose, elect, decide for; tried, tested, proved.

Lesson

The Refinerís Fire

(1 Pet 1:6-7 NIV) In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. {7} These have come so that your faith--of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire--may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.

God refines our faith like a goldsmith refines gold. Itís my understanding that a goldsmith will heat the gold ore until itís in a molten state. As he keeps the heat on, the impurities all come to the surface. The goldsmith will keep skimming off the impurities until the gold is pure. He knows itís pure when He can see His own reflection in the gold.

Illustration

Charles Spurgeon said: I bear willing witness that I owe more to the fire, and the hammer, and the file, than to anything else in my Lord's workshop. I sometimes question whether I have ever learned anything except through the rod. When my schoolroom is darkened, I see most.

:11 I will not give my glory unto another.

If God gave up on Israel forever, then the heathen would attribute their victory over Israel to their idols, and Godís glory would be given to idols, or, "another".

:13 when I call unto them, they stand up together.

Godís creation is obedient to Him. He speaks and creation obeys. This is in contrast to Israel.

:14 The LORD hath loved him Ö

him Ö he Ö his Ė him who? Perhaps Cyrus. Perhaps the Messiah.

:16 his Spirit, hath sent me.

me who? Could be Isaiah speaking of himself here. Could be prophetic of the Messiah, the one who ultimately would be send by God and the Holy Spirit.

:17 I am the LORD thy God which teacheth thee to profit

Lesson

Godís will is good.

Donít be quick to think that this is talking about becoming wealthy. How would God teach them? Through their affliction. Even the affliction is for their "profit".

God uses things in our lives for our "good", not for our harm.

(Rom 8:28 KJV) And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

Sometimes we think that it would be really scary to totally give ourselves over to God because He may be just waiting to ruin us. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

(Rom 12:1-2 KJV) I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. {2} And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

(Jer 29:11 KJV) For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.

:18 then had thy peace been as a river

When we learn to obey Godís commands, we experience peace. The peace we experience isnít just like a nice little pool of water, but like a river, where the peace just keeps coming and coming and coming and coming Ö

:19 Thy seed also had been as the sand

All these things: peace, righteousness and children are blessings that would result in their obedience to God.

:20 Go ye forth of Babylon, flee ye from the Chaldeans

This is primarily looking at the Jews being released from Babylon to go home. Some were going to get comfortable in Babylon. God is telling them to run home.

There was something like 70,000 Jews that were taken captive to Babylon. But when they got to Babylon, the Jewish community began to thrive. When Cyrus conquered Babylon and allowed the Jews to go home, only 42,000 went back, at least initially. Josephus tells us that "they were not willing to leave their possessions". They had become so accustomed to Babylon and itís ways that they didnít want to leave.

There is also a sense in which this can be applied to Godís people not being a part of the end time world system Ė

Re 18:4 And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.

Lesson

Too much of the world?

Jesus told a parable about a farmer planting seed in various types of soil. With one of the soils, there were thorns that grew up and choked out the seed, keeping it from being fruitful.

(Mat 13:22 KJV) He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful.

Warren Wiersbe writes,

"The church today can easily grow complacent with its comfort and affluence. God may have to put us into the furnace to remind us that we are here to be servants and not consumers or spectators."

:22 There is no peace, saith the LORD, unto the wicked.

Whereas there is peace in obedience, there is no peace in rebellion.

:21 And they thirsted not when he led them through the deserts

This seems to refer to how God led Israel through the wilderness when they left Egypt. When they ran out of water, God provided a special Rock the gave water.

I wonder if God isnít reminding those in Babylon that if they choose to go home, He will provide for them.

Lesson

Where God guides, God provides.

If God is truly leading you in a certain direction, He will take care of the needs. He may not do it in the way that you can imagine He would. I donít think that the Israelites had any idea about water coming from a rock in the desert before it happened. But it did.

When God is leading you, He will take care of you.