Translation and sermon by Nate Wilson for Christ the Redeemer Church, Manhattan, KS 20 July 2008
1. I was pursued because they did not ask of me
I was found because they did not seek me
I said, “Look at me! Look at me!” to a nation that was not called by my name.
2. I spread out my hands all the day to an obstinate people:
those who walk in the no-good way after their devisings,
3. the people who provoke me to my face continually,
sacrificing in the gardens
and burning incense upon bricks,
4. the ones who sit in the graves
and spend the night in the guarded places,
the ones who eat the flesh of swine
and the broth of tainted meat is in their cookware,
5. the ones who say, “Keep to yourself; do not approach me, for I have become holier than you!”
These are a smoke in my nose - a fire burning all the day.
6. Look, it stands written before my face, “I will not keep silent unless I have paid back.”
And I will pay back upon their bosom 7. your iniquities and the iniquities of your fathers together, declares Jehovah, in which they smoked upon the mountains and defamed me upon the hills.
So I will measure their work headfirst upon their bosom.
8. Thus says Jehovah, “As when the juice is found in the cluster
and one says, ‘Do not destroy it, for there is a blessing in it,’
thus I will do for the sake of my servants, so as not to destroy the entirety.
9. I will cause a seed to come forth from Jacob, and from Judah an heir of my mountains,
and my chosen ones will take her over, so it will be my servants who will dwell there.
10. And the Sharon will be for the home of the flock,
and the valley of Achor will be for a resting place of the herd, for my people who have sought me.
11. But you forsakers of Jehovah,
who forget the mountain of my holiness,
who arrange a spread for Fortune,
and who fill mixers for Destiny,
12. I will yet destine y’all for the sword, and all of you will bend down for the slaughter,
because I called and you did not answer;
I spoke and you did not heed,
but you did the evil in my eyes,
and you chose that in which I did not delight.
In the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 21, Jesus, the Son of God, enters Jerusalem. It was a triumphal entry with people rolling out the red carpet (as it were) and saying “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” Everybody thought they were doing the right thing. They were all there for the Passover in commemoration of the great deliverance of Israel from Egypt; and now the Messiah had arrived and the Jews would once again be gloriously delivered from the Romans. “Hosanna! Save us now!” they cried out to Jesus. This was great!
But the rest of the chapter doesn’t turn out as they expected. Jesus makes a beeline for the temple and is ticked off by what He sees there and throws out the moneychangers. Jesus started healing and teaching in the temple, but the priests and scholars ran Him out because they didn’t like the children in the temple praising Jesus. So Jesus leaves town, and on the way curses a fig tree that doesn’t have any fruit on it so that it withers – not a good sign! The next day He returns to teach in the temple, and when He is challenged by the chief priests and the elders, this is what He says,
Matthew 21:28-43 (ASV) “So what do you think? A man had two sons; and he came to the first, and said, ‘Son, go work to-day in the vineyard.’ 29 And he answered and said, ‘I will not:’ but afterward he changed his mind, and went. 30 And he came to the second, and said likewise. And he answered and said, ‘I’m going, sir:’ yet he didn’t go. 31 Which of the two did the will of his father?” They replied, “The first.” Jesus said unto them, “Truly I say unto you, that the tax-collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God before you. 32 For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you didn’t believe him; but the tax-collectors and the prostitutes believed him: and y’all, when you saw it, did not even repent yourselves afterward, that you might believe him. 33 Hear another parable: There was a man that was a property-owner, who planted a vineyard, and set a hedge about it, and dug a winepress in it, and built a tower, and leased it out to farmers, and went into another country. 34 And when the season of the fruits drew near, he sent his servants to the farmers, to collect his produce. 35 And the farmers took his servants, and beat one, and killed another, and stoned another. 36 Again, he sent other servants more than the first: and they did unto them in like manner. 37 But afterward he sent unto them his son, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ 38 But the farmers, when they saw the son, said among themselves, ‘This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and take his inheritance.’ 39 And they took him, and threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him. 40 When therefore the owner of the vineyard shall come, what will he do unto those farmers?” 41 They say unto him, “He will miserably destroy those miserable men, and will rent out the vineyard unto other farmers, who will render him the fruits in their seasons.” 42 Jesus said unto them, “Did ye never read in the scriptures, ‘The stone which the builders rejected, The same was made the head of the corner; This was from the Lord, And it is marvelous in our eyes?’ 43 Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken away from you, and shall be given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.”
What a shock! The Messiah came and, instead of being glad to be with His people, He instead was angry at them and prophecied their destruction. Instead of saving them, Jesus brought news of their rejection. Within 40 years of Jesus’ prophecy, Jerusalem was leveled to the ground, and the Jewish nation was obliterated. What went wrong?
How often have you prayed for God to help you? How often have you looked forward to Jesus’ second coming? Have you considered the possibility that when He comes, He might do something unexpected to you Christians like He did to the Jews in 30 AD, and instead of taking you up to heaven, He might instead be angry with you and reject you and throw you into the lake of fire? What can be done to avoid this tragedy from happening?
In the last two chapters, Isaiah was praying to God to come and save Israel. Here in chapter 65, we have God’s answer. God does not say, “I’ll ease up on things, Isaiah, and won’t destroy Israel or send the Jews into captivity.” He doesn’t even say, Don’t worry, all the Jewish people will be saved in the end just because they been my chosen people.” He doesn’t give the expected answer. Instead He lays out the same plan that Jesus, His Son, executed 700 years later when He entered Jerusalem.
He started talking about giving the blessing of His presence to other people. As we have seen from our New Testament scripture reading at the end of Romans 10, this is speaking of Gentiles - people who had not “asked for” God or “sought” God, people who had not “been called” the people of Jehovah like the Jews were. Then He goes on to describe all whole litany of things that the Jews had done to upset Him.
You see, at the end of Isaiah 64, Isaiah had surveyed the coming destruction of Israel, Jerusalem, and the temple and thought that this was the problem. He said, “Will you restrain yourself over these [tragedies]?” God’s reply here in chapter 65 is, “Those aren’t the tragedy, Isaiah! These,” He says in v.5, “are the tragedies –people who knew me and were called by my name blaspheming me and worshipping other gods instead, ‘these are the smoke in my nose and fire that burns all day long.’” The Babylonian captivity isn’t the problem; it’s the obstinate people who are the problem.
We all tend to look at our life and say, “Help, God, I’ve got this problem and that problem! What are you going to do about it?” Is it possible that God is answering, “Hey that’s not the problem; your stubborn, selfish heart is the problem! Until that stubborn, selfish heart has been put to death and the nails are in its coffin, you’re going to keep having these problems!”
That’s not good news, is it? You didn’t come here to get beat up. You want to hear good news, and God has good news after the bad news. In verses 8-10, we get the good news. It is an extension of the good news in v.1. There will be Jews who are characterized as servants of God who are preserved. Jesus, the promised seed will come to save them, and all who seek God will enter into His rest.
Let’s look at verses 1-12 in detail now with that overview in mind:
v.1. I was pursued because they did not ask of me; I was found because they did not seek me. I said, “Look at me! Look at me!” to a nation that was not called by my name.
The Jews interpret this verse as speaking of them, but Christians follow the interpretation of Paul in Romans 10, that this is speaking of the influx of gentile believers into the believing community in the first century AD.
The first Hebrew word in this verse can be translated literally, “I was sought/pursued.” This seems to say the opposite of the next phrase, “They did not ask.” (The DSS and LXX add “of me” so most English versions follow by adding those words, and that is well.) Because these concepts are opposite, the modern English translations add to the first word “I was ready to be sought/I permitted myself to be sought/I revealed myself/I gave access.” While this is not theologically wrong, I don’t see that it is necessary. God, in the past had brought Gentiles like Rahab and Ruth into a relationship with Him through Jews who bumped into them when they were not seeking God out. And in the prophetic future, God saw many more gentiles like us who would seek Him even though their ancestors had not.
From v. 2 on, we have a string of 15 participles by my count, listing the traits of another people, who were in rebellion to God - the Jews. God’s stance toward them is open even though they have offended Him time and time again. God is amazingly gracious. Day after day, and all day long, God had spread out his hands in an attitude of welcome, accessibility, and opportunity, and this despite the people’s rebelliousness, badness, and self-absorption. God is gracious. He is saying, “Here I am, here I am! and holding His arms wide to receive anyone who will seek Him. Run to His arms! I will rise and go to Jesus, He will embrace me in His arms. In the arms of my dear savior, oh there are ten thousand charms!” The hymn speaks true!
v.2. I spread out my hands all the day to an obstinate people: those who walk in the no-good way after their devisings,
The first three participles describing the problem are here in v.2.
i. a few weeks ago, the state of Colorado amended its civil rights law code, which prohibits discrimination based on disability, race, creed, color, gender, marital status, national origin, or ancestry. So far so good. But this year Colorado added the phrase “sexual orientation” to its list. The law defines sexual orientation as “a person's orientation toward heterosexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality, or transgender status or another person's perception thereof.” It is now against the law in Colorado to deny any individual or group “goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations of a place of public accommodation or, directly or indirectly, to publish, circulate, issue, display, post, or mail any written or printed communication, notice, or advertisement that indicates that the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations of a place of public accommodation will be refused, withheld from, or denied an individual or that an individual's patronage or presence at a place of public accommodation is unwelcome, objectionable, unacceptable, or undesirable.” Each offense is punishable with a payment of $500 in damages to the individual offended, $300 in fines to the state, and they can also add a one year jail sentence if they want. So the question comes, if they cannot discriminate according to creed and they cannot discriminate according to sexual orientation, what if a person whose sexual orientation is defined as “objectionable” by your church’s creed shows up at your worship service and feels “unwelcome” as a result? Will every Presbyterian church in Colorado be fined $800 per copy of the Westminster Confession that it keeps in their libraries? The cross-dressing and transgendered community is significant in Colorado and Kansas. One of my good friends joined that lifestyle. In Colorado he would now have a right to hang out in the ladies restroom at a church building.
ii. This week in Apologetics we studied what Francis Schaeffer calls the “Age of Fragmentation,” and that included an introduction to the musician John Cage, who died in the ‘90’s. He was known for his weird, random compositions, his rebellion against order, and his avoidance of logical choice. However, John Cage also had a hobby of mushroom-hunting. He once said that if he approached mushrooming like he approached music, he would be killed in short order. His recognition of order and the use of logic in the world of nature so as not to eat poisonous mushrooms reveals his attitude of rebellion against God’s ways of logic, choice, and order when he wrote his compositions.
iii. A couple of weeks ago, we were stopped for speeding by a policeman in Colorado. After greeting us, he went back to his vehicle for a little while, and when he came back to conclude the business, he made an astonishing statement. He said, “I am a firm believer in karma. I have written 40 speeding tickets today, and that builds up bad karma. So I randomly let people go in order to balance the bad karma out with good karma. You could have gotten a $100 speeding ticket, but I’m going to let you go. Have a good day and observe the speed limits!
The next three participles describing the problem are found in v.3
v.3. the people who provoke me to my face continually, sacrificing in the gardens and burning incense upon bricks,
v.4. the ones who sit in the graves and spend the night in the guarded places, the ones who eat the flesh of swine and the broth of tainted meat is in their cookware,
i. The commentator E.J. Young wrote, “Sin depraves, perverts, and deceives.”
ii. This kind of thing shows up in gross games kids play at school, but adults are doing it to on the reality shows. I remember seeing a glimpse of one where guys were getting paid $1,000 if they would eat a live spider.
iii. Doing gross things to distinguish yourself or get attention is not consistent w/ Christianity.
v.5. the ones who say, “Keep to yourself; do not approach me, for I have become holier than you!” These are a smoke in my nose - a fire burning all the day.
i. Romans 3:22-24 …there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through… Christ Jesus,
ii. Colossians 3:11-12 Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all. 12 Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, humility, etc.
iii. Galatians 3:26-28 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
v.6. Look, it stands written before my face, “I will not keep silent unless I have paid back.” And I will pay back upon their bosom 7. your iniquities and the iniquities of your fathers together, declares Jehovah, in which they smoked upon the mountains and defamed me upon the hills.
o The first “repay/payback/recompense” is in the perfect/past tense, but the second is in the form of a future tense. probably the best way therefore to translate this is as a condition to be met before God’s wrath is stilled. I will not be silent/sit still unless/except that justice has been served and I have rendered a payback for their rebellion. I will surely pay the wages of their sin - dish it right to them.
o Jeremiah 16:17-18 For mine eyes are upon all their ways; they are not hid from my face, neither is their iniquity concealed from my eyes. 18 And first I will recompense their iniquity and their sin double, because they have polluted my land with the carcasses of their detestable things, and have filled my inheritance with their abominations.
What does it mean
that this is “written before” God? Most commentators follow the medieval Jewish
commentators who say that this is speaking of a heavenly anal in which God
keeps a record of everyone’s sins. While I don’t have a theological objection
to this, it does seem simpler to say that, “it is written” means that this
phrase has already been written by Isaiah three chapters back:
62:1 For the sake of Zion I will not be silent, and for the sake of Jerusalem I will not rest…
o God will bring judgment upon the Jews because both they and their fathers (Exodus 20:5b) burned incense/clouded the air with smoke on the mountains and insulted/scorned/reviled/defied/blasphemed/defamed/taunted Him on the hills. (57:7, Hos 4:13; Ezek 6:13, 18:6; Jer 2:20)
o These hills were where they worshipped false gods. There is nothing wrong with hiking to the top of a hill, but there is something wrong with worshipping a false god there. Those mountains and hills are the equivalent of today’s shopping malls, internet computers, TVs, bars, etc. The location is not necessarily evil, but the worship of the false gods of self-indulgence, lust, and coveting are evil.
o I like the way Franz Delitzsch interpreted the end of v.7 and the beginning of v.8. He wrote, “The first thing which Jehovah had to do by virtue of His holiness was to punish the sins of the apostate,” and he translated the word which appears as “former” in your Bible instead as “first.” God will measure out the punishment for sin first through the desolation and exile of Judah, then He will preserve the remnant (v.8).
v.8. Thus says Jehovah, “As when the juice is found in the cluster and one says, ‘Do not destroy it, for there is a blessing in it,’ thus I will do for the sake of my servants, so as not to destroy the entirety.
o The concept of God preserving people through destruction is brought forth as a picture of crushing grapes for making wine, just as God’s judgment was also pictured using the same process for an illustration in Chapter 63.
o Here the farmer surveys a sorry-looking vineyard and is tempted to write off the whole crop. The grapes have gone wild and won’t make good wine, they’re not bearing much fruit, and what fruit there is is all shriveled up and doesn’t have any juice. Just burn it; destroy it.
o “But wait,” someone says, “Do not destroy it, for there is a blessing in it.” Or as it goes in Jesus’ parable in Luke 13:8 “Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall till about it, and fertilize it: 9 and if it bears fruit from there on out, then it is well enough; but if not, you can cut it down.”
o These vines that still have some good juice (new wine) are the remnant, the servants of God (Lev. 25:42,55) who are also mentioned in v.9 as the chosen:
§ Isaiah 10:22 spoke of a remnant that would be preserved through the Babylonian exile which would be re-established in Jerusalem under Nehemiah and Ezra in preparation for the birth of the Messiah.
§ Isaiah also spoke of gentiles who would join the remnant as servants of God in 56:6.
§ “…there is a remnant according to the choosing of grace” wrote Paul in Romans 11:5
§ E.J. Young comments on this, “Isaiah is not [merely] predicting a physical return of Jews to Palestine, for the seed includes gentiles. The geographical features are symbols of the heavenly Canaan. God’s purpose was to perpetuate the old theocracy… in the believing remnant… enlarged by the accession of the gentiles…”
v.9. I will cause a seed to come forth from Jacob, and from Judah an heir of my mountains, and my chosen ones will take her over, so it will be my servants who will dwell there.
translations render the Hebrew word for “seed” in v.9 (which is singular) as a
plural “offspring/descendents” but I would like to suggest that it be kept
“seed” like the Septuagint translates it, and that it may refer to Jesus who
was the promised “seed” of Genesis 3:5.
Likewise, the ESV & NIV render the singular “heir” as a plural “possessors/those who possess” but again, I think it may be singular in order to refer to Jesus, who is “heir of all things” according to Heb. 1:2.
o The result of the coming of Christ would be the development of His church, the ones chosen by God (I Peter 1:1, 2:9) who will inherit the kingdom of God:
§ Matthew 5:5 Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
§ Matt. 25:34 the King say unto them on his right hand, “Come, you who are blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world!”
§ Revelation 21:7 He that overcomes shall inherit these things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son.
§ cf. Mat. 19:29, Acts 20:32, Eph 1:11, Col 1:12, 3:24, Heb 1:14, 6:12, I Pet. 1:4
v.10. And the Sharon will be for the home of the flock, and the valley of Achor will be for a resting place of the herd, for my people who have sought me. [USE MAP]
o Franz Delitzsch seems to have a good explanation of this verse, saying that Sharon was on the west of the land of Israel, along the Mediterranean, and the valley of Achor was on the East, along the Jordan River, so this statement is intended to indicate the entirety of the fertile land in Israel.
o The Israelites were
largely pastoral, so the picture of herds of cattle lying down in a nice place
was a picture of prosperity and peace. This matches the references to the
future kingdom in the mid-thirty’s:
32:15 the Spirit is emptied upon us from on high and the wilderness becomes like the fruitful field and the fruitful field is considered to be the forest. 16 Then justice will reside in the wilderness, and righteousness will sit in the fruitful field. 17 Then the work of the Righteous One will be peace, and the service of the Righteous One quietness and confidence forever. 18 Then My people will sit in a home of peace and in secure residences, and in resting places at ease. (cf. 33:20; 35:4-10)
v.11. But you forsakers of Jehovah, who forget the mountain of my holiness, who arrange a spread for Fortune, and who fill mixers for Destiny,
v.12. I will yet destine y’all for the sword, and all of you will bend down for the slaughter, because I called and you did not answer; I spoke and you did not heed, but you did the evil in my eyes, and you chose that in which I did not delight.
§ “The wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23); this is the fair and just punishment for all of us who have given worship to a god besides Jesus/Jehovah.
§ But remember this: there is an alternative to you being “numbered/destined” for death; there is an alternative to you having to “bow down to the slaughter,” and that is for Jesus to take your place. Isaiah has used these very same words in chapter 53 to describe what Jesus would do: He was “numbered/destined” with the transgressors, and He was led like a lamb “to the slaughter.”
§ “Those who have sought” God and found this truth about Jesus are that remnant, those servants, God’s chosen ones who will inherit eternal life rather than death.
The apostle Peter wrote, “…the time is come for judgment to begin at the house of God: and if it begin first at us, what shall be the end of them that obey not the gospel of God? 18 And if the righteous is scarcely saved, where shall the ungodly and sinner be?” (1 Peter 4:17-19)
§ We’d like to think that just because we were baptized in the church, just because we have a Christian Mom and Dad, just because we are not as bad as other people around us, that we’re o.k.
§ The truth is that judgment begins in the house of God. That’s what surprised the people in the church in Jesus’ day. They had carefully preserved all the religious traditions in the Bible. They had been circumcised and baptized. They knew their Bibles backwards and forwards. They spent lots of time at church, so they expected that when the Messiah showed up, He would be buddy-buddy with them. Instead, Jesus started His judgment with the people in the temple, and that caught them by surprise.
§ When Jesus comes back, He’s not going to ask everybody who has been baptized to go to a special place of favor to get a lighter judgment. He’s going to treat everybody equally. What is going to make the difference?
Matthew 7:20-24 “Therefore by their fruits you shall know them. 21 Not every one that says unto me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy by your name, and by your name cast out demons, and by your name do many mighty works?’ 23 And then I will profess unto them, ‘I never knew you: depart from me, you who work iniquity.’ 24 Every one therefore who hears these words of mine, and does them, shall be like a wise man, who built his house upon the rock:”
Christianity is not about a complex set of rules to obey; it is about seeking a relationship with God on His terms. It’s about growing in knowing the God of the universe personally. As soon as Christianity becomes about doing a certain set of things, you are setting yourself up for a surprise on judgment day.
§ As long as Christianity in your mind is about going to church once a week, you can feel really good about yourself if you go to church twice a week and you can live like the devil the rest of the week and feel like God will be buddy-buddy with you when He shows up.
§ As long as Christianity means showing respect to your parents, you can hate your parents inside your heart while you butter them up on the outside and think that nothing is wrong.
Does God want us to worship Him as a church and respect our parents? Of course, He tells us that in His word, but the heart of Christianity is being a listener to Him, being a responder to Him. If you have the heart of Christianity, the heart of seeking God, you will be so aligned with God as a person that you will know the things He delights in and you will chose the things He delights in – the things that are “true… honorable… just… pure… lovely… reputable… virtuous… praiseworthy…” (Philippians 4:8)