The Sin of the Religious Person (Isaiah 58-59)

Manipulating and controlling God is in essence the sin of the very religious person, including Christians.

It is unfortunate that Christians have historically applied the Bible to others--non-Christians and Christians of other expressions and denominations--rather than to themselves. They/we seem to naturally confess the sins of others, rather than our own sins. They/we naturally think that others are obviously worse than we are. They/we see how much others need to change, without clearly knowing how much they/we need to change. Thus, the "worst" sin in the Bible could very well be self-righteousness, even and especially when one is "right." When one thinks that they are right and others are wrong, WATCH OUT! The most unpleasant person is not necessarily the obvious sinner that everyone can see and know. Rather the most unpleasant person in Scripture is the self-righteous Pharisee who thinks and talks as through they are better than everyone else. In this regard, the self-righteous religious person are like the blind who are completely unable to see and know the true reality--especially of themselves. The self-righteous person is not only blind to themselves, but to God whom they think are blind like themselves.

Isaiah 58-59 addresses the sin of the religious person, the person of the church, the temple or the synagogue:
  1. Outwardly Religious (Isaiah 58)
    1. Outward show of being religious ("Christian") for others to see (1-5)
    2. False Sabbath keeping to show one's outward faithfulness to God (6-14). We might skip "guarding our own heart" but we do our best not to skip church or church gatherings.
  2. Inwardly Sinning (Isaiah 59)
    1. Lying naturally and comfortably (1-8). Religious people who lie often have no clue that they are lying, perhaps because they believe the lies to be true.
    2. Helpless to change (9-14)


The Sovereignty of God

When did I acknowledge the sovereignty of God? When I became a Christian in 1980.

What is the sovereignty of God? A pastor friend said it best: "There is a God and I'm NOT him." I might add to that: There is One in charge and in control, and it better not be me, or anyone else.

How did I come to acknowledge the sovereignty of God? Genesis 1:1; 2:16-27.

What did it mean to mean? Mt 6:33; Lk 9:23; 1 Cor 5:16.

How has the sovereignty of God shaped my life? All of life is a gift of grace. 1 Cor 15:10; Ac 20:24.

What stories (verses) in the Bible illustrate the sovereignty of God? Rom 8:28; Genesis 37-39.


Assurance (Isaiah 43): I love you

"Since you are precious and honored in my sight,  and because I love you, I will give people in exchange for you, nations in exchange for your life" (Isa 43:4).
  1. I have redeemed you (1-7).
  2. You are witnesses of my love (8-13).
  3. I am doing a new thing (14-21).
  4. I remember your sins no more (22-28).
Derek Kidner, Barry Webb
  1. Grace abounding (1-21).
    • Fear not (1-7).
    • You are my witnesses (8-13).
    • I am the Lord ... your King (14-15).
    • See, I am doing a new thing (16-21).
  2. Grace despised (22-28).
Isaiah 43 is a reaffirmation of Israel's calling to be the Lord's servant. The fact that God has pointed to another and greater Servant (Isa 42:1ff) does not mean that Israel's own servant role has been abrogated. Quite the reverse. It is confirmed here in the strongest possible terms (Isa 43:10; 44:1-2).

"But now" (Isa 43:1) is a feature of these chapters. This same Hebrew expression is found repeated in Isa 44:1; 49:5; 52:5; 64:8. It expresses the love of God, continually rebuffed yet continually returns with the initiative. Notice the shift in tone from Isa 42:25 to Isa 43:1. It is breathtaking. What is God to do after the looting and plundering (Isa 42:24)? What God will now do is grace. There is nothing the Judeans have to do in advance for this grace to become available to them. They do not have to repent or promise to change their ways. God simply declares, as in Isa 40:1-2, that he has "redeemed" them. It is a completed fact (Rom 5:8).

Fear not (43:1-7). These verses in eloquent detail give Israel the assurance Christ gives to, the church, that the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. The ominous word "flames" (Isa 43:2) from the closing verse of the previous chapter (Isa 42:25) is countered with the steadying exhortation "Do not fear" (Isa 43:1). There are some of the tenderest words here that God ever spoke to his children: "you are mine" (Isa 43:1b), "you are precious and honored in my sight" (Isa 43:4a), "I love you" (Isa 43:4a), "I am with you" (Isa 43:4). They are addressed to people far from home, still in the midst of deep waters, rivers, fire and flames (Isa 43:2). They have many  more trials to face before they reach their final rest. There is no promise of a quick fix or a trouble-free future, but of God's sustaining presence right through to the journey's end (Isa 43:5-6), come what may. God's people are still today like aliens and exiles in a violent, visious hostile world (1 Pet 2:11; Jas 1:1). But God promises to never leave or forsake them or us until he brings us home (Dt 31:6; Heb 13:5-6; Mt 28:20).


The First Servant Song (Isaiah 42)

Hope, Trust and Wait on the Lord (Isa 40:31): "Even if the enemy's foot be on your neck, expect to rise and overthrow him. Cast the burden of the present, along with the sin of the past and the fear of the future, upon the Lord, who forsaketh not His saints. Live by the day—ay, by the hour. Put no trust in frames and feelings. Care more for a grain of faith than a ton of excitement. Trust in God alone, and lean not on the needs of human help." Charles Spurgeon.

"Fits of depression come over the most of us. Usually cheerful as we may be, we must at intervals be cast down. The strong are not always vigorous, the wise not always ready, the brave not always courageous, and the joyous not always happy." Charles Spurgeon, Lectures, The Minister's Fainting Fits.

42:1-25 (The Servant Saves)


Communities defined by Guilt or Shame




Normal defined by

Rules and laws

Relationships and roles

Behavior guided by

Internal conscience

External community

Violations produce



Core problem

"I made a mistake" (action)

"I am a mistake"


Violations affect

The transgressor

The group

Violator's response

Justify or apologize

Hide or cover

Public's response

Punish to serve justice

Exclude to remove shame

Way for resolution




Comfort, Fear, Servant, Assurance (Isaiah 40-43)

  1. Comfort (Isaiah 40): Wait on the Lord.
  2. Fear (Isaiah 41): I am with you.
  3. Servant (Isaiah 42): Justice to the nations.
  4. Assurance (Isaiah 43): I love you.
Isaiah 1-39 (Trust); Isaiah 40-55 (Grace); Isaiah 56-66 (Power)

Comfort (Isaiah 40): Wait on the Lord
  1. The God of comfort (1-11)
  2. The incomparable God (12-26)
  3. The God who makes man fly (27-31)
Fear (Isaiah 41): I am with you
  1. Living in fear (1-7): God predicts the rise of one from the east (Cyrus) and people panic in fear.
  2. Living without fear (8-20): God choosing his servants to be with them and to help them.
  3. Fear and idols (21-29): Fear causes the making and depending on idols, which are worthless and useless.
Servant (Isaiah 42): Justice to the nations
  1. What the Servant does (1-9): Proclaims justice to the nations.
  2. How the world responds (10-12): Praise the Lord!
  3. What God does (13-17): Zealously accomplish his purpose.
  4. Who we truly are (18-25): Blind and deaf.
Assurance (Isaiah 43): I love you
  1. I have redeemed you (1-7).
  2. You are witnesses of my love (8-13).
  3. I am doing a new thing (14-21).
  4. I remember your sins no more (22-28).


The Servant Saves (Isaiah 42)

Theme: Man's hope is that the Servant proclaims justice by gently and persevearingly serving the weak, blind and deaf. God's heart is always for the weak, blind and deaf.
  1. What the Servant does (1-9): Proclaims justice to the nations.
  2. How the world responds (10-12): Praise the Lord!
  3. What God does (13-17): Zealously accomplish his purpose.
  4. Who we truly are (18-25): Blind and deaf.
The "servant of God" theme is one of the richest strands of Isaiah's thought, and it lies right at the heart of his message as it moves to its climax in this second half of the book. 42:1-9 is the first of four "Servant Songs" (49:1-13; 50:4-9; 52:13-53:12), the first of a remarkable series in which the servant theme is developed in a quite distinctive way and brought to a resounding climax. 61:1-3 could be regarded as fifth and final Song which brings the whole series to a (another) climax.