10/01/2015

Trust God, only He Saves (Isaiah 25)

Isaiah 25:1-12

"On this mountain the Lord Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food (fatness) for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine—the best of meats and the finest of wines. On this mountain he will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers all nations; 8 he will swallow up death forever. The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears from all faces; he will remove his people's disgrace from all the earth. The Lord has spoken.In that day they will say, 'Surely this is our God; we trusted in him (waited for him), and he saved us. This is the Lord, we trusted in him (waited for him); let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation'" (Isa 25:6-9, NIV).

From shattered silence to joy is the sharp contrast of Isaiah 24 and 25. Isaiah 25 forms the response to the announcement of the destruction of the earth city (Isa 24:10). In Isaiah judgment and destruction (Isa 24:1, 3) are never God's intended last words. Rather, it paves the way for hope and redemption (Isa 25:9). From the silence of the shattered city (Isa 24:8) comes the joy of a feast where the host is the Lord (Isa 25:6).
  1. The song (1-5): Thanksgiving for God's faithfulness. Joy in the Lord. Individual praise: his supernatural acts.
  2. The banquet (6-8): Announcement that God's purpose in the destruction of the earth is her redemption from death.
  3. The festivities (9-12): Joy that comes from being delivered from their enemies, typified by Moab. Communal praise: his saving acts.
I. The Song (1-5): The end of tyranny

Redemption and deliverance is for all people. The note of praise (Isa 25:1-2, 4-5) is not only from the redeemed people of God, but also from "strong peoples" and "ruthless nations" honoring and revering the Lord (Isa 25:3).

II. The Banquet (6-8): The end of darkness and death.

Everyone's invited. There is no sense in which God glories in the destruction of the wicked (Eze 18:23; 33:11). Rather, God wants to invite "all peoples" to his feast (Isa 25:6, 7a) from "all nations" (Isa 25:7b) and wipe tears away from "all faces" and remove their disgrace (Isa 25:8). Everyone on earth is invited to this celebration and to this great banquet prepared by the Lord.

One of the clearest teachings on resurrection in the OT. "Death" that has shrouded all peoples, covered all nations and ruled the world since Adam and Eve, drenching it with tears, is going to be swallowed up and removed. Whether we wish to acknowledge it or not, or just pass it off as something normal that happens to all people, the issue of death is the greatest issue in the world. In a very real sense, death makes a mockery of life. All our achievements and accomplishments, all our struggles and pain, are meaningless because, as the Preacher says, we all die, the saint and the sinner, the winner and the loser, the Bill Gates of the world and the homeless bums, together (Eccl 9:3-4). Death takes away the possibility of individual human significance. But Isa 25:8a, quoted by Paul in 1 Cor 15:54, tells us that we were not created for death but for life. Death has lost its sting, and the grave has been robbed of its victory (1 Cor 15:55).

The wedding supper of the Lamb. The feast of the King portrayed in Isa 25:6 will be the wedding supper of the Lamb (Rev 19:7-9). It is the feast of the Lamb because it is through his death and resurrection that death is conquered. This imagery extends back to Exodus, when a lamb's death made it possible for the firstborn of Israel to escape death (Exo 12:12-13). It is not accidental that Jesus instructs those who follow him to eat his flesh and drink his blood (Jn 6:53-56). Jesus was consciously associating himself with the Passover Lamb. After this glorious feast, "death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire" (Rev 20:14) and that "there will be no more dewath or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things as passed away" (Rev 21:4).

III. The Festivities (9-12): The end of pride.

The trustworthiness of God. Isa 25:9 emphasizes again the overarching theme of Isaiah 7-39: the trustworthiness of God. God can be trusted when nothing and no one else on earth can. If we trust the nations of humanity instead of God, they will turn on us and destroy us. They are all subject to God and will be judged. They cannot save us even if they wanted. The hope of every person is the trustworthiness of God.

Trust forsakes our manipulation according to our expectation and timetable. Trusting in/waiting for God is the kind of confident expectation that is willing to put the times and our unknown future in God's hands. It is to truly trust and wait and believe in spite of a long time interval. This kind of trust forsakes the manipulation which seeks our desire and gratification according to our own time schedule. It demonstrates the reality of its commitment to God by refusing to make God prove himself according to our human timetable. When such confident expectation is satisfied, the result is, as here, jubilation. One who waits, hopes, trusts and believes with confidence has proven the sovereignty of God. Such jubilation springs from the certainty that God can save. What a relief and a delight that is, because without a sovereign deliverer, we are merely pawns of a cruel chance.

The evidence of trust is... What does it mean to trust God? Many think that it is an attitude and a mental process. It surely is, Thus, many find it difficult to trust God because our thoughts and imaginations and mental images have been  filled with anything but God. We allow the culture around us, through media domination and our own insatiable desires, to saturate our minds and hearts. The result is that many who claim to trust God know little to nothing of inner security or serenity (Isa 26:3). Paul says, "Do not be anxious about anything" (Phil 4:6). This becomes almost laughable because we are anxious about everything, most of it beyond our control.

We trust what fills our minds. What can we do? We must guard much more closely what we let into our minds. Paul continues, "Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things" (Phil 4:8). How do we think about such excellent and praiseworthy things? Do everything in our power to keep those opposite things from filling our heads, our hearts and our homes.

Either run with God or run into him. God does wish to deliver all the peoples of the world. But this does not mean that all will respond to his invitation. For those who refuse to do so, the grim final word is judgment. Any nation or person must either run with God or fun into him. There is no other way. Those who are tempted to ignore Isa 25:6-8 because of God's soft heart will learn to regret that decision. [Note that 2:6-4:1 follows 2:1-5. Ch. 5 follows ch. 4. Ch. 39 follows ch.36-38.]