True and False Christians-Isaiah 65-66

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Isaiah 63-64 contrasts The Bloody Warrior God and the Ever-Loving Lord. Very briefly, the bloody, gruesome and very disturbing imagery (63:1-6) suggests how seriously God regards sin. Yet He is also forever lovingly committed to his sinful people (Isa 63:7). Whitney Houston's poignant song--"I will always love you"--expresses God's sentiment toward his people. God always loves you no matter how much you might cling to your sin. If we believe this, the power of sin begins to dim and diminish in our lives. On the cross, Jesus believed that his Father always loves him, even though at the moment he was utterly forsaken (Mt 27:46; Mk 15:34). This is the majesty and mystery of the Cross. Do you believe that God loves you when you're going through an unbearable trial?

“These are the ones I look on with favor: those who are humble and contrite in spirit, and who tremble at my word" (Isa 66:2b).

Theme: Christians often think and communicate to others that the primary distinction in the Bible is between Christians and non-Christians. But in fact the primary distinction in Scripture is not between believer and non-believer (Jew and Gentile, or Christian and non-Christian), but between a true worshiper of God and a false worshipper, between a true Jew and a false one (Rom 2:28-29), between a true Christian and a false Christian (Mt 7:21, 24, 26).

It took me two years to preach through 66 chapters of Isaiah. I began reading and studying Isaiah in early 2015. Over the last two years I've read about ten different commentaries on Isaiah as well as countless blogs online. So how does this feel? As I prepare to preach my last sermon on Isaiah this week, it feels like I have just lived through a long, lovely, lively courtship that lasted two memorable years that was like being on a constant high. So now as I finish Isaiah, it's like rapidly approaching my wedding day and honeymoon. Furthermore, the happiness doesn't end after the wedding and honeymoon, for I can go back to Isaiah for many, many more years to come--as often as I wish to--and still enjoy all the bliss and beauty and depth of mystery that is present in her, that may still be yet untapped. It's like a good blessed marriage. Even though I have already thoroughly enjoyed 35 years of marriage and counting, there are still years more to come, as God allows. Thus, Isaiah has been to me like a God-sanctioned and God approved mistress that my wife fully welcomes and approves of.

Various titles for Isaiah 65-66:

  1. True and False Worshippers.
  2. The Final Great Divide.
  3. Judgment and Salvation.
  4. God's Ultimate Answer to our Longings: The New Heaven and the New Earth.

Judgment and Salvation, Blessing and Curse are sharply contrasted in Isaiah 65-66:

  1. True and false religion (65:1-6). God's initiative and man's effort.
  2. True and false people of God (65:7-12). Often they look the same, but their destinies are quite different.
  3. True and false servants of God (65:13-16).
  4. Ultimate blessing for the true children of God (65:17-25).
  5. True and false worshippers (66:1-6). The sharp contrast is between:
    1. God's word and man's way.
    2. Humility and arrogance.
    3. True worship or habitual ritual.
  6. Triump and disasster (66:7-24). There will one day be a clear demarcation between Blessing, Abundance and Salvation in sharp contrast to Wrath, Anger and Judgment.

For reflection:

  1. (65:1–16) Notice the difference between true and false religion (1-6), true and false people of God (7-12) and true and false servants of God (13-16). What do God's people realize (1)? What do false worshipers do (2) and think about themselves (5a)? When is our holiness “smoke in my nostrils” (5)? What do we learn about salvation (8–12, 13-16)?
  2. (65:17–25) What does "For" (17) this tell us about God's ultimate answer to our longings (63:7, 15, 17; 64:1, 5, 12)? Why are heaven and eternal life necessary in view of what precedes this chapter and indeed is found in the whole Bible? How do the promises here relate to our human desires (18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23), and what does this say about those desires? Compare 65:25 to 11:6–9. What is this a picture of?

  3. (66:1–24) What is the difference in attitude between a true worshipper (2,5) and a false worshipper (1-6). This chapter is similar to chapter 1 in its alternations between judgment and hope. If Yahweh commanded sacrifices, why would they be useless and disgusting (1:10‒15)?

  4. Notice the verses relating to triumph and disaster, judgment and salvation (6-24). What is the primary imagery (5–13)? 66:17 is reminiscent of 65:3–5. Why do you think such fierce language is used in this context of Yahweh judging the entire earth (15–18a)? Why do you think the nations coming to God (60:18b–23) and foreigners [and eunuchs] coming to God (56:1–8) begin and end this third section (chapter 56-66)? Why end the entire book on such a grim note (65:24; cf. 1:2)?

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