The Beautiful Branch of the LORD, LORD of Hosts – Isaiah 3 & 4

God is a God of justice and holiness.  In Isaiah 3, Isaiah describes God’s righteous anger and judgement upon Judah’s sin.  The passage is scary to read.  But. what follows in chapter 4 is hope and refuge.  We can take shelter under the beautiful branch of the LORD, Jesus Christ.

 

 

The Transcript – Isaiah 3 and 4

19 May 2019 – Duncan Sills

Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright ©2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

 

Heavenly Father, we thank you so much for your word. We thank you for the prophet Isaiah who spoke years and years ago but spoke such truth and prophesied about Jesus Christ. Lord, we know that your word is powerful to speak to us today. And so, Lord, I pray as we read Isaiah 3 and 4, would you speak in power to our hearts? I do pray this morning, Lord, that You would bring conviction of sin in this room, and that we would turn to you in faith, and ask for forgiveness and mercy once more. I pray also for inspiration and empowerment and a boldness in your power and your authority, Lord. I pray that there would be an emboldening in this room this morning for Your glory. And I pray most of all that as we read this word, and as I preach it, each of us would find our refuge and our trust and our guide in You, Lord God, that you would be the one we put all our trust in. Would you come and do that in our hearts, by the power of the Holy Spirit, this morning? Come speak through me, I pray, in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

Let me start with some questions this morning.

  • Who is your guide in life?
  • What do you depend on for support?
  • When the storms of life come, where do you go to find refuge?

I asked those questions because we’re continuing our sermon series in the book of Isaiah. Two weeks ago, we finished reading Isaiah 2. The last verse says: “Stop trusting in mere humans who have but a breath in their nostrils. Why hold them in esteem?” That’s the NIV translation. I’m using the ESV translation – but that’s the NIV version.

You see, the prophet Isaiah is prophesying to the people of Jerusalem. And he’s seeing how these people in Jerusalem are acting. He knows that the people in Jerusalem were supposed to be the people of God. They were supposed to follow God; to obey Him. He was to be their guide through all of life.

But instead, the people in Jerusalem are choosing to place their trust in men. They’re following and obeying fallible, deceptive human beings. The people of Jerusalem, were supposed to depend on God. He was supposed to be their support through all circumstances, but instead the people of Jerusalem in Isaiah 2 are depending on man-made things; they’re depending on material wealth, to get by. The people of Jerusalem was supposed to take refuge in God. He was to be their shelter, and shield, and strong high tower. But instead, these people in Jerusalem are seeking protection from men. They’re trusting military strength and human leadership.

Well, the question is: how will God handle this people? What will God do with the people of Jerusalem who, instead of Him being their guide, are following human beings; instead of trusting in the Lord, they’re trusting in human strength and power?

And the answer in chapter three, is actually ‘terrifying judgement’. The chapter I’m about to read to you is a chapter about God’s judgement on the people of Jerusalem. I think it’s meant to be quite a scary passage of scripture. Initially, I’m going to read Isaiah 3:1 – 4:1.

“For behold, the Lord GOD of hosts, is taking away from Jerusalem and from Judah

support and supply, all support of bread, and all support of water;

the mighty man and the soldier, the judge and the prophet, the diviner and the elder,

the captain of fifty, and the man of rank,

the counsellor and the skillful magician and the expert in charms.

And I will make boys their princes, and infants shall rule over them.

And the people will oppress one another, everyone his fellow and everyone his neighbour;

the youth will be insolent to the elder and the despised to the honourable.

For a man will take hold of his brother in the house of his father, saying:

‘You have a cloak: you shall be our leader and this heap of ruins shall be under your rule’;

in that day he will speak out, saying:

‘I will not be a healer; in my house, there is neither bread nor cloak;

you shall not make me leader of the people’.

For Jerusalem has stumbled, and Judah has fallen,

because their speech and their deeds are against the LORD, defying his glorious presence.

For the look on their faces bears witness against them;

they proclaim their sin like Sodom; they do not hide it.

Woe to them! For they have brought evil on themselves.

Tell the righteous that it shall be well with them, for they shall eat the fruit of their deeds

Woe to the wicked! It shall be ill with him, for what his hands have dealt out shall be done to him. My people – infants are their oppressors, and women rule over them.

O my people, your guides mislead you, and they have swallowed up the course of your paths.

The LORD has taken his place to contend; he stands to judge peoples.

The LORD will enter into judgement with the elders and princes of his people:

‘It is you who have devoured the vineyard, the spoil of the poor is in your houses.

What do you mean by crushing my people, by grinding the face of the poor?’

declares the Lord GOD of hosts.

The LORD said: ‘Because the daughters of Zion are haughty and walk with outstretched necks, glancing wantonly with their eyes, mincing as long as they go, tinkling with their feet,

therefore the Lord will strike with a scab the heads of the daughters of Zion

and the LORD will lay bare their secret parts.

In that day the Lord will take away the finery of the anklets, the headbands and the presence, the pendants, the bracelets and the scarves; the headdresses, the armlets, the sashes, the perfume boxes, and the amulets; the signet rings and nose rings; the festal robes, the mantles, the cloaks, and the handbags; the mirrors, the linen garments, the turbans and the veils.

Instead of perfume, there’ll be rottenness; and instead of a belt, a rope;

instead of well-set hair, baldness; and instead of a rich robe, a skirt of sackcloth;

and branding instead of beauty.

Your men shall fall by the sword, and your mighty men in battle.

And her gates shall lament and mourn; empty, she shall sit on the ground.

And seven women shall take hold of one man in that day, saying, ‘We will eat our own bread and wear our own clothes, only let us be called by your name; take away our reproach.”

 

One of the reasons we started this church in Fareham is because we know that there needs to be a Bible-believing, Bible-preaching church in this town. And yes, this passage is difficult; this passage is uncomfortable. But we will not shy away from preaching the word of the Lord. We will not shy away from reading and preaching passages like this in Scripture – because they’re there for a reason and there’s much we can learn. I don’t make any apology for this morning’s sermon. I’m preaching the word of the Lord. I’m preaching from that chapter – and it is an uncomfortable passage, I appreciate that. There is something good to come in chapter 4; we haven’t finished reading yet. But chapter 3 is hard.

The first thing I want you to see in this passage of scripture – and I hope it was obvious – it is God who acts in judgement in Isaiah 3.

  • In v1, the Lord is active. ‘The Lord takes away’, it says.
  • In v13, it says: “The Lord has taken his place to contend, He stands to judge peoples”.
  • In v14: “The Lord will enter into judgement”.
  • In v17, The Lord will strike
  • in v18, Again, the Lord will take away

If you read the history books, it will tell you that it was the Babylonians who invaded Jerusalem, defeated Jerusalem. They did do many of the things described in this passage. They did take away all the leaders from the land, taking them back into exile in their own territory. They did leave the state Jerusalem very hungry, lacking in food and water. They did leave the city of Jerusalem in social disarray. The history books will tell you it was the Babylonians in 586 BC, who conquered Jerusalem. But the Bible, and especially Isaiah, could not be clearer – it was God who used the Babylonians as the instrument of His justice. God handed over the city of Jerusalem to the Babylonians. It is God who was doing it, through the Babylonians. It is God who judges Israel. It’s God who judges Judah and Jerusalem, in Isaiah 3.

Isaiah uses a particular title of God, in v1 and again in v15. He says: ‘The Lord God of hosts’. If you’ve got a King James Version, it says the ‘LORD, Lord of hosts’. What Isaiah’s done is he’s squashed two names of God together – that don’t often go together. The second title is ‘Lord of hosts’. You may have heard that title because it’s fairly common in the Bible. ‘Yahweh Sabaoth’ – Lord of hosts. If you think of a great host – in the Lord of the Rings, perhaps – where there’s a great army and someone says: ‘There’s a great host before me’. He’s talking about an army of orcs or an army of elves, in Lord of the Rings. So, we use the word host to mean a great massive army. We also sometimes speak of the heavenly host. And sometimes we talk about host as in the host of the planets – if you look up into space to see the great host. And so when the Bible uses the word host, it’s evoking those images. And when we call God, the Lord of hosts, we’re saying that God is Lord over heavenly armies – imagine an angelic army, a great host – God is Lord over the angelic armies. He’s also Lord over the earthly armies; He’s Lord over the Babylonian army that’s going to come and invade Jerusalem. So, God is lord of heavenly armies; He’s God of earthly armies; He’s also God of the planets, God of the universe, God of the hosts up there as well. And so when we describe God as the Lord of hosts, we’re just declaring how mighty and powerful he is. In some versions, the NIV for example, instead of Lord of Hosts, it says Lord Almighty. Because, if God is in charge of the heavenly armies and the earthly armies and all of the universe, he is all-mighty; all power and might belong to Him.

So Isaiah uses ‘Lord of hosts’, but he adds another ‘Lord’ on the front.  So in the Hebrew, this is what Isaiah says. He says ‘Adonai, Yahweh Sabaoth’ – Lord, Lord of hosts. If you read through the Bible and look for ‘Lord GOD (in capital letters) of hosts’ or ‘Lord, LORD (in capital letters) of hosts’, you’ll find it 12 times in the book of Isaiah, and only 7 times in the whole of the rest of the Bible. So it’s quite an unusual title for God, but one that Isaiah particularly likes.

I was chatting to Gareth about this sermon on Friday, we were having coffee together. And he said it’s like where nobles string lots of titles after their name. So, imagine the Queen came this morning. And I said: ‘Oh the Queen’s come to church. Isn’t it fantastic’ in a very polite way. I think we’d be quite shocked!.I could just say: ‘Oh, the Queen has come’. Or I could say: ‘The Queen, the Head of the Commonwealth, the Defender of the Faith is here’. You see what that does by adding the extra titles after the Queen’s name – it kind of emphasises her power and authority and who she is. I think we’d be pretty surprised anyway – but maybe adding those extra titles would make us feel even more in awe of the fact that the Queen had just entered into the Ashcroft Arts Centre, into our church service. And so, this is what Isaiah is doing. He doesn’t need to add the first Lord when he talks of God, but he wants to emphasise. He’s saying: ‘I’m talking about the Lord, Lord of hosts. I’m not just talking about the Lord. I’m not just talking about the LORD of hosts. I’m talking about the Lord, Lord of hosts’. And so what we have here is an emphasis of God’s power and authority. Isaiah is emphasising God’s power and might, and that’s what Isaiah 3 is all about – God’s power, and might, and authority as shown in his judgement upon the sin of Jerusalem. Isaiah 3 primarily about God’s ferocious power and authority. It is about His lordship, His double lordship – he uses the word Lord twice.

God demonstrates His awesome power and authority and lordship in righteous judgement against sin in this chapter. And I think that’s quite helpful in some ways – to think of God as the Lord, Lord of hosts.

I think sometimes in our churches in the UK, there’s an unhealthy balance in emphasis. We talk about God as loving, and merciful, and gracious, and kind, and compassionate, and caring – and God is all of those things. He absolutely is all those things and we must preach those things. But I wonder how many times you’ve heard a sermon on the Lord, Lord of hosts and the righteous justice and judgement of God upon sin.

I think there can be unhealthy balances in our prayer lives, as well. You know, sometimes we pray as though God is my pal; He’s my mate; He’s my bro. (Apparently people don’t use that one!) But we use those terms to express the friendliness and closeness of God. And again, that’s helpful. God is close! We used to be enemies of God, but by the blood of Jesus Christ we’re made friends. We are friends of God – we can use that term, it’s right. But how often do you pray to God as the Lord, Lord of Hosts? Have you ever used Lord of Hosts as the term you address God with, as you pray?

I think there can be an unhealthy balance in the way we think about sin, as well: ‘Oh, it’s just a  little sin. God will forgive me; He’s gracious, He’s merciful. It’s okay, this time. I can get a little bit drunk. I can be a bit boastful today. I can join in the gossip at work. I can tell a small lie. I can be impatient. It’s okay. God is merciful. God is gracious. God is loving.’ Well, in those moments we’re defying the Lord, Lord of hosts.

So maybe that’s all you need to hear this morning. Maybe some of us just need to redress that balance in our lives a little bit and start to revere and worship God and recognise him as the Lord, Lord of hosts.

So what is the Lord Lord of Hosts doing in Isaiah 3? Well, the first thing he’s doing is taking away. You can see that in v1. He’s taking away support and supply. He’s taking away all support of bread. He’s taking away all support of water. He’s taking away all the support. He’s dealing with the sin of the people of Judah who have found their support and comfort in things other than God. And how does God deal with them? He takes those things away. He takes their support away.

He doesn’t just take away their support – He also takes away all the leadership in the city of Jerusalem. The mighty man and the soldier, the military gone, the judge and the Prophet, the diviner and the elder, the captain of 50, the man of rank, the Council, the magician, the expert in charms, Anyone in any position of leadership – whether it be a kind of societal leader; or someone who was leading the people astray by their religion, or their magic, or their charms – God removes them completely. God takes away all support and all leadership in the city of Jerusalem.

He does that because the people in Jerusalem have put their trust in men – rather than in God. And so what does God do? He takes away those people they have put their trust in. I urge each one of you this morning: Let God be your guide. Let God be your support. Find refuge in God. Because if you don’t, if you choose to put your trust in someone or something else, you will find either that you will be let down at some stage in your life; or you will find that God will take it away. But God is everlasting and eternal. He’s the Lord Lord of hosts. He will never let you down. He will always remain. So put your trust in Him who has all power and authority, and who is everlasting, and will never, ever let you down.

So God removes all those things from Jerusalem in the first three verses of the chapter and the society starts to disintegrate, doesn’t it?

  • In v5, people oppress one another; people are insolent to one another and despise each other.
  • In v6, they’re so desperate to find someone to lead the people, that they think that because someone has a cloak, he’ll be a great leader. That’s how desperate they are: ‘O wow, you’ve got a cloak. Come and lead the people’

Society completely falls apart. People cannot cope with the judgement that God has brought upon them. And the question is why? Why has God acted like this towards Jerusalem?

Well, v8 spells out the answer: “For Jerusalem has stumbled, and Judah has fallen because their speech and their deeds are against the Lord, defying his glorious presence”.

God is punishing the people of Jerusalem because of their words and deeds which have opposed God. There are two things I’d like to draw out from verse 8.

The first is that societal breakdown in Jerusalem is caused by relational breakdown between God and the people. The reason society falls apart is because people have said and done things that have opposed God. So what happens first is the rejection and opposition to God. And then, as a consequence, God brings judgement and the society starts to fall apart. So societal breakdown is caused by relational breakdown between God and man.

That’s very, very important for us as a church. We live in a really nice town, Fareham’s a wonderful place. But, as Chris Kilby said last week, there are things wrong in this town. Society is not always the way it should be. There are injustices in our town. I think he said there were 2000 children living in poverty in our town right now. That is not right; that is not good; that is a breakdown of society. And we want to be a church who love society, who heal society, who restore society. I would love it if Chris Kilby could come back in five years and go: ‘There are now no children in poverty in this town, because of the work that we’ve done in this church’. What amazing vision, what amazing testimony to the love of God, that would be.

I do want us to be active in social action as a church as we grow, we’ll find avenues to do that. It is very important to us as a church. But restoring society will never be our primary objective – because our primary objective is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and restore people’s relationship with God. That’s the root cause of the problem. If you want a perfect society in Fareham, then we need people to have a restored relationship with God. So that’s our primary aim:

  • to preach the gospel to people
  • so that they will have their lives transformed,
  • and then go out into the world and live life as Christians in the love of God
  • and through that, society will be transformed in an amazing way.

So we’re not we’re not neglecting social action. But as we go, and do social action, and try to bring healing and restoration into people’s lives, our primary objective is that they meet with the living God, that they believe in Jesus Christ, have their sins forgiven, and enter into eternal life – because that’s the root cause of the problem.

So that’s my first point from v8. Societal breakdown is caused by relational breakdown between God and man. We want to transform this town and transform people’s lives by telling them about and introducing them to Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour.

The second thing I want to show you is that it’s God’s intention that the people of Jerusalem and us would enjoy his glorious presence. Do you see that in v8? It’s our words and our deeds that oppose God and defy his glorious presence – and so the implication is that God wants us to enjoy his glorious presence. God wants to grant his glorious presence. That’s what God has done to the people of Jerusalem – He’s come, and blessed them, and loved them, and cared for them. They have enjoyed his glorious presence, and then the people of Jerusalem have turned round and defied God and opposed him with their words and their deeds. And as a consequence, they have pushed away the presence of God.

That’s true of us as well, by the way. God wants us to enjoy his presence in our lives, but by our sins, by our words and deeds, we have defied him and opposed him. God’s anger and wrath against sin actually flows from love. God wants a wonderful life for each and every one of us. He wants us to enjoy his glorious presence; life in the glorious presence of the Creator God. And so when we sin, when our deeds and words defy God, when we reject and oppose God’s glorious presence by the things we do, because God loves us, that evokes anger in God. That’s why God is angry at sin and wrathful against all evil in the world. Imagine a father and a son. And the Father loves the son, wants to spend so much time with him, just wants them to enjoy being in each other’s presence. But the son, in response, opposes the father, disobeys him, pushes him away, defies him, defies the presence of his father. The father must be agonising: ‘I love my son, I want him to enjoy my presence. I want to spend time with him. And yet he keeps defying me, and pushing me away, and disobeying me’. And so a just father would be angry at that behaviour in his son. That’s exactly what goes on in the heart of God. He loves us and therefore is angry at sin. He wants us to enjoy his glorious presence, and so when our sins push him away to fight him and oppose him, he is angry at sin. God’s wrath flows from his love for us.

Now there the two sins in particular that are mentioned in the rest of the passage, which I’m going to go through slightly faster:

  • In v14 and 15, God says to the people of Jerusalem: “You’re crushing the people. you’re grinding the face of the poor. You’re filling your houses with the spoil of the poor”. I wonder in our age of consumption and greed, is it worth considering whether our possessions, the things that we buy crush the poor? whether our house is full of the spoils of the poor? Are the things we buy, ethically bought? or have we crushed the faces of the poor by the way we buy and spend our money? That’s one sin of the people of Jerusalem. I talked about it two weeks ago in a bit more detail – and, yeah, these people in Jerusalem have not treated the poor well, and so have defied God.
  • And in v16, the second sin that God speaks of is haughtiness; living life with an arrogance and superiority – especially in regard to possessions. I hope you can see that. In verses 16 to 23, God speaks a lot about wealth and possessions because the people of Jerusalem have been haughty and proud and arrogant and superior, especially expressed in their appearance and the things that they own. Maybe God’s challenge to you today is to examine your heart and life for an attitude of superiority over others; maybe over the poor in particular. Perhaps you are living a haughty life in pride, and sometimes feel that you’re better than other people.

So, the sins of crushing the poor; and of haughtiness, pride and arrogance.

In Isaiah 3, God’s wrath falls on Jerusalem. Society falls apart; all leadership is removed; all wealth is removed; all food and water is taken away. Women are living in shame in the second half of the chapter.

And then, in that arid wilderness of that awful, terrible society, something beautiful grows. Turn with me Isaiah 4. I’m going to read verses 2-6. In the midst of God’s wrath falling upon Jerusalem, in a city lying in desolation, society ruined, this happens:

“In that day, the branch of the LORD shall be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the land shall be the pride and honour of the survivors of Israel. And he who is really left in Zion and remains in Jerusalem will be called holy, everyone who has been recorded for life in Jerusalem, when the Lord shall have washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion and cleansed the bloodstains of Jerusalem from its midst by a spirit of judgement and by a spirit of burning. Then the LORD will create over the whole site of Mount Zion and over her assemblies a cloud by day, and smoke and the shining of a flaming fire by night; for over all the glory there will be a canopy. There will be a booth for shade by day from the heat, and for a refuge and a shelter from the storm and rain.”

In the midst of terrible judgement, societal breakdown – I can’t imagine living in Jerusalem during this period, it must have been truly very difficult – in the midst of that, a beautiful branch of the Lord grows. The branch of the Lord shall be beautiful and glorious. The branch described in Isaiah 42 is Jesus Christ the Messiah.

Jeremiah 23: 5 says this, “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous branch, and he will reign as king and deal wisely, and execute justice and righteousness in the land. In his days, Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is his name by which he will be called: ‘The LORD is our righteousness’”.

Jeremiah 23: 5 is a messianic passage, talking about the Messiah who is coming. And what God is saying is: ‘Yes, there’ll be judgement upon the people of Jerusalem because Israel and the nation have failed; they have sinned; they have disobeyed my commands. And so there will be punishment because I’m a just God; I’m a good God, who does punish sin’. And so justice will come; judgement will come upon the city of Jerusalem; upon Judah; upon Israel.

But, after that judgement has come, there will come one who is going to bring redemption and salvation for the people of Jerusalem; for the people of Judah; for the people of all Israel; for the people of Fareham; for the people of UK. The righteous branch, the righteous branch from David, the beautiful branch in Isaiah 4: 2 will come. Jesus Christ – and He will come to rescue society, He will come to rescue all who would put their trust in Him. It’s an amazingly, beautiful moment in the midst of a dark and distressing prophecy, when the branch of the Lord comes, in this difficult circumstance. In the city, where the people defied the glorious presence of God by their words and deeds, there will be a canopy of glory in v5, do you see that? There’s a cloud by day and a fire by night, also described in 4: 5. And they are references to the way God shows his presence amongst the Israelite people. When the Israelites were in the wilderness, in the desert, God led them by a pillar of fire at night, and by a cloud during the day. So what God is saying in v5 is that in that place where you have defied my glorious presence, I will dwell with you in the city of Jerusalem – by cloud, and by fire. And so this passage in Isaiah 4 is beautiful, it’s glorious. That the people will live in the presence of God forever and ever, under a righteous King, the righteous branch Jesus Christ, who has come for the salvation of sinners.

And so I want to bring three short reflections from Isaiah 4.

  • The first is this. Put your faith in Jesus Christ. If you, like me, need refuge and shelter in your life, find it in Jesus Christ, the beautiful branch of the Lord. If you, like me, know you have sinned; if you’re reading through Isaiah 3 and you’re thinking: ‘You know what, in many ways I have not treated the poor well. In many ways, I have been proud. In many ways, I haven’t let God be my guide. I haven’t gone to him for support and help in times of need’. If you, like me, would consider yourself someone who has done wrong, then find shelter in Jesus Christ, put your faith in Jesus Christ. If you believe in the life of Jesus; and in the death of Jesus on the cross for the forgiveness of sins; and in the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead for eternal life; and in the ascension of Jesus Christ into heaven where he reigns as Lord over all of the heaven on earth. If you believe in Jesus Christ, that’s what it means to take refuge under the beautiful branch of the Lord described in Isaiah 4. And there you will find refuge and shelter from the judgement of God. His judgement will pass over you. You will not come under the judgement of the Lord, because God’s judgement fell on Christ. That’s why He died – He died on your behalf, that God’s judgement might pass over you, that you might be blameless in the sight of God. So if you’re reading Isaiah 3, going: ‘Wow, God’s judgement sounds scary’, then find refuge in faith in Jesus Christ. He is your Lord and Saviour. Do not put your trust in man, but find support and security in Jesus Christ.
  • Secondly, it is God’s business to bring beauty out of ugliness in Isaiah 4. Time and time again, we see human beings mess stuff up, in the Bible. They disobey God. They do things that are unhelpful and wrong, and not honouring to God. And so things kind of descend into darkness, and difficulty. And in those moments, God often enters and brings beauty in the face of ugliness. I’m reading the book of Judges at the moment. And if you read it, it’s a story of people disobeying God, disobeying God, disobeying God. Things getting worse and worse and worse. And then God raises up a judge, who comes and does the work of God. God saves them and lifts them back up again, with amazing things. And then human beings fall back into this spiral of disobeying God, and things going wrong again, and God raising up another judge, who rescues them from their oppressors. That is the nature of God. He brings beauty into ugly situations; into difficult situations. So, if you’re here this morning, and you’re thinking: ‘My situation is dark, my situation is difficult’, have faith in God, that He is one who brings beauty, even in the ugliest and most difficult of circumstances. Trust God trust that is part of His character. Come to Him; turn to Him in prayer.

Actually, I wasn’t gonna say this, but I really want to talk briefly about prayer. Turn to God in prayer. Because He’s one who brings beauty in ugly circumstances. Lots of this passage is about the pride of man, about haughtiness and about trusting man rather than trusting God. And where there is pride, there is prayerlessness – because prayer expresses that you depend on God. When you don’t pray, you’re saying: ‘I don’t need God. I can do things without Him’. But when you pray, you’re saying: ‘I need, I’m dependent upon God’. And so, if you want to break pride in your life, go to God in prayer in everything.

  • If you’ve got struggles at work, pray. Lift them up to God and say, ‘Help me Lord’.
  • If you want your family to thrive and do well, are you praying for them? Are you prayerful for your family and your friends?
  • Are you prayerful for this church? It would be a very sad state of affairs if we were to plant this church, and many of us work extremely hard. (And I’m so thankful to so many of you who are serving really well.) But it would be very sad if we were to work really hard, wearing ourselves out, trying to grow the church, trying to do the things of the Lord – and never thought we’re dependent upon God. We need to pray about this. And not just in prayer-meetings, but individually. Are you prayerful for your church? Because if you’re trying to serve in this church without prayer, then we’re doing it proudly, arrogantly and with haughtiness.

I would just encourage us turn to God in prayer and rely on Him. He is our support. He is our help in all that we do. That’s a kind of aside but, yeah, let’s be prayerful. Let’s be prayerful because God brings beauty in the face of darkness.

  • Thirdly and finally, I think what comes through beautifully in Isaiah 4 is the presence of God. I’ve already spoken about the cloud and the fire that symbolised God being with the people in the city of Jerusalem. And so I want to encourage us to really hunger and thirst after God’s presence, in all of our lives. I was reflecting on the start of chapter 3 where God takes away food and water, and thinking they would be really hungry. The fruit, the bread and water gone – must have been awful. But I wonder what would have happened if, in that moment, instead of hungering first for bread and water, they hungered and thirst for the presence of the Lord. We are to be people who, first seek God. Above all things, even food, we should seek the Lord, for He is the giver of light; He is the provider of food. I want to encourage us as a church to be hungry for God’s presence in our lives to desire God over anything else. I wonder, when you leave church today, what’s gonna be your first thought? Lunch? Or is it going to be: ‘I’m just hungry and thirsty for God’s presence in my life’. When you go through life, are you hungry and thirsty for God in all that you do?

We’ve covered a lot of ground in Isaiah 3 and 4. And so, as I draw to a close, let me just remind you of some of the things this passage has taught us.

  • It’s taught us that God is the Lord, Lord of hosts, and he is righteous and powerful and mighty to act in judgement against sin.
  • We’ve been challenged to lean only into God for everything else, all other things will let you down, but God will remain secure. He is a steadfast rock for you to trust in.
  • But most importantly, I want to encourage us to take refuge in Christ. To sit in the shade of the righteous, beautiful branch of the Lord, in Isaiah 4. To find refuge in Christ, believe in Him. Your sins will be forgiven; the righteous judgement of God will pass over you; and you will live in forgiveness, joy and love; and enter into eternal life in the new heaven and the new earth, where this city of Jerusalem will finally be established on the earth.
  • Finally, I want to encourage us to hunger and thirst after God in all of life and everything we do.

So we’re going to finish by singing to God. Simon is going to come and lead us. Let’s stand – I’m going to pray for us and then hand over to Simon.

Lord Lord of hosts, Almighty powerful God, one to whom belongs all power and authority in heaven and on earth, we come into your presence with reverence, worshipping you, respecting you, glorifying you for your awesome power and might. The Heavenly armies belong to you. The earthly armies submit to you. The heavenly host, the planets and all the universe are yours, Lord God. You are the LORD of hosts. You’re not just the LORD of hosts, though you’re the Lord (Adonai), Lord of hosts.

And so we worship you and revere you. I pray you correct things in our hearts where we need to revere you more for your awesome power and might. Lord, I thank you that, because you are so powerful and so mighty, you are a sure foundation; one in whom we can take refuge; one in whom we always trust. And Lord, I pray we would. May you fix our hearts and eyes upon you, Lord, as the ultimate foundation and support through all things.

Lord I pray you would convict our hearts where we may be crushing the poor, treating the poor unfairly. Where there is pride in our hearts, would you transform us? Would you fill us with the Holy Spirit? Give us a spirit of humility to treat and love others as you treat and love them.

And finally, Lord, I pray we would hunger and thirst after your presence. Come Holy Spirit in this time now, Lord God. May we enjoy your presence and may it be such a wonderful experience, tasting and seeing that you are good, that we would just hunger and thirst for more of you in all of our lives. Thank you that you are with us always, by your Holy Spirit. But would we truly hunger and thirst for you in everything we do, for to be with you, Lord, is the greatest thing. One day in your courts Lord is better than a thousand any where else, and may we have that hunger and thirst for your presence and your life. Lord, we thank you so much for the righteous and beautiful branch that grew out of turmoil and difficulty in the city of Jerusalem. We thank you for Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour – one who lived perfectly, one who dies a sinner’s death despite being blameless of any kind of sin. I thank you for Jesus that He died on our behalf, that we might be forgiven for the things we have done wrong. And so Lord, once more now in our hearts, we come and put our faith in you. We take refuge under the righteous branch and we know that there we are safe, in Christ, trusting in Jesus. There is safety from all things. There is life eternal. There is blessing. It is a wonderful place to be, in your presence, under the beautiful branch of the Lord. Thank you so much for Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour. We praise and glorify you for Him. And we thank you for Him with all that we are. And we hunger and thirst after you.

 

 

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