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Entries in Drought (1)


The Coming Day Of The Lord- 1

Isaiah 24:1-6.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on June 26, 2016.

Over the next month we are going to look at the Day of Judgment that God has decreed for all the nations of the earth.  Isaiah and the other prophets were unified in their declarations that not only would God judge Israel and the nations surrounding it, but that God had a day in which all the nations would be judged together.  It would be the culmination of this world and the beginning of a new heavens and a new earth.  This same theme is laid out in the book of Revelation.

In the book of Isaiah this chapter begins a conclusion that sits like a capstone upon the judgments that would come upon each of the nations listed in chapters 13-23.  It serves to sober all who would put their trust in any nation, leader, or false god of this world.  All of these nations that we have to pick from will be helplessly caught up in the judgment of God.  The trap will spring shut and they will be unable to extricate themselves, much less protect others.

Today, believers are tempted, just as Israel was, to give lip service to God’s Word while trusting in the things of this world.  Israel was surrounded by false religions whose sole purpose was to obtain what the people wanted: reliable rain, fruitful crops, fruitful women, and power over their neighbors.  Though the means have changed over the years, people are still clamoring for ways to increase themselves, which generally leads to an abandonment of the way of the Lord.

The Judgment of the Lord is Coming

Isaiah begins with the word “behold.”  He wants us to see something that he has either seen or has been told.  The descriptions that follow employ God as the subject and several verbs of destruction.  Basically Isaiah has seen the future and thus warns all who will listen in a way that sounds like it has already happened.  This is to solidify the reality that these things are going to happen and to give a sense of urgency or immediacy to those hearing it.  Since those days many judgments have come and gone upon individual nations and large empires alike.  It could be easy for us to dismiss this as a prophecy that has already been fulfilled.  But if we take the revelation seriously, there is no way this has happened yet.  Thus all the other judgments of individual nations that Isaiah has mentioned are templates for the ultimate Day of Judgment that awaits the whole world.  Each time a nation rises up and then falls, God is trying to get our attention and warning us of this coming judgment.

So what has the prophet seen?  He sees the Lord emptying the earth and making it a wasteland.  The harsh imagery of these statements is actually a description which is only leading up to the later main verbs.  It could be translated, “Behold, the Lord, emptying the earth and making it a wasteland, distorts its surface...”  What seems to be a big deal for man is merely descriptive of God.  These two verbal adjectives go hand in hand.  Emptying the earth is not just about humans, but about all that is living.  What comes first the wasteland or the lack of that which lives?  They are both the result of the judgment of God.  This verse ties in with the incredible descriptions given in the book of Revelation (scorching of the sun, defiling of the waters, wars, famine, and massive loss of life).

Isaiah also sees the Lord devastate the surface of the earth and scatter those who dwell upon it.  The word for devastate has the sense of twisting or distorting.  This general description is given clarity in Revelation by great earthquakes and impacts from space (whether comets, asteroids, or meteors we cannot know).  Also, the word “inhabitants” is also picked up as a theme in Revelation.  There we see an emphasis placed upon those who dwell (inhabit) on the earth and those who dwell in heaven.  The judgments of God fall upon those whose sole frame of reference is the material world.  They are “earth dwellers” because they have no mind for God or spiritual things.

In verse 2 we see that this judgment will come upon everyone alike.  It does so by listing relationship terms that go together in the sense that one is lowly and the other mighty, one is abhorred and the other desired.  The point is that those distinctions that make such an importance in this age will have no distinction then.  The rich creditors were used to avoiding tragedy while the slaves and lowly bear the brunt of it.  But in that day all will suffer alike.  No one will be able to escape.

Verse 3 restates the matter in definite form.  Thus this judgment is unavoidable by God’s decree.  God does not merely speak things like a man might.  Isaiah has stood in the High Council of Heaven and there he has heard the decrees of God from Himself.  It has become popular lately to put forward the idea that somehow these Words of the Lord are just a test.  If we will heed the warning, make peace on earth, and clean up the planet then the Apocalypse will be avoided.  Jesus will merely come back saying, “Thanks,” as he takes over.  This is not some cosmic threat to get us to conform.  This is the decree of God that all people would do well to heed.  Yes, change your life so that you can avoid this.  But do not twist the Word of God to mean that the Judgment can be avoided.  Just as the cross could not be avoided, so judgment day cannot be avoided by the nations.  However, individuals can avoid it by putting their trust in Jesus.

The Judgment is Described Further

In verse 4 we see the earth withering (“fade away” is not the best translation).  Droughts were a big issue in Israel and the surrounding Near East.  The main thrust of the Canaanite religions was to avoid droughts and to be fruitful.  We will not look at verse 7 today, but I mention it because it further supports that massive droughts are in mind.  The ability of the earth to bring forth life and sustain it will shrivel up from the judgments that occur.  Revelation refers to great heat, and corruption of the waters.  Both would create devastating droughts.

The last part of verse 4 mentions the “haughty people of the earth.”  Though they are indeed haughty or proud, it is better to understand this as referring to the people who are high and mighty upon the earth.  They are high in station or position, not just in heart.  These will find themselves becoming weak and feeble in the face of these judgments.  They are not used to being in a helpless position.  Just as they have avoided the normal difficulties of life, so they will assume they can escape these.  But all their power and preparation will be impotent in the face of the wrath of God.

Next Isaiah describes the earth as being defiled by its inhabitants.  The word could also be translated as “polluted.”  This would have a rather modern ring to it.  In the modern world we are concerned with the pollution of nature through material means.  However the pollution in this verse is not natural, but spiritual.  I am not saying that the natural pollution is good.  However, natural pollution is only a warning to us of the greater pollution of spiritual things.  In fact, spiritual pollution leads to natural pollution.  Before we explain what spiritual pollution is, let me say this to this generation.  There are many who pride themselves in their great efforts to fight polluting the earth.  Yet, they do not see that they are spiritually polluting the earth worse than any factory that spews black smoke into the air, or any industrial site that dumps toxic waste into the water.  This is not a either or situation.  It really should be a “both and” situation.  Yet, many gain their sense of righteousness from what they do or don’t do to the earth, all the while ignoring spiritual matters.

So what is this spiritual pollution?  Isaiah lists three things: transgressed the Law, changed the ordinances, and broken the covenant.  I do not believe Isaiah is thinking of the Law of Moses, although this would be true in Israel’s case.  Much like Paul does in Romans 1-3, he refers to the Law as a far more general thing.  It is the Law of God that is generally recognized by mankind, and that which is specially revealed by God.  Thus all mankind has had the revelation of God’s existence, commands, and ability to judge.  Yet, on top of this the Church of Christ has spent 2,000 years filling the earth with the law of God (His decrees and judgments).  All of these are connected.  The nations of the earth have received much revelation, both general and special, from God.  Yet, many transgress these laws.  This is a blatant and willful disregard for the boundaries placed by God.  Such hearts pump pollution into the atmosphere around them.  The second group change or exchange the ordinances of God.  This group is religious enough to not disregard God’s Word.  However, they distort God’s Word and use rationalizations to avoid parts they do not like.  This corruption of God’s ordinances is also a polluting influence on the earth.  Lastly is those who have broken the covenant.  Whether it is Adam or Noah, Abraham or Moses, David or Jesus, God has often called man into covenant with Him.  Ultimately we make a decision in this life whether or not we will enter into that covenant or break covenant with God.  We see this spiritual pollution everywhere in the world, but especially here in our own country.

Verse 6 ends with a curse devouring the earth.  Those who reject God’s Word come under a curse of judgment.  I do not believe this is talking about the curse of the Fall in Genesis 3.  Rather, it is a curse much like Cain received after he willfully transgressed the Law of God and killed his brother.  This curse went on to affect his offspring and the whole world.  Man’s guilt is the source of this curse.  Guilt here is not just the internal response that a person can have (i.e. they feel guilty).  It is ultimately the external reality that we are lawbreakers and therefore must be judged (i.e. I am guilty whether I feel so or not).  Christianity is not about how to fix your life.  It is about admitting your own guilt and surrendering to the grace of God that is in Jesus Christ.  This “switching of loyalties” puts us in a place where we become a recipient of the mercy of God.  God’s judgment is always for those who refuse His mercy and persist in wickedness.

Next week we will pick up this theme further.  Let us end with the very real warning that this world will not continue rejecting God for forever.  There is a judgment day that is coming upon the whole world and only the proud and arrogant refuse to hear the warning of the Isaiah and the Spirit of God, “Why will you die?  Choose life!”

Day of the Lord audio