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Entries in Harvest (2)

Tuesday
Sep062016

Disciplined but not Destroyed

Isaiah 27:10-13.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on August 21, 2016.  This sermon is out of order on this page because of when it was uploaded.

 We are starting mid-stream in this passage and will finish this section known as Isaiah’s Little Apocalypse.  Here Isaiah has been making the point that it will look like God has judged Israel so as to cut it off completely.  However, God will be actually pruning Israel so that it can once again bear fruit in the millennium.  Now, when we talk about the millennium we have to be careful about making too strong of a distinction between Israel and the Church.  In some ways God will be fulfilling His promises to national Israel.  And, yet in other ways God will be fulfilling His promise to make His people One nation out of all the nations of the earth.  Yes, this has happened already in the Church, but it is not finished.  In fact Paul speaks of the grafting back in of the natural branches in Romans 11.  People will differ regarding whether this will be completed at the end of the tribulation or at the end of the millennium.  Ultimately, Israel would be discouraged at its discipline in the future.  In fact they would be tempted to think that God has cast them off or is even a fairy tale.

We must remember in our lives that no matter how difficult things may be, if we will put our trust in the Lord instead of the things of this world, He will restore us both physically and spiritually.  We must do this in the face of how things appear.  Sure we may feel like God has abandoned us or cast us off, but the reality is that He is still working things towards our good, even when we are under His discipline.

God’s judgment will cleanse His people

Starting at verse 7, Isaiah looks at the judgments that will fall upon national Israel.  When they happen they will seem to be God destroying His vineyard.  But in the end, it will serve to cleanse and prune it.

In fact, Isaiah states that God would not strike Israel to the degree he struck their enemies and that His scattering of Israel to the nations would be a measured discipline to contend with them. He also states that when God covers their iniquity their altars and wooden images will be completely removed.  This brings us to verse 10.  Isaiah is giving them good news and yet keeps it tempered with the harsh reality of what is ahead.

The fortified city will be desolated.  Now most logically this is the same City of Confusion referenced in Isaiah 24.  Yet, there also seems to be a tie to the corrupt leadership of Israel.  Jerusalem is following the Harlot cities of the world that seek to be the seat of power.  If you couple this with the fact that the context of this passage is the judgment of God upon the nation of Israel, you are left with the conclusion that this references at least Jerusalem.  Yes, God will be pruning them for their good, but Jerusalem will be desolated.  In fact, there seems to be a parallel between God’s judgment of Israel and the later judgment at the end of the Age upon the nations of the earth.  The same spirit is at work in both situations to exalt itself through them.  They have trusted in their own ability and strength, rather than in the God of heaven.

Part of the desolate scene is the picture of women walking through the ruined city picking up branches to use for fuel.  This is a very reference to the natural devastation.  However, there is a spiritual picture as well.  Jesus picks up on this tie when he talks about being the vine and his people being the branches (John 15).  Dead branches are broken off and used for fuel.  The reality of the judgment of God is that a certain number of people who were spiritually dead, would be cut off and be lost in it.  God’s work would be discipline to those branches that still had a living, spiritual connection to Him.  But it would be judgment to those had no spiritual connection to Him at all. They have been irretrievably seduced by the spirit of the Age, the spirit of Mystery Babylon.  So we have simultaneously the severity of the Lord and the mercy of the Lord in the same situation.  Ultimately the second coming of Christ will be such a day.  It will be a horrible day for those who have cast their lot in with Antichrist and Mystery Babylon.  But it will be a joyous day for those who have a living connection with Him.

God will gather the remnant of Israel

The last two verses of this chapter look ahead to that time when God will once again stand up for Israel.  For close to 2,000 years, the people of Israel have undergone the discipline of the Lord to the point that it would seem God has abandoned them.  Even some in the Church state that we have taken the place of Israel.  In light of Paul’s teaching in Romans 11, I find this a view that fails to explain all that God has spoken in a coherent manner.    However, these verses clearly refer to a time when God will gather back Israel.  “In that Day” (verse 12) is a phrase that is used 44 times in the Book of Isaiah.  It refers to the ultimate Day of Judgment upon all the nations of the earth.   This has not happened yet.

The Lord will have a great harvest to accomplish (threshing and gathering).  It is important to note that the process of harvesting is a two sided metaphor.  If you are grain, good grapes, good figs, etc., harvest is a process that is good thing.  The harvester’s purpose is to protect and gather you into His barn.  But, if you are chaff, bad grapes, rotten figs, etc., harvest is a process that is a bad thing.  The chaff is either burned up or blown away by the wind.  The bad grapes and figs are left to decay and rot on the ground.  The stubble and stuff left behind is then destroyed as the field is burned in preparation for the planting time.  This two sided imagery is important.  Yes, God will gather Israel, but at the same time He is removing the wicked from their place in this age.  God will use the events of the last days to bring Israel to a place of repentance.  Those who refuse to repent will be lost along with all the chaff of the nations.  But the Lord will gather in those who humble themselves in repentance.

Those who had been lost to the nations of the earth will be found.  Isaiah mentions a great trumpet that will be blown at this time.  Some have connected this with Paul’s “Last Trumpet” in 1 Corinthians 15:52.  Whether this is a sound that will be heard on earth, it will definitely be heard in the spiritual realm.  Those who had perished in faith will come forth like Lazarus from the grave.  In fact the word used in verse 13 of those who are about to “perish” has the sense of being lost in it.  On the verge of being lost to any hope of help from God, is the salvation of the Lord.

This is the great thing about the Lord.  He is continually searching throughout the earth for those who are perishing.  He continually seeks that which the enemy seeks to devour in order to save them.  No situation is too far gone and too hopeless.  So, friend, put your trust in the Lord Jesus and His ways, not in the ways of this world.  Regardless of what it may look like today and in the days ahead, this world is destroying itself and is under the judgment of God.  Only that which has a living connection with Jesus will come through the end of the age to the other side.  Repent of your desire to connect to the allurements of the world and place your faith in Jesus.

At this point it would be easy to focus upon the physical restoration of Israel.  However, Isaiah ends with a statement that makes it clear that it will be a spiritual restoration as well.  The gathering will "worship the Lord" in Jerusalem.  This statement of fact is reminiscent of Moses at the burning bush in Exodus 3:12, “So He said, “I will certainly be with you. And this shall be a sign to you that I have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.”  Of course Jesus does not need a sign, but one is given anyway.  What a day it will be when God's people from every nation worship Him upon Mt. Zion!

Disciplined audio

Tuesday
Sep092014

The Lord Needs Workers

Today we are going to look at Luke 10:1-11.  Here we have Jesus sending out some of his disciples to minister throughout Israel, just as he did at the beginning of chapter 9.  However, now he appoints a group beyond “The Twelve,” referred to as the Seventy.

Here we see that the need is greater than the 12 can do alone.  In fact it was and is greater than what these 70 can do.  However, we are shown the heart of God to reach the lost and his need of believers who will partner with Him to do that.

The Sending of the 70 Disciples

Now we notice that these 70 are being sent out in the same way that the 12 had been sent out earlier.  They are going in pairs and they are going to the cities of Israel.  Now, 70 is an important number.  Just as the 12 disciples correspond with the 12 tribes of Israel, so the 70 correspond with the 70 elders of Israel.  They become representative in the Kingdom of God of what the others were in the beginning of the Kingdom of Israel.  In Exodus 24 we are introduced to the 70 elders as they go with Moses and Aaron on the mountain and eat a meal before a heavenly vision of the throne of God.  We also see them again in Numbers 11 where God places a portion of the Holy Spirit upon them to help Moses in leading Israel.  Thus it is clear that Christ is using the numbers on purpose to point to the new work that God was doing through the godly remnant of Israel.

We are also told that these 70 disciples were appointed and sent by Jesus.  The word “appoint” here literally means to raise someone up to a position.  There was a large pool of believers that followed Jesus and yet he raised 70 up out of this larger group for a specific task.  They become second tier apostles or “sent ones” to minister for the Lord.

Their task focuses on preparing the way for Jesus.  Jesus would be coming to those cities and villages at some point.  The work of the 70 would wet the spiritual thirst of people for when that would happen.  Not all are called to be evangelists and pastors.  However, our interactions with others can prepare them for a visitation of the Spirit of the Lord.  Jesus no longer walks on this earth physically.  But His Spirit is moving throughout the earth in order to draw people to Jesus.  These visitations of the Spirit of God come and go.  We can cooperate with the Spirit to prepare people and to save them.  Paul refers to this as planting, watering, and harvesting.  All of these spiritual works are done by believers in Christ in cooperation with the Holy Spirit.

Jesus then points out the great need of workers in God’s Kingdom.  There are a large number of people to reach.  That doesn’t necessarily mean the majority.  Scripture is clear that the majority of the world will follow the wicked path to destruction.  But the narrow path that leads to life will be found by the minority.  Yet, this is not a set percentage.  In some places more or less will come to Christ.  We have testimonies of whole villages coming to believe in Christ and others where He is rejected.  Yet, the harvest is still large and will take a lot of workers; workers who are willing to sweat in order to bring it in.  Do we sometimes err in expecting people to harvest themselves?  It is our duty to go out and help people to come into the kingdom of God.  This is not a one moment thing.  It involves all the work that leads up to the day of harvest.  If our life is focused primarily on what we want in life, we will only give a half-hearted attempt at reaching the lost if any.  Thus Jesus points out the need for prayer.

Prayer is the place where God touches our heart.  We can’t pray for the harvest without being concerned for it.  The more we pray, the more the Lord will touch our heart.  Yes, prayer can be used to unload burdens.  But it can also be a place to pick up the burden that God has for those who are lost; the urgency to work hard to bring them in.

Instructions For Going

In verses 3 and 4, Jesus gives them instructions regarding their going.  They are to go as “lambs among wolves.”  This metaphor represents our spirit or demeanor among the lost.  We are going out into a den of wolves looking for lost sheep, and our tendency is to become like the wolves out of self-preservation.  Wolves are bloody, cruel, aggressive, and to be feared.  They will eat you up if you give them the chance.  However, lambs are peaceful, not aggressive, and definitely not feared.  They are the vulnerable ones.  What manner of spirit are we?

Jesus also sends these 70 without material provisions.  They are not to concern themselves with their material needs.  Rather, they are to depend upon God to provide.  Notice that it is clear that Jesus intends for their material needs to be met by those who receive the gospel from them.  We will talk more about being content with what is provided in the next point.  But, here the emphasis is upon trusting God.  This is not an endeavor that we can accomplish in our flesh.  We need the Lord to supply both our material needs and spiritual accomplishment.

He also tells them to “Greet no one.”  The concern here is to be one who is focused upon a specific task.  They are official representatives of the Kingdom of God.  The temptation to get distracted when responding to the task given is still with us today.  Many people who have started to go for the Lord have gotten distracted from the main purpose of reaching the lost.  In fact, some have gone so far as to be entangled in the cares of this world to the point of ship wrecking their faith.  We must keep a single eye upon this work.

Instructions For Ministering

Verses 5-11 detail the instructions for what to do when they reach the cities.  They are to approach the people of these cities as a giver of peace.  In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus had said, “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the Sons of God.”  Peace is a hallmark of God.  Where God’s Spirit is there will be peace.  Thus the ambassadors of Jesus are to be peaceful within their selves and to be givers of peace.  Yet, not all desire peace. There are wolves they will meet.  We must not have a fake peace that is quickly thrown aside when others reject us.  The peace of Christ went all the way to the cross.  Is your “peace” a mile wide and an inch thick?  Is it easily pierced and dissipated as the morning fog?  Jesus says that if your peace is rejected it will return to you.  By the act of rejection your peace is “thrown back in your face.”  They reject both words and actions.  Yet, it is our duty to “take our peace back” and move on in peace.

Jesus also points out their attitude towards what would be provided by those who received them.  They would be uniquely susceptible to certain temptations because they were taking no provisions with them.  Jesus tells them to receive whatever they are given.  In other words, don’t be picky.  Our concern must never be how great the provision is, whether in quantity or quality.  Our concern must only be upon the work of the Lord.  In truth, such provisions are given to God anyways.  The people who would bless them are doing so out of thankfulness for the work that God is doing through these “sent ones.”

Jesus also warns against moving from house to house.  This was a method of getting everyone’s best.  You stay at a house until they are no longer treating you royally and then you move to another home.  This is a fleshly motivation that is not to be followed.

Yet, the laborer is worthy of his hire.  When we labor to bring spiritual blessings to people it is only natural that they minister to our material needs.  I don’t need an expensive car and a multi-million dollar home.  But I do have need of shelter, clothing and food.  To have your eyes opened to the truth of your lost condition and yet the grace that God has for you is an amazing thing.  You are receiving the eternal effect of salvation.  Consider that in contrast to the temporary effect of a morsel of food.  Is this fraught with temptations and pitfalls?  You better believe it.  There are pitfalls for both the minister and the one being ministered to.  So Jesus warns them and us.

Ultimately they were to minister to those who received them, wherever that was at.  They were to heal the sick and to cast out demons.  They were to proclaim the Gospel of the Kingdom of God.  It has come near to you.  Enter in by faith in Jesus Christ.

Even though some places would reject them, they were to focus on leaving behind a good witness.  The symbolic act of shaking the dust off of their feet was a way of saying, “I did my job and I leave this dirt as evidence that I was here.”  It is also a way of saying, “I will not let your rejection of Christ and scoffing of his ways cling to me.”  This symbolic act is a witness against them if they go into eternity without repenting.  Leaving is inevitable.  But what we do will either help them to salvation or condemn them.  They will be without excuse.

Let me close by encouraging us to respond to this mission that Christ shows us.  This mission to reach those who are lost with the Gospel has many temptations.  But if we listen to Christ we can do a job that he will rejoice in.  So that we may hear one day, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

Lord Needs Workers audio