The Book of Isaiah
CRY ALOUD AND SPARE NOT
Text: ISAIAH 58
1. Isaiah 58 begins with a command from God. The LORD told the prophet Isaiah to “cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and shew my people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins” (58:1).
2. Isaiah was told not to hold back. People want their doctor to be straightforward with them. And their lawyer. They like a politician who gives it to them straight. They want the salesman and the car mechanic and the contractor to be plain and honest.
3. But they do not like it when a preacher is too direct or blunt. And yet the preacher has the most important message of all!
4. The apostle Paul instructed Timothy to “Preach the word; be instant in season, and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long-suffering and doctrine” (II Tim. 4:2).
5. Too many preachers are holding back and pulling their punches. They are afraid. The LORD told Jeremiah, “Be not afraid of their faces: for I am with thee to deliver thee, saith the LORD” (Jer. 1:8).
6. Next we read: “Then the LORD put forth His hand, and touched my mouth. And the LORD said unto me, Behold, I have put my words in thy mouth. See, I have this day set thee over the nations and over the kingdoms, to root out, and to pull down, and to destroy, and to throw down, to build, and to plant” (Jer. 1:9, 10).
7. Notice that first Jeremiah was first to “root out, and to pull down, and to destroy, and to throw down.” Then he was to build and plant.
8. Sin had to be rooted out and pulled down first.
9. And so it was in Isaiah’s day. And so it is in our day.
10. There are many sins enumerated in this section of Isaiah, but their biggest sin was their religious superficiality.
11. They thought they were right with God. God is using sarcasm in Isaiah 58:2. The following verses show the Israelites were not right with God.
12. They were religious but hypocritical. Their worship was cold and formal (like too many churches today).
13. There is a lot of emotionalism and strange fire in churches today. There is a lot of confusion and error, but we should recognize that much of this is a reaction to dead, formal churches.
14. Pentecostals and charismatics like Benny Hinn are false prophets. But Pentecostalism is popular because people are sick and tired of cold and formal churches.
I. GOD IGNORED THEIR FASTING (58:1-6).
1. The word “fast” or “fasted” appears seven times in Isaiah 58.
2. Outward fasting without a genuine heart for God is worse than useless.
3. Referring to the hypocritical Pharisees, our Lord said in Matthew 6, “Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly” (Matthew 6:16-18; cf. Luke 18:11, 12).
4. From our Lord, we know that fasting can be either good or bad, depending upon the heart (cf. Matt. 17:20, 21).
5. If the heart is not right, there is no real communion with God. Prayer and fasting then becomes hypocritical and God ignores it (Isaiah 58:3).
6. The people in Isaiah’s day were fasting “for strife and debate, and to smite with the fist of wickedness” (58:4). Fasting and fighting?!
7. But Biblical fasting is not about strife. It is about humility. Isaiah 58:3 and 5 says to fast means to “afflict the soul” (cf. Ezra 8:21; James 4:9). This involves genuine contrition (James 4:8-10).
8. I received a nice packet yesterday from evangelist John Van Gelderen. It is to prepare us for the meetings in June. He recommends we fast and pray before the meetings, and says this:
“I believe that sincere prayer and fasting is one of the most important aspects of preparation. Fasting does not merit God’s favor, however, it does reveal one’s genuine desire for God’s power. The motive for fasting is to seek the Lord for divine aid (II Chron. 20; Ezra 8:21—23). The idea is that when we recognize how important it is that we have God’s power and blessing, we seek Him in prayer, bypassing food or food and drink which, in comparison to the cause, is insignificant. Also, the analogy of hungering and thirsting for God and His blessing is much more real when you have experienced physical hunger and thirst. I would strongly encourage those who have a heart for God to truly consider prayer and fasting. Of course, the actual fasting is to be unto God and not to be seen of men (Matt. 6:16—18).”
9. Here is what Bro. Van Gelderen says about prayer: “Prayer does not merit God’s blessing. Scriptural praying recognizes our dependency on God to do what man cannot do. Prayer emphasis should primarily be to those who understand true praying. True prayer is not prayer-dependence as if we merit blessing by putting in enough time. True prayer is God-dependence through pleading His exceeding great and precious promises.”
10. And what are some of these exceeding great and precious promises?
· “And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it” (John 14:13, 14).
· “And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened” (Luke 11:9, 10).
11. This is genuine Christianity. But many prefer shallow religiosity. To them, mere externalism and ritualism is easy. Real repentance and soul-searching and crying out to God is not easy.
12. Externalism and ritualism leads to delusion and self-satisfaction. But genuine repentance leads to the blessings of God and revival.
II. GOD RESPONDS TO GENUINE REPENTANCE (58:9-12).
1. When we turn to God, He turns the darkness to light (58:8; 10b).
2. When we turn to God, He answers our prayers (58:9).
3. One of the greatest blessings of God is found in Isaiah 58:11. “And the LORD shall guide thee continually.” Not just occasionally, but “continually.”
4. “The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD: and he delighteth in his way” (Psalm 37:23).
5. “Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths” (Proverbs 3:5, 6).
6. God’s Word promises us abundant blessings, but God’s conditions must be met (58:11). There must be genuine obedience to the Word of God. There must be total surrender to the will of God.
7. Verse 12 speaks of revival. The promise is for Israel, but just like many other promises of revival in the OT, it can be applied to us today.
8. “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land” (II Chronicles 7:14).
9. “Wilt thou not revive us again: that thy people may rejoice in thee?” (Psalm 85:6).
10. “O LORD, revive thy work in the midst of the years, in the midst of the years make known; in wrath remember mercy” (Hab. 3:2).
III. GOD BLESSED ISRAEL (AND US) WITH THE SABBATH
1. I dealt with the blessings of the Sabbath and the Lord’s Day when we studied Isaiah 56 (cf. 56:2).
2. Remember the words of our Lord, “The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath” (Mark 2:27). It is for our blessing and enjoyment.
3. But though it was given for our benefit, that does not mean we can do whatever we please on Sunday. It is the Lord’s Day – not our day (cf. Isa. 58:13 – God calls the sabbath “my holy day”).
4. God’s commandments are an expression of God’s character. Therefore, the (or Lord’s Day) sabbath is holy because God is holy.
5. If we understand this and practice it, the Lord’s Day is a “delight” (58:13). And when we delight ourselves in the things of God, He blesses us in ways that are beyond our comprehension (58:13, 14).
6. “Delight thyself also in the LORD: and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart. Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass” (Psalm 37:4, 5).
7. WE Vine wrote, “Delighting oneself in the Lord is the highest possible occupation. It is the privilege of the believer, whether in seasons of communion and worship or in the activity of service. But it is possible only as the admonitions which have preceded in this passage are fulfilled” (Isaiah).
One of the great themes of the book of Isaiah is the restoration of Israel. Many people do not believe it, but the Bible says, “the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it” (58:14).