The Book of Isaiah
WHY DOES GOD SEEM SO FAR AWAY?
Text: ISAIAH 59:1-21
1. We saw last week that Israel tried to cover up their sin with religion. God ignored their fasting (58:3). And God refused to answer their prayers (59:1, 2).
2. It is a sad situation when God will not answer prayer. Over and over in the Bible, God promises to answer prayer – but certain conditions must be met.
3. Psalm 66:18 says, “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me.”
4. The sin of Israel is emphasized here in Isaiah 59. Many different words are used to describe sin – iniquities, defile, lies, perverseness, mischief, violence, evil, crooked, etc.
5. Isaiah uses colorful language to illustrate Israel’s sin – snakes hatching their eggs, and spiders weaving their webs (59:5, 6).
6. The apostle Paul quoted Isaiah 59:7 and 8 in Romans 3. “Their feet are swift to shed blood: Destruction and misery are in their ways: And the way of peace have they not known” (Romans 3:15-17).
7. Paul’s point in Romans 3 is that both Jew and Gentile are “under sin” (3:9). It is not just the nation Israel that has sinned against God, but “all” mankind. Romans 3:23 says, “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.”
I. SIN SEPARATES PEOPLE FROM GOD (59:1, 2).
1. The reason people do not get saved is simply this: they love their sins too much (59:1, 2). Spurgeon said: “There is no real salvation except salvation from sinning, so your sin must be quitted. I put this question to any man here who is a hearer, and a seeker, and yet who does not find peace. Is there not some sin that you have yet to abandon? If there be, God help you, by His mighty grace, to get rid of it at once!
2. “There may be also some sin that has been forsaken, but is still loved. Sin hankered after is a great barrier to grace. When the cow’s calf is taken away, how she bellows after it! And there is many a man who has had his sin taken away from him, yet he still longs after it. He does not sin with his hand or his foot, but he sins with his heart, his soul goes a-lusting after his iniquities.”
3. Note what Spurgeon said. Many do not sin with their hands or feet, but sin with their hearts. This is what is so horrible about the television set. There are some people here who would not dream of committing adultery but they will sit in front of the TV and watch others commit adultery.
4. They will not use bad language but they will allow it to get into the home through the TV set. Bro. Van Gelderen always sends out a “TV FAST” flyer to distribute before his meetings. He recommends that we avoid the boob tube and pray more.
5. I do not want to sound like a crank. I have a TV and I watch it sometimes, but we must be careful. It is getting dirtier and dirtier.
6. Isaiah said, “But your iniquities have separated you and your God…” (59:2). The terrible nature of sin is that on the one hand it makes a separation between God and man, and on the other hand it makes a bond between man and the devil.
7. Some of the sins which have brought about this separation from God are listed here by the prophet Isaiah: violence and murder (59:3), deceit (59:3), injustice, dishonesty, and perverseness (59:4).
8. Notice the contrast between “the LORD’s hand” and man’s hands (59:1, 3). God’s hand is strong and mighty to save, but man’s “hands are defiled with blood” (59:3).
9. In verse 5, Isaiah compares the lost sinners of Israel to cockatrice hatching their eggs. The cockatrice was a very poisonous snake. Therefore, sinners are described as poisonous snakes producing poisonous offspring. What a horrible thought, and yet how very accurate.
10. I have observed this myself while out soulwinning. I will meet an unsaved mom and dad who are lost and on their way to hell. And apparently they are quite content in this wretched condition. Then I will meet their unsaved children. One can quickly discern that these children have already been ravaged by the degrading sins of this wicked, sin-loving world: rock music, immodest clothing, their lives already stained by immorality, drugs, and alcohol. Isaiah said these unsaved parents are like snakes hatching these poisonous and dangerous eggs. O! What a frightening picture!
11. Yes, this is a terrible picture, but Isaiah does not stop there. Those who participate in their wicked ways are depicted as eating their eggs and dying (59:5).
12. Another arresting image is that of the spider, that little bloodthirsty creature who weaves his web (59:5). Those who get caught in Satan’s snare are like victims caught in a spider’s web.
13. Harry Ironside wrote about a man who called himself the “human fly.” One day he came to downtown Los Angeles. With huge crowds watching from below, this human fly climbed up the face of one of the large department stores. Slowly and carefully he went up, grabbing onto window ledges, jutting bricks, and whatever he could hang onto. Ironside writes: “Up and up he went, against apparently insurmountable difficulties. At last he was nearing the top. He was seen to feel to right and left and above his head for something firm enough to support his weight, to carry him further. And soon he seemed to spy what looked like a grey bit of stone or discolored brick protruding from the smooth wall. He reached for it, but it was just beyond him. He ventured all on a spring-like movement, grasped the protuberance and, before the horrified eyes of the spectators, fell to the ground and was broken in pieces. In his dead hand was found a spider’s web!
14. “What he evidently mistook for solid stone or brick turned out to be nothing but dried froth! Alas, how many are thinking to climb to heaven by effort of their own, only to find at last that they have ventured all on a spider’s web, and so are lost forever.”
15. Sin separates people from God, and next we see…
II. DARKNESS SEPARATES PEOPLE FROM GOD
1. From Genesis through Revelation, the Bible tells us that God has separated light from darkness but sinful men prefer darkness.
2. Genesis 1:4 says, “And God divided the light from the darkness” (cf. Isa. 59:9, 10; 8:22; John 3:19-21).
3. Sinners are spiritually blind (Isa. 59:10). Religious sinners are the worst. The proud, scornful Pharisees said to Jesus, “Are we blind also?” (John 9:40).
4. Our Lord replied, “If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth.”
5. Many church members are spiritually blind. Our Lord said to the church at Laodicea, “Knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked” (Rev. 3:17).
6. Not only are sinners in spiritual darkness, according to the Bible they are “as dead men” (59:10b; cf. Eph. 2:1-3). I remember one time talking to a man right out here on the sidewalk in front of the church. After a while, he looked at me and said: “I do not feel a thing.” I tried to warn him he was spiritually dead.
7. Sinners love their darkness (Isa. 59:9, 10). Our Lord said, “And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved” (John 3:19, 20).
8. Beloved, we must send the Light, the blessed Gospel light. Only when the light of the Gospel beams brightly do men start to recognize their great need for salvation.
9. The well-known radio preacher, J. Vernon McGee, was out hunting one day when it started to rain heavily. He ducked into a dark cave to get out of the rain. After a while he felt very cold so he started a fire. Once the cave was lit up he realized he was surrounded by snakes and other crawling reptiles. He ran out of there fast.
10. Sinners need to see the Light so they too can flee their darkness. Darkness separates sinners from God.
III. FALSE RELIGION SEPARATES PEOPLE FROM GOD
1. Isaiah says in Isaiah 59:6, “Their webs shall not become garments…” What an odd picture! Who ever heard of a man or woman wearing garments woven from a spider’s web?
2. How futile are human efforts to cover sin! Spider’s webs will not avail to cover the moral nakedness of Christ-rejecting sinners.
3. All sin is profitless and comes to nothing. And all attempts to cover sin with religion is equally profitless and comes to nothing.
4. Lost sinners often try and cover their sins with religious observances, and other so-called “good works.” But God sees through their religious charade and says, “their works are works of iniquity…” (59:6; cf. 64:6, 7).
5. A missionary friend who started a church in Brazil called me last night. He told me the cults are all over Brazil.
6. Rather than repent from sin and get right with God, sinners seek refuge in false religion. Beloved, religion without regeneration is wicked.
7. I remember being rebuked by a Jewish rabbi for believing that Jesus Christ was the only way to heaven. Acts 4:12 says, “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.”
8. If man could be saved by his good works or by joining a religious organization, then why did Jesus have to die such a horrible death?
9. We saw last week in Isaiah 58 that rituals blind people. Even good things like prayer and fasting can be bad if our hearts are not right.
10. Man was born religious. You can trace this all the way back to Cain and Abel.
11. Candles and incense, genuflecting and bowing, pomp and ceremony, traditions and sacraments – all of this religious formalism blind people to the simplicity of the Gospel.
12. By the way, there is a big movement now to embrace all of this heathenism. That is what is behind this so-called “emergent church.” It is “emerging” from Satan and his demons.
13. The blinding power of false religion obscures the light of God’s Word, and those who are in bondage to false religion are separated from God.
14. They hope to reach God through repetitious prayers and chanting but Jesus said not to use “vain repetitions, as the heathen do” (Matt. 6:7).
15. They hope to reach God through priestly mediators, men with pretentious titles and flamboyant robes and costumes. But the Bible says there is only “one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus” (I Tim. 2:5).
16. How sad that people would rather follow the traditions of men than simply believing God’s Word.
1. Like the other prophets, Isaiah saw way beyond his day to the coming judgment when God will judge all men “according to their deeds” (Isa. 59:18).
2. Beloved, our “Redeemer shall come” (59:20). Are you ready?
3. If God seems far away, and if there is a barrier between you and God, the solution is found right here – “turn from transgression” (59:20).
4. Sin must be acknowledged (59:12), and then the barrier can be removed.
5. Both Isaiah 58 & 59 conclude with a promise of the efficacy of God’s Word.