Men and nations seem to go in the same endless cycles of repetition, from glory to destruction, and somewhere along the line they fall into sinfulness and end in destruction. That's the story of man in Eden, and that's the story of every man in every nation since. Welcome to Grace to You with John MacArthur.
I'm your host, Phil Johnson. Some say that working to change society through political means is like giving a cancer patient a Band-Aid. It offers no cure for the real problem. But where sinful behavior and agendas can be controlled by legal means, shouldn't Christians make a political stand? Or do we aim differently and devote ourselves only to evangelism? Or should we land somewhere in between?
It's never been more important to answer those questions correctly. John MacArthur gives a timely biblical perspective today on Grace to You in his study called, God's Word to an Ungodly Society. Follow along now as John begins his message. The cynicism of the preacher in Ecclesiastes is somewhat justified when he said, there is nothing new under the sun. History becomes for him an endless cycle of repetition. And so he says, that which hath been is now and that which is to be hath already been. Men and nations seem to go in the same endless cycles of repetition from glory to destruction. Their beginnings are usually bright and hopeful and filled with promise and somewhere along the line they fall into sinfulness and end in destruction. That's the story of man and Eden and that's the story of every man and every nation since. What has happened and how do we react to it?
I want us to look back in history for some answers. I don't think that all of the answers are to be found in an analyzation of the present tense. I think the best lessons are to be found in a look at history because everything that we're experiencing has already been done and if we look to the Word of God, we'll find out such similarities exist as maybe will shock us, both in terms of problem and solution. First of all, look at chapter 5 and I want you to notice the parable of the Lord. For in this drama, the main character is the Lord Himself. This is a parable. In fact, it is an exquisite elegy. It is a parable in the form of a plaintive, weeping song concerning what happened to that vineyard.
And what does it mean? Verse 7 tells us, For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah His pleasant plant. And He looked for justice, but behold, oppression, for righteousness, but behold, a cry. I want you to move with me then from the parable of the Lord to the penetration of the Lord, beginning in verse 8. Now here the Lord penetrates to the very core of the problem, and I want you to see this.
Six specific sins have led to the ruin of the nation, a grasping materialism, a drunken pleasure seeking, a defiant sinfulness, a moral perversion, an arrogant conceit, and the main thrust of it all just comes down from a corrupted leadership. So the parable and the penetration leads to the punishment of the Lord. Verse 24, I'm just going to read it. At the end it says, Because they have cast away the law of the Lord of hosts, because they have despised the word of the Holy One of Israel... Now there it is, people. There's the heart of the matter. When any people or any nation abandon the word of God, that's the touchstone. That's the end.
That's the disaster. You abandon the absolute standard of the word of God and all hell breaks loose. Verse 25, Therefore is the anger of the Lord kindled against His people. He stretched forth His hand against them and has smitten them.
The hills did tremble and their carcasses were torn in the midst of the streets. For all this His anger is not turned away, but His hand is stretched out still. In other words, even when all of that happens, God still reaches out and He will lift up an ensign to the nations. In other words, He's going to stick up a standard in the air and it's going to be like it says, Come to judge the nation. He's calling for the nations to come. He will whistle unto them, and I wish I could do that.
I'd let out a whistle. God's going to stick both fingers in the sides of His mouth and whistle, He says to Israel, and the nations are going to come from the ends of the earth and they're going to come swiftly. Verse 27, They're not going to be weary. They're not going to stumble. They're not going to sleep. They're not going to lose their loins.
They're not going to stop to tie their shoes. Their feet are going to be completely covered. Their arrows will be sharp. Their bows will be bent. Their horses' hooves will be counted like flint and their wheels like a whirlwind. They're going to roar like a lion. They're going to roar like young lions. Yea, they'll roar and lay hold of the prey and carry it away safely and none shall deliver it. And in that day they shall roar against them like the roaring of the sea. And if one looked to the land, behold darkness and sorrow and the light is darkened in the heavens thereof. Now listen, just imagine that you're there that day and you're with those people basking in the prosperity of Isaiah's reign and everything looks gray and all of a sudden this weather-beaten, woe-begone, angered prophet stands up, pronounces damnation on the whole society.
You'd laugh at him. And when he says God's going to whistle an immense army like they've never dreamed of is going to come with Jehovah as the commander-in-chief, you'd say it can't happen. Killing and carrying away the prey, he was predicting the captivity, you see.
And it happened. The Assyrian bee came and then the Chaldean lion and later on the Roman eagle flapped his wings and all of them ran amok over the land. You say, what does that have to do with us? Listen, I think just as much God is going to bring judgment on our land because we're guilty of the same things. I honestly believe that if we don't call our land a repentance, we're going to see the same thing happen. You know that in the first chapter Isaiah says another characteristic of your society is that you're dishonest in your business dealings and you have rebellions in your families. Would that be true of our society?
Of course it would. We have played the harlot. We've gone after the world. Even the church is a mockery in so many cases. I thank God for here and there a pure church, a remnant. So the parable and the penetration and the punishment. I believe with all my heart people, there's doom on our society. No way out.
Doom. People say, oh, we're in a great revival. Church membership is going steadily down, statistically steadily down. Lots of people calling themselves Christians.
Lots of people talk about Jesus. Lots of people talk about heaven ain't going there. I believe there's judgment impending.
So what do we do about that? Can I take you to a fourth point? We've seen the parable of the Lord, the penetration of the Lord, the punishment of the Lord. How about the presence of the Lord? Verse 1 of chapter 6.
Oh, this is great. In the year that King Isaiah died, stop right there. You know what year that was?
About 740 B.C. after he'd rained 52 years. Oh, in many ways he was a good king. He was a good king in many ways. He subdued the enemies of Israel. He fortified Jerusalem. He developed agriculture. He developed commerce. Under him, Judah prospered. Read 2 Chronicles 26.
He did many good things. But you know what happened? Chapter 26 verse 16 of 2 Chronicles says it all went to his head, but when he was strong, his heart was lifted up to his destruction for he transgressed against the Lord his God and went into the temple to burn incense on the altar. He usurped the place of a priest and God at that very moment reached out and touched him with a divine hand of judgment and he became a leper until the day he died. He crawled away from society and he spent the rest of his life crying, unclean, unclean. Listen, in the year that King Uzziah died, Israel reached the apex of its disaster.
He had died a tragic leper. But listen, it was in the saddest hour of Israel's history that Isaiah had his greatest vision of God. Look at the rest of the verse. In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw also the Lord.
Is that a great statement? Listen, people, that's the presence of the Lord. There's always a faithful prophet.
There's always a remnant. If ever there was a vision of God needed, it was then. Now I believe that today in a decadent, deluded society where religion is watered down and emasculated, if ever there is a reason to set aside the meaningless trappings of an external religion and really have a vision of God, it is now. You know where he saw God? I saw the Lord sitting on a throne high and lifted up in His train, filled the temple and above it stood the seraphim. Each one had six wings with two he covered his face, that's humility. With two he covered his feet, that's reverence.
With two he did fly, that's availability to serve. And one cried unto another and said, Holy, holy, holy, great Trinitarian cry is the Lord of hosts. The whole earth is full of His glory and the posts of the door moved at the voice of Him who cried and the house was filled with smoke. You know where he saw Him? He saw Him in the temple, the same temple where Cuminus tells us, writing in the antiquities of Josephus, how some soldiers had gone in there and desecrated the very altar of God, that same place where Pompey entered into the court of the Gentiles, passed through to the court of Israel, proceeded through, entered the court of the priests, stood before the very door of the sanctuary and Pompey, that Roman general, became eager to enter the holy place and then the holy of holies and the Jewish people in 70 A.D. fell on their feet when the temple was to be desecrated again and pleaded that it not be so. That same temple which was desecrated again and again not only by Pompey, not only by Titus Vespasian, not only by the Roman soldiers but by Antiochus Epiphanes, that same temple was desecrated by Isaiah when he went in and tried to play the role of the priest. That's the very place he saw God, the same temple of whom Ezekiel writes, all on the walls were pictures of idols and there were snakes and creeping things and men worshiping the sun, but it ever and always remained the place of God for those who saw Him there.
And so does Isaiah see God. Beloved, we need a fresh vision of God in a corrupt society. I'll tell you, I get so upset in my life when I see the superficiality and the smallness and the stupidity of our Christian gimmicks and our ad men and our methods. John White has written, the Jesus pencil bumper sticker t-shirt thing belongs to a different order of spiritual obscenity. It is a desecration of a foul or kind. It has to do with the greed that fills one's wallet from the fears, the joys and the tenderness that brings God and man together. It is the desecration. Now that's pretty strong stuff, and I don't want to make you go out and throw away your t-shirt, but I've had so much of pictures of Jesus and gimmicks and Jesus rock and entertainment and commercialism.
And nobody seems to really know what it is to be in the presence of God. Now the presence of the Lord resulted in a fifth principle here, the purification of the Lord. Verse 5, then said, I woe is me for I am undone because I am a man of unclean lips. Not only is Isaiah unclean, but I am unclean. Say, Isaiah, you're God's man, you're God's prophet.
Where did you ever get that idea? Well I have seen the Lord. I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips.
Why? Mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts. Listen, let me tell you something. When you really see God, you don't come out advertising yourself as a new Christian celebrity. When you really see God, you don't come out patting yourself on the back and telling everybody what a great boon you will be to the cause. All of these to keep having visions of God instead of wanting to go on the road with their act would be found in a corner somewhere with a broken heart full of humility, contrition, conviction and unworthiness that would shake this nation into a true revival if they'd really seen God. And I tell you, with all of the superficiality of Christianity and all of the quasi-religion that names the name of Christ, there are few people who know what it is to walk out of the presence of God and touch this world.
And when they do, they say, lo is me. And when they say that, then flew one of the seraphim unto me, having a live coal in his hand which he had taken with the tongs from the altar and he laid it on my mouth and said, lo, this has touched thy lips and thine iniquity has taken away and thy sin purged. When you really see God, your heart is filled with conviction. In the moment of conviction, God comes with His cleansing. And so I say the presence of the Lord is inevitably followed by the purification of the Lord. Any true vision of the Lord does this.
Smug, semi-committed, self-satisfied, content Christians have never been face to face with God. Habakkuk, that very dear and special prophet said, when I heard, my belly trembled, my lips quivered, rottenness entered my bones and I trembled in myself. When God spoke, I fell apart. Daniel the same, chapter 10, verse 6, his body was like the barrel, his face like the appearance of lightning, his eyes like lamps of fire, his arms and his feet in color like polished bronze, the voice of his words like a voice of a multitude and I, Daniel alone, saw the vision. Therefore I was left alone and saw this great vision and there remained no strength in me for my comeliness was turned in me into corruption and I retained no strength.
I felt rotten, he said. Peter said, Depart from me, O Lord, for I'm a sinful man. Job said, I have heard of thee with a hearing of mine ear but now I see thee face to face. I behold thee and I abhor myself in dust and ashes. When Manoah was visited by an angel to tell him of the birth of his son Samson, that angel appeared in a blaze of glory and Manoah cried, We shall surely die for we've seen God.
You see, to see God is to have a sense of unworthiness that's overwhelming. It's at that point that when you gaze in the glory of God that He touches you with a purification and when He's purified you stand apart from that vile society and that's where Isaiah was and now God could use him and so we come to the proclamation of the Lord, our sixth point, only one more and I'll be done. The proclamation of the Lord. I heard the voice of the Lord saying, Whom shall I send and who will go for us? Then said, I hear them, I send me.
And He said, Go and tell this people. Listen, when you come from the presence of the Lord and you've been purified by the Lord, then the Lord uses you to proclaim Him. And what was to be His message? A message of judgment.
You caused them to hear but not understand, to see but not perceive, make their heart fat, their ears heavy, their eyes shut. How long, Lord? How long do I do that until the cities be wasted without inhabitant and the houses without man and the land be utterly desolate and the Lord have removed men far away and there be a great forsaking in the midst of the land? He says, Listen, Isaiah, you preach judgment until it's all over with.
Want to know something, people? I believe that's what God's calling us to preach today. I believe God's asking us to confront people. I believe it's time to quit the padded stuff, the saccharine, watered-down Jesusism that avoids the reality of sin and judgment and hell. It's time to forget the polished, glamorized vagaries of soft-mouthed preachers who tickle people's ears. It's time to speak God's judgment. Say, what will be the reaction? Most won't believe.
Don't be shocked. The reason we evangelize is not because people believe but because God commanded, right? Say, will anybody believe? Did anybody believe Isaiah? Yes, verse 13. And I want to just tell you what the verse says.
I'll read it in the New International because it's very clear. As the terebinth and oak leave stumps when they're cut down, so the holy seed will be the stump in the land. In other words, God says, when I hit that land with judgment, I'll wipe it out. But just like an oak tree leaves a stump, there'll be a stump of a remnant and out of that remnant will grow a new tree. Some people would believe. But narrow is the gate and narrow is the way that leadeth to life everlasting in what?
Few there be that find it. We have to preach judgment to our world, to our nation. And as we preach the gospel which includes judgment, there'll be a remnant that believes the stump of the holy seed are the hope for the future. And that's the final point, the promise of the Lord. The promise of the Lord.
You say, oh, John, where does it end? Chapter 7 verse 14, just this verse. Therefore the Lord Himself shall give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son and shall call His name, say it, Immanuel. That's the promise that in the midst of the judgment there is Immanuel.
And Immanuel means God with us. Listen, people, our nation is doomed, I know it. But there's a stump there and while we preach judgment there'll be some who believe and those some who believe will be redeemed in the hope of Immanuel. That's the message of a godly man in a nation in crisis. Listen, what is Isaiah saying to us?
He's saying there was a great beginning but it all went bad. The land is corrupt, the religion is apostate, we are people facing severe punishment and in the midst of it all, the righteous can have an audience with God. And out of that audience can come a purification that leads to a proclamation, the proclamation that includes doom but yes, that includes hope, hope in Immanuel.
Listen, we're not fatalists. God has many people out there and I don't care how rotten America gets, I'm going to preach the message because I want that holy seed to hear. I close with this. An unknown Christian wrote it. "'You have builded temples in His name of mortar and brick and stone, with windows of glass most beautifully stained, with steeple and spire and dome. But what do we of the byways care for structure and line and trim? Out in the dust of the lonely road, we only ask for Him. You've robed your choirs and trained them well in proper and intricate song. You have bought fine organs to edify and lull the weary throng. But what do we care for your well-robed choir or your organs deep?
Amen. We want you to walk beside us here and point us the way to Him. Oh, the roads of the world are a crooked maze and we are woefully lost. For the road to Him and the paths of men is faint and hidden and crossed.
What do we care for the trappings of art when our heart's high hope is dim? We seek the touch of His healing hand. Oh, show us the way to Him.'" Let's pray together.
And Father, that's really the issue, isn't it? In the midst of the chaos of this nation, there's a remnant out there. And we who have come into Your presence, whose lips have been touched with the coal off the altar, who've been purified in the blood of Christ, who've been given the ministry of proclamation, we are to preach not only judgment on the lost, but the good word of the promise of Emmanuel to those who believe. God save us from thinking the testimony of brick and mortar is all that's needed. And may we be ever busy coming out of Your presence, purified to proclaim a message that shows people the way to Him. In Christ's name, amen. That's John MacArthur, Chancellor of the Masters University and Seminary, here on Grace To You, showing you from the life of Isaiah how to live righteously in today's anti-God culture.
John calls his study God's Word to an ungodly society. Now, if you have been challenged by what you've heard in today's lesson, or maybe John's recent studies on spiritual self-examination, dealing with sin, or genuine worship, if those things struck a chord, if you're benefiting from these daily broadcasts, John is here with an important favor to ask. Yeah, and I'm very serious about this, because the favor I want to ask of you is to reach out and say thank you to the people at this radio station that you're listening to. Obviously, we're happy when people call and write grace to you, or when they go to the website and interact there.
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