Saturday, April 04, 2009

GO PREACH TO THE DEAD

Isaiah chapter 6 begins with these words: "In the Year that King Uzziah Died, I Saw the Lord."

Of course, everyone would ask: When did king Uzziah die?

But when you search the Bible, you do not find a reference for the year that King Uzziah died, even though God mentioned it in Isaiah 6:1.

In 2 Chronicles 26:16-21 we find some information about king Uzziah. Uzziah was a God fearing king. Uzziah reigned for 52 years, and he did that which was right in the sight of the Lord.

What does the number 52 bring to your mind?

Yes, there are 52 weeks in a year.

And what has a year to do with anything spiritual?

We find in the Gospel according to Luke that the Lord Jesus said: "He came to preach the acceptable year of the Lord". And for the past 2000 years or so we have been experiencing "the acceptable year of the Lord". In other words, what I am trying to say is that the 52 year reign of king Uzziah was a picture of the entire New Testament period of time.

Then what happened?

For 52 years the Lord was with him. But at the end of his 52 years he suddenly became an old fool. We read in 2 Chronicles 26:16-21 these words:

2 Chronicles 26:16
But when he was strong, his heart was lifted up to his destruction (corruption): for he transgressed against the LORD his God, and went into the temple of the LORD to burn incense upon the altar of incense.

2 Chronicles 26:17
And Azariah the priest went in after him, and with him fourscore priests of the LORD, that were valiant men:

2 Chronicles 26:18
And they withstood Uzziah the king, and said unto him, It appertaineth not unto thee, Uzziah, to burn incense unto the LORD, but to the priests the sons of Aaron, that are consecrated to burn incense: go out of the sanctuary; for thou hast trespassed; neither shall it be for thine honour from the LORD God.

2 Chronicles 26:19
Then Uzziah was wroth, and had a censer in his hand to burn incense: and while he was wroth with the priests, the leprosy even rose up in his forehead before the priests in the house of the LORD, from beside the incense altar.

2 Chronicles 26:20
And Azariah the chief priest, and all the priests, looked upon him, and, behold, he was leprous in his forehead, and they thrust him out from thence; yea, himself hasted also to go out, because the LORD had smitten him.

2 Chronicles 26:21
And Uzziah the king was a leper unto the day of his death, and dwelt in a several house, being a leper; for he was cut off from the house of the LORD: and Jotham his son was over the king's house, judging the people of the land.

When Uzziah became leprous, he came under the curse of God: he was corrupting both physically and spiritually. He was cut off from the land of the living.

Isaiah was in shock. It was in this context that Isaiah saw the vision of the Lord.
Please turn in your Bibles to the Prophecy of Isaiah, chapter 6, verse 1

Isaiah 6:1
In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple.

Isaiah 6:2
Above it stood the seraphim: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly.

Isaiah 6:3
And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory.

Isaiah 6:4
And the posts of the door moved at the voice of him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke.

Isaiah 6:5
Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.

Isaiah 6:6
Then flew one of the seraphim unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar:

Isaiah 6:7
And he laid it upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged.

Isaiah 6:8
Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me.

Isaiah 6:9
And he said, Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not.

Isaiah 6:10
Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed.

Isaiah 6:11
Then said I, Lord, how long? And he answered, Until the cities be wasted without inhabitant, and the houses without man, and the land be utterly desolate,

Isaiah 6:12
And the LORD have removed men far away, and there be a great forsaking in the midst of the land.

Isaiah 6:13
But yet in it shall be a tenth, and it shall return, and shall be eaten: as a teil tree, and as an oak, whose substance is in them, when they cast their leaves: so the holy seed shall be the substance thereof.

The year that king Uzziah died was not the year that he physically died and was buried, but it was the year when he became a leper; the year he was cut off from the house of the LORD. That is also a picture of the end of the New Testament period of time when the Church turns apostate, and God brings judgment upon the Church and turns it into a an organization resembling a leper, who is slowly dying because he is being eaten up from the inside by an incurable disease. That was also the condition of the nations of Judah and Israel at that moment in time. That is why Isaiah response was:

Woe is me, for I am undone (Isaiah 6:5)

Like the king goes, so goes the nation. Isaiah did not see God in all His glory, because he would have died. But Isaiah saw God as the Judge of the whole earth. Above Him stood the Seraphim.

Who could stand above God?

No one, not even angels.

How many of you have heard that Seraphim are an order of angels.

You can totally forget that idea. The Bible says: Angels were created to be ministering spirits to people who shall be heirs of salvation. Seraphim do not fit in this category. Seraphim is the plural of a very common Hebrew word "Saraph", which means, "to burn", or "a burning one". The Seraphim, which means "the Burning Ones", represent God burning in His anger for the sin of Uzziah and for the sins of the people of Judah and Israel who are already sliding into apostasy. The posts of the door shook when He spoke.

What was Uzziah's sin?

He wanted to be king and priest at the same time. But in the Old Testament economy the functions of priest and king were separated until the Messiah would come. Only Messiah could be Prophet, Priest and King at the same time. Uzziah did not want to wait for that. Uzziah wanted himself to be a Messiah, and that brought on the Judgment of God. God was burning in anger, as pictured by the Seraphim, the Burning Ones. This is very similar to the apostasy at the end of time: People want to be like God, and they want to take upon themselves the prerogatives that God alone has. They claim that God still speaks through them, but God will only speak on the Last Day.

When Isaiah looked at the throne of the Judge and he saw the Burning Ones, what was his reaction?

"Woe is me, for I am undone". Isaiah saw his own sinfulness in the light of God's holiness. Isaiah saw that he was only a dirty piece of clay, which looked even dirtier in the perfect and bright Light that God is. Isaiah remembered what is written in the Old Testament as well as in the New Testament:

Hebrews 12:29
Our God is a consuming fire. Remember: Mount Sinai burned like a furnace!

This is a dramatic picture of what must happen in the life of anyone who is to become saved. I am not saying that Isaiah was not saved at this point in time, but God wrote it so that we will see the picture that God is painting for us here. Only when we see the Lord Jesus Christ as the Judge of all the earth, will we plead to Him for mercy. Only then will we see Him as Savior. Only when we see in how much trouble we are with God, the Judge, only then can we see the need for a Savior.

The Hot Stone (Isaiah 6:6-7)

Now what do we read in verse 6?

Isaiah 6:6
Then flew one of the seraphim unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar:

The original Hebrew text says: "having a Hot Stone in his hand, taken with tongs from the altar". The Seraph had in his hand a piece from the altar.

What does the altar represent?

It can be shown that the altar represents Christ. The Lord Jesus Christ is represented by the Altar as well as by the Sacrifice that is on the Altar. And the Altar was hot. There was fire on the Altar, representing that the Lord Jesus endured the equivalent of an eternity in Hell for our sins.
And did you notice that it was NOT the Figure who was on the throne who came to Isaiah with the piece from the Altar. One of the Seraphim came to him and touched his lips with this Hot Stone.

Can you see the picture God is painting here?

Christ was subject to the Judge of all the earth, pictured by the Seraph, the Burning One, so that He could pay for all the sins of all those whom the Father had given Him. "Wherefore God also hath highly exalted Him", and made Him both Lord and Judge of the living and the dead. We read in Acts 10:42,

Acts 10:42
And he (i.e. Christ) commanded us to preach unto the people, and to testify that it is he (i.e. Christ) which was ordained of God to be the Judge of quick and dead.

What an enormous sacrifice of love and of grace, that Christ who was ordained to be the Judge Himself, paid the penalty that we owe, and that He made this provision so that we could be saved. Isaiah 6:7 "Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged."

What was the sign of the assurance of pardon?

It was the sign of the Cross, the Hot Stone.

Why this emphasis on the lips in verse 5 and verse 7?

Do you remember what Jesus said?

Matthew 15:11
Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man.

Matthew 15:18
Those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man.

Matthew 15:19
For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies...

Our sins are committed primarily with our mouth. But now, look at the glorious results from the atoning work of the Lord Jesus Christ: Our hearts are cleansed. Now we truly can say:

Here Am I; Send Me (Isaiah 6:8)

Now that our lips and our hearts are cleansed, we are righteous before God and we truly can serve the Lord as His ambassadors.

Is that really our desire?

God said: "Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?"

Is that a rhetorical question?

Of course it is. The Lord Jesus said: "As the Father hath sent Me, so send I you". The primary reason why God has still left us in this world is so that we can reach others with the Gospel of salvation.

The reaction of Isaiah was: "Here am I, send me". This must be the reaction of everyone who has become saved. If we are truly saved there must be an insistent desire in our life that we want to tell others about this wonderful salvation that God has provided. This is Good News that is too good to keep for me alone.

What then do we tell them?

Well, we must start with the fact that God is the Judge of all the earth, and that "He will by no means clear the guilty". Think of all the atrocities that have been committed in the 20th Century.

If God is a righteous God, will He pass by the murders that Hitler and Stalin were responsible for?

Of course not. If God is righteous, He will not pass by any sin, no matter how great or how small. And that means we all are in trouble with God. We all have to pay the wages of our sins. The Bible says what the penalty for our sins is: An eternity in Hell. We need a Savior.

The Lord Jesus Christ has been appointed as Judge. But because He is also the only Savior, we can plead with Him, the Judge, to please have mercy upon us so that we would not end up in Hell. The wonderful thing is that the Lord Jesus has said: "Him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out". If we believe that, we keep pleading for mercy and trust that He will hear us.

What would it take for Christ to set us free?

He, the Judge, would have to become like the Hot Stone from the Altar, which means He would have to endure Hell for us, in our place, and satisfy the righteousness of God for every last one of our sins; for all my sins and for the sins of everyone else whom He came to save. He already did that on Calvary's Cross, and He promised that everyone for whom He paid their sins, would believe on Him and trust that all their sins have been paid.

Therefore, if you believe on the Lord Jesus Christ you will not end up in Hell, but you will be saved and spend eternity in the presence of God as one of the sons of God.

God said to Isaiah: "Go, and tell this people" (Isaiah 6:9, Ephesians 2:3)

This was wonderful news, and Isaiah's heart was jumping for joy to tell this Good News to his people. Now he was commissioned to go. But God had a few more things to say:

"Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not (lit: know not). Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes".

It is as if God is saying: "Isaiah, go and tell this people, but they will not understand your words, and they will not know what you have seen, because their heart is sluggish and fat, and their ears heavy, and their eyes are closed. They are spiritually dead. Isaiah, go preach to the Dead."

Now, that is not very encouraging!

Why would God say this?

There are at least three good reasons why God said this. In the first place, this is generally true. When we preach the Gospel to the unregenerate world, we are preaching to the spiritually dead. They are unable to respond and believe the Gospel, because they are dead. That is the condition of the whole human race when we came into this world. That is also the condition of those for whom Christ suffered and died. God says in Ephesians 2:3,

Ephesians 2:3
Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.

We were dead in trespasses and sins, and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others who never become saved. We were not interested in this glorious Gospel just like others who never become saved. Spiritually we were as dead as dry bones. That is why God invented the principle of election. Before the foundation of the world God chose whom He wanted to save out of the whole human race, and He saved them from their sins by nailing the Lord Jesus Christ on the Cross of Calvary. If God did not elect people unto salvation, if God would leave it up to us to repent and turn to Him, nobody would be saved. NO, NOT ONE. Isaiah, go preach to the Dead.

What a terrible disappointment it might have been to Isaiah to hear this bad news. What a terrible disappointment it might be to us who are willing to "Go and tell this people". But look at it from a different vantage point: How wonderful it is when we tell people the Gospel: we do not get the credit, but we do not get the blame either. Only God gets all the credit. Only God receives all the glory when any soul is made alive. And that is how it should be. To God be all the glory.

People with a fat heart, heavy ears, and shut eyes remind us of the words of Jesus.
This is the second reason why God said these words to the Prophet Isaiah. Isaiah was hearing the blessed voice of the Lord Jesus. When the Lord Jesus was teaching the Jews the mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven in Matthew 13, He taught them 8 parables which all 8 were dealing with the principle of election and predestination.

And when His disciples came to Him, and asked Him: "Why speakest Thou unto them in parables?"

Why don't You speak to them plainly?

The Lord Jesus answered:

Matthew 13:11
He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given.

The Lord Jesus said to His Disciples: "It is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given." You are the privileged few to whom I will explain the mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven, but to them that privilege has not been given. And then the Lord Jesus repeated the words that we found in Isaiah 6:9-10,

Matthew 13:13
Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand.

Matthew 13:14
And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive:

Matthew 13:15
For this people's heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.

God repeats here these words from Isaiah, which are also repeated in Jeremiah, and in Ezekiel, and in John, and in Acts, and in Romans, and a few more places.

Do these words specifically apply only to the nation of Israel?

NO. These words apply to the whole human race. God is laying down the principle that NO ONE, by his own wisdom, can understand the Word of God unless God the Holy Spirit gives him that wisdom. We find that most clearly stated in 1 Corinthians 2:14,

1 Corinthians 2:14
But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.

The natural man, no matter how smart he is, is unable to understand the things of the Spirit of God, because they are spiritually discerned; they are spiritually hidden, and so without the Light of God the Holy Spirit they remain foolishness to him.

But there is a third reason.

Isaiah asked: "Lord, How Long?" (Isaiah 6:11)

Lord, how long is this spiritual blindness going to persist in this nation?

Would it be until Jerusalem was destroyed and Judah was taken as captives into Babylon?

We can clearly see, that is not so. The Jews returning from Babylon to their homeland became apostate almost as quickly as their forefathers did. When the Lord Jesus was born in Bethlehem, there were very, very few truly saved people in the Jewish nation. Let's read Isaiah 6:11 carefully:

Isaiah 6:11
Then said I, Lord, how long? And he answered, Until the cities be wasted without inhabitant, and the houses without man, and the land be utterly desolate,

When the nation of Babylon destroyed Jerusalem and Judah, were there inhabitants left in the land?

Yes. A few farmers were left in the land. It is true that most of them finally fled into Egypt, but when the Jews returned from Babylon they still found some people living in the land. So the land was not without inhabitant and the land was not utterly desolate.

The question comes again: "Lord, how long will this spiritual blindness be in this nation?"

God says: "until the land be utterly desolate". In other words: Until the end of time. This nation will remain spiritually blind until the end of time. And that is also what we see right now. There is a remnant chosen by grace from the Jews as well as from every other nation in the world. But if you would be evangelizing in the nation of Israel today, you would be arrested and deported immediately. Most of the nation remains in spiritual blindness until the end of time.

This means, there will be no glorious millennium in the future where the Jews would be evangelizing the world. That is an unbiblical idea, which became popular in the 20th Century, but they are contrary to these words from Isaiah 6:11.

Therefore, here is the third reason for the prophecy of verses 9 and 10. Look at verse 12,

Isaiah 6:12
And the LORD have removed men far away, and there be a great forsaking in the midst of the land.

"A great forsaking in the midst of the land" belongs actually to the next verse. A great forsaking is pointing to a great apostasy in the midst of the land, which refers to THE great apostasy in the Church at the end of time.

Lord, I have been praying for my children who have gone astray.
Lord I have been praying for an unsaved spouse.
O Lord, how long is this going to take?

Lord, we know that we are in a time of great apostasy. It does not look very encouraging. Even worse, it looks like an impossibility for them to become saved in these spiritually dark days.

Where are they going to hear the Gospel?

They will not listen to me!

Lord, the true Gospel is being pinched off more and more in all the Churches.

Lord, how long are you remaining silent?

Please send us encouraging news, so that we can go on praying.

These are among many prayers that go up from those who know that we are in the Final Days.

Let's come back to king Uzziah. The Bible does not record that he came to repentance, but let's think this over. He had a wonderful name. Uzziah means: "Jehovah is strength". His life was a picture of the entire New Testament period of time. There were 52 beautiful years, typifying the acceptable year of the Lord, and the Church was really reflecting that Jehovah is strength. Then suddenly, through his own sinfulness, he became a leper, like the Church turning into a cursed leper because of apostasy.

Leprosy is a horrible disease, which is used in the Bible to picture the awfulness of sin. Today there is much commotion about AIDS. But AIDS is nothing compared with leprosy. A person with AIDS is dead in two years, but when in Biblical days a person contracted leprosy, he lived for 9 to 11 years. All this time there was no hope for a cure, and he was an outcast of society. The leprosy bacteria were eating him from the inside out, just like sin. First his fingers and toes were eaten up. Then the bacteria ate up his hands, and his feet, and his nose, and his ears and his lips. His body was full of sores with pus oozing out, creating a horrible stench. The leper had only one future hope: One day he was going to die.

But then, would his suffering be really over, or would he end up in Hell?

He had 9 years time to think about his sins and about his relationship to God.

Don't you think that Uzziah would have prayed: O Lord, how long?

Don't you think that Uzziah would have repented of his sin?

He had no one to blame but himself. Isaiah may have told him that there is forgiveness with the Lord for all who come to Him with a broken and a contrite heart.

How much does it take to break the pride of king Uzziah?

God took away everything he had, so that the only thing he had left was God. Isaiah would have told him that our God delights in mercy.

The Lord is not slack concerning His promise (Isaiah 6:13, 2 Peter 3:9)

What is His promise?

His promise is that there will be a remnant, chosen by grace, which will be saved. Yes we are in the Final Tribulation Period, but even in these dark days God promised that there would be a remnant, chosen by grace, out of all nations, who will be saved. This is a principle we should keep in mind when we read 2 Peter 3:9,

2 Peter 3:9
The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.

None of those whom God intended to save will perish. Theze are the "us-ward". God will fulfill His promises toward the remnant, the people of His choice. That is what we have to keep in mind when we come to the last verse in Isaiah chapter 6.

When we want to understand Isaiah 6:13, I must inform you of the literal meaning of some Hebrew words in this verse. Remember that the preceding words were:

"A great forsaking in the land", which means a great apostasy in the Church

Isaiah 6:13
But yet in it (in the Church) shall be a tenth (a remnant), and it shall return (to the Lord), and shall be eaten (be burned): as a teil tree, and as an oak, whose substance is in them, when they cast (down) (their leaves:)
so the holy seed shall be the substance thereof.

The remnant shall be burned when they are cast down. The great majority of the organized Churches shall brand them as heretics and as cults. The true Gospel will be silenced. But the remnant will be safe, because the Holy Seed, which is Christ, shall be the substance thereof.

We pray not for ourselves, but we pray for our family

God says: pray without ceasing.

Lord, not my will, but Thy will be done. That prayer is the heavy part.

But God will certainly fulfill His promises. God knows what He is doing.

By Alfred J. Chompff

No comments: