søndag 24. april 2016

Isaiah 50:1-52:6 Why do we suffer?

Isaiah 50:1-52:6

One day the children do not come back from school. Instead, a policeman arrives at work and takes you to the police station. The government has decided that you are a threat to your children and has taken them away to protect them.

You’re unfaithful to the one you love. You are wracked with guilt over your sin, but can’t seem to stop.

You lose your temper too quickly, you are impatient, you lash out. You hurt the ones you love.

Every evening you sit at home watching pornography. You are desperately lonely but can’t seem to make a relationship work.

A man divorces his wife. Now he lives with another woman while sharing the custody of his kids. Life is difficult trying to juggle the demands of the ex-wife, the new girlfriend, and all the kids.

An unmarried woman has sex and then falls pregnant. Ashamed, she decides to abort her baby. And now is wracked with guilt.

One day you’re happily working in the fields outside your home when helicopter gunships come over and firebomb your village. You run for your life.

A man stands up for Jesus – and is thrown in jail, into a hole in the desert.

A man takes a stand at work – he will not lie. He is fired.

Your friends or your family know you’re a Christian and constantly make little jokes at your expense, making you feel foolish. Your family keeps saying things like “you’ll grow out of it soon”.

Those little stories are true in most churches in most places in the world, and they are probably true here.

Why do we suffer? Why are our lives often such a mess?

The first reason we suffer is the one we least want to hear: We suffer because of our sin.
The second reason we suffer is because of other people’s sin.
But Jesus dealt with our sin by suffering in our place.

1. We suffer because of our sin

50:1 This is what the Lord says: “Was your mother sent away because I divorced her? Did I sell you as slaves to my creditors? No, you were sold because of your sins. And your mother, too, was taken because of your sins.

The “mother” is Jerusalem, the capital city. It lies in ruins. The people of Israel are in a foreign country, Babylon, taken there as prisoners of war. It was not a great time to be an Israelite.

Why? Why O Lord are we suffering? Do you have no power? Are you defeated?

2 Why was no one there when I came? Why didn’t anyone answer when I called? Is it because I have no power to rescue? No, that is not the reason! For I can speak to the sea and make it dry up! I can turn rivers into deserts covered with dying fish. 3 I dress the skies in darkness, covering them with clothes of mourning.

It was not a lack of power that lead to them being taken to Babylon. The Lord was not defeated. It is not His fault that they are suffering – it is theirs. No, you were sold because of your sins. And your mother, too, was taken because of your sins.

It is blunt. It is straightforward. It is the truth. And we don’t like it.

Because we like to blame everybody else for our situation, don’t we? It wasn’t my fault, she said... he did... my parents didn’t.... And so on. And the big one: God did... or God didn’t... do something so I had to sin, there was no other choice.

We make bad choices and then suffer the consequences of what we have done. Israel turned their back on God, disobeyed his word, lived their way and not his way – and then cried out “Why O Lord” when things went wrong.

How often are we the same?

We don’t trust God with money. We don’t give. We’re not generous. And we find we’re always scrabbling for money. Always short. Always trying to protect the little we have but finding it runs through our fingers.

Or relationships! We have sex before we’re married. We move in together with no thought, no plan. We have sex with other people, people we’re not even together with. This creates problems!
In fact it is abuse. We are abusing the women we are sleeping with if we are not committed to them. It’s abuse even if they are willing. It’s abuse because we are using them as tools for sexual stimulation instead of viewing them as whole people, as women made in the image of God.
Pornography is the same. You are watching people being abused for your pleasure. Next time you watch porn, look into their eyes. See them as men and women made in the image of God.

Why, why should we stop with pleasurable experiences? As we’ve seen in Isaiah so far – because it is an idol, and idols fall. Remember the Babylonians running away with thtier idols. And because we love the Lord! We stop sinning because he is our all in all. He is our source of greatest pleasure, of deepest joy! Why should we fiddle about with sin when we have the glory of God to experience? The gospel is incredible – that He should give his life for me. That I should know him not just as God at a distance but His Spirit lives within me. I am His and He is mine. He knows me perfectly, intimately, I was made for him and He is my everything. And no matter what I do He loves me and he showed that once and for all by dying in the cross in my place. What have we to compare with that? There is nothing in the world that can compare with being completely known – everything the good the bad, the brilliant, even the worst parts of us – he knows us ... and he says “I love you”.

You see, Israel forgot their God. 2 Why was no one there when I came? Why didn’t anyone answer when I called?

They didn’t have their eyes fixed on him.

There’s a song called “Walk on Water” by Audio Adrenaline which has these words. If I keep my eyes on Jesus I can walk on water. I’ll be alright when the wind blows, I’ll be alright when the waves come crashing, I’m not afraid no, no, for this is my Father’s world.

Why do we forget this? Why do we so quickly take our eyes off Him and sink. Down into sin and suffering. So, much of our suffering is our own sin, our own disobedience.

And the challenge to Israel 2600 years ago is the same challenge to us. Will we repent? Will we take ownership of what we have done? We will admit to ourselves that we are the reason for our suffering, for our lives being in a mess. We have not responded the way we should have. We have not followed in Jesus’ footsteps. We have not kept our eyes on him.

Dear friends, I am so grateful that our gospel is not fix yourself up. It is not pretend that you are a decent person. It is not cover up your sin and put on your Sunday best and fake it til you make it.

No, it is brutally, painfully honest about who we are. But oh what a joy to not have to pretend, to cover up, to put on a fake smile. The relief in being able to say, yes I am a sinner, and I have sinned.

That is part one of the gospel. I am a sinner. And oh the glory of part two: I am forgiven in Christ. We might be greedy, angry, selfish, sexual sinners. But we are loved with a love that is unbreakable, that is guaranteed by Christ on the Cross.

So this morning start by admitting your sin before the Lord. We normally do this after the service, but I’m going to ask us to do it now. Let’s take a few minutes to confess our sin to the Lord. Just quietly, between you and God. I am a sinner. I need your grace.

<< 2 minutes >>

Let’s pray the confession together:
ALL: (5) Almighty God, our Heavenly Father, we have sinned against you in what we have done, said, thought, and left undone.

We repent of our sin. Have mercy on us, most merciful Father. Amen.

Alright. Point 1 was this: We suffer because of our sins. I suffer because I am a sinner.
That is the beginning of the Christian life, and it is the continuation of Christian life. Every day we need to confess our sin, and receive his grace. Don’t believe the lie. Instead, confess your sin.

But there is a second reason for our suffering. We suffer because of our own sin, but we also suffer because of other people’s sin.

2. We suffer because of other people’s sin

4 The Sovereign Lord has given me his words of wisdom, so that I know how to comfort the weary. Morning by morning he wakens me and opens my understanding to his will. 5 The Sovereign Lord has spoken to me, and I have listened. I have not rebelled or turned away. 6 I offered my back to those who beat me and my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard. I did not hide my face from mockery and spitting. 7 Because the Sovereign Lord helps me, I will not be disgraced. Therefore, I have set my face like a stone, determined to do his will. And I know that I will not be put to shame.

This is the cry of the servant of God. He comes with his words of wisdom – God’s wisdom – and it’s thrown back in his face. He comes with words of comfort and they beat his back and pull out his beard.

Some of us have been through that. Maybe not physically, but that’s what it FEELS like. People rejecting us just because we follow Christ. Sometimes going out of their way to be downright nasty to us. Sometimes even threatening us with violence or even death. And yes, some people even in this church have been threatened with death for believing in Christ.

But often, you know, there’s no big religious reason. They don’t really care what you believe – they just see you as a target to pick on. People – sometimes we suck. We’re just nasty. Watch kids on the playground. Hah, you’re different.

Probably many attacking Isaiah were just jumping on the bandwagon – haha, make fun of the weird prophet. I’m reading through Acts with my kids and when Paul was in Ephesus a riot broke out. And it says that most people didn’t even know why they were there! Just an excuse to go wild.

We’re sinners – any excuse to sin! Those around us are sinners. Those we live with are sinners. And sinners sin. And we suffer because of their sin. Just like our sin affects others – hurts them, makes their life miserable – so their sin affects us.

The lying wife. The disobedient child. The cheating boss. The unfaithful friend. The sharp words said in anger which cut us deep. Being left out. Being laughed at.

How do we respond? Well, how does the servant respond? 7 Because the Sovereign Lord helps me, I will not be disgraced. Therefore, I have set my face like a stone, determined to do his will. And I know that I will not be put to shame.

We put our trust in Him. We know that he is faithful. We know that He treats us, sinners, with love and grace and mercy. And so we treat others, when they sin against us, with the same love and grace and mercy.

We set our face like stone, determined to do his will. We trust God. We get our security and significance from Him. Even when we stand alone, we are not alone because He is with us. Even when the one we love cuts us deep with her words we respond not with sinful rage but with patient correction, with strong love because we belong to Him.

Why? Because He suffered in our place. He knows what it is to suffer. He knows what it is to experience people sinning against him. And he responded in love. He came to suffer in our place.

3. Jesus suffered in our place

7 Because the Sovereign Lord helps me, I will not be disgraced. Therefore, I have set my face like a stone, determined to do his will.

Luke 9:51 When the days drew near for [Jesus] to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. (ESV)
It is hard unyielding determination. Jesus will not be swayed from his mission. He will go to Jerusalem, he will go to his death in order to rescue the world. He will not be stopped. His face set like stone. The Servant of God in action.

6 I offered my back to those who beat me and my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard. I did not hide my face from mockery and spitting.
Jn 19:1–3 Then Pilate had Jesus flogged with a lead-tipped whip. 2 The soldiers wove a crown of thorns and put it on his head, and they put a purple robe on him. 3 “Hail! King of the Jews!” they mocked, as they slapped him across the face.

Jesus offered his back to the whip, his face to those who struck him. He did not hide from mockery as they spat at him. His face was set like stone. He will follow through. He will obey his Father, no matter this cost. This is what it means to follow Jesus. We follow in his footsteps, even to death.

51:17 Wake up, wake up, O Jerusalem! You have drunk the cup of the Lord’s fury. You have drunk the cup of terror, tipping out its last drops.
22 This is what the Sovereign Lord, your God and Defender, says: “See, I have taken the terrible cup from your hands. You will drink no more of my fury. 23 Instead, I will hand that cup to your tormentors, those who said, ‘We will trample you into the dust and walk on your backs.’ ”

Mt 26:36–46 Then Jesus went with [his disciples] to the olive grove called Gethsemane, and he said, “Sit here while I go over there to pray.” 37 He took Peter and Zebedee’s two sons, James and John, and he became anguished and distressed. 38 He told them, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” 39 He went on a little farther and bowed with his face to the ground, praying, “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.”
40 Then he returned to the disciples and found them asleep. He said to Peter, “Couldn’t you watch with me even one hour? 41 Keep watch and pray, so that you will not give in to temptation. For the spirit is willing, but the body is weak!” 42 Then Jesus left them a second time and prayed, “My Father! If this cup cannot be taken away unless I drink it, your will be done.”

Jesus drank the cup of suffering, the cup of the Lord’s fury that we, like Israel, like the disciples, deserved. But instead, he drank it.

It is like the bodyguard seeing the bullet heading towards the president, and he jumps in front of it. Bang. The bullet hits him instead of the one it was meant for.
It is the man who stands up in a hostage situation and says “No, take me instead”.

That is the sacrifice Jesus made, but oh so much more. He drank the cup we could not drink, he took the punishment we deserve for our sins, so that we could be free. Free! Free to know him, to worship him, to love him as we should. Glorious freedom!

Because of Jesus’ work, because he drank our cup, we can say:

Is 52:1 Wake up, wake up, O Zion! Clothe yourself with strength. Put on your beautiful clothes, O holy city of Jerusalem [O holy people of Rock International Church], for unclean and godless people will enter your gates no longer. 2 Rise from the dust, O Jerusalem. Sit in a place of honour. Remove the chains of slavery from your neck, O captive daughter of Zion.

We are free!

Brothers, let us take responsibility for our sin. Acknowledge our sin as we repent. I am a sinner, and so are you.

And I will not lash out at other sinners but will respond like Christ. Christ who set his face like stone. Christ who drank my cup of judgement. Because I am free. Free to be like Him. Free to follow him… to turn away from sin, and obey Him, for He is with me, and He will not let me down.

mandag 18. april 2016

Isaiah 48-49 God’s surprising plan: His Servant who will save the world.

MP3 link

Isaiah 48-49

(God saves rebellious sinful people through his servant)

What does 49:26 tell us about God? Does it challenge your view of God? Discuss.

We must allow the Bible to change our view of God. Debby has been meeting with the Jehovah’s Witnesses. They may as well have been reading two different books. Every time there’s something that goes against their theology, their idea of God, they just ignore it or explain it away. We must not do that! Otherwise we can end up worshiping an idol – a parody of God. God is bigger than our framework, our idea of him. We need to keep asking the question: “Where do you find it in the text?” We need to learn to read what they Bible actually says, not what we think the Bible says, or what we want the Bible to say.

We need to see ourselves and to see God as the BIBLE describes. Only the Bible is the revealed word of God. Only the Bible is untouched by sin. Only the Bible is God’s word written so that we can know Him.

Do you read your Bible?

My challenge to you is to start reading the Bible every day. If you have kids read it with them. Great way to get started.

Right, let’s jump into these chapters and widen our view of the God that we serve!

1. The sinful idolatrous people of God are disciplined and saved

2. The Lord has saved his people in the past – he can save his people today

3. The Lord saves through his Servant King

1. The sinful idolatrous people of God are disciplined and saved

Is 48 “Listen to me, O family of Jacob, you who are called by the name of Israel and born into the family of Judah. Listen, you who take oaths in the name of the Lord and call on the God of Israel. You don’t keep your promises, 2 even though you call yourself the holy city and talk about depending on the God of Israel, whose name is the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.

Oh, oh, oh. I read these verses and I see myself here! How often do I TALK about depending on the Lord, the LORD of Heaven’s Armies – and yet when tested, I run to depend on myself. I shrink back in fear.

I don’t trust that God is in control. I have to keep reminding myself to trust him – and that trust is seen in obedience.

Why didn’t Israel obey the Lord? Why don’t WE obey the Lord?

Because we think he doesn’t see the evil we are doing.
Because we think he’s not in control so we’ve got to help him out (cheating, cutting corners, telling “white” lies)
Because we think His ways are not best – my solution is the best (lying, headship, divorce, porn, disciplining children, etc.)

4 [Our] necks are as unbending as iron. [Our] heads are as hard as bronze.
We stubbornly resist God’s will. We want to do our own will. So much so that we ignore the work of God around us.

5 That is why I told you what would happen; I told you beforehand what I was going to do. Then you could never say, ‘My idols did it. My wooden image and metal god commanded it to happen!’

God does something and we say I did it. We forget to thank God. We don’t praise him. That was Israel. That is us.

So what does God say to his people as they rebel against him?

1. V10 Discipline: I have refined you, but not as silver is refined. Rather, I have refined you in the furnace of suffering.

2. V11 Salvation: I will rescue you for my sake— yes, for my own sake! I will not let my reputation be tarnished, and I will not share my glory with idols!

God’s discipline is often just allowing us to experience the consequences of our decisions. He lets us do what we want! Things do not go well when we rebel against God. When was the last time you sinned and thought “I’m so GLAD I did that.”?


It always brings pain. God doesn’t tell us to obey him just so he can get thrills – ooh they obey me! He tells us to obey him because that’s how life was created to work. That brings deepest pleasure, deep joy.

17 This is what the Lord says— your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: “I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is good for you and leads you along the paths you should follow. 18 Oh, that you had listened to my commands! Then you would have had peace flowing like a gentle river and righteousness rolling over you like waves in the sea.

Disobeying God brings pain. It’s like gravity – jump off the roof – ah for a moment it seems like you’re free from gravity, no consequences for disobeying gravity. Then crunch. We understand this physically. But it is the same morally and spiritually.

And some of us are slow learners, we need to be refined in the fire of suffering. Anyone here who finds they tend to disobey and need to be refined in the fire of suffering? Or am I the only one?!

When we rebel against God we experience his discipline. But if we are his people, we also experience salvation.

V11 God says I will rescue you. That in itself is amazing. But look at the reason he gives. Look at v11. What’s the reason? Because you’ve tried really hard… no. Because you’ve really had faith. No. Because you’ve turned over a new leaf and been really good. No. Because you live in Norway, the luckiest country in the world… no. for my sake (says the Lord in v11)— yes, for my own sake!

That gives us great confidence doesn’t it? Because our salvation like Israel’s salvation is not dependant on us. It is mercy from God, based on God, for God’s sake. It is not dependant on us. In fact it has very little to do with us. We just get blessed. Wow.

And this mercy runs through our whole life. So if you’re sitting here this morning knowing that you have sinned against God.... that would be all of us to varying degrees. If you’ve sinned against God know that you can be forgiven. No matter what you’ve done, no matter if you’ve even rejected the Lord again and again. You might have been acting towards God with a head of bronze – hard, stupid. And God can forgive you. Why? Because it’s not for your sake, based on what you have done. It is for God’s sake, for his glory, based on Him. So be confident that he can save.

The sinful idolatrous people of God are disciplined and saved. And that salvation we can depend on, because the Lord is powerful to save.

2. The Lord has saved his people in the past – he can save his people today

12 “Listen to me, O family of Jacob, Israel my chosen one! I alone am God, the First and the Last. 13 It was my hand that laid the foundations of the earth, my right hand that spread out the heavens above. When I call out the stars, they all appear in order.” 14 Have any of your idols ever told you this? Come, all of you, and listen: the Lord has chosen Cyrus as his ally. He will use him to put an end to the empire of Babylon and to destroy the Babylonian armies. 15 “I have said it: I am calling Cyrus! I will send him on this errand and will help him succeed. 16 Come closer, and listen to this. From the beginning I have told you plainly what would happen.

God does not beat around the bush with proving that he can save! This is not something we just have to blindly believe just have faith as if faith is something brainless. He shows us time and time again – evidence that He and He alone can save.

Look at the Israelites. They sinned against God and so Babylon sweeps in and takes them off into captivity. But God has not forgotten them. Even though they have sinned and rejected Him He has not rejected them. He will show mercy. And so He calls up Cyrus – a pagan unbelieving king. He raises a whole empire, with Cyrus at its head, in order to rescue his people

Is there anything God cannot do?

And we know this happened just as he promised. Cyrus arose, the Medo-Persian Empire swept into Babylon, and the people of God were set free. Just. As. God. Said.

How do we know what someone will do in the future? How do we know how they will act? Well, we look at how they’ve acted in the past? A friend of ours is a known liar – when he says “I’ll pay you back I promise” what do we think. Yeah right. That money’s gone. But when someone who always keeps their promises say “I’ll pay you back” we know it will happen.

Past actions predict future actions. People don’t change (unless the Holy Spirit gets involved – then people change! As we know very well in this church!). But apart from a miracle work of God, past actions predict future actions.

And God is the same. His past actions predict his future actions. He is not an idol, empty words, powerless to act. He says 3 Long ago I told you what was going to happen. Then suddenly I took action, and all my predictions came true.

In fact the whole way through these chapters again and again God reminds us that his words come true. “I have said” - and it happens. His power, his absolute power to make his words happen – that is what defines him as GOD - rather than, say, an idol.

It is no surprise that when Jesus was exactly the same. What he spoke happened. Whether it was speaking to the wind and the waves, or to demons, or predicting his arrest, crucifixion and resurrection from the dead – everything he said came true.

His words are true. His words are power.

So when he says he can save, he can save! And we know he can save because he’s shown us in the past. He has saved in the past, so he will save now, and he will save in the future.

But how does God save?

3. The Lord saves through his Servant

Is 49:1 Listen to me, all you in distant lands! Pay attention, you who are far away! The Lord called me before my birth; from within the womb he called me by name. 2 He made my words of judgment as sharp as a sword. He has hidden me in the shadow of his hand. I am like a sharp arrow in his quiver. 3 He said to me, “You are my servant, Israel, and you will bring me glory.”

So chapter 49 opens like chapter 48, with the command to LISTEN! But this time it is not just Israel who are called to listen, but those in distant lands – those far away. Foreigners, those not God’s people. Gentiles (non-Jews) like us. We are to listen now as God speaks about his servant. Why? Because God’s servant is going to be a light to the Gentiles.

Who is this servant? One called from within the womb. Even before he was born he was called to this work. Unborn babies are people too. So, within the womb he’s called by name. He’s called to bring words of judgement, a sharp arrow. And in v3 he’s identified as Israel.
But Israel’s a complete failure! God just described them as people with heads like bronze. And a few chapters back (42:18) Israel was described as deaf and blind. Very unflattering! Hmm. Let’s read on…

4 I replied, “But my work seems so useless! I have spent my strength for nothing and to no purpose. Yet I leave it all in the Lord’s hand; I will trust God for my reward.” 5 And now the Lord speaks— the one who formed me in my mother’s womb to be his servant, who commissioned me to bring Israel back to him. The Lord has honoured me, and my God has given me strength.

V5 confirms our suspicions. Not Israel – but someone one of Israel, from Israel, sent to Israel to bring Israel back to God.
Perhaps someone like... Isaiah. A prophet, from Israel, sent to Israel. Not surprising he says “My work seems useless”. Israel are rebellious, heads like bronze, and things have got so bad that they’ve been booted out to Babylon! This was probably Isaiah’s heart cry as he saw where things were headed. My work seems useless.

Sometimes we feel like that don’t we? Maybe with other people, often with ourselves.
I will never be able to obey God in this area. It’s hopeless.

Israel will never turn back to God, will never be able to bless the world like God promised to Abraham. It’s hopeless. But what does this faithful servant say in v4 Yet I leave it all in the Lord’s hand; I will trust God for my reward.

Php 1:6 And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns. Php 2:13 For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.

Even when things seem hopeless – God is at work. When we see our own power, when we see our circumstances, sometimes it does look hopeless ... but for God. As long as the Lord is on the throne there is hope.

5 The Lord has honoured me, and my God has given me strength. 6 He says, “You will do more than restore the people of Israel to me. I will make you a light to the Gentiles, and you will bring my salvation to the ends of the earth.”

Lk 2:30–33 I have seen your salvation, 31 which you have prepared for all people. 32 He is a light to reveal God to the nations, and he is the glory of your people Israel!” 33 Jesus’ parents were amazed at what was being said about him.

Jesus is the light to the Gentiles, to us. Jesus came not as a mighty King but humble, despised and rejected by his own people and by the might of Rome. 7 despised and rejected by the nations. Jesus was crucified by Jews and Gentiles together, a lowly servant – a carpenter from a backwater village Nazareth. “Did anything good ever come from Nazareth” people said.

He came as a nobody, but He, Jesus, is the King of Kings. v7 continues “Kings will stand at attention when you pass by. Princes will also bow low because of the Lord, the faithful one, the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you.”

And what will this Servant greater than Kings do?

8 This is what the Lord says: “At just the right time, I will respond to you. On the day of salvation I will help you. I will protect you and give you to the people as my covenant with them. Through you I will re-establish the land of Israel and assign it to its own people again. 9 I will say to the prisoners, ‘Come out in freedom,’ and to those in darkness, ‘Come into the light.’

He will save us.

So 13 Sing for joy, O heavens! Rejoice, O earth! Burst into song, O mountains! For the Lord has comforted his people and will have compassion on them in their suffering.

Dear friends, let us have confidence that even though our necks have been like iron and our foreheads like bronze. Even though we have sinned against God time and time again – we can be forgiven. He forgave the Israelites. He can forgive us. In and through Jesus, the humble King, the Suffering servant, the one who came to die in our place in order to bring his people – us – back to God.

Let us sing and shout with joy. This is awesome news. The new creation will echo with this word of praise. Our lives shout aloud that Jesus is our Lord. That he has saved us. Let us live out loud – obedient to him, and sharing the good news that God can save his people. Who can you share this with?

Think now, in a moment of quiet of one person you can share this joyous news with. God can save you. Yes you. No matter what you’ve done.

1 minute

Now as we go into confession, let us think about our own lives where we have had heads like bronze, and confess our sins to God, knowing that he is faithful to forgive us.

søndag 3. april 2016

Isaiah 44:6-45:25 There is only one God

Isaiah 44:6-45:25

10 Who but a fool would make his own god— an idol that cannot help him one bit? 11 All who worship idols will be disgraced along with all these craftsmen—mere humans— who claim they can make a god. They may all stand together, but they will stand in terror and shame.

False gods – idols – are not God

Seems obvious doesn’t it? It kind of goes without saying. But if it goes without saying, then it needs to be said. Because the obvious we somehow forget. Because how often do we worship false gods? Oh, we might not necessarily bow down to idols – little statues, images of “gods” – but every time we sin against God, ignore his word – that’s idolatry. Every time we put something above God and his Word – that’s idolatry. And more often than not that something I put above God and his word is me. I will decide what I will do with MY life.
That is idolatry. We may as well make a little carving of ourselves and bow down to that.

So these verses are really for us! We are all fools, making our own gods. And we will be disgraced.

16 He burns part of the tree to roast his meat and to keep himself warm. He says, “Ah, that fire feels good.” 17 Then he takes what’s left and makes his god: a carved idol! He falls down in front of it, worshiping and praying to it. “Rescue me!” he says. “You are my god!” 18 Such stupidity and ignorance! Their eyes are closed, and they cannot see.

That’s us. Look around and that where most people are in our society. We don’t carve idols out of trees but out of ourselves. We bow down to ourselves. Even worse, what we often do is make an idol out of ourselves – but dress it up in Christian clothes and call it Jesus. How many are sitting in churches claiming to follow Jesus – but following a Jesus of their imagination. An imaginary Jesus. We put our own words in Jesus’ mouth, push our own wills onto him – and then get angry when “he” fails us. That’s what idols do.

We must keep coming back to the Bible. We must challenge our view of God with who he actually is. We are to worship God and God alone, for there is no other. Otherwise we’re just like the idiot going out to chop down a tree, then use half the wood to keep us warm, and the other half we bow down to and say “Oh my god”.

So today I have two points to help us fight the idolatry in our hearts.
1. There is no other God, but God – and he is sovereign
2. There is no other saviour but God’s saviour.

1. There is no other God but God – and he is sovereign

6 This is what the LORD says—Israel’s King and Redeemer, the LORD of Heaven’s Armies: “I am the First and the Last; there is no other God.

There is no other God but God. But who is God? Did you see the word “LORD” there is in capital letters? That represents the letters YHWH – Yahweh or in old translations Jehovah: In other words, the God of Israel. The God who has revealed himself through his interactions with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob (renamed Israel), and the nation of Israel, through to the kings of Israel like David, Solomon, speaking through the prophets like Isaiah, and, perfectly, finally, in the person and work of our Lord Jesus. That is the God we are speaking about. The God who made all things, the God who rules all things, the God who is in control. God.

So he is not just “God”. We cannot just fill the word “God” with whatever we want.

And what does he say: 6 I am the First and the Last; there is no other God.

There is no other like Him. In what way? That he is sovereign, in control of everything. Look at the challenge in v7 Who is like me? Let him step forward and prove to you his power. Let him do as I have done since ancient times when I established a people and explained (the word is proclaimed, declared) its future. V8 Do not tremble; do not be afraid. Did I not proclaim (same word) my purposes for you long ago? You are my witnesses—is there any other God?
No! There is no other Rock—not one!”

What makes God God is his sovereign power. His control over all things, including the future. Who is like me, he says, who can declare the future. This is what will happen.

Now we struggle with this doctrine. Let me just note here that God being sovereign doesn’t mean that we don’t have so-called “free will”. We’re not suddenly robots. We can choose what we want. We have real choice. But he is sovereign over that choice. Both are true at the same time. Like as a parent of small children – they make real choices, but they do your will.

We here in Norway, in the West, we struggle to believe that God is sovereign – to believe that God is God - because we are blessed. Because times are good.
When did Israel fall into idolatry? Was it when they were suffering? No, that’s when they cried out to God – save us! It was in times of plenty, safety, security. They forgot God. Or made him smaller, more manageable, tame. And I see that same arrogance in us, in me. Blessing breeds arrogance. We are not dependent on God (so we think) so we forget that he is sovereign, in control. Our food production we don’t see – we always have enough food. We are warm, we have nice houses, we have luxuries galore. If we lose our job the State pays us. If we get sick the State fixes us.
All these things are blessings from God – but we neither thank him nor think of him. Instead we pat ourselves on the back – how clever we are. God is not really sovereign. He’s not in control. We have done this.

Let me give you a quote from a Christian in a different situation – in Aleppo, Syria, under attack from IS. “The situation in our church is going well. There are many new faces and new people are coming to the Lord. Yes, the burden is getting greater but He is in control and in charge.”

Oh that we in comfort have lost our grip on the Godness of God. Just because we don’t see it.

An American theologian, RC Sproul, puts it like this. “If you don’t believe that God ordains everything that comes to pass, you don’t believe in God. You are an atheist.”
Maybe overstating things a bit to get his students to think, but I think God is making the very same point in these chapters – and indeed, throughout Isaiah. What makes God God is His sovereign rule. His absolute power and control over all things.
He is not an idol, worthless, no power.
He is not a man, limited in his promises because of things outside of his control. Limited power.
He is fully in control, so that when He promises, it happens. Unlimited power.

An idol cannot even make promises. It cannot speak. We give the idol words and sacrifice to it “Oh please let there be good crops” or “oh please let me win the lottery”. It can’t do anything. Why? Because it’s a block of wood! It’s made up.
I make promises, but I break them. I’ll be there at 5 – traffic jam – I’m home at 6. It was outside of my control. Or my own sin. I’ll be faithful to you forever, we promise. How often has that promise been broken?

But God’s word is unbreakable.

Our brothers and sisters facing persecution, those in Syria, in Iran, Iraq, northern Nigeria, India, Pakistan, Sudan – they know the comfort of a sovereign God. In the pain, in the tears, in the heartache and bloodshed and evil of this present darkness God’s unassailable light shines all the brighter. Undimmed, it can never be put out. A sure refuge and hope. I am God and there is no other.

That’s what he’s saying to his people captive in Babylon. Tempted to worship idols. Go with the flow. To not trust him. 24 This is what the LORD says— your Redeemer (saviour) and Creator: “I am the LORD, who made all things. I alone stretched out the heavens. Who was with me when I made the earth?

There is no other God but God, and he is sovereign, in control.

2. There is no other saviour except God’s saviour.

11 This is what the Lord says— the Holy One of Israel and your Creator: “Do you question what I do for my children? Do you give me orders about the work of my hands? 12 I am the one who made the earth and created people to live on it. With my hands I stretched out the heavens. All the stars are at my command. 13 I will raise up Cyrus to fulfil my righteous purpose, and I will guide his actions. He will restore my city and free my captive people— without seeking a reward! I, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, have spoken!”

God’s sovereignty is a source of great comfort to those who are suffering, those who are in danger. Because there is a sure hope. The God who stretched out the heavens has promised that he will be with us, that he will save us. As we saw last week, thinking about the cross and the resurrection, that salvation was bought at great personal cost. He is with us in our pain, not at a distance, but with us. He has been through it himself. Jesus experienced our tears, carried our sin, bore our evil, died our death - and one day he will wipe every tear away, and evil will be no more. And that day is set, set in stone, no even more solid than stone – that day is in the mind of God, promised. And He keeps his promises. There is nothing that can disrupt that. No molecule outside of his control that can have some huge butterfly effect and cause God’s plan to come crashing down. No, all things WILL be brought under his control.

How do we know?

Because he has shown us time and time again that he is in control. And in today’s passage it is that he will save his people, trapped in Babylon, the most powerful Empire on earth. Puh, that’s impossible. Oh really, says God, wait 'til you see this! Then you will know that I am the Lord. I will save you in the most unlikely way.

13 I will raise up Cyrus to fulfil my righteous purpose, and I will guide his actions.

It is a surprising rescue which speaks of God’s awesome power. God raises up this one man, Cyrus, to rescue his people. Notice again God’s absolute control. He is raising up not someone from amongst some nation to eventually hopefully take over – but this specific man from this specific nation at this specific time. God has done this 2 This is what the Lord says: “I will go before you, Cyrus, and level the mountains. I will smash down gates of bronze and cut through bars of iron.

Now I know some of you will be saying Ah but God sees the future and sees what choices people will take and uses that. So God is dishonest? He’s just pretending that Cyrus is doing his will? God was just lucky? Because Cyrus certainly didn’t choose God. 4 Why did I call you by name when you did not know me? And v5 I am the Lord; there is no other God. I have equipped you for battle, though you don’t even know me,

No. The Lord raises up a whole Empire – the Medes and the Persians – with this specific King, Cyrus, to, at the exact right moment, the moment promised by God through the prophet Jeremiah, 70 years after the exile began – Cyrus marches into Babylon and the Babylon Empire falls. And Cyrus immediately decrees that everyone shall go back to their homelands. Including the Jews. All the Jews can go back to Israel, just as God had promised.

All this – the rise of Empires, the emergence of great kings – all for this 4 “And why have I called you for this work? Why did I call you by name when you did not know me? It is for the sake of Jacob my servant, Israel my chosen one.
5 I am the Lord; there is no other God.

God raised the Roman Empire for the sake of the church. There was common written language (Greek), road and shipping network for rapid growth of the church. There was peace and stability in the known world. Everything was ready. Even cruel crucifixion God allowed so that Jesus could be cursed on a tree, crucified, in fulfilment of Deut 21:23 and Psalm 22. An Empire raised for this single purpose: for Jesus to save the world, and for his name to be proclaimed throughout the world for all time.

There is only one saviour, and his name is Jesus. Jesus has paid the price for our sins. Jesus is the reason God says in 44:22 I have swept away your sins like a cloud. I have scattered your offenses like the morning mist. Oh, return to me, for I have paid the price to set you free.”

Only in Christ can you be set free. And only the real Christ. The one who is Lord, sovereign over all things in your life. You cannot pray a prayer “I accept Jesus” and then go along with your life. No, your life is his. We are the pot. He is the potter. 9 “What sorrow awaits those who argue with their Creator. Does a clay pot argue with its maker? Does the clay dispute with the one who shapes it, saying, ‘Stop, you’re doing it wrong!’. He is the sovereign God, the sovereign saviour.

I realise that some of us may have some objections or questions in our minds. Some maybe quite big. That’s great. We’ll have time after communion to address them. But I want to ask you to them aside for a moment as we apply God’s word now to ourselves.
For all of us, Lord, will you put away excuses and objections and distractions and let us hear your voice challenging us.

1. There is no other God, but God – and he is sovereign
Do we believe this? Do we believe that God is in control?

We panic and worry about so many things. For Israel, it was “How are we going to get out of Babylon and back to Israel?” It was impossible. But God already had a plan. He was raising an Emperor at the head of a mighty Empire in order to rescue his people. Could they see that? No. But they believed it when Cyrus marched in and sent them back home! Just as God had said.

But you and I – what do we worry about? Here’s maybe a few things:

Money. Jobs. What if I don’t have enough? Isaiah tells us: Brothers, obey God first. He is in control, even over your job, your finances. Trust him. Start giving to gospel work as an act of trust. If you can’t start with 10%, start with something. You’ll be part of God’s saving work (woohoo), it’ll help the church (woohoo) – but more importantly, it will break the idol of worshipping yourself - of thinking that your job, your income, comes from YOU and YOUR hard work instead of God. What did Jesus say? Lk 12:29–31 “And don’t be concerned about what to eat and what to drink. Don’t worry about such things. 30 These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers all over the world, but your Father already knows your needs. 31 Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and he will give you everything you need.”. Obey God first, and see what he does.

What about Time. Do you trust God with your time? Maybe you’re working so much (or doing other things) that you don’t have time to serve at church (or even BE at church) or even serve your family like you should? Again, brothers, obey God first. Trust Him. Do what is right and leave the rest in his hands.
I made the scary decision to go part-time a few years back in order to plant this church. We didn’t have enough. It made no financial sense. And yet God provided. Again and again. Speak to my parents. Ask them how often God provided when we had nothing. Jesus carries on in Luke 12:32 saying “So don’t be afraid, little flock. For it gives your Father great happiness to give you the Kingdom.”

Money. Time. What about Sex and relationships? Again obey God first. Trust his word on sex, on marriage, on relationships. Honour God first. He does know what he’s talking about. Turn the porn off. Stop sleeping with your girlfriend. Move out if you’re living together. (If you’ve got kids together, maybe find another way to honour God. Daddy moving out might be traumatic). But do something to say I trust that God is sovereign over this area of my life. Do whatever it takes. I’ll be happy to talk confidentially with any of you if you’re wondering what to do in this area.

Whatever it is that we are facing. Obey God first. Daniel – obey God first. Why? Because he is in control.

One final thing. Salvation. Obey God first. He’s in control of salvation too! It’s his gospel. It is only through Christ that we can be saved.
We have seen the sovereignty of God in action in this church. If God were not sovereign I would not have been saved. He rescued me when I was not looking for him. He rescued me when I was busy worshipping an idol – a pretend version of Jesus who never bothered me and never made any moral demands of me and never told me to repent and change my life. Does that sound like the God of the Bible? No, “he” was an idol. And then the real God broke through, and, oh my, he told me to repent!

And many of us here have had the same experience, and we are seeing God at work in our friends and neighbours – isn’t it thrilling? Isn’t it amazing to serve a sovereign God? One who is not limited by past sins, or whether someone is “seeking” or not, or whether they’ve been to church or grew up in a Christian home or anything else. He kicks down the door and says grabs hold of the prisoners and carries them to the rescue helicopter. Get to the choppaa!

21 “Pay attention, O Jacob, for you are my servant, O Israel. I, the LORD, made you, and I will not forget you. 22 I have swept away your sins like a cloud. I have scattered your offenses like the morning mist. Oh, return to me, for I have paid the price to set you free.” 23 Sing, O heavens, for the LORD has done this wondrous thing. Shout for joy, O depths of the earth! Break into song, O mountains and forests and every tree! For the LORD has redeemed Jacob and is glorified in Israel


You might think of God as tinkerer, adjusting a moving train, master manipulator. Then can things go wrong? Can things go so wrong that he can’t bring them back?

Can anything happen that God doesn’t want to happen? IF so, then he wouldn’t be God.

But what about when we choose to do evil. Sin. Turn away. Is that God’s will? Is he sovereign over that? Well, yes. So then I can say ha, God planned for me to do that, so its God’s fault.


God’s will is to let us have free choice.

Gods will is to let us experience the consequences of our actions

God’s will is to limit the consequences of our actions.

God’s will is to show us grace.