From today we enter into the last chapter of Isaiah. This chapter is God’s answer to Isaiah’s prayer of 66:1-5. At the same time it is the conclusion to the whole book of Isaiah.
Isaiah saw Jerusalem destroyed by Babylon and fallen into ruins and he prayed, “After all this, O LORD, will you hold yourself back? Will you keep silent and punish us beyond measure?” (64:12) God answered his prayer with surprising words, “I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me; I was found by those who did not seek me. To a nation that did not call on my name. I said, ‘Here am I, here am I.’” (65:1)
In other words, by this to the Gentiles who until now “did not ask for” (65:1) God, the salvation of God will come. That is unthinkable. This is only by the leading according to God’s eternal plan.
That’s not all. In 65:17 it says, “Behold, I will create new heavens and a new earth.” God is saying that like when in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth, God will create anew by a completely new order a new heaven and a new earth. “The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind.” (65:17) Sadness and crying will disappear. God is saying the He will create such a new heaven and new earth. This is real hope and encouragement. At that time Israel was in a historical crisis of being destroyed by Babylon. Israel was facing a crisis, but God at such a time spoke words of true encouragement and hope.
The last half of the book of Isaiah begins from Isaiah chapter 40. It begins with God speaking, “Comfort. Comfort my people.” (40:1) What the comfort is that a new heaven and earth will come. The old heaven and earth will pass. “The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind.” (65:17) “There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain.” (Rev. 21:14) Such a world will come. This is the real hope.
Then in this chapter 66 as in chapter 65 God’s judgment and blessing are spoken interchangeably like an interwoven net so God’s plan for God’s people becomes clear.
- Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool (Vs. 1)
First please look at verse 1. Here it says, “Heaven is my throne,
and the earth is my footstool.
Where is the house you will build for me?
Where will my resting place be?”
This is the last question from the Lord to Israel. It is a challenge. It is “Where is the house you will build for me? Where will my resting place be?” (1) “The house you will build for me” (1) is the temple in Jerusalem. They believed the temple in Jerusalem was where God was really at and it was filled with God’s Spirit. But here God is saying, “Where is the house you will build for me? Where will my resting place be?” (1) There is no such house anywhere. That’s because “Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool.” (1) You can’t put the creator of the heavens and the earth in such a tiny temple.
On the day the King Solomon dedicated the temple of Israel he prayed in I Kings 8:27, “But will God really dwell on earth? The heavens, even the highest heaven, cannot contain you. How much less this temple I have built!” There is nothing that the creator that created the heaven and earth can fit into. He is saying that no matter how splendid a temple is built, “even the highest heaven, cannot contain” (I Kings 8:27) God.
The reason God is saying this is because at that time among the Israelites there were some people that had the wrong thinking that if they performed the religious rites revolving around the temple, then they would be recognized by God. It can be seen that it held such an important position in the fact that after the Israelites returned from captivity in Babylon the first thing that they did was rebuild the temple. The Jerusalem temple was the central thing in the Jewish faith. To do religious duties was the most important thing. Therefore, it is understandable that they thought that if they did such things, then they would be recognized by God. This is similar to present day Christians that have the misunderstanding that if they attend Sunday worship, they are saved or mistakenly think that if they tithe, and serve in the church they will be recognized by God. Such religious acts are not bad. Rather such acts are natural for Christians. However, if you think you do such acts, then you are holy, that is wrong. Such things can’t make you holy.
Our God does not live in such a temple. God who said, “Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool” (1) does not rest in a house built by human hands. Such things are nothing more just a model of heavenly things. The real thing is not the temple building, but the throne of God in heaven. Therefore, let’s not be deluded by such outward things. We need to understand what things please God and seek those things.
- The ones I look on with favor (Vs. 2)
Then what does God desire? Please look at verse 2. “’Has not my hand made all these things, and so they came into being?’ declares the LORD. ‘These are the ones I look on with favor: those who are humble and contrite in spirit, and who tremble at my word.’” (2)
“All these things” (2) are everything that God has created. “Has not my hand made all these things, and so they came into being?” (2) so “all these things” (2) belong to God.
Therefore, if we give a lot of things to God that doesn’t necessarily mean that God will be pleased. If we build a splendid temple for God it doesn’t necessarily mean that God will live there. God’s “hand made all these things” (2) and all things belong to God. God who is the source of all things doesn’t desire such things, but desires our hearts, ourselves. Here, in verse 2, it tells us what kind of person God desires.
“These are the ones I look on with favor:
those who are humble and contrite in spirit,
and who tremble at my word.” (2)
Those whom God looks “on with favor” (2) are “those who are humble and contrite in spirit, and who tremble at” (2) God’s Word. “Humble and contrite in spirit” (2) is not just being humble. It is to be truly contrite for sin, penitent for it, and in pain to get it pardoned. This is what it means to be “humble and contrite in spirit” (2) Because if you listen to God’s Word with such a humble heart, you really tremble at His word.
When the prophet, Nathan, pointed out to David his sin of adultery with Bathsheba, David humbled himself before God and repented. In Psalm 51 his song of repentance is recorded. He prayed, “Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
blot out my transgressions.
Wash away all my iniquity
and cleanse me from my sin.
For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is always before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight;
so you are right in our verdict
and justified when you judge.
Surely I was sinful at birth,
sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb;
you taught me wisdom in that secret place.
Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
wash me and I will be whiter than snow.
Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones you have crushed rejoice.
Hide you face from my sins
and blot out all my iniquity,
Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me from your presence
or take the Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart
you, God, will not despise.”
David held on to the grace of God. This is the appearance of “those who are humble and contrite in spirit, and who tremble” (2) at God’s word.
“Tremble” (2) means not just to tremble at something fearful; but is trembling in awe of something great. When we listen to the word as the Word of God, it is natural for such a fear or trembling to be born.
God looks with favor on “those who are humble and contrite in spirit, and who tremble at ” (2) His word. They can’t live without the Word of God. They think that they need the Word of God. They have to have the Word of God in order to live. The Word of God only is their living support. They think that God’s Word is the one and only hope. God will definitely not scorn such people.
- Those who have chosen their own way (Vs. 3-5)
The third point is the opposite, about those that don’t listen to God’s Word and chose their own way. Please look at verses 3 to 5. First I will read verse 3. “But whoever sacrifices a bull is like one who kills a person, and whoever offers a lamb is like one who breaks a dog’s neck; whoever makes a grain offering is like one who presents pig’s blood, and whoever burns memorial incense is like one who worships an idol. They have chosen their own ways, and they delight in their abominations.”
These words are criticizing those that have pride in their religious piety and who emphasize the form only, and surficial things and forget spiritual worship and the importance of a proper spiritual walk. No matter how many sacrifices like the Old Testament commands such people make it is nothing more than idol worship. That is because “they have chosen their own ways, and they delight in their abominations.” (3) What they think is more important than what God desires. They insistently follow their own thinking and make sacrifices. They don’t seek to follow the Word of God, but put themselves first. Therefore, no matter how much they dress themselves with piety on the surface, in reality it is idol worship.
This is something that we must be careful about. If we do not humble ourselves and aren’t contrite and don’t follow God’s Word, and insistently follow our own thinking and make our own way by our own thinking, then no matter how zealously we assemble at Christian gatherings, no matter how hard we serve in the church, no matter how much money we give as offerings, God will never be delighted. If we think that if we build a huge church building, then the Lord will be delighted, then that is a big mistake. It is no different from “one who kills a person…breaks a dog’s neck…presents pig’s blood… worships an idol.” (3) That is hypocrisy. That is what God hates the most. Jesus strongly warned the hypocrites. He called them “white washed tombs”. (Matt. 23:27) Even if the outside of the tomb looks beautiful, the inside is full with dead people’s bones and all kinds of filth. Likewise, even though their outsides looked like they were right to other people, their insides were full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.
Of course, this does not mean that they didn’t need the temple. It isn’t saying that the place that we worship the Lord in isn’t important at all. It isn’t saying that we don’t need Sunday worship or we don’t need to give offerings. Such things are important. If they are born as a result of faith, then they are wonderful. When it becomes the goal and following God is slighted, then not only does it have completely no meaning, but you will become the hypocrite that God hates.
Saul who was the first king of Israel didn’t follow God’s Word that was spoken through the prophet Samuel. Samuel was told, “Go attack the Amalekites and totally destroy everything that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys” (I Samuel 15:3) One day Samuel went to King Saul’s. He heard the bleating of sheep and the lowing of cattle. When Samuel asked Saul, “What then is the bleating of sheep in my ears? What is the lowing of cattle that I hear?” (I Samuel 15:14) Saul answered like this. “The soldiers brought them from the Amalekites; they spared the best of the sheep and cattle to sacrifice to the LORD your God, but we totally destroyed the rest.” (I Samuel 15:15)
At a single glance it sounds like its logical, but that was a complete misunderstanding. Saul intended to follow the Lord’s voice but in reality he was following his own thinking.
This is in reality often in us too. While saying that we are following God in reality we act according to what’s good for us. However, that is not what pleases God. Hence, God deprives such people of their throne. Samuel said this to Saul, “Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.” (I Samuel 15:22)
“To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.” (I Samuel 15:22) “Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the LORD?” (I Samuel 15:22) No matter how many sacrifices you make, it is not superior to obeying God. The important thing is not to make conclusions by your own thinking and judgment, not by what is right or wrong, but by following God’s word. Only just be humble and contrite in spirit, and … tremble at ” (2) God’s Word and obey God’s Word. If not, even if it seems that you are performing God’s commission, in reality your faith is based upon your own thinking.
Verse 5 says, “Hear the word of the LORD,
you who tremble at his word:
Your brothers who hate you,
and exclude you because of my name, have said,
‘Let the LORD be glorified,
that we may see your joy!’
Yet they will be put to shame.”
Here it is talking about what happens when you become just religiously enthusiastic. Such people insult, ridicule, and persecute the real believers. “Your brothers who hate you, and exclude you because of my name, have said, ‘Let the LORD be glorified, that we may see your joy!’” (5) This means that the Jews will exclude their “brothers,” (5) Jews, who earnestly listen to the Lord’s Word. They will ridicule these Jews saying, “Let the LORD be glorified, that we may see your joy!”
The Jews who “Hear the word of the LORD… who tremble at his word” will joyfully look forward to the Lord’s glory which the last days will bring. However, the hypocrites will not be like that. They will see such things and insult, ridicule, and persecute. However, in the end such hypocrites “will be put to shame.” (5)
What God desires of you is that you “hear the word of the LORD,” (5) and “tremble at his word”. (5) We mustn’t not listen to God’s Word and just zealously perform religious activity, but “be humble and contrite in spirit, and … tremble at ” (2) God’s Word and obey God’s Word. How about you, are you trembling at God’s Word?
In our life there are two roads. One road is the road of being humble and contrite in spirit, ” (2) and trembling at God’s Word. The other road is your own selfish road. You can’t walk on both of these two roads at the same time. You have to choose one of these two roads. However, depending on which of the two roads you choose, it will for that person bring exactly opposite results. The person that is “humble and contrite in spirit, and … trembles at ” (2) God’s Word, God will settle his eyes on him. In other words, God’s blessings will come. That person will inherit the new heaven and the new earth. However, fear will come to those who walk on the other road, the road of selfishness. The place that these people will arrive at is eternal doom. For them they themselves are god. More than listening and obeying God’s Word, they put their own thinking first. Their hearts are full of idol worship, they enjoy filling their own desires, and they walk in the way that they think is right for them so as a result they invite doom upon themselves. Which road will you choose?
Jesus said this, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” (Matt. 7:13,14)
We always have the temptation to walk on our own selfish road. That road is “broad… and many enter through it.” (Matt. 7:13) Everyone is doing the same things so it seems like it is safer and more enjoyable. However, it “leads to destruction.” (Matt. 7:13) “But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” (Matt. 7:14) However, that road is really the road that leads us to eternal life, the road that brings to eternal glory. ‘These are the ones I look on with favor: those who are humble and contrite in spirit, and who tremble at my word.” (2)
What God desires of us is only that we be “humble and contrite in spirit,” (2) and listen and obey God’s Word. Let’s be such a person. In the course of time God’s glory will come to such a person