12 For our transgressions are multiplied before You,
And our sins testify against us;
For our transgressions are with us,
And as for our iniquities, we know them:
13 In transgressing and lying against the LORD,
And departing from our God,
Speaking oppression and revolt,
Conceiving and uttering from the heart words of falsehood.
14 Justice is turned back,
And righteousness stands afar off;
For truth is fallen in the street,
And equity cannot enter.
Biblical prophecy is often misunderstood, and I suppose it is pastors who are to blame. It's not that pastors and preachers intentionally mislead people about prophecy, but more that they simply do not teach it enough to help people understand it. Those few, rare times that a pastor speaks about Isaiah or Jeremiah or Daniel from the pulpit, they most often speak either about how prophecy was fulfilled in the Person of Jesus or else they preach about the end times. But if we take the time to look at the prophets and see what they wrote, we'll understand something a little different about their purpose.
"Write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after this."
Prophecy deals not just with the things to come, but also with the things which are happening right now, and the things which have happened that have led to the current times. The role of the prophet, therefore, is not only to tell of the future, but also to tell us that we must repent to avoid God's judgment and find His salvation. In writing about our past history of sin and in writing about our current lives of debauchery and injustice, the prophets remind us of how we got where we are, and they contrast the present with either the future of God's terrible judgment or the future of God's loving mercy. If we think times are bad now, we need only look at the prophets to see how much worse they could be if we continue down this road--or else, we need only look at the prophets to see how much better things could be if we would just repent and believe in the gospel.
Today's verses really stood out to me because it seemed to me like Isaiah was writing about our present times. Our sins stand out like a sore thumb:
• Transgressing against the LORD's commandments
• Lying against the LORD and His Word
• Departing from our God
• Speaking oppression of our fellow men
• Speaking revolt from the ways of God
• Conceiving and uttering words of falsehood from our hearts
• Justice is turned back
• Righteousness stands afar off
• Truth is fallen in the street
• Equity cannot enter
No truth, no righteousness, no true equity. Lies, oppression, and hearts set on deceit. We have departed from our God, and yet we ask Him to bless our enterprises. We have rebelled against His righteousness, and yet we ask Him to recognize our own standards of morality as valid and just. We have transgressed the most basic of His commandments in our everyday idolatry and lust, and yet we seek His providence for our land. We have trampled the truth of God in the streets, and yet we claim to love His Son.
So truth fails,
And he who departs from evil makes himself a prey.
Truth--the truth of God's Word, the truth of the gospel itself--has failed in the hearts of men. They have not been liberated by the truth, they have been offended by it. We who stand up for God's righteousness and God's kingdom, we are reviled as backwards and intolerant. We are accused of being unloving. We who are friends of God are seen as the enemies of men. And yet all we seek is the salvation of our friends and relatives, the repentance of all humanity, a return to God's truth and His commandments. Truth fails because we have ALLOWED it to fail, allowed it to be crushed under the hard heel of the boot of secular, "enlightened" philosophies of men.
24 Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves,
25 who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.
And thus we are seeing the further erosion of morality in our society. Yet we wonder why God has departed from us, why there is no justice, why there is wanton greed that threatens to destroy our economy, why there is terrorism and warfare, why the peace of God seems so far from the hearts of men. I am not being facetious when I ask: How can we expect God's blessing when we have ignored God's oldest covenants and also trampled on the cross of Christ? How can we expect God's mercy when we have none ourselves? How can we expect God to pour out His storehouses of grace when we ourselves horde our wealth and seek only our own pleasure? How can we expect God to put any of us first when we have not put HIM first? The truth is that we cannot expect God to bless us, we cannot expect His mercy. And yet...
15b Then the LORD saw it, and it displeased Him
That there was no justice.
16 He saw that there was no man,
And wondered that there was no intercessor;
Therefore His own arm brought salvation for Him;
And His own righteousness, it sustained Him.
17 For He put on righteousness as a breastplate,
And a helmet of salvation on His head;
He put on the garments of vengeance for clothing,
And was clad with zeal as a cloak.
God wondered at our injustice, at the fact that we could not find our way back to Him, and so He clothed Himself for our salvation. The Son of God clothed Himself in innocence and justice and grace, and with great zeal He came to live among men to bring us the salvation of God. But that Redeemer comes only "to those who turn from transgression." (Isaiah 59:20) He comes to those who repent and believe in Him. He comes clothed in righteousness and salvation and, one day, even judgment. But the vengeance of the Lord is against His enemies, and while even God's enemies fear His name, it is only those who love the Lord who will be saved.
18 Behold, the eye of the LORD is on those who fear Him,
On those who hope in His mercy,
19 To deliver their soul from death,
And to keep them alive in famine.
The Lord is watching and listening to us, and He knows every overt and covert thing we do. Nothing is secret from the Lord our God. He knows whether or not the words we speak come from the integrity of our hearts, and He knows whether or not we devise schemes against our fellow men. He knows when we have not placed Him first in our love, and He knows when we have departed from His truth to follow the lies of men. And yet He loves us and seeks to give us hope and a future of peace. (Jeremiah 29:11) His mercy has come among us in the Person of Jesus Christ, and we who would cling to that name must live as though our very lives depended on it--which indeed they do!
Brothers and sisters, we can turn the tide of injustice in this land, and we can return God's truth to its proper place in our everyday lives and in the halls of power. We can stand up and be seen as enemies of men, because God will look upon us as His true children and preserve us. Jesus died to sanctify us before God and to liberate us from the very sins we tolerate in our society. We need no longer live this way! We need no longer allow men to dictate the will of God, to tell us what to believe when every bone in our bodies and every sense of our soul speaks out against the crime of those sins. We need not be silent just because we are afraid to become the prey of those seeking someone to persecute and oppress.
10 "Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake,
For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 "Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake.
12 "Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
13 "You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.
14 "You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.
15 "Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.
16 "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven."
We have an opportunity to make the words of the prophets known to all men, to shine in the world so that the Word of God will bring conviction and repentance. We need not face further calamity in our nation if we would pick up the truth from the street and hold it high as a light before all men. The prophets were not just speaking of future judgment but also of present repentance. Yes, we will be persecuted for a while, and we will be reviled as evildoers and enemies of men. But we who would call on the name of Jesus Christ, if we will stand up for God's way, God's truth, and God's life, then we shall truly be blessed in the end. Therefore, let us join our voices to the prophets' and lift up Jesus Christ for all to see, so that many should come to repentance and so the righteousness of God can once again rule in our land.
Holy Lord God, great is Your faithfulness! When we have departed so far from You, You are yet ready to forgive. When we have transgressed Your commandments, You are yet merciful and gracious. When we were yet sinners, lost in our weakness, You sent Your Son to be sin for us and to die upon the Cross to bring us Your salvation. Therefore, it is to that Cross that we cling, Father God. It is Your salvation that we seek and Your mercy we crave. Lead us into Your justice, Lord, and give us the strength to face persecution and hatred in Your name's sake. Let us be lights in the world for Your gospel, so that the sins of men shall be revealed and repented, so that men and women who seek justice will know that true justice comes only from You, the Lord our God. Let not Your truth be left in the street but exalted among all men. Amen.