I want to take us back, just for a moment, to 2 Thessalonians chapter 1. It really sort of weighed heavy on my heart that this particular portion speaks about a Jesus that most people, even so-called “Christian” people are not familiar with. This is the Lord Jesus mentioned in verses 7, 8, and 9. “The Lord Jesus who will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, when He comes to be glorified in His saints on that day, and to be marveled at among all who have believed – for our testimony to you was believed.”
This is the Jesus that few people know, the One who will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God, do not obey the gospel, and they will pay the penalty of eternal ruin. “Away from the presence of the Lord and the glory of His power” defines that punishment.
The familiar Jesus that people know is the one that’s all love and forgiveness and mercy and kindness. The same Jesus is going to return, as we have been learning, and when He returns, He returns in fiery, furious judgment.
I think it’s important for us to understand that our Lord Jesus is holy. “Holy” – that is exactly the word that I want you to think about. When He was to be born, the angel announced, in Luke 1:35, that He would be a holy child. At His baptism, His Father from heaven said, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”
The writer of Hebrews says about Him and His life, chapter 7, verse 26, “He is holy, innocent, undefiled, separate from sinners.” In Luke 4, the demons confess, “I know You, the Holy One of God.”
The apostle Paul writes, at the beginning of the book of Romans, that God raised Him from the dead to demonstrate His holiness. And in His death, He was a Lamb without blemish and without spot. According to 2 Corinthians 4:6, He is the glory of God in human form. According to Hebrews chapter 1, He is the exact representation of God. He’s the image of God.
It is important for us to understand Jesus as God. And to help us with that, I want to take you back to Isaiah 6. And in this chapter, particularly in verse 3, we hear the seraphim calling out to one another in an antiphonal way, “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of hosts, the whole earth is full of His glory.” The holiness of God must be recognized as the essential character of God. All His attributes come together to become His holiness.
A. A. Hodge, the great theologian, said, “The holiness of God is not to be conceived as one attribute among others. It is rather a general term representing the concept of God’s consummate perfection and total glory. It is His infinite moral perfection crowning His infinite intelligence and power. His infinite moral perfection is the crown of the Godhead. Holiness is God’s total glory crowned.”
Thomas Watson, one of my favorite Puritans, said, “Holiness is the most sparkling jewel of God’s crown. It is the name by which He is known.”
An American Puritan of sorts, R. L. Dabney, said, “Holiness is to be regarded not as a distinct attribute, but as a result of all God’s moral perfections together.”
And in Isaiah 57:15, we read this, “For thus says the high and exalted One who lives forever” – and here’s what He says – “My name is Holy.”
It is holiness that God chooses as His name. It identifies Him more than any other attribute. In other words, to say that God is holy is verbal shorthand for summing up who He is. And who He is primarily is the eternal One who is forever separated from sin and evil. That is to say God is not like us.
The word for holy, in the Old Testament, qadosh in the Hebrew, means distinct or separate. In the New Testament, the Greek word means essentially the same thing. He is separate from evil, separate from sin, and separate from sinners.
God is “other” than we are. Nothing and no one that God has created is like Him. He is incomparable, incomprehensible, unfathomable, inexpressible, unspeakable, infinite holy perfection. And that is why He chooses holiness for His name.
Exodus 15:11, “Who is like You, majestic in holiness?” First Samuel 2:2, “There is no one holy like the Lord, indeed, there is no one like You.”
Habakkuk 1:13, “Your eyes are not able to approve evil; You are too pure, and You cannot look on wickedness.” Job 34:10, “Far be it from God to do wickedness, to do wrong.” First Peter 1:15, “I am Holy.” Revelation 15:4, “You alone are holy.” And there are many, many more statements, but those are representative of how God identifies Himself. Many, many revelations of the holiness of God are laid out in Scripture.
Just to give you a few glimpses, we can see the holiness of God in creation to start with. We can go back to the book of Genesis, and we see the holiness of God there, where in the fact that God makes something on a day, and at the end of the day, He says He looked at it and it was – what? –it was good. And at the end of seven days, Genesis 1:31, “God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good.” “Even man,” Ecclesiastes 7:29 says, “God made upright.” He didn’t create man a sinner.
So, you can see the holiness of God in the fact that His creation is perfect. You could see the holiness of God as well in His law. “The law of God is perfect, converting the soul,” Psalm 19. Romans 7, “The law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous, and good.” Romans 1, “The gospel of God, which He promised in the Holy Scriptures.”
So, the law of God or the revelation of God in Scripture is also holy because it is a manifestation of His holy nature. You can also see the holiness of God in His judgments. All of God’s verdicts, all of His adjudications from the seat of sovereign authority are holy.
Listen to Genesis 18:25. Abraham says, “Far be it from You to slay the righteous with the wicked so that the righteous and the wicked are treated alike. Far be it from You. Shall not the Judge of all the earth do justly?” Second Timothy 4:8 says, “The Lord, the righteous Judge.” God is just and righteous and only just and righteous.
So, you can see the holiness of God in creation, in revelation, in His judgments. And you can even see it in heaven. Glimpses of heaven reveal the holiness of God. For example, in Revelation 4:8, heavens inhabitants “do not cease to say, “Holy, Holy is the Lord God, who was and who is and who is to come.” You can see the holiness of God throughout the revelation of God in many more places than those, but those are markedly important ones.
Now, perhaps the most striking and startling vision of the holiness of God is in Isaiah 6; so, let’s go there. The seraphim in verse 3 say, “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of hosts, the whole earth is full of His glory.” We’re all familiar with that; most of us have sung “Holy, Holy, Holy” for years. That’s called the trihagion. It may well mean Holy is the Father, Holy is the Son, and Holy is the Spirit. It certainly means that holiness is the primary description of God, because no other attribute of God is ever repeated three times. Nowhere does it say He is love, love, love; wisdom, wisdom, wisdom. But it does say He is “Holy, Holy, Holy.”
Now, what is the context for this? The context is very important. So, go back to chapter 5 for a moment. Isaiah is a prophet to the southern kingdom of Judah, and God calls on him to warn them about their sins. They are a very, very sinful people.
Back in chapter 1, verse 4, Isaiah actually begins his prophecy with a revelation from God, “Alas, sinful nation, people weighed down with iniquity, offspring of evildoers, sons who act corruptly! They have abandoned the Lord; they have despised the Holy One of Israel” – again, there’s His name, the Holy One of Israel – “they have turned away from Him.
“Where will you be stricken again, as you continue in your rebellion? The whole head is sick; the whole heart is faint. From the sole of the foot even to the head, there is nothing sound in it, only bruises, welts and raw wounds, not pressed out or bandaged, nor softened with oil.” You are sinful, corrupt people.
And Isaiah’s message is to say to the people, “You must repent, because if you don’t, judgment is coming in the form of the Babylonian army to slaughter you and take people captive, and bring an end to the current nation of Judah for the time being.
In chapter 5, the Lord reveals to Isaiah some very, very specific things – specific sins of Israel for which the nation will be judged. But before those sins are actually spelled out, the chapter 5 begins with a parable. It’s kind of a funeral dirge; it’s a very sad song; it’s a eulogy in the form of a parable. Let me read it to you.
“Let me sing now for my well-beloved a song of my beloved concerning His vineyard. My well-beloved has a vineyard on a fertile hill. He dug it all around, removed its stones, and planted it with the choicest vine. And He built a tower in the middle of it and also hewed out a wine vat in it; then He expected it to produce good grapes, but it produced only worthless ones.
“And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem and men of Judah, judge between Me and My vineyard.
“What more was there to do for My vineyard that I have not done in it? Why, when I expected it to produce good grapes did it produce worthless ones?
“So now let Me tell you what I am going to do to My vineyard: I will remove its hedge and it will be consumed; I will break down its wall and it will become trampled ground.
“I will lay it waste; it will not be pruned or hoed, but briars and thorns will come up. I will also charge the clouds to rain no rain on it.”
So, here is a very sad situation. In the days of Isaiah, the strong hills of Judah were beautifully terraced for vineyards – the valleys for grain, the hillsides for vineyards. It was a very laborious task to produce a vineyard on the side of a hill. You pulled out all the rocks – and there were many – and you used those very rocks to build terraces. Every citizen in Judah was familiar with these beautiful vineyards, terraced all over the hills of Judah, and they understood how hard the farmer worked to make the product that they so much delighted in: the luscious grapes.
Everybody knew that the effort was expected to bring a high return, because this was, after all, the land of milk and honey, and the work, though difficult, would yield a good crop. Every Judean could understand, then, the frustration of this parable of doing everything you could possibly do and having nothing but be’ushim is the Hebrew word – be’ushim, sour berries that are inedible, worthless ones at the end of verse 2 – worthless ones.
Now, of what is he speaking in this parable? Go to verse 7; here’s the explanation. “The vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel and the men of Judah His delightful plant. Thus He looked for justice, but behold, bloodshed; of righteousness, but behold, a cry of distress.” The whole parable is a parable of the Israelites, of the kingdom of Judah.
Now, go back a little bit, what God did for them, when He planted them; He planted them in a very fertile hill: the land of milk and honey in the wonderful, unparalleled land of Israel. He dug it all around, removed the stones. That is to say He removed the Canaanites. He planted it with the choicest vine. Abraham’s descendants were a noble people, and the Jews are still a noble people even this far down the road in history.
He built a tower in the middle of it. The tower, in a vineyard, would be to make sure you had somebody watching so that no one harmed the vineyard. Jerusalem was the tower in the vineyard of Judah, the capital where God put His name and watched over His people. A wine vat was placed there, perhaps referring to the sacrificial system. But God did everything He could do, and all that they produced were sour berries.
So, He asks some rhetorical questions, “What more could I have done?” The answer? Nothing. “Why, when I expected good grapes” – verse 4 – did it produce worthless ones?” There’s no answer. This was Israel given the Law of the Prophets, the covenants, the adoption, the scriptures, the promise of the Messiah – all of that, and they produced nothing but sour berries.
And so, judgment is pronounced as the owner of the vineyard in the parable literally obliterates it; removes its hedge of protection so that it’ll be consumed by animals; breaks down its wall, making it vulnerable. It becomes trampled ground, laid waste, never pruned, never hoed, briars and thorns come up, and a curse of no rain is pronounced on it.
Why all of this? Because God looked for justice and found bloodshed. He looked for righteousness tsedaqah, and instead, a Christ of distress tse’aqah. The simple play on words to say God should have expected one thing, got something else.
So, here is the dilemma: God is about to judge Israel. But he’s not just speaking in general terms; he gets very specific – and I’ll go through this rapidly – but it’s very important. And starting at verse 8, he pronounces woe on them. It’s an onomatopoetic word in Hebrew or even in English. “Ay!”
You got it. It means to curse or damn or consign to judgment. And He penetrates into the sins of Israel and names them. Number one is grasping materialism, verses 8 to 10, “Woe to those who add house to house and join field to field, until there is no more room, so that you have to live alone in the mist of the land! In my ears the Lord of hosts has sworn, ‘Surely, many houses shall become desolate, even great and fine ones, without occupants. And for ten acres of vineyard will yield only one bath of wine, and a homer of seed will yield but an ephah of grain.’”
Insatiable greed. Landowners who literally oppressed others to increase their riches. Wealthy, wealthy men ruthlessly acquiring property, squeezing out the poor and the helpless, and then making them buy at inflated prices, hoarding their possessions. When God is through with them, all those great houses will be desolate; they’ll be empty; there won’t be anybody in them. And all those great fields will produce what essentially is famine conditions: ten acres would produce four gallons of wine. Forty-eight gallons of seed would only produce 4.8 gallons of edible result. Those are famine conditions. Israel has become so materialistic that God is going to judge them right at the point of their materialism. And that happened when the Babylonians came.
Another sin is mentioned, starting in verse 11, beginning with the same word “woe,” pronouncing doom on them. “Woe to those who rise early in the morning that they may pursue strong drink, who stay up late in the evening that wine may inflame them! Their banquets are accompanied by lyre and harp, by tambourine and flue, and by wine; but they do not pay attention to the deeds of the Lord, nor do they consider the work of His hands.”
Probably “the word of His hands” meaning their physical bodies. They engage in drunken pleasure-seeking to the point of basically destroying their own bodies. Self-gratification, good-time Charlies, these are the people who literally live for the party. Second sin is drunken pleasure-seeking. They’re characterized by dissipation.
Verse 13, “Therefore My people go into exile for their lack of knowledge; their honorable men are famished, their multitude is parched with thirst. Therefore Sheol has enlarged its throat and opened its mouth without measure; and Jerusalem’s splendor, her multitude, her din of revelry and the jubilant within her, descend into it.” All of a sudden, for the drunken pleasure seekers, death – like some massive monster – opens its mouth and swallows them up.
“But the Lord of hosts” – verse 16 – “will be exalted in judgment, and the Holy God will show Himself holy in righteousness. Then” – after they’re all gone – “lambs will graze as in their pasture, only strangers will be there eating in the waste places of the wealthy.” Drunken pleasure-seeking will lead to define judgment.
The third woe comes in verse 18, “Woe to those who drag iniquity with the cords of falsehood, and sin as if with cart ropes; who say, “Let Him make speed, let Him hasten His work, that we may see it; and let the purpose of the Holy One of Israel” – again always identified as the Holy One – “let it draw near and come to pass, that we may know it!” What this describes is defiant sinfulness. People laden with so much sin they can’t carry it on their own back. It’s like they were a beast of burden, dragging around a cart. So much sin they have to have a trailer to carry it around in. And it’s defiant. Speaking of God, they say, “Let Him make speed; let Him hasten His work, that we may see it.” Let Him do anything if He wants to. Presumption, defiance toward God, defiantly, literally taunting God. “Go ahead, God. If You don’t like it, stop me, kill me.”
Grasping materialism, drunken pleasure-seeking, defiant sinfulness in Israel – the fourth one is moral perversion in verse 20. “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!” This reversing of all morality, moral perversion, overturning all values, all morals, mocking what is good, exalting what is evil. This is the reprobate mind of Romans 1. This was going on in Israel.
Verse 21, another woe: arrogant conceit. “Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight!” Having rejected God, they have the smirk of self-congratulation. They have become their own gods, professing themselves to be wise and rejecting God, they become fools.
And all of this flourishes because of the sixth woe: corrupt leadership, verse 22. “Woe to those who are heroes in drinking wine” – the word “heroes” means elevated people, leaders – “and valiant men” – or mighty men again refers to men of renown – “in mixing strong drink.” And then these leaders who are into drunkenness, “- also justify the wicked for a bribe” – they’re crooked; they’re corrupt; they can be bribed – “and they take away the rights of the ones who are in the right!” This is corrupt leadership, perverting justice by drink and by bribery.
So, this is Israel. These are their sins. And verse 24 gives their judgment. “Therefore, as a tongue of fire consumes stubble, as dry grass collapses into the flame, so their root will become like rot and their blossom blow away as dust, for they have rejected the law of the Lord of hosts and despised the word of the Holy One of Israel.” When you despise the Holy One of Israel, you come under furious divine judgment.
Verse 25, “On this account the anger of the Lord has burned against His people, and He has stretched out His hand against them and struck them down. And the mountains quaked, and their corpses lay like refuse in the middle of the streets. For all of this His anger is not spent, but His hand is still stretched out.
“And so, He will lift up a standard to a distant nation” – He will whistle for the Babylonians to come; and they will come – “with arrows” – verse 28 – “that are sharp and bows that are bent; and the hoofs of their horses are like flint and chariots wheels like a whirlwind. They roar like a lioness, like young lions; they grow as they seize their prey and carry it off with no one to deliver. And they will growl over the land of Judah in that day like the roaring of the sea. If one looks to the land, behold, there is darkness and distress.” So the chapter ends with divine judgment fulfilled in the captivity.
What kind of God does this? What kind of God reacts – well, we already had preview after preview after preview in what I just read you: the Holy One, the Holy One, the Holy One, the Holy One.
Isaiah is profoundly affected by this vision in chapter 5. So in chapter 6, he goes to the temple, and I believe that’s where this vision occurred. And it’s the year that King Uzziah died. King Uzziah had been monarch in Judah for 52 years – 52 years. He was sort of a symbol of security, peace, tranquility. As long as he was alive, even though the people were into these sins – deep down into these sins – as long as he was alive, it was as if God was not sufficiently offended to frighten them. And then 2 Chronicles 26:16 says that Uzziah, “when he was strong, his heart was lifted up.” It was lifted up to his own destruction, because “he transgressed against the Lord God, and went into the temple and burned incense on the altar.” He was a king, but he wasn’t a priest. And immediately upon that, he was hit by leprosy and was isolated until he died a horrible death.
But now the nation stands on the brink, the symbol of God’s favor is dead, killed by God. And Isaiah is fearful for what’s about to come. So, he goes to the temple and God reveals Himself to him. I think he’s looking for God, and God finds him.
“I saw the Lord,” he says, and the good news is, “I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple.” There’s the good news. Isaiah might have thought things were so bad that somebody else had taken the throne; somebody else had removed God and put himself in that throne. No, the Lord is there, and He is high and lifted up, lofty and exalted, and the emanating glory that flows from Him fills the temple in the vision. This is the vision of God. He sees seraphim above Him, in a standing position, “each having six wings: with two he covered his face” – that even the angels cannot look upon the glory of God – “with two he covered his feet” – the place wherein those angels were is so holy – “and with two he hovered” – they hover like celestial helicopters, waiting to be dispatched to do their duty that God sends them to.
“And one” – of those seraphim who guard the holiness of God – “calls out to another and says, ‘Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of hosts, the whole earth is full of His glory.’” And now we’re getting a picture that God is still on the throne. He’s absolutely on the throne. He is still sovereign. And the reason all of this is about to happen is because He is holy. He is holy. You cannot tamper and rebel against Holy God. He is holy. Hebrews 12, “Our God is a consuming fire.”
And in the vision, verse 4 says, “The foundations of the thresholds trembled at the voice of him who called out, while the temple as filling with smoke.” It’s very much like Mount Sinai. Isaiah, in his vision, is standing before a supernatural, heavenly volcano erupting. And that volcano is God, and God is furious. God is angry, and God is warming up the judgment machine.
In the presence of that, Isaiah is just devastated. He says, in verse 5, “Woe is me.” He knows what “woe” means. He’s just said it six times. “I’m damned; I’m doomed; I’m cursed; I’m destroyed; I’m ruined.” The verb “ruin” means to collapse, disintegrate, fall apart, perish, be destroyed. “Because I’m a man of unclean lips” – why does he say that? Because the most common place where your depravity shows up is out of your mouth. There are a lot of things you don’t do, but there’s nothing you can’t say. This is where he gets in touch the most frequently with his wretchedness.
“I’m a man with a dirty mouth; I’m ruined. I live among a people of dirty mouths.” Why are you saying that? “I’m saying it because I’ve seen the King, the Lord of hosts. I’ve had a vision of God. And what did I see? Holy, Holy, Holy. And what do I see about myself? Sin and only sin.” He’s devastated. He’s absolutely crushed; he’s disintegrating. It might be the end. He thinks it is.
And then an amazing thing happens in verse 6, “One of the seraphim flew to me with a burning coal in his hand, which he had taken from the altar with tongs. He touched my mouth with it and said, ‘Behold, this has touched your lips; and your iniquity is taken away and your sin is forgiven.’”
My, why did that happen? Why did that picture of salvation happen? And by the way, the altar there is the altar of sacrifice. So, from off the altar of sacrifice comes the cleansing and the forgiveness, and it speaks of a future sacrifice, of a future Lamb, and a future altar – namely the cross.
The seraphim puts this on his mouth because we need to understand that repentance and forgiveness is painful, but you have a confession, in verse 5, that is essentially a salvation confession. He pronounces upon himself damnation, which is to say he admits he’s a sinner. He admits everybody else is a sinner around him as well, and he admits that God is the king and the Lord of hosts, and he is at His mercy.
And for one who is so penitent, so in touch with reality of his own sin, and so convinced of who God is, God grants salvation. And even though Christ hadn’t died, every altar was a picture of the sacrificial Lamb to come. And so, the coal comes off the altar of sacrifice, and because there will one day be the final sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ, forgiveness is available for the one who repents and believes in the King, the Lord of hosts. And Isaiah is forgiven, his sin taken away.
Now, he’s still got the same dilemma: God is furious with the nation. What now? Verse 8, “I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send and who will go for Us?’” Hmm. God is not just wrath and fury and anger; God is now looking for somebody to go warn people. “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?” “Us” because God is a Trinity.
Then I said – and I don’t think he mustered up a lot of bravado and a loud voice and said, “Here am I. Send me!” I think he stumbling, haltingly, with his head down, knowing there was no one else in the vision, “Here am I. Send me!”
And the voice of the Lord said, “Go, tell this people” – hear what I’m looking for. What is God looking for in any generation, at any time? Somebody who will go and warn the world of coming judgment, warn the world that the day is coming when the Lord Jesus will reveal Himself from heaven, with His mighty angels, in fire, dealing out retribution.
Isaiah says, “I will be that man.”
God says, “You are. Go.”
And then the most stunning commission. “Tell the people this: ‘Keep on listening, do not perceive; keep on looking, do not understand.’” Keep on listening and looking – looking without seeing and listening without understanding. What’s He saying? He’s saying they’re so far gone that what you’re going to do is pronounce judgment on them. You’re going to be like Paul spoke about in 2 Corinthians; you’re going to be a saver of death unto death.
Verse 10, “Render the hearts of this people insensitive, their ears dull, their eyes dim, otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and return and be healed.” Whoa. What an incredible judgment on Israel: “You go preach. Just know this, they’re not going to believe it. They’re not going to listen, not going to repent.”
By the way, that same commission in verses 9 and 10 appears in the New Testament in Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Acts, and Romans as an indictment against Israel – the Israel of our Lord’s day. “Go tell them what I told you.”
In chapter 1, verse 16, “Go tell them, ‘Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean.’” Go tell them, “‘Come now and let us reason together,’ says the Lord, ‘though your sins are as scarlet, they will be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they’ll be as wool.’” Go tell them, “Forgiveness is available, but understand that they will not listen. They are too far gone.”
Then Isaiah, in verse 11, asks the appropriate question, and he says, “Lord, how long do I do that? That seems useless. How long do I do that?”
“And He answered, ‘Until cities are devastated and without inhabitant, houses are without people, the land is utterly desolate. The Lord has removed men far away, and the forsaken places are many in the midst of the land.” Do it until there’s no person left to tell. Until there’s no person left to tell. Keep warning them; keep warning them; tell them the truth.
Why would I do that?
Because the promise comes at the end, verse 13, “There will be a tenth portion in it” – that’s the document of the remnant. The masses won’t believe, like they didn’t when “Jesus came to His own and His own received Him not. But as many as received Him, He gave the authority to become the children of God.”
There’s a tenth, and the language is a little bit difficult here in Hebrew, but essentially there’s a stump. When the tree is hacked down in judgment, there’s going to be a stump, and the holy seed is that stump. Why do we go and preach? Why do we go and proclaim the gospel in the midst of the rejection that we face in the world at any time, whether it was Isaiah or Jesus or even us today? Why do we do that? We do that because there is a holy seed. There is a remnant, and they have to hear.
How can God do this? How can this happen? How can there be a holy seed? How can salvation come? By whom? Look at chapter 7, verse 14. “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel.” How can this happen? Immanuel is coming. Virgin born Immanuel will come. “Immanuel” means God with us. And when our Lord Jesus was born, that’s exactly what the angel said, “Call His name Immanuel,” to fulfill Isaiah 7:14, “Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which translated means God with us. God is coming in the form of a baby.
And then chapter 9 and verse 6, another reference to the child, “A child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, on the throne of David an over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness from then on and forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will accomplish this.”
And Luke tells us that when the child came, “He will be great” – Luke 1:32 – “and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.” Jesus is the fulfillment. Jesus is the reason that Isaiah could be forgiven.
But there’s one other passage that I want to show you; it’s in John 12. John 12. And this brings us to the appropriate culmination. In John 12, our Lord is, of course, in the midst of His – coming to the end of His ministry, and it’s very clear that people are rejecting Him. And John tells us, in verse 38, that “They’re rejection fulfills the word of Isaiah the prophet which he spoke: ‘Lord, who has believed our report? And to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?’” That prophecy in Isaiah has been fulfilled. They don’t believe; they don’t believe; they don’t accept the revelation. That prophecy is the reason they could not believe, for Isaiah said, “Again” – and here’s a quote from Isaiah 6 – “He has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts so that they would not see with their eyes, perceive with their heart, be converted, and I heal them.”
This generation that heard Jesus is just like Isaiah’s generation; they’re too far gone, and God has blinded them. But notice verse 41, “These things Isaiah said he saw His glory, and he spoke of Him.” Who’s that? The Lord Jesus Christ. And we know that from the next verse. “Nevertheless many even of the rulers believed in Him, but they were not confessing Him.”
He’s talking about Christ. What is he saying? That Isaiah saw Christ, that terrifying trauma; that horrific, frightening vision; that judgment that was so devastating that only a few would survive. That is not just God the Father, who is Holy, Holy, Holy; that is the Son. Isaiah saw the Son of God.
Don’t think for a moment that there is, in the Old Testament, some god of wrath from whom Jesus saves you. Jesus is that God, and He must be dealt with with the same kind of seriousness that we would deal with God the Father. Jesus will come in the way that Isaiah saw God, like a volcano erupting in flaming fire to bring retribution on those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel. Don’t kid yourself about Jesus being a benign teacher who loves everybody.
John says Jesus Himself pronounced judgment on the generation of His own day and said that judgment pronunciation was a fulfillment of Isaiah 6 prophesy. Jesus came once meek and lowly; He’s coming again, this time in fierce judgment.
And that is why the apostle Paul, in 2 Thessalonians, is warning us He will come. He will be revealed, unveiled. And for those who do not believe in Him, have not repented and come to Him, retribution. For those who belong to Him – what? What’s the word? “Relief,” “rest” eternally.
Our Father, again it’s been a wonderful morning for us. We desire to honor You in every way. Thank You for loving us. Thank You for the altar of sacrifice on which Christ paid the penalty for our sins in His own body. Thank You for touching our lips and making us clean and forgiving our sins. We are just beyond grateful, beyond hopeful. We can’t even describe how wondrous it is for us to be forgiven, cleansed, and even sent, for as long as there is somebody to talk to, to tell people that judgment is coming, but salvation is available.
May we be faithful to proclaim that message until our Lord comes to deal out retribution to those who do not obey the gospel, but to bring eternal relief and rest to those who do.
Thank You for giving us salvation so that we don’t fear His return – we long for it; we rejoice in it. I pray, Lord, that You would reach down and save sinners even in our midst this morning, and that You would take someone out of the category of retribution into the eternal category of rest from hell to heaven, through awakening their recognition of their sinfulness, producing repentance, opening their minds to understand the glorious gospel of Christ, who died in their place and embracing Him as Savior and Lord, and they would pass from death to life.
That’s our prayer. Thank You for that gift to us. Grant it for Your glory to others even this day, we pray, in Christ’s name, amen.
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