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When God judges a nation

Isaiah series

When God judges a nation
Posted on January 22, 2021  - By Tom Horvat

As we study the book of Isaiah, I want to make clear that it is not a verse by verse study; rather, I am approaching it thematically and placing emphasis on practical applications to our lives today. 

There is much encouragement and consolation to the people of God, even as He judges the nation of which they are a part. Israel always had a godly remnant as it passed through times of idolatry, rebellion and unbelief. 

Sadly, today, the church of the Lord Jesus Christ bears much similarity, especially in Western culture. Money seems to be more important than morals, maintaining health rather than avoiding hell, acceptance with the world more than acquaintance with Christ, and hearts driven by self-interests more than kingdom interests. It is a situation that calls us to pause and examine our hearts in light of Jeremiah 17:9,10: 

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? “I the Lord search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.”

Today, money seems to be more important than morals, and maintaining health rather than avoiding hell

Judgement is inevitable

We turn now to Isaiah 8:13, 19-20, where God gives His remnant instruction on where to hold their attention when the enemy comes in like a flood. Assyria is about to descend upon the nation in fury, like a great flood (vv. 7-8). Isaiah’s son’s name means ‘hasten to the spoil, swift to the prey’, speaking of the suddenness of what was coming. 

The LORD had been giving many warnings of approaching judgment that went unheeded — just like much of contemporary Christianity has rejected the idea of a God who judges the wicked. We are told repeatedly that God is love and the idea of damnation is only extreme puritanism. Judgment did come to Israel regardless of their vain imaginations — and judgment will come upon this ungodly generation regardless of their denials.

If we knew of approaching and overwhelming danger, what counsel would we give our loved ones that would enable them to endure through suffering and hardship? What God told His children is profoundly simple in principle, yet greatly difficult in practice: sanctify the LORD, sanctify His Word.

Sanctify the Lord

First, these are not nice suggestions that were given to Isaiah — they were actually commands given to him “with a strong hand” (v. 11). The issue facing Isaiah was that of standing in the fear of the Lord, rather than the fear of man. Men will plan, conspire and form confederacies — all in opposition to full dependence on the Lord of Hosts. This is the truth that galvanised the great reformers of the church to stand against popes and kings. Whether they were received or rejected, they cared not for the flattery or the fury of men. Instead, they sought the approval of one alone — Christ Jesus.  

This is the truth that Martin Luther displayed when he stood before not only the pope’s minions, but before Prince Charles, the king of the Roman empire. Upon being commanded to recant his writings, he said, “I cannot nor will not recant. Here I stand. I can do no other. So help me God.”  

When the fear of man controls the minds of believers, the primary concern is that we not offend them. Our lives become as bland as salt that has lost its savour and our message as convincing as Aesop’s fables. 

When fear of man controls our minds… our lives become as bland as salt that has lost its savour, our message as convincing as Aesop’s fables

The Apostle Peter, in his first epistle, has a similar encouragement to the church in chapter 3:12-15: 

“For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their prayers; but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”

And who is he who will harm you if you become followers of what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed. “And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled.” But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear.

Do we see the similarity with the exhortation in Isaiah 8:13? “Sanctify the LORD of hosts Himself; and let Him be your fear, and let Him be your dread.” What a miserable condition the fear of man brings us to! What a dishonourable affront to the power of the living God, that we would be afraid of a creature of dust and not give glory to Jehovah Sabaoth, the LORD of hosts, the Sovereign over the armies of heaven!

Sanctify His Word

Second, God’s people were directed to take instructions only from Him, thus sanctifying His word alone (vv. 19-20): 

And when they say to you, “Seek those who are mediums and wizards, who whisper and mutter,” should not a people seek their God? Should they seek the dead on behalf of the living? To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.  

I recently listened to a man who claims direct revelation of a new translation of the Bible he published and is now promoting. He claimed that he saw Jesus enter his room and directly commission him to translate the Bible, so people would be given truths not known before.  This sounds as absurd as it is, but the sobering thing is the multitudes following him in this delusion. 

The phrase ‘law and testimony’ in the text testify that the Holy Scriptures are the only source of spiritual truth that is sufficient for men in all ages to have the light of life. Sola scriptura must be the foundation upon which we build ourselves up in our most holy faith. 

In this day, when false teachers are in abundance and heresies are being propagated in multitudinous religions — including a Christianity where the participants have a form of godliness but deny its power — we must be people of one book, one faith that was delivered once unto the saints, and not be deceived or succumb to the siren call of a renewed form of Gnosticism.

May the Lord of Hosts and His Word be sanctified in our hearts.  

Tom Horvat

About Tom Horvat

Tom Horvat completed his BA in education and theology at Washington Bible College. He pastored a house church for 15 years and served as a volunteer chaplain in a local prison for 20 years. He is now retired and pursuing interests in hiking, kayaking, nature study and wood crafting. He is passionate about ecology and published a book entitled New Creation Ecology that is available on Amazon. Tom has seven children and 13 grandchildren with his wife of over 40 years.



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