Isaiah 66                  Download in Pdf

Sadly, this week concluded our study of Isaiah. It has been a very blessed journey that I am sure none of us will forget. Nikki, Dave, Winsome and Hugh shared what God had drawn their attention to in chapter 66 - thanks be to God for those precious insights.

We then looked at the most prominent "Golden Strands" that run through Isaiah and here are some interesting facts:

Isaiah's name means "salvation is of the Lord," and he, far more than any other old Testament prophet, wrote of salvation. The word "salvation" is found twenty-six times in Isaiah and only seven times in all the other prophets combined.

Isaiah is preeminently the Messianic prophet. He prophesied about the Messiah (Jesus Christ) more than any other Old Testament prophet. Chapters 2:1-4; 4:2-6; 7:14-15; 11:1 - 12:6; 24:21-23; 25:6-8; 26:1-2; 27:12-13; 30:18-26; 32:1-7,16-20; 33:17-24; 35:1-10; 42:1-9; 49:1 - 55:13; 60:1 - 62:12; 66:18-24.

Isaiah is also quoted in the New Testament more than any other prophet. There are about fifty-four New Testament quotations of Isaiah. The prophet, more than any other old Testament writer, portrays the Holiness of the Lord. The phrase "the Holy One of Israel" is found twenty-six times in Isaiah and only six times in the entire remainder of the Bible.

Isaiah also spoke frequently about the fact that the Lord is the only true God and that it is foolish to worship idols.

Another theme of Isaiah is humility before God. Isaiah calls those who do God's will the Lord's "servants." He uses this term to describe the nation of Israel (41:8-9), the Lord's prophets (44:24-26), Messiah (42:1), and the redeemed (65:8-9). In chapter 66 we find a powerful statement regarding those who are humble, being highly esteemed of God.

The most important discussion of the evening was around the subject of religious service from a human motivation being worthless and even abominable to God. We first see this theme in Isaiah 1:10-15 and then right through to chapter 66: 3 where God makes it clear that one who does this, is seen in the same way as a murderer. Wow!

To aid us in our understanding of this issue, we looked at the story of Cain and Abel (Genesis 4: 1 - 7 and Hebrews 11: 4). We dscussed on what basis Abel's offering was accepted and Cain's rejected.

We also looked at one of Jesus' many encounters with the Pharisees in Mark 7:7 - 9 and how they, like Cain, became "very angry" that their works of service were unacceptable. (angry enough to kill Him in the end!) This, we saw reveals that works of service based on human motivation, and religious ritual, actually breeds pride!.. and so we caught the first glimpse of why it cannot possibly be pleasing to God.

We repeatedly considered the question of why this happens. Why does that which starts out in the right way, deteriorate into mere religious ritual and works of service based on human motivation. The answer is that in that way, we can circumvent being confronted with what is in our own hearts and being convicted of our sin because we can be "busy" with religious things. This reminds me of that foolish saying "Jesus is coming, look busy!!" This is however a sad delusion, because in the end we will have to answer to Him and our deeds will be tested to see what they had as a foundation.

Most religions in the world teach this way of doing works of service as a means to please god. It is all human-based and will ultimately lead to pride and self-righteousness.

Christianity (being yielded to Christ, having Him living in you, having an intimate relationship with God) stands apart from all of that. In fact, it goes the other way. We have to die, so that He can live in and through us!

So many who call themselves "christian" has a very muddled idea of how (being yielded to Christ, having Him living in you, having an intimate relationship with God) stands opposed to every religion there is. And so, even christianity in many places has become a "religion".

Rebecca made an interesting contribution here with Exodus 20:25 where God warns the Israelites not to use a human tool when building the altar, for that will defile it...

Our works of service, our worship of God, our sacrifices of praise, must be borne from His Spirit living within us. If we ever find ourselves "just doing" things because we know we are supposed to or some other human reason, we need to immediately repent and draw near to Him. It was interesting to note that the Israelites in Isaiah's time demanded that God hear their prayers because they were "doing all the right things". This showed us clearly that works of service to God which is based on human motivation, demands payment in the end, and when that is not forthcoming - well, there is anger. I think there will be a lot of angry people on the final day...

Finally, we looked at Mark 12:29 which speaks about Loving the Lord your God with all your heart and soul. Here I was reminded of Revelation 2: 4 where the church in Ephesus is told that even though it has done many works of service, it has forsaken it's first love... We also read Romans 12:1 detailing the only thing we must "do" - offer ourselves, our lives as a living sacrifice to God to be inhabited by Him, so that He can be the one from whom our charitible works, love and concern for others flow. These are fruits, they are not supposed to be well thought out and managed activities.

Friends, simply continue to draw near to Him. Remain in Him, and acceptable works of service will flow out of you as a result.

Next week, we start our intermediate three week study of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5, 6 and 7), after which we will take a closer look at the Epistles of John.

Have a blessed week, in Christ.