Our times today aren’t too different from those of Isaiah.
Sounds strange to say, doesn’t it? I mean, here it is, 2001 AD, and look at all the technological advances we have! Look at how far our world has progressed since Isaiah’s time. We have cars, television, the Internet – it doesn’t appear as though you and I living on the Gulf Coast today have ANYTHING in common with Old Testament Judah. That was 2700 years ago!
Oh, but you and I as members of the body of Christ have a lot in common with the Old Testament Jews. You see, you and I – who by God’s grace are trying to be faithful to the Lord and to His Word – want the same thing those Old Testament remnant of God’s people wanted.
We both want a reason to hope.
God’s faithful people back then were often discouraged. There were only a handful of believing Jews back in Isaiah’s time, and they felt forsaken of the Lord. They were surrounded by unbelievers who didn’t care about the things of the Lord. Their country had been invaded and overrun with evil outsiders. It seemed God had forsaken them, and that it wasn’t doing them any good to follow the Word of the Lord. The promised land – and all God’s blessings – seemed SO far off, and it just didn’t seem like anyone cared about the Lord anymore.
You and I as God’s people today – we who are given saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ by God’s grace – also can become discouraged. We live in an age when government and society don’t always care about the things of God. It seems that precious few people really internalize the Word of God and care about His truth. It’s lonely standing up for God, and sometimes you and I wonder where the Lord is. And the new heavens and new earth seem SO far off …
But you and I need to listen to Isaiah. God gave Isaiah a message for His people: a message of hope. The Lord gave the faithful remnant – who really desired to know God intimately through His Word and in their lives – a reason to hope. The remnant of Jews had reason to hope for two reasons: God’s past and present mercies to them; and His faithful character. God gave His remnant promises of greatness and salvation and restoration and glory, and His people had a reason to hope based on that message. They knew what God had done for them in the past, and they knew of His faithful character – so they could trust the Lord to bring them salvation in the Messiah.
That same message of hope rings true for you and for me today. Those same promises – of total salvation, of a rich and splendid kingdom – apply to you and to me as the faithful remnant of God. We, like the OT Jews, can trust God’s Word because we know what He already has done for you and me in Christ, and also because His character is always to be faithful.
Because our trustworthy Lord has made sure promises of glory to you and to me, His faithful remnant, we have a reason to hope.
First, God’s OT people needed a reason to hope. Things were awfully grim for someone trying to please the Lord back in the time of Isaiah. Left and right, the Israelites were abandoning their faith as though they never had encountered the Lord!
The kingdom was divided between North and South, and the people generally had sinful kings as rulers. Oh, sure, the occasional king would sometimes do what was right in the sight of the Lord – such as King Hezekiah – but most of the leaders ran from the Lord and couldn’t care what the Word of God said.
And the people? Well, by and large, they were just as corrupt as their kings.
So it’s no wonder that God decided to punish His people for their wickedness. They had heard His Word and His commandments. They even knew of His mercy and forgiveness. But they had no desire to walk with Him as He would have commanded. As a result, they faced the invading gentiles and eventually saw Jerusalem – their holy city – overrun by the Babylonians.
There were a faithful few, however. Isaiah refers to them as God’s remnant. Of all the Jews, there was only a small residue -- a handful, even! – who really sought the Lord’s forgiveness for their sins and who desperately sought God’s blessings. Only a few cared about salvation, only a few were concerned with internalizing the law and living out God’s call to holiness and purity as His special people.
But as they saw Jerusalem besieged and watched as king after king lost battle after battle, those faithful Jews had to b discouraged.
“Maybe God Himself doesn’t care,” we can imagine them saying. “He’s given up on us, even those of us who long for His special presence.”
But the faithful Jews had a real reason to hope – the same reason you and I have reason to hope today.
First, they had a reason to hope based on who they knew the Lord to be and based on the mercy He had shown in the past. They were, after all, His remnant! He had blessed them by preserving them and keeping them in His arms so they wouldn’t fall away like so many of their fellow Jews. He was the Lord who had upheld them, who had protected them from evildoers, who had strengthened their faith in a time of faithlessness.
Their God was the covenant Lord. He wasn’t like the idols of the pagans. No, their God was to be trusted because He had sworn His allegiance to Abraham and to his seed, and He had committed His Word to them. When all the other nations sought to worship idols in an attempt to explain where they came from and what the purpose of life was, the faithful remnant of God’s people could point to Him. They knew the REAL God because He first loved them and chose to reveal Himself to them.
He was a loving God, always meeting their needs, preserving His faithful people, showing them mercy in forgiveness even when they strayed from Him. They knew of the Lord’s forgiveness to their fathers, and how God had fed and delivered them in the past.
The few remaining Jews in 700 BC who still cared about following the Lord’s commandments and pleasing Him had a reason for hope, first because they knew they were dealing with a God who had blessed them richly in the past and who upheld them even in that moment of vast hypocrisy and righteous judgement of the unfaithful.
That same faithful remnant also had reason for hope based on God’s trustworthy character and great promises. Notice the many great things the Lord promises to His faithful people in Isaiah 60: kings of formerly enemy lands would one day bring them gifts. Their sad darkness, a spiritual stupor that also covered the unbelievers, would be lifted for the faithful few and God’s resplendent glory would shower them in light, day and night. The land and people who once were forgotten and ransacked would be made into a mighty nation of thousands who gained the honor of ALL people. And the sanctuary of the Lord, where He dwelled among them, would be of the finest quality.
GREAT PROMISES! And the faithful remnant could hope in them ONLY because the God who promised them – THEIR God – was faithful and trustworthy to His people. Their future restoration and total forgiveness, which came perfectly and fully in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ, came about only because the Lord was faithful and would not back off His Word, as so many of those unbelieving Jews had done. For His name’s sake the Lord made sure and certain promises of restoration, glory, peace and healing – not based on the remnant’s goodness or worth but based only on His trustworthy name’s sake. He delighted in showing mercy by sending a Savior, all because He was faithful to restore the people He had made great promises to so long ago.
The Lord fulfilled those promises by sending His people – and the entire of humanity – the fullness of His glory in the Lord Jesus Christ, who brought about this great salvation of Isaiah 60 and partially ushered in a new, richer day for the spiritual people of God.
Time and again in Isaiah 60 the Lord tells of what HE will do for His faithful remnant – ultimately to bring glory to Himself. And the discouraged, struggling, faithful few could take heart in those promises because THEIR FAITHFUL, TRUSTWORTHY AND MIGHTY LORD HAD TOLD THEM HE WOULD DO IT.
So it is for you and for me today in 2001 here on the Gulf Coast. It’s easy to lose our drive to serve God and to walk with Him, especially in light of what happens around us. Our government has passed laws about morality and human life that absolutely do NOT reflect any understanding of the presence and Word of Almighty God. We look around at others who call themselves Christians, and so many of them say, “Oh, it doesn’t matter if you trust in Christ alone for salvation; it only matters that you love others.” They don’t care much – if anything – about God’s revealed truth! And there only seem to be a few folks, such as you gathered this morning, who really hunger to know the Word of God deeply and to know more of His Son Jesus Christ.
The remnant is small, and the hope seems bleak.
Ah, but you can take hope, Christian! Just like those faithful few OT Jews, you can take hope for two reasons: God’s goodness to you in Christ in the past and present, and His faithful character that will fulfill these great promises to us as Christians in the future.
It’s important for you and me as the people of God, who are just as blessed as those OT Jews, to recognize the relevance Isaiah’s prophecy has for us as Christians today. The same God who chose a people for Himself so many centuries ago and has delighted in showing grace and mercy even to a faithful few is the same God who has blessed you and me in the past and present with every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies. That’s what Paul tells us in Ephesians, and that’s what Isaiah tells us as we see that His Lord is our Lord. The same God who fed the Jews manna in the wilderness and forgave the truly repentant Jews – such as King David – in the Old Testament is the SAME Lord who has given you and me saving faith and personal identification in the Lord Jesus and in what He did for us on the cross. He’s the same sovereign Lord who feeds you and me at our dinner tables each days and who leads us through each day by His right hand.
And He’s the same Lord who fulfilled that perfect salvation spoken of in Isaiah 60 in the person and work of His Son, the Anointed Servant Christ Jesus. He’s the same Lord who of His delight and grace placed you and me in Christ, even when we couldn’t do anything to save ourselves.
He’s the same Lord who has shown the greatest mercy to you and to me in the past by cleansing us in Christ and giving us a new perspective on this world and on the world to come, and He’s the same Lord who’s guiding us through this hour and day with His love in Christ.
Yes, you and I might comprise a faithful few, by God’s grace. But we can take great hope and confidence, even amid a wicked world that hates the true God, because of what our Lord has done for us in Christ and how He encourages and leads you and me even today. Based on the past, we have reason for hope!
You and I have another reason for hope this day, though our strength as Christians might be small and though we live in an unchristian age. We have reason to hope for the same reason the Jews did: Our God’s promises are based on His faithful character.
Those promises in Isaiah 60 – of a blossoming church, of a great and strong nation, of the intimate and radiant presence of God among His people, of perfect salvation – are coming about in these days. Since the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, God’s faithful remnant has grown, and we have known His salvation perfectly and completely through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Isaiah’s prophecy was fulfilled partially in the coming of Christ and in the glorious new day Jesus ushered in, when God’s intimacy truly was a beaming light to His people.
But the NT tells you and me as God’s faithful remnant that we have the hope of those promises yet to be completely fulfilled. We still wait for a day when all the nations of the earth bow to the Lord Jesus Christ. We still wait for a day when ALL the earth is inhabited by the Lord’s children in Christ. We wait for the Lord’s final judgment of evil and of evildoers, and we wait to inherit the New Heavens and New Earth.
But Paul says that you and I as God’s children in Christ are inheritors of an eternal reward – and Peter says you and I wait for a New Heavens and a New Earth to come, a land of total rest saturated with God’s righteousness, where there will only be peace and the intimate presence of God with us. Those promises are yet to come.
For you and me who, like those Jews of Isaiah’s time might feel weak and weary and forgotten in this man-centered world, there’s reason to hope: because the God who has made these same great promises of glory is faithful and trustworthy in His character. As He told the Jews of Isaiah’s time, so the Lord tells you and me of what HE will do based on HIS good will and strong name, to bring glory to Himself. He will add to His church from all the world. He will glorify Himself through His people. He has and will bless you and me with His special grace and love – a love that the unbelieving world doesn’t know. He has redeemed us for His name’s sake in the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ, and He will bring us to that perfect state of glory.
ALL BECAUSE HE IS FAITHFUL TO FULFILL HIS PROMISES, AND BECAUSE HE WILL BRING GLORY TO HIS WORTHY NAME.
That’s a reason to hope, even when others scorn and mock us and evil seems to be winning. Though we, the true church, are small; by God’s grace He will increase and bless us for His name’s sake. He said so!
You and I are 2700 years and thousands of miles removed from Judah of Isaiah’s time. But in our spirits, we are like that faithful remnant to whom Isaiah prophesied in chapter 60. We see how few people know God’s grace and truly want to please Him and to honor Him. We see how the name of Christ is defiled and ridiculed in our schools, in our national government, in our culture, even in the so-called church.
And heaven seems so far off, like a distant dream.
But take hope, Christian! As Isaiah reminds us, our God is the Lord of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob – the true and all-powerful Lord of the universe who has shown us mercy and forgiveness in the past and who has blessed us, as Paul says, with every spiritual blessing TODAY in Christ. God has dealt so graciously with you in the past, even when you were dead in sins and trespasses, even when you cared little if anything about knowing the God who created you and who will judge you.
And take heart, because that same Lord is faithful and has made sure promises to His people based on HIS faithful character. He will not fail; He will multiply His people on the earth and be all the light we will ever need to see all the truth we’ll ever need to know. He will ultimately bring about perfect salvation and give us a home whose walls are salvation and whose name is righteousness – all for His glory.
Are you sometimes discouraged as a Christian? Would you seek comfort today as one of the faithful remnant?
Then look not at your weakness, but at the Lord’s strength. Look not at your failures, but at His past and present forgiveness in Christ. And look not to yourself, but only to HIM who is faithful, who has, is and WILL fulfill His tremendous promises of glory to His people FOR HIS NAME’S SAKE.
We say with God’s faithful people throughout time and history, “God has not forgotten us. He is not our distant God; no, He is our loving and redeeming Father, upholding us now, shaping us for the glory to come.”
Live with joyful confidence, you faithful remnant! Our great redeemer will not fail. He cannot fail. Indeed, for us who are in Christ, the best is yet to come. AMEN.