Chapter # 3 Paragraph # 1 Study # 11
Thesis: The promises of God focus upon the development, and impact, of character.
Introduction: Last week we took a careful look at the "summons" that stood at the root of the ministry of John as the forerunner who would prepare the people for the coming of Jesus. Theologically, this consists of promising people that God was prepared to forgive anyone who would "repent". The "problem" this presented was the apparent "trashing" of Justice in favor of Mercy. The "solution" was the announcement that Messiah was to come for the specific purpose of dealing with sin in respect to justice. This actually worked out as John identified Jesus as the Lamb of God Who would take away the sin of the world. Thus, God can be both just and Justifier of the believer.
Now, last week we saw that there are two parts to the summons: a call to turn one's focus toward the revelation of the true character of Yahweh (a call that can be twisted into a "summons" to "behave"); and a call to cease putting roadblocks up before Yahweh as He seeks to direct the life of man (another call that can be twisted into some kind of self-help approach to life). These calls boil down to a summons to the humility of those who "see" the glory of God and a summons to stop evading the obvious. If a person responded to John's call in the wilderness, he would be bringing his own personal "wilderness" to Yahweh in anticipation of His grace.
This morning we are going to look into the "grace" aspect of John's ministry as it is set forth in the Isaiah prophecy.
January 29, 2006
- I. The Larger Picture: a Visual Presentation of the Glory/Salvation of Yahweh.
- A. On the one hand, the larger picture has to do with bringing the "repentant" one to a kind of maturity that brings truth to the harmony between the inner man and the outward expression.
- B. On the other hand, that same picture has to do with using the "repentant" one to show those who observe his/her lifestyle the "glory of God".
- 1. The Old Testament word "glory" is changed to the New Testament word "salvation" because the "glory" is most clearly seen in the "deliverance" which God is able to bring to pass.
- a. Jesus was called by Simeon, "Thy Salvation" (2:30) [and His impact was described by Simeon has being the "revelation of the thoughts of the heart" (2:35)], but He was clearly the manifestation of the Glory of God.
- b. God's salvific works in a person's own history do more than any other thing to reveal His true glory.
- 2. The point is that, while God is interested in bringing those who are repentant into a kind of personal character that allows them to live in joyful peace, He is also very much interested in using them to do that same thing for others.
- II. The Specifics of the Promises.
- A. First, there is the promise that every ravine will be "filled in".
- 1. The issue of the "ravines" is one: the attitudes which tend to develop out of what happens when a person takes the first "summons" seriously and begins to turn his/her focus to the highway of Yahweh.
- a. Though most people never come to repentance, so that the hypocrisy of their "focus" upon the highway of Yahweh results in twisting theology into 'Law', the minority of those who do repent invariably have the Isaiah 6 reaction.
- b. The Isaiah 6 reaction has two possibilities...
- 1) It can generate a hopeful humility (though this is the lesser traveled road).
- 2) It is more likely to generate a fearful despair.
- 2. The promise that the ravines will be filled up is a promise that Yahweh will address each "cause" of despair with an effective solution.
- a. In the Old Testament, "ravines" have a couple of enlightening "associated truths".
- 1) There are several texts which tie "ravines" and "idols" together.
- 2) There is a text or two that also tie "ravines" and "drunkenness" together.
- b. These links reveal that when man has an Isaiah 6 reaction, he will typically respond in a knee-jerk way by "flight" from the glory that has caused it. Jesus said it was "knee-jerk" in that "men love darkness rather than light because their deeds are evil."
- 1) But, "flight" from the glory of God leaves man helpless in despair.
- 2) Thus, he turns automatically to less threatening "gods" and to "mind/heart numbing drugs" in order to try to "live".
- c. But Yahweh's promise is two-fold...
- 1) His "glory" will not "damage" the repentant one -- there is nothing to fear.
- 2) His "glory" will take on each of the roots of "despair" and fill them in with the truths of hope.
- B. Second, each mountain and hill will be brought down.
- 1. The issue of the mountain/hill reference is one: man runs to "pride" as the rivers flow to the oceans.
- a. Most men refuse to sacrifice their pride at all.
- b. Even those who do sacrifice it, tend to do so only momentarily.
- 2. The promise of Yahweh is that each of the roots of man's "pride" will be eliminated.
- a. Yahweh is not interested in "beating men down into the dust", but He is also not interested in "leaving men to the relational destruction of pride".
- b. The truth is that "Life" is found in "glad humility", not in finding some particular skill that outshines all others.
- C. Third, the deceitful crookednesses will be straightened out.
- 1. This issue of the "crooked" is profound: Jeremiah 17:9 identifies it as the extreme deceptiveness of man's heart.
- a. The symbolism of the "crooked paths" is that of the natural flow of the rivers to the oceans -- they never flow over difficult obstacles; they always flow in the easiest terrain.
- b. Man, likewise, has a profound tendency to "deal with" the deceptions of his own mind and heart by simply taking the easy way around the obstacles.
- 1) Granted, sometimes this looks like a person is "taking the issue head-on", but often that is nothing more than pride being unwilling to really deal with the problem.
- 2) The deceptiveness of the human heart is profoundly committed to trying to make the impression of one's skill in "handling Life".
- 2. Yahweh's promise is that He will address this profound duplicity.
- D. Fourth, the rough places will be smoothed.
- 1. The term used here is rare and not much is known about it, but the picture is of small obstacles in the path.
- 2. Yahweh is also committed to the elimination of these "roughnesses".
- III. The Question of Yahweh's True Commitment.
- A. When the promises are seen with clarity, one begins to wonder if they are true on the basis of reality...
- 1. Where is the "mature" saint?
- 2. Why are the "promises" going begging?
- B. But there are two issues that must be kept in mind...
- 1. Promises are only good to those who believe them.
- 2. At dispensations spin down, the number of those who "believe" becomes less and less.
- C. Thus, the issue is not whether the promises are any good -- for they are -- but whether there is anyone around who believes them.
- IV. The Biblical Facts.
- A. Yahweh is truthful and relentless on His part.
- B. But He clearly warns that only the repentant will see His "big-picture" salvation and the impenitent will come to either an early grave or a torturous long life.