Monday, January 23, 2017

Glimpses of God: Great and Good Isaiah 38

Glimpses of God: Great and Good
Text Isaiah 38:1-8
(Audio Podcast)
Introduction:  A man returns home from a bar late at night.  He decides to take a shortcut through the graveyard.  In his condition and after dark, he falls into an open grave.  The night is wet and no matter how he tries he can’t climb up the muddy walls of the hole.  Finally, he decides to sit down and wait until morning.
             Not long afterward he hears steps coming from the same direction and heading toward the grave.  Sure, enough another man, taking the same shortcut falls into the same open grave.  The first man is sitting in the dark at the far end of the grave and watches in amusement as the second man struggles to get out.  He lets him continue for a while and then when he grows tired and can’t try anymore, the first man speaks up out of the darkness at the other end of the grave.
             “You, might as well quit.  I’ve been trying to get out of here for ages.”  Like a 4th of July bottle rocket the second man shot out of that grave.

Sometimes the source of our strength may come from a place we did not expect. In the life of the Christian this is not just true a few times but most times. In the case of Hezekiah in Isaiah 38 it was also the time that he got his greatest glimpse of the Greatness and Goodness of God.

I. Hezekiah's Prayer Isaiah  38: 1-8

In those days was Hezekiah sick unto death. And Isaiah the prophet the son of Amoz came unto him, and said unto him, Thus saith the LORD, Set thine house in order: for thou shalt die, and not live. Then Hezekiah turned his face toward the wall, and prayed unto the LORD, And said, Remember now, O LORD, I beseech thee, how I have walked before thee in truth and with a perfect heart, and have done that which is good in thy sight. And Hezekiah wept sore. Then came the word of the LORD to Isaiah, saying, Go, and say to Hezekiah, Thus saith the LORD, the God of David thy father, I have heard thy prayer, I have seen thy tears: behold, I will add unto thy days fifteen years. And I will deliver thee and this city out of the hand of the king of Assyria: and I will defend this city. And this shall be a sign unto thee from the LORD, that the LORD will do this thing that he hath spoken; Behold, I will bring again the shadow of the degrees, which is gone down in the sun dial of Ahaz, ten degrees backward. So the sun returned ten degrees, by which degrees it was gone down.

A.  Near death Hezekiah Experiences God.

1.  Should we really criticize Hezekiah for his actions upon hearing of this impending death? Having had a few close encounters of the death kind, I can tell you, I prayed and shed a few tears of my own.

2.  Now facing death and a declaration from God that he would die, he turns with tears to God.

3.  Nor does it seem that Hezekiah begs for his life, but only for God to remember the relationship they share and how Hezekiah had tried to serve Him.

4.  Then something unexpected and miraculous happens, not only does God hear and adds 15 years to Hezekiah's life. And in this first miracle, we see God's goodness. As proof of the truth that Isiah had spoken the sun moves backward ten degrees.  10 minutes is equal to 10 degrees on the sundial, and in this miracle, we see God's greatness.

5. Hezekiah sees the greatness and goodness of God in his life for the next 15 years but now, immediately, in the sun moving backward 10 degrees.

B. When Will We See The Greatness and Goodness of God?

1. It’s often necessary to realize how weak I am before I can fully realize how great God is.

2.  Scripture  7  And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.  8  For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. 9  And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10  Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong. - 2 Corinthians 12:7-10

C. There are many examples of this principle in God’s Word. If we labeled it I guess we could call it the His Strength in My Weakness or Brokeness to Blessedness Principle.

1.  Gideon's army of 32,000 warriors was reduced by God to only 300. “And the LORD said unto Gideon, The people that are with thee are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hands, lest Israel vaunt themselves against me, saying, Mine own hand hath saved me.” – Judges 7:2

2.  The apostles after Jesus death were broken hearted, deserters and so afraid they hid behind locked doors, but after this terrible time of weakness and faithlessness then they see His Glory.

3. Paul in Silas are beating, thrown in jail, locked with chains and put in stocks. At their most powerless and vulnerable time an earthquake rattles the underground jail where they were being kept but it was then they saw the power of God in the actions of the jailer who called for a light, sprang in, and trembling fell down before Paul and Silas, said, what must I do to be saved?” – Acts 16:29-30

D. Transition: This principle is vital to the Christian life, so let’s look closer at seeing God’s goodness and greatness as seen most clearly in our trials.

II.      Hezekiah's Pain Isaiah 38: 9-14

9  The writing of Hezekiah king of Judah, when he had been sick, and was recovered of his sickness: 10  I said in the cutting off of my days, I shall go to the gates of the grave: I am deprived of the residue of my years. 11  I said, I shall not see the LORD, even the LORD, in the land of the living: I shall behold man no more with the inhabitants of the world. 12  Mine age is departed, and is removed from me as a shepherd's tent: I have cut off like a weaver my life: he will cut me off with pining sickness: from day even to night wilt thou make an end of me. 13  I reckoned till morning, that, as a lion, so will he break all my bones: from day even to night wilt thou make an end of me. 14  Like a crane or a swallow, so did I chatter: I did mourn as a dove: mine eyes fail with looking upward: O LORD, I am oppressed; undertake for me.  

A. Hezekiah's Heart before God.

1. He does not put on a brave front, fake bravery, or pretend that his illness and pending death is anything less than exactly what it is.

2. In sincere humility, he calls out for God, now on his deathbed more dependent than ever before.

3. He is reduced to nothing but praying openly and honesty with God.

B. How is Your heart before God?

1. If we are to grow stronger in God’s grace despite the trails and sorrows of life then we must be sure our heart is right before God. That nothing is hindering us from God working and our experiencing His goodness.

2. Am I blocking my own view of God? Often there are there is pride, hypocrisy, legalism, fear, or doubt that must be exposed by the light of utter weakness and helplessness before we can see God greatness or experience His goodness.

3. Am I open and honest with God and myself? We may find it difficult to be this way before God and try to hide behind excuses, a sense of unfairness or even ignorance but we must be open and sincere or we will not come to complete surrender to God and without complete surrender we cannot come to His goodness and greatness.

4. Many times, God must use defeat, suffering, weakness, and sorrow that I might honestly see who I am and then who God is.

C. Illustration: Oswald Chamber was a missionary and evangelist who died in his 30s leaving behind a wife and daughter while serving as chaplain to the soldiers of WWI. His wife collected all his lessons and sermons into the very popular devotional book, “My Utmost For His Highest.” He says this about the principle of His Strength in My Weakness.

1.  Receiving Yourself in the Fires of Sorrow -Oswald Chambers

a) We say that there ought to be no sorrow, but there is sorrow, and we have to accept and receive ourselves in its fires. If we try to evade sorrow, refusing to deal with it, we are foolish. Sorrow is one of the biggest facts in life, and there is no use in saying it should not be. Sin, sorrow, and suffering are, and it is not for us to say that God has made a mistake in allowing them.

b) As a saint of God, my attitude toward sorrow and difficulty should not be to ask that they be prevented, but to ask that God protect me so that I may remain what He created me to be, in spite of all my fires of sorrow. Our Lord received Himself, accepting His position and realizing His purpose, in the midst of the fire of sorrow. He was saved not from the hour, but out of the hour.

D.  Transition: Will the pain or sorrow really be worth it?

III. Hezekiah's Praise Isaiah 38: 15-20

What shall I say? he hath both spoken unto me, and himself hath done it: I shall go softly all my years in the bitterness of my soul.  O Lord, by these things men live, and in all these things is the life of my spirit: so wilt thou recover me, and make me to live.  Behold, for peace I had great bitterness: but thou hast in love to my soul delivered it from the pit of corruption: for thou hast cast all my sins behind thy back.  For the grave cannot praise thee, death can not celebrate thee: they that go down into the pit cannot hope for thy truth.  The living, the living, he shall praise thee, as I do this day: the father to the children shall make known thy truth. The LORD was ready to save me: therefore we will sing my songs to the stringed instruments all the days of our life in the house of the LORD.

A. Hezekiah Finds Purpose, Power, Passion and Praise.

1. God’s purpose vs 15: “I shall go softly all my years.” One commentator says, “‘I will go humbly, submissively, all my life; I will walk in a serious manner, remembering that I am traveling to the grave;” -Barnes

2.  God's power vs. 16: “in all these things is the life of my spirit: so wilt thou recover me, and make me to live.”

3.  God's passion vs. 17: “In love delivered Thou my soul, Thou has cast all my sins behind thy back.”

4.   God's praise vs. 19: “The living he shall praise thee, as I do.”

B. God's Fullness Often Begins In My Emptiness.

1.   If I am to know the greatness and goodness of God, I must be brought to a place where only God is. A place where only God is strong, only God is able, only God is true, only God is hope, only God is God. It is in that place that I will fully understand the love of God for me. It is there that I will understand my purpose before God, my strength through God and my hope because of God.

2.   “When you come to the place where all you have left is God, then for the first time you realize that God is all you need.”

3.   Like Hezekiah I will learn power, purpose, passion and praise. I will have a different outlook, a different attitude about life and especially my life before God,

4.   My prayer would be, "God, let me live, let me go on from here, in spite of the doubts, in spite of the failure, in spite of the mistakes. Lord, let me be truly alive that I may praise thee, that others will see your power, and strength poured out in our life, our family, and in our church.  Oh, Lord bring me to a new life that I may praise Thee with that life.

C. Illustration: What happened to King Hezekiah later in his reign shows what he had gained.

D. Hezekiah, facing the Assyrian envoy Rabshakeh and his King Sennacherib, turns to God in faith.

1.  God sends an angel and 185,000 Assyrians destroyed by God, because Hezekiah trusted God completely.

2.  God could not have worked such a victory with Hezekiah unless he had learned the greatness and goodness of God through his illness and sorrow.

3.  But when you’ve seen God give you 15 years of life and turn back time by 10 minutes 185,000 enemies warriors is nothing.

IV. Conclusion

A.  Illustration:  Corrie Ten Boom Embroidery Story

1.   Corrie ten Boom (15 April 1892 – 15 April 1983) was a Dutch Christian who, along with her father and other family members, helped many Jews escape the Nazi Holocaust during World War II. She was imprisoned for her actions. Her father died 10 days after imprisonment and her sister Betsie died in her arms at a hard labor camp called Ravensbruck. After the war she returned to the Netherlands and ran a rehibilatation house for the concentration camp survivors and for the Dutch that had worked with the Nazis during the war and were not outcast by their own people. She wrote several books the most famous was, The Hiding Place. In later years she became a popular public speaker. In her talks she often showed a piece of embroidery to her audiences. She would hold up the piece of cloth, and she would say,

2.   Although the threads of my life have often seemed knotted, I know, by faith, that on the other side of the embroidery there is a crown.” -- Corrie Ten Boom in My Heart Sings.  Christianity Today, Vol. 40

3.        The Weaving

My life is but a weaving
Between my God and me.
I cannot choose the colors
He weaveth steadily.

Oft’ times He weaveth sorrow;
And I in foolish pride
Forget He sees the upper
And I the underside.

Not ’til the loom is silent
And the shuttles cease to fly
Will God unroll the canvas
And reveal the reason why.

The dark threads are as needful
In the weaver’s skillful hand
As the threads of gold and silver
In the pattern He has planned

He knows, He loves, He cares;
Nothing this truth can dim.
He gives the very best to those
Who leave the choice to Him.

4. Are we there yet God?  Am I there yet?  Lord, look upon our heart, and if we need to die more then Almighty God let us die more.  We leave ourselves in your power and protection, knowing you love us and that we love you.  We accept the trial, yet we pray for the victory.  Let it be only through you, let it be by your love, let it be that we, the living can praise you!

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