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Author:Rev. Reuben Bredenhof
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 reubenbredenhof.com
 
Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Mt. Nasura
 Mt. Nasura, Western Australia
 frca.org.au/mountnasura/
 
Title:What is Your Song?
Text:Isaiah 25:1-12 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Our Salvation
 
Preached:2022
Added:2022-05-16
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Ps 27:1,6                                                                                

Ps 119:1,2                                                                                                      

Reading – Isaiah 24

Ps 108:1,4,5

Sermon – Isaiah 25:1-12

Hy 71:1,2

Hy 80:1,2,5,6

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved in Christ, what is the song that we sing? Some people are often humming a tune, singing along with whatever playlist is on their earbuds. So what songs do we sing, or choose to listen to? And ‘our song’ is really a question about our joy. It’s not just about the artists and albums we choose (important questions in themselves). But fundamentally, this is about what gives you delight. If your heart had a song, a repeated refrain, what would it be? Where do you find your purpose, your pleasure, and power?

In Isaiah 25, the prophet gives us something to sing about: “O LORD, you are my God. I will exalt you, I will praise your name, for you have done wonderful things” (v 1). What are the prophet and people singing about? Today we’re going to study the lyrics.

For they tell of the LORD’s grand victory, when He judges the nations for their evil. But that’s not all. For it’s also about the feast that God has prepared. That’s really the climax of this song: the great banquet to which God invites all people. There’s going to be a vast pilgrimage to Zion, where the city is ready and celebration awaits.

If Isaiah’s song has one theme, it is the glorious character of God. The LORD reveals his wonders in acts of judgment and acts of salvation—and Isaiah is deeply impressed by the grandeur of God. What great things God has done for us! What a great God He is and ever will be! So we serve him, and we sing to him.

Maybe you’ve experienced how songs of praise can lift you above the troubles and concerns of life. Even just a few minutes of singing to God—singing in your car while on your way to work or singing together as congregation—by such praise, the LORD gives a powerful reminder of his nearness and greatness. Praise (re)connects our hearts to the presence of the LORD, reaffirms us in the One who saves his people. This is our theme from Isaiah 25,

Praise God for His wonderful works of judgment and salvation!

  1. He humbles all His enemies
  2. He invites all to His feast
  3. He calls for the praise of all His people

 

1) He humbles all his enemies: Isaiah’s praise begins with a glance backwards. The last dozen chapters have been filled with God’s words against the nations, as God works out his purpose, his “counsels of old” (v 1). For God, judgment and salvation aren’t some hasty and ill-executed plan, but this is what He always intended to do, from ‘of old.’

What has God done? “You have made a city a ruin, a fortified city a ruin” (v 2). After God has finished with the nations, widespread devastation will be left. Chapter 24 told us all about it, like in verse 12, “In the city desolation is left, and the gate is stricken with destruction.” Now, cities are normally places of order and security: everything in its place. Picture a beautiful city like Singapore or Sydney, a place that people love to visit or are proud to call home. But God has changed the order into chaos, so that the tall towers and beautiful bridges are left as heaps of rubble—so ruined that they can never to be rebuilt.

Isaiah isn’t speaking here about one particular city, whether Babylon or Sidon or someplace else. He’s describing cities in general, cities the world over. They’re all destined to be ruined, for this reason: “they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant” (24:5). God will judge the wicked and destroy his enemies.

So far, this is what we expect, isn’t it? Judah will have joy in the LORD’s victory over their foes. They’ll sing a happy song because their opponents got wiped out—just like we’d be secretly happy to see our earthly rivals knocked down a few notches.

But then comes the surprise of verse 3. God is going to host a big banquet, and He says that his guest list will include the nations! We see this repeatedly in Isaiah, that redemption isn’t for Judah alone, but it’s for all those who turn to God. Verse 3: “Therefore the strong people will glorify you; the city of the terrible nations will fear you.” So striking, because ‘the strong’ are those who tried to oppose God and his people, those who had rested in their own strength and not in the LORD. But some among the proud will come to fear and honour him.

We learn that God always had a purpose in leveling the cities of the world. He destroys them not out of spite, not in a vindictive rage, but to bring them to their senses. For as long as they were proud and bent on conquest, they cannot be saved.

It remains true today that if we have any pride at all, if we feel strong and secure in ourselves, then we will not trust in God as we should. The proud always need to be emptied of self-reliance. The only way to enter the kingdom is on our hands and knees, carrying nothing with us and depending utterly on God’s mercy. For this same reason, the LORD will humble the nations—and He does humble them, through wars and plagues and disasters. He will bring them low so that they can learn that the LORD is God of all the earth.

It’s a marvelous change. God can turn a sparkling city into a rubbish heap, and He can turn a proud heart into one that loves and fears him. Among the strong and mighty, there will be those who glorify the LORD as He deserves.

Not to say that everyone will learn. If we look to the closing of the song, we see the reality of unrelenting judgment. Verse 10: “For on this mountain the hand of the LORD will rest, and Moab shall be trampled down under him, as straw is trampled down for the refuse heap.” ‘This mountain’ is Zion, the dwelling-place of God where his great feast is going to be hosted. And Moab is the long-time enemy of God’s people. Though Moab was a brother nation—descended from Lot, Abraham’s nephew—the Moabites were hardened against the LORD.

See the contrast: God’s hand is on Zion, but his foot is on Moab, ‘trampling them down.’ On Zion will come peace and blessing, while Moab will be crushed in their misery, like ‘straw in the refuse heap.’ Think of how straw is trampled down in an animal pen, wet and stinking, soon rotting into the ground—so Moab will be crushed, face down into the manure. It’s a disgusting image, in contrast to the glorious feast taking place on Zion.

Moab (and others) will try to escape, of course: “He will spread out his hands in their midst as a swimmer reaches out to swim” (v 11). As they flounder in their trouble, some of God’s enemies will try find the strength to pull themselves out. ‘Swimming’ is a great picture of someone trying to go it alone, because swimming is a solo effort: it’s just you against the water, no helping hands or flotation devices. There will always be those who try to escape God’s judgment by their own methods: making excuses, blaming others, claiming to be good people. But they will surely sink.

The fact that Isaiah singles out Moab teaches us an uncomfortable lesson. Moab was one of Judah’s relations, we said—if anyone stood near the light of God’s people, it was Moab. But to stand near is not near enough. In the end, there will be a great chasm between those who are at God’s feast and those who are not. It is not enough to belong to the church simply because of your family relations, to belong because of Dad and Mom, or because all your friends belong. Everyone who has seen the light of the gospel, everyone who has enjoyed the radiant warmth of the covenant, is called to put faith in God. Either repentance will bring you to the feast, or sinful pride will keep you away. And God will bring low all who refuse him.

And as Isaiah ponders God’s enemies, there’s another reason for praise. Look back at verse 4: “You have been a strength to the poor, a strength to the needy in his distress, a refuge from the storm, a shade from the heat.” You can hear how God’s people have been afflicted. Judah’s position was weak and vulnerable; they were just a pawn in the game being played by the big boys like Egypt and Babylon.

But God is their strength against the foe. We may be the weakest we’ve ever been, utterly helpless, but his people can find security in him. God delights to help those who need help! This is the blessing of a crisis, when we discover (again) there is only one place to turn, to the LORD our God. In the middle of a storm with pelting down rain, He is a solid refuge. During a great and oppressive heat, God is a welcome shade. So draw near to him!

As long as we’re living in this world, the attacks of the wicked will continue against God and his people: “the blast of the terrible ones is as a storm against the wall” (v 4). It can be scary when a strong wind beats against your home. Hearing the creaks and shudders, you might worry. But when your house is well-made, you know that the wintry blast won’t win. The wall stays standing, the wind will eventually die down—so will every storm of sinners against Christ and his church come to nothing.

In our time, we do feel the pressure of the godless. In this world, there is a building up of human ideals, a dreams of a society without God, a rejection of his good laws. But even in our day, the LORD gives us a song to sing. In our God, we can have confidence, and we can continue to rejoice. For all the noise and hostility against God’s people will be ended, and He will invite us to his feast.

 

2) He invites all to his feast: What’s a celebration without food? If it’s your birthday or anniversary, or there’s a graduation, food is required. So it has always been. In Bible times too, when a new king was crowned, or after a victory in battle, there’d be a feast, sometimes days long. So in our text: God will hold a banquet to celebrate his wondrous works of judgment and salvation.

The place of the party is Zion: “in this mountain” (v 6). Isaiah loves to talk about this mountain of God, symbolized in the earthly Jerusalem. Back in chapter 2, Isaiah spoke about how Zion would be established over all the hills and how the nations would flow to it. To be sure, in times past, Zion had been humbled: she was conquered by her enemies, plundered and burned. But Zion will become the place of God’s glorious reign, the home of his everlasting feast.

And to this banquet God invites everyone. Look at verse 6, “The LORD of hosts will make for all people a feast of choice pieces.” It might be happening in the heart of the land of Judah, but her borders are wide open. God’s gift is for all people, and He is emphatic about that point. Not just in verse 6, but four more times in five verses, He mentions his open invitation: ‘all people,’ ‘all nations,’ ‘all faces,’ ‘all the earth.’ Nobody is excluded from the salvation that God gives, but it is available to all. The kings of the earth always try to expand their kingdoms by force, but only God’s kingdom grows by being truly universal, united in his grace.

And so from the silence of broken cities, we go to the joy of the Lord’s feast. Isaiah describes the menu for this celebration, where the food is free, and it’s a feast of the best things that can be offered: “a feast of choice pieces” (v 6). God’s banquet will feature “wines of the lees,” which is a way of saying good wine, well-aged, of the best vintage.

It will also be a feast “of fat things full of marrow” (v 6). Maybe you try avoid eating too much fatty food. But these Hebrew words describe the choicest parts of meat, rich portions of food—like the best steak, cooked to your liking. For what God gives is satisfying, not cheap and disappointing, but truly nourishing and joy-giving.

What is this feast? It’s about much more than good food and drink. It is a banquet of all the blessings of the gospel. It is a feast on the Bread of Life, Jesus Christ, and the living waters of his Spirit. God says, “Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost” (Isa 55:1). For what God offers will truly bless and enrich us.

When you hunger for God—and you are fed by God—you will get what is truly precious and lasting. God gives you the free and full forgiveness of your sins, the renewal of your heart, the all-sufficient grace in Christ, and the sure hope of glory. Those who come to God’s banquet in God’s presence at Zion are blessed with God himself! That’s a reason for us to rejoice, and for us to keep rejoicing: ‘O LORD, you are my God. I will exalt you.’

Now, when things are going great for us in this life, sometimes we say, “Don’t forget: all good things come to an end.” At a fun party? Are you in a good place emotionally? Enjoying many solid relationships? Well, get ready, because all good things come to an end. It’s kind of a downer, but it is realistic. But the LORD God has a different plan for his people.

If He is going to host an everlasting banquet, then everything that prevents us from enjoying it must be taken away. This is what happens in verse 7, “And He will destroy on this mountain the surface of the covering cast over all people, and the veil that is spread over all nations.” God will take away some kind of covering, remove a darkness and a shadow. He seems to be referring to the veil that people would wear when mourning, and to the shroud placed over a corpse in the grave. Hardly a good outfit for a feast! So God will take it away. This is how the ESV puts verse 7, “On this mountain he will destroy the shroud that covers all peoples, the burial cloth stretched over all nations.” God wants his feast to be a place of unending joy.

God won’t just take away our grave clothes, but remove the cause of such sadness: death itself. Verse 8 says, “He will swallow up death forever.” Ever since the fall into sin, death has reigned over the nations. All of our earthly sufferings reach their culmination in this greatest calamity: not merely death as the end of our existence, but God’s curse on our sin. There is no hope to escape this final enemy unless God destroys it.

And God will. He guarantees our lasting joy by destroying death itself, swallowing it up, together with all its evils: disease, frailty, weakness, physical decline—even the curse of sin. Once again, Isaiah has been allowed to see the day of Christ. Jesus, the Suffering Servant, came to be stricken and to die. But He did not remain in his grave clothes forever. He laid aside the funeral shroud, and Christ arose. Now through his resurrection, “Death has been swallowed up in victory” (1 Cor 15:54). Through his saving work, we get to go to Zion, the heavenly Jerusalem, where Revelation tells us, “There will be no more death” (21:4).

So you understand that this feast will be never-ending. Never interrupted by death, never ruined by sin, never troubled by the sorrows which so often mark our time here on earth. For at God’s amazing feast, “The Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces” (v 8). That’s a picture of God’s loving tenderness. Like a gentle parent will comfort and soothe his crying child, so God dries the tears of his people. He comforts us, not merely handing us a tissue, but telling us that the cause of our tears is taken away. God will remove the evil from this world and give his people a joy that never ends.

Beloved, this amazing feast is open to you, and it is freely available. To the glorious victory celebration in Christ Jesus, God invites all people. But it really is available in one place only: only in Zion, only in the presence of God. So if you want to share in it, you must come. Come in faith, and with a real hunger and thirst for God. Don’t be passive. Don’t hesitate until the time is right, because you want to hold onto sin a little longer. Don’t think that God will let people in who aren’t wearing wedding clothes, who haven’t prepared for the feast. Come, and come quickly, and come eagerly!

 

3) He calls for the praise of all his people: Isaiah is a prophet who can’t help but get involved in his message. He has been allowed a sneak preview of the LORD’s judgment on the nations, a foreshadowing of the LORD’s work of salvation, so in verse 1 he lets out an exclamation of praise. Notice how he’s speaking in the ‘first person,’ as an individual, “O LORD, you are my God. I will exalt you, I will praise your name.”

Because what would you do if you knew such a great salvation? Delivered from every enemy? Promised a glorious future, a future that gets closer with every step? What should you do? Praise God! Give thanks in prayer. Tell someone about it. Sing about it.

What can’t happen is that it doesn’t move us, doesn’t change us. If you understand what salvation is, if you know Christ and his salvation, then remember to stand in awe of God. That’s what Isaiah does, and what the people do together with him: they are moved to give a response of worship and praise, to sing of God our Saviour.

Isaiah started with worship in verse 1, and in verse 9, all God’s people join him: “And it will be said in that day: ‘Behold, this is our God; we have waited for Him, and He will save us. This is the LORD; we have waited for him; we will be glad and rejoice in His salvation.’” Notice how the people are considering what they have done: ‘We have waited for him,’ they say twice. They reflect on how they put trust in God when they needed help. The enemies were at the gate, the storms were pounding, death was near—yet they waited for God, and He did not disappoint.

‘Waiting for God’ describes so well the act and the attitude of faith. When we’re waiting for something, we admit that the outcome is out of our hands. We’re powerless, vulnerable, dependent on the Lord’s good timing. And waiting for God isn’t just hoping that you can hold on ‘til the end. Patience means we acknowledge that every moment is directed by the Lord, and that He’ll act when the time is exactly right.

The people in Isaiah 25 have learned that they did right in trusting in God: “We have waited for Him, and He will save us” (v 9). We don’t ever need to be ashamed of our confidence in the LORD. Our hope will be fulfilled, and He will save us. And as always, we see that the work of salvation is all God’s work. No human action or cooperation was needed—only a quiet waiting in confidence for what the LORD will do.

This is how the LORD’s people can always rejoice. Our God is steadfast. Our loving Father can be trusted, even when no one else can. Christ will be faithful to his church, even to the very end. And in this we can sing, “We will be glad and rejoice in his salvation” (v 9).

Beloved, let us know that everyone’s heart has a song. There’s something that brings joy and delight to every person. Take a moment to listen, to reflect. If your heart has a song, a regular anthem and refrain, what would it be? What is your song? Where do you find your pleasure and purpose and power?

Don’t delight in the empty idols of this world. Don’t rejoice in the passing delights of sin. Neither be overly troubled by the troubles of this world. But have the Lord as your song and your delight. Like Isaiah sang back in chapter 12, “For the LORD, the LORD is my strength and my song. He has become my salvation” (v 2).  Amen.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2022, Rev. Reuben Bredenhof

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