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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:Where do you put your trust?
Text:Isaiah 30:1-18 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Faith
 
Preached:2022
Added:2022-05-29
Updated:2022-05-29
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Ps 131:1,2,3                                                                                      

Ps 40:2,3                                                                                                        

Reading – Isaiah 31

Ps 20:1,3,4

Sermon – Isaiah 30:1-18

Ps 62:1,3,4

Hy 55:1,2,3

* 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 the Lord, where do you put your trust? Without any exaggeration at all, that’s the most important question of our life: Who to trust? What do you seek for the security, confidence, the peace and rest that you need? And this is the only right answer: ‘I trust in God. I wait on him. My faith is in the Lord alone.’

Everyone here is going to agree with that. That is, probably everyone will say, ‘I try to trust in God. But I don’t trust in him nearly as much as I should. My faith can be a pretty weak.’ Because it’s really a question that we answer by our actions. Where do you put your trust? We prove that not by our words (which are easy), but by the things we do.

What I mean is, if you really trust in God, do you pray to him like you should pray, in a spirit of humility, with something like consistency, and sincerity? And if you trust in God, how do you respond to troubles in your life, a bit of uncertainty or hardship? Do you fall into a heap of worries and anxieties? Do you trust? And we also show our trust by what gives us our daily confidence. If I say that I trust in God, then is it really God who is who at the root of my security? Or am I just feeling good about myself today, my abilities, my status, my financial position? Then that’s not really a whole-hearted trust in God.

This is the hard struggle for the children of God, living out this most important question of who has our trust. And the struggle isn’t new. Today we turn to Isaiah 30, where the prophet confronts Judah with her faithlessness. They knew the LORD very well, boldly affirmed that they trusted in him, but their actions showed something different.

It was a time of political instability, and Judah’s leaders were tempted to form alliances. In their hour of need against the Assyrians, maybe Pharaoh’s armies would be able to assist. But Isaiah tells them that Egypt can’t offer any real help. Instead, let God’s people trust in him, the LORD who is our only sure refuge and shelter. I preach God’s Word from Isaiah 30,

God warns His people against putting confidence in Egypt:

  1. they were trusting in shadows     
  2. they were ignoring the Word
  3. they were called to return and to rest

 

1) they were trusting in shadows: You can hear the hurt in the Lord’s opening words, “Woe to the rebellious children,” says the LORD (v 1). God is warning them, condemning them for their lack of faith—and it’s a sad day, because they are his ‘children.’ God has carefully reared them, taught his sons and daughters to know him as LORD, but they’re rebellious. It always brings deep pain to parents to see a child reject their good instruction, to break trust with Dad and Mom. So for Judah: they’re taking their own path.  

In their pride, God says, they “take counsel, but not of me” (v 1). Judah was hatching new ideas, working out clever strategies, but not by the Lord’s direction. As a result, they’re going to do the very thing God told them not to.

Let’s notice already in verse 1 what’s at the heart of Judah’s problem, the core reason for their coming ruin: they will not listen to God. It had always been their fundamental problem. To be sure, God had taught them—we’ll see that in the next point. Through his laws, by the prophets, through righteous kings and wise men, God told his people everything they needed to know. His word should’ve been sufficient. But they were unwilling to listen.

And not listening to God’s Word always comes at a price. There’s a consequence, if not now, then soon, or a bit later. For Judah, Isaiah has already announced that foreign armies will come, destroy the city of God, and drag her populations away into exile.

Everyone in Judah was living in the dread of invasion, so of course they wanted to try avoid it. And what was their answer? You’d think the answer to their trouble would be to start paying attention to God. That’s what we would do, right?! Instead, they “add sin to sin” (v 1). They compound their sins of idolatry and injustice with the sin of unbelief. Judah dreams up their own solution: they’ll form a coalition against the Assyrians, try to buy time so they can shore up the defences at home.

God denounces the people, for they “walk to go down to Egypt and have not asked my advice” (v 2). Yes, they’d sooner go to Egypt for help than go to God. Sounds awful, but let’s just appreciate why Judah would’ve done this. From a human perspective, it made sense to go to Egypt. Because theirs was an impressive power: a decent army, all the wealth of the Nile, and the great Pharaoh. When you looked around the Middle East, no other nation could give help against the Assyrians. It was Egypt, or it was no one.

And that’s always the way of misplaced confidence. We feel like we need something to sustain us, to encourage us, to give stability. Not just in our stressful times or seasons of hardship, but every day we face this question: What will be my refuge? What’s going to keep me standing? If not this, then what or who?

So we look around for what can help us, things with advantages or benefits. For instance, I feel good about my job. I know I’m safe with my family, my group of friends. In my brain, or with my looks, or my charisma, I’ve got good resources for the future. Make no mistake, there’s a trust here. We trust that these things will always be available to pull us through. It’s like building an alliance: we give them attention, invest time in them, even money, and we in turn expect them to be dependable—to brighten our day, to give us purpose, to reward our loyalty.

But we’re trusting in shadows. The Lord sees behind the façade. For instance, He looks right past the impressiveness of Egypt’s might, and He rebukes Judah for “[trusting] in the shadow of Egypt” (v 2). That’s probably a play on words. A shadow can be a place of refuge and protection—like the Psalms say that we can rest ‘in the shadow of God’s wings.’ But a shadow is also fleeting. It is soon faded as the sun moves on to a new position in the sky.

Egypt was a shadow. For in truth, by this time Egypt was already a nation on the decline. They might’ve appeared powerful, but they were crumbling, as armies from Cush and elsewhere pressed on their borders. And the LORD had already shown his domination over Egypt long ago, when He brought Israel out of captivity. Despite good appearances, Egypt could not save.

That’s always the truth about the things we trust in. When we have them, we can be so sure of their permanence, certain they’ll never pass away. But every earthly source of confidence is just a shadow. Take a moment to think about how whatever you most value in this life is so far from enduring. Dearly loved people will die. Your good looks will fade. Earthly positions come to nothing, and the praise of other people will soon fall silent. All your material treasures will rust and decay. Your talents, your health and fitness and mental acuity will all decline. Our whole life is just a mist that appears for a time and then vanishes. So why trust in these things? We do, because they’re visible, controllable and make us feel strong. But they’re shadows.

The next chapter has the same message. It opens with another warning to Judah, “Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help, and rely on horses, who trust in chariots because they are many, and in horsemen because they are very strong” (31:1). Seems sensible at first, but why would you do such thing? Why, when you know the reality? “The Egyptians are men, and not God; and their horses are flesh, and not spirit” (31:3). No human can be our aid, no invention of man, no resource or position or accomplishment. Because these are earthly things, and not God almighty—they are flesh and not spirit.

So this is God’s warning: “Therefore the strength of Pharaoh shall be your shame, and trust in the shadow of Egypt shall be your humiliation” (30:3). Judah was going to be badly burned for their misplaced trust. Egypt would prove most unreliable—like a tottering wall knocked over with one push, like the smashing of a potter’s vessel on the ground (vv 13-14). All the time and effort they invested in the alliance would be wasted. Assyria would still invade the land, and after them, Babylon.

It’s a warning for us too. Keep yourself from idols because all of them will come to nothing. Don’t trust in something that’s going to fail you in the end. Remember that you have a better refuge, a kingdom that cannot be shaken. The LORD God alone is the shade in whom we may dwell, in whom we may put our trust.

 

2) they were ignoring the Word: What made all of this so offensive to God was that it didn’t need to be this way. Judah was lost in her unbelief because she was so steadfastly ignoring the words that God had spoken.

In verse 1 God had called them “rebellious children.” That comes back in verse 9: they are “rebellious people, lying children, children who will not hear the law of the LORD.” Children who are grateful are expected to delight in the teaching of a wise and loving father, but not these ones. Judah refuses to submit to God.

And as we saw before, they wouldn’t listen to God’s truth—even though trusting God’s truth was the one thing that could save them. That’s typical, isn’t it? When we come against some trouble or we’re faced with a big decision, it seems easier to find our own solutions and not to ask for God’s direction.

Even so, we still want to give someone the last word. We wait for a direction that will be decisive. Beloved, who has authority for the decisions that you make? Who do you trust with the authority to shape your life? Maybe you leave it up to your parents, and what they say—they’re the final authority: “If my Mom says so, it must be right.” Maybe we follow the lead of the culture: “If it’s popular, then it must be OK.” Or perhaps we do everything to meet the expectations of our church community, or we assume that science is always correct. And for a lot of us, it’s probably our feelings that carry the most authority. We say: “If I feel this way, then it must be right. If my heart is telling me ‘yes,’ then I’ll say ‘yes.’”

Point is, we all have something that we trust as the final authority. Judah went down to Egypt, “without hearing the law of the LORD.” And in Judah’s case, it got so bad that they didn’t even want to be confronted with a warning word from God. Judah would “say to the seers, ‘Do not see’ and to the prophets, ‘Do not prophesy to us right things’” (v 10). God’s messengers were no longer welcome. Now, a ‘seer’ is someone who sees God’s revelation, who has visions of truth—but Judah wants to put a blindfold on the seers: no more truth, no more clarity.

From the prophets too, Judah would rather hear lies: “Speak to us smooth things, prophesy deceits” (v 10). Leave us unruffled, settled and comfortable. Tell us about a new morality, one with fewer rules and less punishment. Judah would rather hear things that agreed with their views, messages that didn’t challenge their sinfulness or call them to repent.

It’s a serious condemnation, and it confronts us too. Do we really listen honestly to the Word of God, to its correction and admonitions too? Do we let the Word shape us, and let it shape the things we trust in? Or do we prefer to hear pleasant things, only the reassuring truths?

Maybe we don’t read the Bible too closely, because otherwise we’ll have to read about our sin, the sin we know is deeply entrenched in our life. Or perhaps we look for reasons not to listen to the Sunday preaching—we find the sermons difficult, or we find the congregation loveless. We look for ways to carry on without the Word because we don’t want to be made uncomfortable, we don’t want to be challenged.

But we need to listen. In particular, we must listen to the Word when it calls out our misplaced confidence. We must listen when it exposes our lack of faith. The idols that we choose are pretty personal, they reveal something pretty deep about us, what is most precious to us. That’s painful, when the sharp double-edged sword of the Word does its work, cutting and ‘discerning the thoughts and intents of the heart’ (Heb 4:12). Maybe we’d rather not hear about our pride, or our love of money, or our fear of other people. But we need to hear it. Without this saving Word, we’re lost.

They’re so determined to take their own direction that Judah warns God’s messengers to step aside: “Get out of the way, turn aside from the path” (v 11). And then in a shocking request, they let slip what this lack of faith really amounts to: “Cause the Holy One of Israel to cease from before us.” They no longer desire communion with the LORD God.

This was the tragic thing about their lack of faith in God—for us too. We fret and we worry, we grow anxious and search for our own solutions. Yet we already have access to the one answer that we need: ‘the Holy of Israel.’ We have all his promises in the Word, promises that are guaranteed in truthfulness, signed and sealed in the blood of Christ. In all fears and insecurities, we already know the One who is able to save our life and to hold us fast forever, “the Holy One of Israel.”

That name for God can remind us of that central chapter in Isaiah, chapter 6. Then the LORD revealed himself in the temple as ‘holy, holy, holy.’ This God is like none other. He is incomparable in greatness, He is unparalleled in power, He is unmatched in mercy. If there is one God and one Being who is worthy of trust, it is the LORD.

To turn aside from him is to turn aside from your only hope, your only life. But to go with the LORD, to put your hand into his, to humbly listen his Word, is to enjoy a confidence that cannot be threatened by anything in heaven or on earth. For He is our God in Christ Jesus, and in him we may always trust.

 

3) they were called to return and to rest: After everything Isaiah has said, the alternative is simple. He has urged God’s people to abandon our idols and to deconstruct our false confidence. And instead, very simply, we must repent and put our trust in God alone. That’s the age-old calling and most important activity of our life: trust God.

Verse 15, “For thus says the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel: ‘In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and confidence shall be your strength.’” What a beautiful picture of faith! For years Judah had been busy with their futile efforts, those ‘do-it-yourself’ salvation projects: dispatching yet more messengers to Egypt, sending heaps of money to buy favours, plotting the next step. When you’re trying to create your security, solve all your own problems on your own terms, you’re never done. You never have enough.

The alternative to all this rushing around? Return and rest in God. Be quiet for a change, and put confidence in him. ‘Return and rest.’ For a child of God, those two are closely related. ‘Return’ speaks of repentance, and ‘rest’ speaks of our trust. There can be no real trust in God if we haven’t first turned from our sin, put our idols to one side, and come crawling back to the Lord. If we really rest in God, we’ll seek to live in God’s way, by his Word. We trust in God enough to listen to him. ‘Return and rest.’

“In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and confidence shall be your strength.” The people were frantically searching for strength, like we do, searching for something to reassure us. In times of trouble, it can seem like the anxiety of our spirit is worse than the burden itself. We crave confidence, seek strength.

And we find it in ‘quietness and confidence.’ This is the quietness which comes from knowing God and seeing his hand in all things—the calmness of knowing that our lives are under his care. We know his greatness, his power, his wisdom, and we quietly trust. “Be still and know that I am God” (Ps 46:10). Here is our strength and confidence!

So we don’t need to build our own fortress, grasp for any form of defence like Judah was doing—but trust in God. As one commentator put it: the answer is ‘not alliance but reliance.’ Rely on God, and none other.

From Isaiah’s perspective, he must’ve wondered if his message would get through to these people. He knew how hard-hearted Judah was, and he’d already had a glimpse of how they’d suffer for their lack of faith.

Neither should we have any grand illusions about our own faithfulness to God. We should acknowledge and confess our lack of faith. We easily talk about faith, and we often exhort each other to trust God, but we’d sooner trust in other things. We’re not very good at ‘returning and resting,’ and our spirits aren’t so inclined to ‘quietness and confidence.’

Yet God is so patient with his people. He is gracious and He calls us to return. That’s the final encouragement in verse 18, “Therefore the LORD will wait, that He may be gracious to you; and therefore He will be exalted, that He may have mercy on you. For the LORD is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for Him.” Do you hear that? God will wait for those who wait for him. God gives us time. For Jesus’s sake, He is rich with patience.

But if you’ve been given time to respond, that means that you do have to respond. Don’t presume on God’s mercy. Don’t assume that you’ll have time tomorrow or next year or later on in your life to come to God with a wholehearted love and trust. The time is always now, and the day is always today.

Because the Word of God also tells us that those who do not live by faith will not live. Those who refuse to trust in God alone will come to nothing. When we depend on earthly things, worldly securities, or human treasures, we’re leaning on a tottering wall, putting all our hopes into a broken vessel.

So be sure that you can trust in him, and can trust in him with everything. Faith in God’s promises is the only sure way to life. A few chapters ago, Isaiah gave his praise to God, “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you” (26:3). When we set our minds on God, and trust in him, and holding onto his promise in Christ Jesus, God keeps us in perfect peace. So where do you put your trust?  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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