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Author:Dr. Reuben Bredenhof
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Congregation:Canadian Reformed Theological Seminary (CRTS)
 Hamilton, Ontario
Preached At:Free Reformed Church of Mt. Nasura
 Mt. Nasura, Western Australia
Title:God's Spirit is Poured onto a Wilderness
Text:Isaiah 32:15-18 (View)
Topic:The work of The Holy Spirit

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Ps 92:1,6,7                                                                                         

Ps 1:1,2                                                                                                          

Reading – Isaiah 32

Ps 107:13,14,15

Sermon – Isaiah 32:15-18

Ps 85:3,4

Hy 47:2,5

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

Beloved, if you looked back on the thirty-two chapters of Isaiah before our text, what would stand out about the people of God? How could we describe the nation of Judah in this book, and what they’ve shown themselves to be like? It’s not a flattering picture.

Back in the very first chapter, the very first paragraph, this is what the LORD said, “I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against me” (v 2). Not a great start: Judah was like an unruly child, one who refuses to listen to instruction. For they were unjust in how they treated the poor. They excelled in external religion, not real humility of heart. They were greedy and violent—their sins were like scarlet, red like crimson.

Then there was Isaiah’s sad song about God’s vineyard. These were the people in whom He had invested so much care and attention: “For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah are his pleasant plant. He looked for justice, but behold, oppression; for righteousness, but behold, a cry for help” (5:7).

And in chapter 30, we hear about Judah’s shameful lack of faith. They would sooner lean on Egypt’s armies for help than turn to the LORD of hosts. They frantically tried to build their own security, while neglecting the one sure refuge: to rest quietly in God.

Isaiah gives a dismal glimpse of Judah’s condition. This is supposed to be the people of God, his covenant nation! Yet they’re walking in unbelief, hardly better than their northern neighbours in Israel, soon taken into exile—and sometimes hardly better than the heathen nations around them. So what hope was there for Judah? How could God bring something good out of this mess? Would there ever be a good harvest for the LORD?

God can ask the same about us, for Judah and we are not so different. Like distracted children, we forget the Lord’s good teaching. When we’re tempted, we cave in quickly. And our faith in God is flimsy. This is our natural condition, so what hope do we have?

And the answer is the same for Judah as for us. There’s only one way in which dead sinners can come alive: through the amazing work of God the Holy Spirit. Only He can transform all things, restore the human heart and make us ready for God. And in our text the LORD promises to send the gift of his mighty Spirit. This is our theme from Isaiah 32:15-18,

God promises to pour out His Spirit from on high:

  1. making the wilderness a fruitful field
  2. creating true peace among his people


1) making the wilderness a fruitful field: The first word of our text is “until” (v 15). You can tell that we’re picking up a story half-way through, as the prophet has been telling about the situation in Judah. And once again, the outlook has been bleak. Starting in verse 9, Isaiah portrays God’s people as self-secure and smug: “Rise up, you women who are at ease, hear my voice; you complacent daughters” (v 9).

Why was Judah so relaxed? Because people who are enjoying good times find it very hard to imagine anything different. When we’re blessed, we can’t fathom losing what we have. Judah thought they were secure, that their prosperity would never end—yet all will soon be lost.

“In a year and some days you will be troubled, you complacent women; for the vintage will fail, the gathering will not come” (v 10). Devastation is approaching. God will send famine and God will send Assyria. The thriving fields of today will soon be left empty, the bustling cities deserted. And this was God’s just judgment on their sin. All hope will be lost, and the misery will seem permanent, even “forever” (v 14).

But then comes the abrupt change. Then shines a beam of hopeful light into the darkness: “Until…” We see this often in Scripture, how God breaks into human misery with a surprising work of his grace. Take Titus 3 as just one example, “For we were once foolish, disobedient, deceived…living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another. But then the kindness and love of God our Saviour appeared” (vv 3-4). It’s an incredible reversal of status and situation!

Here too, as He does so many times in Isaiah, God follows up his frightening prediction of disaster with a comforting promise. The desolation of Judah is going to last a long time, but one day it’ll give way to a new era of flourishing. The people have been badly barren and unfruitful, but God will create new life.

And notice how all these blessings start with the pouring out of the Holy Spirit: “Until the Spirit is poured out upon us from on high” (v 15). Life changes when the Spirit comes! This is always the wondrous impact of the Spirit, for He is the Lord and Giver of life. Already in Genesis 1, it was the Holy Spirit who was hovering over the waters as the world came into being—the Giver of life. It was the Holy Spirit who filled judges and kings so that they could faithfully do God’s will. It is the Holy Spirit who transforms dead hearts of sinners like us.

Isaiah has already told us about the Spirit a few times. Back in chapter 11, he said this about the Root of Jesse, the coming Messiah, that “the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him” (v 2). The Messiah will have a Spirit who endows him with many gifts: wisdom, understanding, and counsel. The Christ will live not according to the sinfulness and selfishness of the human spirit. But the coming King will have God’s Spirit ‘resting upon him’ so that He can “[reign] in righteousness and justice” (32:1).

Now see our text. It’s not only the Messiah who receives this gift, but all the people of God receive him: the Spirit will be poured upon “us” (v 15). From the greatest to the least of God’s people, both old and young, male and female, both the ones we might expect and those whom we thought could never change: the Spirit is poured out.

This is one of the Lord’s great mercies, and it should always humble us. The same Spirit who filled Jesus the Messiah, now fills us! We share in his anointing. The ascended Jesus sent his mighty Spirit upon his church to transform her, and He continues to send his Spirit, the Giver of life, every day.

Says Isaiah, ‘He is poured upon us from on high.’ That word ‘pour’ shows that God is generous with his Spirit. God is not meagre with this grace, but He sends him cascading down from heaven. It’s the picture of rain pouring from the sky, the kind when the gutters can’t keep up and the roads are soon flooded. You watch the rain pounding for a while and you’re amazed that there can be so much water in the sky, that it just keeps coming—this is God’s generous gift! And then a few days after the rain, you see the effects. Your lawn explodes with thick new growth, and out in the farmers’ fields, the recently planted crops are coming to life.

So it is with God’s Spirit. He is poured out upon us from on high, “and the wilderness becomes a fruitful field” (v 15). It’s like the change from a dry desert into garden land, from rough wilderness to fields under cultivation. When God sends his Spirit, He begins to produce good fruits. That’s his footprint in our lives, the sure effect of his work: a harvest for God.

We’re probably used to that idea. We often talk about the ‘fruit of the Spirit,’ like love and joy and patience and self-control. But at times, we become thoughtless about these things. We forget what an incredible gift is the Holy Spirit, who works in dead sinners like Judah and like us, and brings about a humble trust in God’s promises, a willing heart to serve other people, a sure zeal for the truth, an inner peace in trouble.

The Spirit produces things in us that simply would not be produced normally, virtues and attitudes that would never take root in a human heart. Our heart is a wilderness, a wasteland, and God is making it a fruitful field! So take time to see the Lord’s work in your life, or in the life of your friends, or in your children. Take notice of the kindness, the dedication, the gentleness, the love for Christ. See what fruits are developing—even though they’re flawed and imperfect—and remember to praise God the Spirit!

In contrast, of course, there is the disappointing vineyard in Isaiah 5. God was looking for a harvest, and He found only rot. Because this is our natural state. Read 32:13 for more of the damage that sin does: “On the land of my people will come up thorns and briers.” Because of sin there are thorns and thistles everywhere, and because of sin sometimes we don’t even try to uproot them. We get enslaved by a habitual sin, or we let our love for the Lord fade to nothing because we stop praying or reading the Bible, or we bring harm to our relationships through our pride or our anger.

This is the curse of sin, and we feel its effects every day. If not for God’s intervention, there’d be no hope at all. But the LORD is creating something new, and bringing about an abundance. When the Holy Spirit is living in our hearts, we can expect to flourish. When He is poured out from on high, we can expect to prosper in good fruit.

As Isaiah brought this message about the Spirit, he wasn’t thinking only about individual fruits, but also communal. As a church, as a field all together—‘a community garden’—what kinds of fruit are we bearing? God expects us to be a church who loves and studies his Word, a church who cares for those who are lonely, those who are suffering. He wants us to be a church who has compassion for those people in our neighbourhoods who don’t know the Lord. He wants us to be those who treat one another with grace and forgiveness.

Isaiah highlights two fruits in particular: justice and righteousness. After the Holy Spirit is poured out, “justice will dwell in the wilderness, and righteousness remain in the fruitful field” (v 16). ‘Justice and righteousness’ are two of Isaiah’s favourite things. Back in 1:27, for instance, he prophesies, “Zion shall be redeemed by justice, and those in her who repent, by righteousness.”

The LORD himself is the God of perfect justice and righteousness. It means that He always keeps his word, and honours all his commitments. God is fair in how He treats sinners, and He can never be faulted in the way that He acts toward us. God has all the integrity of someone who is perfectly good, and dependable, and truthful.

God showed his justice and righteousness so clearly when He sent his Son as our Saviour. This was righteous, because by it, God was keeping his word to rescue us from Satan’s power and to save us forever. And this was justice, because through Christ, God was covering the cost of our sin, paying its eternal price. By God’s righteousness and justice, Zion is redeemed!

Because this is what God is like—just and righteous—He wants his people to become like him. Keep your word if you’ve made a promise to someone and honour your commitment. Be fair in how you treat all people, especially those with whom you have daily interactions, people you have opportunity to serve and to bless. Be a righteous father and mother, be a fair teacher, a dependable friend. Speak the truth to one another, with love. Show integrity and goodness and stand up for what is right.

These things don’t come naturally. They’re not fruits that grow without God’s help. We see our barrenness, our lack of concern for the suffering, our love of comfort and ease. But God does help. He pours his Spirit upon us from on high so that the wilderness becomes a fruitful field, so that justice and righteousness begin to flourish.

When we realize how far we are from this reality, we should take that as an encouragement to ask for God’s gift. If you will be a person moved by God’s glory, a person shaped by his justice and righteousness, then ask for the Spirit that Jesus promised. He promised the Spirit, and God keeps his promise! Pray that the Holy Spirit will produce new fruit in you, more and more. Then you will also enjoy his gift of peace.


2) creating true peace among his people: Sin leaves a muddy footprint in every place, in every relationship, in every church. In Judah too, Satan’s power had a real effect. You just had to look at the state of the nation to understand how badly things could go.

But the Holy Spirit has a real effect too—an infinitely greater power!—and by his strength He can work wonders. It is this impact which Isaiah describes in the next two verses of our text. The Holy Spirit brings righteousness, and “the work of righteousness will be peace.” If God’s people are willing to live in his way, He will surely bless. Righteousness will produce so many good things.

And the notable result is peace. That’s the emphasis in these verses, if you look at all the words joined by this theme: ‘peace, quietness, assurance, peaceful habitations, secure dwellings, quiet resting places.’ By his Holy Spirit, God says that He is going to create a true harmony and tranquillity among his people.

What makes this change so remarkable is how far from peaceful things were in Judah right now. There were the external threats, like the hazard of invasion from Assyria—or if not Assyria, then Babylon. In Judah there was internal unrest too, between rich and poor, city and country, between those who desired to serve God wholeheartedly and those who wanted to compromise.

More than any of this, the people of Judah were in conflict with God himself. Things were not right between the LORD and his covenant people. How can things be right, if they will act like unruly children and will not listen to his commands? How can there be peace, if they refuse to trust in the LORD alone but they turn to their idols? Without looking to God, Judah won’t ever find her ‘peaceful habitations.’ And neither will we.

Here we can think of what Isaiah writes in 48:22, “‘There is no rest,’ says the LORD, ‘for the wicked.’” That’s become a saying, something we jokingly apply to ourselves when we’re really busy and can’t take a break: ‘No rest for the wicked.’ But it actually describes a terrible reality, something we shouldn’t wish on anyone. It is God’s hard judgment on those who do not repent from sin: they will not find rest! When you aren’t living in the Lord’s way, not trusting in him, God says that you’ll always be unsettled, always fearful, never at ease.

For instance, it’s how your sin can eat away at you, particularly unconfessed sin. When there’s a sin we haven’t acknowledged—when we’re dragging it around because we haven’t brought it to the Lord—then we’re going to feel it. It’s hard to pray. There’s no joy. Worship feels empty. Unconfessed sin also has a way of wrecking our relationships, and it isolates us from other people. If you don’t confess and repent, the burden is going to get heavier.

“There is no rest for the wicked,” but “the work of righteousness will be peace.” When God sends his Holy Spirit, and his Spirit begins to make us a fruitful field, we also experience God’s blessing on our life.

And the first and primary blessing is peace with God. That is where every good thing in our life begins, when we are right with God. Put your trust in him alone. Seek to do his will in every part of your life. Live in a righteous way, God says, and this will lead to a true and lasting security. Because there is no more fear of his judgment. And there is no worry that you’ve put your faith in a fortress that is going to crumble. You have peace with God through Christ, even a peace that passes all understanding.

Peace with God is never the end of a process, but the beginning. That is, if you are right with the Lord, then you’ll also want to be right with other people. Justice and righteousness are shared gifts; these are fruits that grow in ‘community gardens.’ It is God’s will that we seek healing in our relationships here on earth.

This gives us work to do. If there has been division, or if there has been hurt, or some unresolved sin between you and another person, a former friend, another family, then God commands you to seek true peace. Let harmony result from the work of righteousness! Let your peace be the fruit of the Spirit’s outpouring!

This will lead to blessing that is far-reaching and powerful: “the effect of righteousness [is] quietness and assurance forever” (v 17). Now, this is what Judah was looking for in all the wrong places: they wanted security, assurance of survival, a calming of every earthly storm. But their trust in Egypt was entirely misplaced. Their love of comfort was misguided. They needed a true security, a real quietness—and this comes only by resting in God.

So for us: We will have peace only when we commit our lives into the hands of the Lord.  We must lay aside our anxious efforts to become more self-secure, more self-confident, more self-assured. Instead, we focus on knowing God, delighting in him, and resting in him—for then his sure promise is that we’ll enjoy the blessing of peace. By the Spirit we know God the Saviour, and He knows us, and that is enough.

“My people will dwell in a peaceful habitation, in secure dwellings, and in quiet resting places” (v 18). After all of Judah’s anxiety for Jerusalem and for their earthly homes, this is a beautiful picture of God’s grace and peace.

With him as our God, we are people happy to be dwelling behind the thick stone walls of Zion. With Christ as our Saviour, we are sheep being led out to safe pastures and beside still waters. With God as your Father, you can be a child, safe at home, resting and content underneath his loving care.  

By his Spirit, God creates this true peace. He gives this peace to those who know him, to those who live every day in relationship with him, who trust in his promises and who obey his commands. This peace is for those who come to God for salvation, for only He can be our security, and only his Spirit can bring about this change. So draw near, and receive his Spirit, poured upon us from on high!  Amen.

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

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