AUSTRALIAN BIBLE CHURCH May 7, 2006
Matthew 13 with John 12, each citing from Isaiah 6
THE WARNING AND THE WISDOM
I THE APPEAL
In Jeremiah 4:14 and 13:27, we find two tremendous appeals from the very heart of God, which can be translated to any time, for God so loved the WORLD that He gave: but what He gave, needs to be received. Like petrol in the car, you can often tell it quite simply, by the way it goes.
“O Jerusalem, wash your heart from wickedness,
That you may be saved. How long will your evil thoughts lodge within you ?”
The other appeal is this one:
Having noted that He has seen their various erratic longings for what is mere lust, God declares: “Woe to you, Jerusalem, will you not be made clean ? for how long … still “
The AV puts it beautifully: ”Will you not be made clean ? When once will it be ?”
II THE SIGNIFICANCE of MATTHEW 13 and JOHN 12
How great is the danger to those who delude themselves into religious posturings without grace! Thus Christ put it in this way (Matthew 13:14-15):
“Hearing you will hear and shall not understand,
and seeing, you will see and not perceive:
for the hearts of this people have grown dull,
their ears are hard of hearing, and their eyes they have closed,
lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears,
lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, so that I should heal them.”
In John 12, much later, when Christ by then had wrought many marvels and thoroughly shown Himself to be the Messiah, there was a vast resistance on the part of those who vehemently, but with never a victory in word or deed, opposed Him (cf. Luke 11:52). Here John is led to declare, again with reference to Isaiah 6 which is in the base for these words,
“He has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts, lest they should see with their eyes, lest they should understand with their heats and turn, so that I should heal them.”
How fascinating! In Isaiah 6, it is the LORD who hardens their hearts, closes their eyes in an act of eventual judgment on their endless seeming murmuring and controverting, means of simply disobeying. So it is in John 12. However in Matthew, Christ declares that it is they who have closed their own eyes.
Sometimes there are two sides to a thing, and here it is so. Man insolently and often vehemently or passionately refuses to obey, and it becomes habitual, though the words of the lips may be ‘near’ enough (cf. Isaiah 29:13). They eventually may ‘sear’ their ‘conscience’ as ‘with a hot iron’ (I Timothy 4:2). God does not “always strive”, Isaiah 57:15-16 tells us, for the spirit of man, being limited, would fail before Him. Thus the wilful closing of the eyes can lead to the judgmental closing, and the voluntary rejection can become involuntary, until there is no more hope, for they have trodden underfoot the blood of Christ (Hebrews 10:29), their relationship to God involving less of reality than of a mere form or ceremony, never touching their souls or liberating their lives, as they continue immune to truth, voluble misfits.
III THE SETTING
In Isaiah 1-5, on the way to the Ch. 6 where this warning is given, numerous indeed and heart-searching are the divine challenges. Thus in Ch. 1, we hear these words (v.6):
“Why should you be stricken again ? you will revolt more and more.
The whole head is sick, and the whole heart faints."
The again comes the challenge (1:18):
“Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean;
put away the evil of your doings from before My eyes.
Cease to do evil, learn to do good;
seek justice, rebuke the oppressor,
defend the fatherless, plead for the widow.”
Indeed, in pleading graciousness, the Lord appeals deeply, and tenderly:
“ ‘Come now, and let us reason together,’ says the LORD.
‘Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.
Though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool.’ ”
On and on the challenge, opportunity and call comes, till Ch. 6. Here Isaiah is found, ready to serve, and His lips in vision are touched as with a hot coal from the altar, so that his sin is purged, and it is then that he is given the message which is applied in the New Testament.
Thus Christ, through His Spirit the author of these words in Isaiah 6:9-10, ones referred to in both Matthew’s Gospel and that of John, interpreting His own message in its setting in Isaiah, sees and says that it is BECAUSE of these rejected appeals that the eyes are at length closed, not only by man, but by God, and He being present, urges them NOT to shut their eyes. That is the beginning as you see in Isaiah 1-5, and this is the end. Do not REACH this end! That is the point. Therefore come straight and clean, clear and contrite to Him at the first!
IV THE URGENCY – DO NOT WAIT FOR THE URGE!
Now we come to the urgency of HEEDING the Lord, and attending operationally to HIS PLEADING, for it is not for nought, but for life that He seeks us; and His love toward man, as in Titus Chs. 2-4, His kindness, mercy and grace needs to be received covenantally and completely. It is this which the Lord’s Supper SYMBOLISES, but what it symbolises, each must ACTUALLY RECEIVE for himself or herself.
"Woe to you, O Jerusalem! Will you not be made clean ?
When shall it once be ?"
There you here see from the Lord:
v a divine yearning, as from a mother.
v a fatherly caution, crisp with realistic concern.
v an interrogation, as from a surgeon, foreseeing inoperable lung cancer,
and speaking to an uncontrolled tobacco addict.
v an implicit attestation of long continued abuse.
To this writer, this is one of the most poignant of the verses of the Book of the Lord! (Isaiah 34:16). There you see the cry of the heart of the Lord, WHEN ONCE will it be! Delay, procrastination is mere pittance when a fortune of favour is required from the Lord’s mercy, given only where it may be received, not as supplement or increment. Let us then first release all sin before the bar of divine justice, and abandoning it, find from Him, that delightful word in Isaiah:
“Come, and let us reason together,
though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.
Though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool.”
How devout is divine grace, and it needs simply to be received, not with formal hope, or intention, but in an entire submission of will, hope, ideal, idea, life and destiny to His hands, so that He comes not as mere adviser, but Saviour and Lord, in practice and in reality for each of us.
THEN, finding His will, do it; and needing power, use it, and great then is your blessedness in Him.