FORGET NONE OF HIS BENEFITS
volume 16, number 22 June 1, 2017
“For this is a rebellious people, false sons, Sons who refuse to listen to the instruction of the Lord.” -Isaiah 30:9
The Folly of Forsaking Prophetic Preaching
Isaiah the prophet, the son of Amoz, preached or prophesied to the nations of Israel and Judah during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, all kings of Judah. He did so from around 740 to 686 B.C. The burden of Isaiah’s ministry can be summed up in Isaiah 1:18, “Come now, and let us reason together,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are as scarlet, they will be white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they will be white like wool.” Isaiah makes numerous prophetic statements concerning the birth (Isaiah 7:14, 9:7,8), ministry (Isaiah 9:2-5, 40:1-5), and death (Isaiah 53) of Messiah. By the time Isaiah is preaching prophetically to the nation of Judah, the northern kingdom of Israel has already been taken away into exile by the Assyrians in 722 B.C.
In Isaiah 30:1-5 the prophet is making his case against rebellious Judah, pronouncing a woe on these rebellious children of Yahweh. They are facing the eminent invasion of the vile, tempestuous Assyrians and they are rightly alarmed. Instead, however, of crying out to Yahweh for deliverance, they look to Egypt for help, the same nation which had enslaved them for four hundred and thirty years. Because of their refusal to trust Yahweh, Isaiah promises that Pharaoh will be their shame, and the shelter in the shadow of Egypt their humiliation.
Yahweh instructs Isaiah to write on a tablet, to inscribe on a scroll as a witness forever, what is about to happen to them. And why is this harsh judgment coming upon Yahweh’s covenant people? Because they are rebellious. They are false sons. They have the name “son” but they are that in name only. Why? Because they refuse to listen to the instruction of the Lord. Isaiah’s indictment goes further. They are saying to the seers, “You must not see visions.” And to the prophets, “You must not prophesy to us what is right.” They do not want to hear from God. Instead they are asking that the prophets speak pleasant words, to prophesy illusions. Kind of reminds us of Paul’s words to Timothy, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance with their own desires and will turn away their ears from truth, and will turn aside to myths,” (2 Timothy 4:3,4).
It gets worse. They go on to say, “Get out of the way, turn aside from the path, let us hear no more about the Holy One of Israel.” The covenant people of God are utterly and completely rejecting the preached word of the Lord. There are always consequences to our recalcitrance. Because they are trusting in an oppressive and perverse nation, their iniquity will be like a breach or weak spot in a retainer wall, like a bulge in a very high wall. The collapse will come suddenly, unexpectedly, and will bring great devastation, destruction, and death. Their collapse will be so great it will be like clay jars utterly smashed, with not even a large shard left. They will become completely worthless, like a smashed clay pot which cannot carry water to drink or fire for the hearth.
My dear friends, it is utter folly to forsake the prophetic preaching of the word of God. The prophetic preaching of Isaiah was two-fold. On the one hand, it was revelatory. It gave us the very words of God which were recorded by the prophet. On the other hand, it was hard hitting, calling the people to repentance, calling them back to the Lord, to renew their covenant with Him. While we do not have the first part of prophetic preaching, since we have a fully canonical Bible (we are not to add to the word of God), we still ought to have the second part of prophetic preaching-calling the wretched saints (wretched man that I am, who will set me free from the body of this death, Romans 7:24) to holiness and calling the wretched sinners (repent and believe in the gospel, Mark 1:15) to close with Christ for their eternal salvation.
However people both within and outside the church have no appetite for prophetic preaching. Those in the pew want to hear a nice, uplifting message from the preacher. They wish to feel good about themselves. They want to be assured that all is well with their souls, even though they may secretly be living an adulterous life. They love to hear that God loves and forgives sinners, but they do not want to hear that without holiness no one will see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14). They do not want to hear, “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolators nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, not revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God,” (1 Corinthians 6:9,10). And far too often the preachers give them exactly what they want. After all, the mortgage on the church must be paid. Too strong a message may cause the sheep, or are they goats, to run to a kinder, gentler message.
And those in the world certainly do not want to hear the prophetic word. While it is certainly true that some open air preachers unnecessarily stir up opposition to their preaching by their tone or by inciting the people on secondary or tertiary issues; but other street preachers who are doing their very best to lift up Jesus as the only Savior of sinners also face severe opposition. In order to give the good news of the gospel we must first give the bad news, that all are under the wrath and condemnation of God due to breaking His holy law. We must speak of sin, death, and judgment; but people do not want to hear it.
The preacher’s task is an impossible one. People do not want to hear but he is called to preach. He is under obligation. He finds that he is like Jeremiah, having the word in his bones and he grows weary of trying to hold it in. He cannot sit on the good news of the gospel. Jesus’ person and work is far too precious to him. He knows very well that from which he has been delivered. He has the burden of the Lord upon him. What then must he do? He is to humble himself, meditating daily on the glory of Christ’s cross, His propitiating, expiating, justifying, sanctifying, adopting, glorifying death, the only remedy for sinners. He must seek the filling of the Holy Spirit and he must go-to the pulpit, to the streets and speak forth the mystery of Christ.
Please pray for your pastor and your street preacher friends, asking the Holy Spirit to fill them and empower them to preach prophetically. Those who refuse to listen will suddenly find their world collapsing around them, when they do not expect it. The end will come suddenly, quickly, without warning. The wrath of God, which has been growing daily for many years, like a barrel which catches the rain water after a thunder storm, will eventually pour out and hurl the person into perdition. They will experience the oppression and perverseness of the evil one for eternity.
My friends, the only remedy is for prophetic preaching, declaring to men that all everywhere must repent, because God has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through the One whom He has appointed, having raised Him from the dead.