+ In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen!
Opening – (Northumbria Community)
One thing I have asked of the Lord, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life; to behold the beauty of the Lord and to seek Him in His temple.
Praise to You, Lord Jesus Christ, King of endless glory.
Reading: Isaiah 56-61 (NLT)
Blessing for All Nations
Isaiah 56 (NLT)
This is what the Lord says:
“Be just and fair to all. Do what is right and good, for I am coming soon to rescue you and to display my righteousness among you. Blessed are all those who are careful to do this. Blessed are those who honor my Sabbath days of rest and keep themselves from doing wrong.
“Don’t let foreigners who commit themselves to the Lord say, ‘The Lord will never let me be part of his people.’ And don’t let the eunuchs say, ‘I’m a dried-up tree with no children and no future.’
+ I will bless the eunuchs – For this is what the Lord says: “I will bless those eunuchs who keep my Sabbath days holy and who choose to do what pleases me and commit their lives to me. I will give them—within the walls of my house—a memorial and a name far greater than sons and daughters could give. For the name I give them is an everlasting one. It will never disappear!
+ I will bless the foreigners – “I will also bless the foreigners who commit themselves to the Lord, who serve him and love his name, who worship him and do not desecrate the Sabbath day of rest, and who hold fast to my covenant. I will bring them to my holy mountain of Jerusalem and will fill them with joy in my house of prayer. I will accept their burnt offerings and sacrifices, because my Temple will be called a house of prayer for all nations. For the Sovereign Lord, who brings back the outcasts of Israel, says: I will bring others, too, besides my people Israel.”
Condemnation for Israel’s Leaders
+ They are blind and ignorant – Come, wild animals of the field! Come, wild animals of the forest! Come and devour my people! For the leaders of my people—the Lord’s watchmen, his shepherds—are blind and ignorant. They are like silent watchdogs that give no warning when danger comes. They love to lie around, sleeping and dreaming. Like greedy dogs, they are never satisfied. They are ignorant shepherds, all following their own path and intent on personal gain.
+ They are drunken party-goers – “Come,” they say, “let’s get some wine and have a party. Let’s all get drunk. Then tomorrow we’ll do it again and have an even bigger party!”
Isaiah 57 (NLT)
Good people pass away; the godly often die before their time. But no one seems to care or wonder why. No one seems to understand that God is protecting them from the evil to come. For those who follow godly paths will rest in peace when they die.
Condemnation for Worshiping Idols
“But you—come here, you witches’ children, you offspring of adulterers and prostitutes! Whom do you mock, making faces and sticking out your tongues? You children of sinners and liars!
- You worship your idols with great passion beneath the oaks and under every green tree.
- You sacrifice your children down in the valleys, among the jagged rocks in the cliffs.
- Your gods are the smooth stones in the valleys.
- You worship them with liquid offerings and grain offerings.
They, not I, are your inheritance. Do you think all this makes me happy?
- You have committed adultery on every high mountain. There you have worshiped idols and have been unfaithful to me.
- You have put pagan symbols on your doorposts and behind your doors.
- You have left me and climbed into bed with these detestable gods.
- You have committed yourselves to them.
- You love to look at their naked bodies.
- You have gone to Molech with olive oil and many perfumes, sending your agents far and wide, even to the world of the dead.
- You grew weary in your search, but you never gave up. Desire gave you renewed strength, and you did not grow weary.
“Are you afraid of these idols? Do they terrify you? Is that why you have lied to me and forgotten me and my words? Is it because of my long silence that you no longer fear me?
Now I will expose your so-called good deeds. None of them will help you. Let’s see if your idols can save you when you cry to them for help. Why, a puff of wind can knock them down! If you just breathe on them, they fall over! But whoever trusts in me will inherit the land and possess my holy mountain.”
Forgiveness for the Repentant
God says, “Rebuild the road! Clear away the rocks and stones so my people can return from captivity.”
+ I will heal the humble and contrite – The high and lofty one who lives in eternity, the Holy One, says this: “I live in the high and holy place with those whose spirits are contrite and humble. I restore the crushed spirit of the humble and revive the courage of those with repentant hearts. For I will not fight against you forever; I will not always be angry. If I were, all people would pass away—all the souls I have made. I was angry, so I punished these greedy people. I withdrew from them, but they kept going on their own stubborn way. I have seen what they do, but I will heal them anyway! I will lead them. I will comfort those who mourn, bringing words of praise to their lips. May they have abundant peace, both near and far,” says the Lord, who heals them.
+ No rest for the wicked – “But those who still reject me are like the restless sea, which is never still but continually churns up mud and dirt. There is no peace for the wicked,” says my God.
True and False Worship
Isaiah 58 (NLT)
+ Duplicitous worship – “Shout with the voice of a trumpet blast. Shout aloud! Don’t be timid. Tell my people Israel of their sins! Yet they act so pious! They come to the Temple every day and seem delighted to learn all about me. They act like a righteous nation that would never abandon the laws of its God. They ask me to take action on their behalf, pretending they want to be near me.
‘We have fasted before you!’ they say. ‘Why aren’t you impressed? We have been very hard on ourselves, and you don’t even notice it!’
+ False fasting – “I will tell you why!” I respond. “It’s because you are fasting to please yourselves. Even while you fast, you keep oppressing your workers. What good is fasting when you keep on fighting and quarreling? This kind of fasting will never get you anywhere with me. You humble yourselves by going through the motions of penance, bowing your heads like reeds bending in the wind. You dress in burlap and cover yourselves with ashes. Is this what you call fasting? Do you really think this will please the Lord?
+ True fasting – “No, this is the kind of fasting I want: Free those who are wrongly imprisoned; lighten the burden of those who work for you. Let the oppressed go free, and remove the chains that bind people. Share your food with the hungry, and give shelter to the homeless. Give clothes to those who need them, and do not hide from relatives who need your help.
+ Godliness and glory – “Then your salvation will come like the dawn, and your wounds will quickly heal. Your godliness will lead you forward, and the glory of the Lord will protect you from behind. Then when you call, the Lord will answer. ‘Yes, I am here,’ he will quickly reply.
+ A shining light – “Remove the heavy yoke of oppression. Stop pointing your finger and spreading vicious rumors! Feed the hungry, and help those in trouble. Then your light will shine out from the darkness, and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon. The Lord will guide you continually, giving you water when you are dry and restoring your strength. You will be like a well-watered garden, like an ever-flowing spring. Some of you will rebuild the deserted ruins of your cities. Then you will be known as a rebuilder of walls and a restorer of homes.
+ Delightful worship – “Keep the Sabbath day holy. Don’t pursue your own interests on that day, but enjoy the Sabbath and speak of it with delight as the Lord’s holy day. Honor the Sabbath in everything you do on that day, and don’t follow your own desires or talk idly. Then the Lord will be your delight. I will give you great honor and satisfy you with the inheritance I promised to your ancestor Jacob. I, the Lord, have spoken!”
Warnings against Sin
Isaiah 59 (NLT)
+ Sin separates us from God – Listen! The Lord’s arm is not too weak to save you, nor is his ear too deaf to hear you call. It’s your sins that have cut you off from God. Because of your sins, he has turned away and will not listen anymore.
- Your hands are the hands of murderers, and your fingers are filthy with sin.
- Your lips are full of lies, and your mouth spews corruption.
- No one cares about being fair and honest.
- The people’s lawsuits are based on lies.
- They conceive evil deeds and then give birth to sin.
They hatch deadly snakes and weave spiders’ webs. Whoever eats their eggs will die; whoever cracks them will hatch a viper. Their webs can’t be made into clothing, and nothing they do is productive.
- All their activity is filled with sin, and violence is their trademark.
- Their feet run to do evil, and they rush to commit murder.
- They think only about sinning. Misery and destruction always follow them.
- They don’t know where to find peace or what it means to be just and good.
- They have mapped out crooked roads, and no one who follows them knows a moment’s peace.
So there is no justice among us, and we know nothing about right living.
- We look for light but find only darkness.
- We look for bright skies but walk in gloom.
- We grope like the blind along a wall, feeling our way like people without eyes.
- Even at brightest noontime, we stumble as though it were dark.
- Among the living, we are like the dead.
- We growl like hungry bears; we moan like mournful doves.
- We look for justice, but it never comes.
- We look for rescue, but it is far away from us.
- We know we have rebelled and have denied the Lord.
- We have turned our backs on our God.
- We know how unfair and oppressive we have been, carefully planning our deceitful lies.
- Our courts oppose the righteous, and justice is nowhere to be found.
- Truth stumbles in the streets, and honesty has been outlawed.
- Yes, truth is gone, and anyone who renounces evil is attacked.
+ God’s justice – The Lord looked and was displeased to find there was no justice. He was amazed to see that no one intervened to help the oppressed. So he himself stepped in to save them with his strong arm, and his justice sustained him. He put on righteousness as his body armor and placed the helmet of salvation on his head. He clothed himself with a robe of vengeance and wrapped himself in a cloak of divine passion.
- He will repay his enemies for their evil deeds.
- His fury will fall on his foes.
- He will pay them back even to the ends of the earth.
In the west, people will respect the name of the Lord; in the east, they will glorify him. For he will come like a raging flood tide driven by the breath of the Lord.
+ God’s Redeemer – “The Redeemer will come to Jerusalem to buy back those in Israel who have turned from their sins,” says the Lord.
“And this is my covenant with them,” says the Lord. “My Spirit will not leave them, and neither will these words I have given you. They will be on your lips and on the lips of your children and your children’s children forever. I, the Lord, have spoken!
Future Glory for Jerusalem
Isaiah 60 (NLT)
+ Arise and shine – “Arise, Jerusalem! Let your light shine for all to see. For the glory of the Lord rises to shine on you. Darkness as black as night covers all the nations of the earth, but the glory of the Lord rises and appears over you. All nations will come to your light; mighty kings will come to see your radiance.
+ Everyone is coming home – “Look and see, for everyone is coming home! Your sons are coming from distant lands; your little daughters will be carried home. Your eyes will shine, and your heart will thrill with joy, for merchants from around the world will come to you. They will bring you the wealth of many lands. Vast caravans of camels will converge on you, the camels of Midian and Ephah. The people of Sheba will bring gold and frankincense and will come worshiping the Lord. The flocks of Kedar will be given to you, and the rams of Nebaioth will be brought for my altars. I will accept their offerings, and I will make my Temple glorious.
+ From the ends of the earth – “And what do I see flying like clouds to Israel, like doves to their nests? They are ships from the ends of the earth, from lands that trust in me, led by the great ships of Tarshish. They are bringing the people of Israel home from far away, carrying their silver and gold. They will honor the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, for he has filled you with splendor.
+ I will have mercy on you – “Foreigners will come to rebuild your towns, and their kings will serve you. For though I have destroyed you in my anger, I will now have mercy on you through my grace. Your gates will stay open day and night to receive the wealth of many lands. The kings of the world will be led as captives in a victory procession. For the nations that refuse to serve you will be destroyed.
+ My Temple will be glorious – “The glory of Lebanon will be yours—the forests of cypress, fir, and pine—to beautify my sanctuary. My Temple will be glorious! The descendants of your tormentors will come and bow before you. Those who despised you will kiss your feet. They will call you the City of the Lord, and Zion of the Holy One of Israel.
+ Jerusalem will be beautiful – “Though you were once despised and hated, with no one traveling through you, I will make you beautiful forever, a joy to all generations. Powerful kings and mighty nations will satisfy your every need, as though you were a child nursing at the breast of a queen.
+ God will be your Savior and Redeemer – You will know at last that I, the Lord, am your Savior and your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Israel.
- I will exchange your bronze for gold, your iron for silver, your wood for bronze, and your stones for iron.
- I will make peace your leader and righteousness your ruler.
- Violence will disappear from your land; the desolation and destruction of war will end.
- Salvation will surround you like city walls, and praise will be on the lips of all who enter there.
+ God will be your Light and Glory – “No longer will you need the sun to shine by day, nor the moon to give its light by night, for the Lord your God will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory. Your sun will never set; your moon will not go down. For the Lord will be your everlasting light. Your days of mourning will come to an end. All your people will be righteous. They will possess their land forever, for I will plant them there with my own hands in order to bring myself glory. The smallest family will become a thousand people, and the tiniest group will become a mighty nation. At the right time, I, the Lord, will make it happen.”
Good News for the Oppressed
Isaiah 61 (NLT)
+ Anointed to bring good news – The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me, for the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted and to proclaim that captives will be released and prisoners will be freed. He has sent me to tell those who mourn that the time of the Lord’s favor has come, and with it, the day of God’s anger against their enemies.
- To all who mourn in Israel, he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that the Lord has planted for his own glory.
- They will rebuild the ancient ruins, repairing cities destroyed long ago. They will revive them, though they have been deserted for many generations. Foreigners will be your servants. They will feed your flocks and plow your fields and tend your vineyards.
- You will be called priests of the Lord, ministers of our God. You will feed on the treasures of the nations and boast in their riches.
- Instead of shame and dishonor, you will enjoy a double share of honor. You will possess a double portion of prosperity in your land, and everlasting joy will be yours.
+ A blessed people – “For I, the Lord, love justice. I hate robbery and wrongdoing. I will faithfully reward my people for their suffering and make an everlasting covenant with them. Their descendants will be recognized and honored among the nations. Everyone will realize that they are a people the Lord has blessed.”
+ A joyful people – I am overwhelmed with joy in the Lord my God! For he has dressed me with the clothing of salvation and draped me in a robe of righteousness. I am like a bridegroom dressed for his wedding or a bride with her jewels.
+ A just and righteous people – The Sovereign Lord will show his justice to the nations of the world. Everyone will praise him! His righteousness will be like a garden in early spring, with plants springing up everywhere.
“My Redeemer’s Love” – Sovereign Grace Music
Blessing – (Northumbrian Community)
May the peace of the Lord Christ go with you, wherever He may send you. May He guide you through the wilderness, protect you through the storm. May He bring you home rejoicing at the wonders He has shown you. May He bring you home rejoicing once again into our doors.
+ In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen!