God can do whatever He decides to do. He is God.
But God does not run over us. He wants to work through the intelligent response of men.
My old home in the South was near an active church which we sometimes attended for special meetings. My brother and I would sometimes fall asleep, for we were small and the services often long. Generally, I would awaken on the final hymn and walk the short distance home. Not so with my brother. He often accomplished the amazing feat of walking home while still asleep -- being guided along by the hand of one of my parents.
Now, God does not work that way. He wants us awake first. Then He will direct us onward.
Perhaps some here are fallen so low and have become so low and have become so discouraged, you make no response to God's call. There is only dull numbness. It was so with the Israelites in our text. Open to Isaiah 51.
Here we see how God proceeds to move the stiff, stony hearts. This message is addressed to discouraged, chastened believers and also to tired, weary sinners. In the text, God seeks the restoration of the fallen by two efforts. (Remember, Jesus Christ is ever the same and still wishes us to experience a full spiritual life.)
I. HE OFFERS ENCOURAGEMENT
When frozen in icy discouragement and sin, a man needs warming at the fires of hope. Here in Isaiah 51, God kindles encouragement for His people. The Jewish nation was in the process of crumbling into captivity. Babylon was soon to take Jerusalem. Inky black clouds were already visible on the horizon.
1. Look at Abraham, says the Lord, as He stirs the people to new hope, verse 2. While Abraham was "alone," only one man, I called him and increased him until he has become the head of the nation, God explains. You yourselves were dug from this quarry, i.e., background.
Lying just ahead of Zion (God's Own people and land) is a period of springtime revival, verse 3. The desert will blossom. The sound of song will again be heard.
2. Look at the world around. Both heavens and earth will be cast aside, "But my salvation will last forever," verse 6. How can you then fear and be tense regarding other men. They shall all die. Indeed, just as the moth devours a garment, so shall the wicked perish, but God and His righteousness will last " through all generations” 8. (With no gaps!)
3. Look at What Happened in Egypt, 9. Was it not you, O God, who "cut Rahab to pieces, who pierced that monster through?
10 Was it not you who dried up the sea,
the waters of the great deep,
who made a road in the depths of the sea
so that the redeemed might cross over?
11 Those the Lord has rescued will return.
They will enter Zion with singing;
everlasting joy will crown their heads.
Gladness and joy will overtake them,
and sorrow and sighing will flee away."
4. Look at God. What a privilege to do so! Hear Him whisper, "I, even I, am he who comforts you. Who are you that you fear mere mortals, human beings who are but grass?" verse 12. It is amazing how many of our inner struggles are rooted in dread of other men!
At this point, God expresses wonder that an earthling would forget the Maker who stretched out the very heavens and set earth's foundations and then shrink in tension before a fellow man, verse 13. Our Savior says, "I have put my words in your mouth and covered you with the shadow of my hand...‘You are my people.’” verse 16.
Picture a frightened family returning to their home area after a terrible earthquake. Single file they make their way through the ruins to a special pile of rubble -- their home! Eyes wide with horror turn from the tangled mass toward Dad's strong face. He has always provided -- fixed everything, even now! And so it is -- only God Almighty can put together a ruined life, a broken heart. Study our text and let faith breathe again.
5. Look at Your Troubles. When even these are seen through God's eyes, encouragement rises from the scorched ground. As in verses 1, 4, 7, 9, so here in 17, God shakes His people and calls them to awake. He explains that chastisement has been completed to the full on Jerusalem. The people lie fainting in the streets. They have drunk deeply from the cup of God's wrath, 12-23.
Now, they are told that their punishment, though purposeful and thorough, is controlled and limited. The bitter medicine has been fully consumed and has done its work. (You can almost see a Mother now putting away the sticky spoon and instead offering a tasty cool drink.) It is never more than we can bear and is always for our good.
II. HE CALLS US TO TAKE ACTION
The Hebrew people had been oppressed by various nations, such as the Egyptians, Assyrians and presently the Babylonians. "Now, enough is enough!" cries God the Deliverer in Isaiah 52. Look over the first five verses of this chapter.
It is like a father being startled by the anguished cry of his small son. Racing out into the yard, he discovers a bully astride the little fellow, pounding away.
"What's going on here!" shouts the father. With one hand the big man dangles the ruffian in mid air and sends him on his way home. See the Lord's words in verse 5, "And now what do I have here?” declares the Lord. “For my people have been taken away for nothing."
"Here, get up, son," says Dad to the defeated, weeping child. Let me help you get that dirt off." So God says, "Shake off your dust; rise up, sit enthroned," verse 2. How good it is to step free from the bondage of continual defeat and cast off the chains from our helpless necks! That is what God wants for you.
Next, our text proclaims what a privilege it is to go to a fallen man and tell him good news about God's love -- to let him know that Jesus Christ has conquered even death. “Your God reigns!” verse 7.
"Burst into songs of joy together," verse 9. God has, in effect, rolled up His sleeves and is determined to rescue all who will have Him, verse 10.
Are you truly willing to have Jesus Christ preside as Lord over your entire life? Then read prayerfully the instruction and the promises in verses 11 and 12. Tell God in prayer everything.