Isaiah 57: 15
Exodus 3: 1-8 to “spacious land”
Luke 22: 31-32
2 Timothy 4: 11 from “Take Mark”
I have been thinking about Isaiah 57: 15, which was referred to in a recent fellowship meeting. It is a remarkable verse of scripture; there is a lot in it. It begins by speaking of the greatness of God and then it speaks about the wonderful fact that He desires to dwell with persons, and that He desires to revive us.
I would like to start by briefly speaking about the greatness of God, and I would like to ask every precious heart in this room if you have a link with God, if you believe in God. He is “the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, and whose name is Holy”. There is no other God beside Him: He is the Creator God, and testimony has been rendered even in the creation as to “his eternal power and divinity”, Rom 1: 20.
What a God we have! How wonderful He has been! You may have noticed in the news this week that a famous scientist died. I would not like to be critical of people, and we are thankful for brilliant men and women that can help us. He was a physicist and very intelligent, and he spent a lot of his life trying to understand the origins of the universe, but he was forceful in saying that God had nothing to do with it. Now that is very sad, though we do not know what happened between him and God on his deathbed, but I can tell you on the authority of Scripture, and in the faith of my own heart, that God created the universe. I would say to lay hold of that in the faith of your heart because it is a very stabilising thing. It say in Genesis 1: 1, “In the beginning God …”. Mr Coates makes an interesting comment: ‘Man's mind leaves God out, and wearies itself in endless speculations; faith brings Him in, and everything is simple’, Outline of Genesis p1. I would say to young persons here, down to the youngest that can understand me, to lay hold of that in your hearts; in the simplicity of your heart lay hold of the fact. Do not give ear to what you may be told at school that is against this; God created the heavens and the earth, and He created you.
He created everything in the universe, and we all have to do with God. He is a wonderful God! Not only is He omnipotent and all-seeing, but He is a God of love and grace and mercy. He is a God who has worked to restore the creation that was ruined by the incoming of sin. This Bible that we love so much is a recovery story. In verse 2 of Genesis we see that the earth was “waste and empty, and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering”, seeking a response, and then God moves in recovery: “Let there be light”, v 3. What a God! And so all the animals were created, men and women were created, and then something appalling came into the creation. By way of the serpent, sin came in to spoil what was so delightful to the heart of God, and I would say, speaking reverently, that God was not taken aback. He always had the answer in Jesus, and He is the One I would like to speak about to you tonight.
That is why I read in Exodus because that is a striking allusion to the incoming of Jesus. What a thing it was that God appeared in that way to Moses, and Moses turned aside. I would say to you tonight not to turn aside to listen to other men, not even , in one sense, to listen to me: listen to what God is saying. Moses turned aside to see this great sight. If you show interest in God’s things He will show interest in you; God is interested in interested persons. So you see in that wonderful interaction between God and Moses the heart of God coming out: “And Jehovah said, I have seen assuredly the affliction of my people who are in Egypt, and their cry have I heard on account of their taskmasters; for I know their sorrows. And I am come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians.”
This looked forward to the time when God did this through the down-stooping love of Jesus, the incarnation of our Lord and Saviour. It was His own move to come into this scene. Thanks be to God that He came in!
And when at length the Son on earth did stand
And we thank God for His life. How perfect it was! He came in at the weakest point; He came in as a babe: He came in fully dependent. He grew up, and every stage of His life, every stage of His development, speaking reverently, was absolutely perfect. He was different from you and me; He was sin apart, and “in favour with God and men”, Luke 2: 52. And then He commenced those three and a half years of public service, and He was a green spot on the earth for God. We have been thinking about the matter of restoring and revival, and that was what Jesus was: He was a Restorer. When He came across persons who were blind He restored their sight; if person’s hands were not working, He restored their hands; if persons were dumb and deaf, He restored them; He healed lepers. What a Person! It says in John’s gospel, “And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which if they were written one by one, I suppose that not even the world itself would contain the books written”, chap 21: 25. Do you understand the magnitude of what it meant for God to have the Lord Jesus here on earth? Yet the cry of the world was, ‘Away with Him’: “We will not that this man should reign over us”, Luke 19: 14. Why was that? Well, He was the Light of men; He exposed what was in the heart itself. Naturally I do not like that. Maybe you do not like to have your heart exposed, but the Lord Jesus became the perfect Sacrifice and Sin-offering.
When God operates things are unmistakable. Moses saw that thorn bush that burned but was not being consumed; it was an unmistakable experience. There were persons who were healed by Jesus and their lives were changed; it was unmistakable. You will know if Jesus has touched you : your life will be changed. Not only did He live here in a life that was of such delight to God but He went all the way for you. You think of the Father opening the heavens upon Him at the waters of baptism, and declaring His delight in Him, and the Spirit descending as a dove upon Him. That was before His public service commenced. Then on the mount of transfiguration again the Father declared His delight in Him, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I have found my delight”, Matt 17: 5. Meanwhile the world’s cry was, “We will not that this man should reign over us”.
Do the sufferings of Jesus affect your heart? You can read about them at the end of Matthew’s gospel. We have spoken today about suffering for righteousness sake, 1 Pet 3: 14. The Lord could say to them, “but this is your hour and the power of darkness”, Luke 22: 53. I often wonder about that; I often wonder about what God allowed men to do to His beloved Son, “suffering for righteousness sake”: the shame, the scorn, the spitting, the mockery, the crown of thorns, the purple robe, blows on the face. There was a person there - and, of course, God Himself witnessed it - who witnessed the sufferings of Jesus, and I think he witnessed the way that he suffered; he would not have seen a crucifixion like it. And then, after those three hours of darkness the Lord Jesus, the One who was the Sin-bearer, died. He could say, “Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit”, Luke 23: 46. Men did not kill Jesus; He had the authority to lay down His life (John 10: 18): but He did die. We need to understand the reality of the death of Jesus. But I was thinking of the testimony that was rendered by that centurion. You may say that it came from the most unlikely of sources. What did he say? He said, “Truly this man was Son of God”, Mark 15: 39. What a testimony rendered to the greatness of the Lord Jesus! I think that centurion’s life had changed for ever, and maybe the lives of others as well.
But the work was not finished then; another soldier came and pierced the side of Jesus. Think of the shedding of the precious blood of Jesus! If you read further on in Exodus you will come to the different plagues - for the Egyptians they were plagues; for the people of God they were signs - and the tenth sign was the occasion for the passover lamb. It is no different tonight - in order for you to be saved tonight you need to know for yourself that you are sheltering under the precious shed blood of Jesus. He shed His blood; wicked hands put Him on the cross; loving hands took Him down. Think of Nicodemus, and the way that the Lord worked with him. He initially came to the Lord in secret; then he intervened to try to mediate things in John 7: but in the end he comes with Joseph of Arimathea. The Lord has His reserves; God has His reserves and Jesus “was with the rich in his death, because he had done no violence, neither was there guile in his mouth”, Isa 53: 9. What a Person! So He was placed in that “new tomb in which no one had ever been laid” (John 19: 41), for three days and three nights, and in being there He removed the man that had offended God, and He was “raised up … by the glory of the Father”, Rom 6: 4,
One of the other signs was that the gnats came out of the dust. In the first two plagues of Exodus, when the rivers and the waters were turned to blood, and when the frogs covered the earth, the sages and sorcerers were able to imitate those signs, but when it came to the gnats they had to say, “This is the finger of God!”, chap 8: 19. It speaks of resurrection; it speaks of life out of death. The finger of God is involved in the resurrection of Christ, the selective resurrection of His Son, “according to the working of the might of his strength, in which he wrought in the Christ in raising him from among the dead”, Eph 1: 19, 20. We have been speaking tonight about creation, and creation is very wonderful, but it has been said that the power that God extended and exerted in raising Christ from among the dead was greater than the power He used to create the universe. “The working of the might of his strength, in which he wrought in the Christ in raising him from among the dead”: what a matter! What a foe death was; yet its power has been broken by Jesus. He went into it and He broke its power; He has come out triumphant, a Prince and a Saviour. He appeared to His own, and He was taken up. Do you believe that? Do you believe that the heart of a Man beats in heaven? It says, “And having said these things he was taken up … and a cloud received him out of their sight”, Acts 1: 9. He has the central place in heaven at God’s right hand, a Prince and a Saviour.
He has a great interest in you. If you are needing restoring tonight, if you are needing revival - that is what we read of in Isaiah 57 - the Lord Jesus would do that for you tonight. I love to think of the way that He interceded for Peter. It was quite strong language: He could say to Peter, “Satan has demanded to have you, to sift you as wheat; but I have besought for thee that thy faith fail not; and thou, when once thou hast been restored, confirm thy brethren”. Do you know that the Lord has besought for you? He loves you so much that He intercedes for you. That prayer of the Lord Jesus for Peter was answered. Think of the preacher that he became! We see those preachings of Peter at the beginning of Acts, and how powerful they are. What a changed person he had become. He was a believer, but he failed - and have we not all? - and yet he was steadfast; he was a stone. He wrote those epistles. We have been thinking about things that are unmistakable, and he could speak about what he witnessed on the mount of transfiguration: it was not a cleverly imagined fable. He speaks of “having been eyewitnesses of his majesty, 2 Pet 1: 16. What a Restorer the Lord Jesus is, and how Peter confirmed his brethren!
I was thinking of Mark as well. If we are thinking of revival, John Mark has a remarkable revival. There was a time when he was with Paul’s company, but in Acts 3 it says that he went back to Jerusalem, v 13. And then in chapter 15 there was warm feeling between Paul and Barnabas in relation to Mark; Barnabas went one way and Paul continued on, v 39-41. He got the call from the Macedonian man to come over to help him, and the gospel spread westward, chap 16: 9. How thankful we are that the gospel has come to us! I just love that thought! Yet in 2 Timothy Paul was able to speak about Mark as a recovered person, “Take Mark … for he is serviceable to me for ministry”. That is really what God has in mind, that people are not just left; He has recovery and revival in His heart: what a God, so great! “From eternity to eternity” (Ps 90: 2); yet His interest is in man. He is interested in you and me, and wants to dwell with us, but He cannot dwell with us if we do not have a contrite heart. We have that by coming to Jesus in repentance and asking for forgiveness, knowing that we are saved and then receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit. That is how we have a new and changed heart; that is how we are restored.
I trust that it may be the portion of each heart here that we may know that we have a real and living link with Jesus. If you are needing revival or restoration, the only Person that can give it to you will give it to you tonight. In Psalm 69 it says, “then I restored that which I took not away”, v 4. The Lord Jesus is the great Restorer for God. The gospel, and all God’s dealings with men, is the story of recovery and restoration. That is what He has in His heart for you tonight, your recovery and restoration, your salvation.
May it be so - for His Name’s sake!
18th March 2018