Sound An Alarm
June 13, 1999 / No. 2945
Dear Radio Listeners,
When the effects and consequences of your sins are made plain to you, what do you do? Do you push them away? Do you look for pleasures to silence the voice convicting you of your sin? Do you say, “Let us eat and drink for tomorrow we die”? Do you try to repair the damage with your own ingenuity? Do you say, “Well, I must learn to make better decisions next time”?
Or do you look to your Maker? Do you look to the God who fashioned you? Do you repent and bow before Him with weeping of heart and cry out for His forgiveness and grace?
Whenever we read the Scriptures, we are amazed at how contemporary they are. That is also the case in the prophecy of Isaiah, chapter 22:8-14. Please open your Bible to that passage.
In this text we are told of the children of Judah during the time of the Assyrian threat. Senacherib, the king of Assyria, had destroyed the ten tribes to the north (Israel and their capital, Samaria), and was in the process of invading the land of Judah to the south and would soon begin the siege of Jerusalem. Although Hezekiah, king of Judah, was a man who would set his heart to seek the Lord and the Lord would deliver them from this threat, nevertheless there were many others in that day, soldiers and princes and many of the people, who did not look to their Maker for their help and their strength.
Isaiah then writes in a time of unrest, at a time when the rulers were showing cowardice, when there was famine, when there were threats for the future, when armies were amassing on the borders of Judah, when there was much perplexity. The people of Judah had turned from the Lord their God, had not sought Him as they ought to. Now God was bringing home the consequences of their sins.
They responded in a foolish way. Many of them said, “Let us eat and drink and be merry, for tomorrow we will die.” Others thought that by their own strength they could escape the consequences and save themselves.
Isaiah, in this passage, calls them and us to the proper response to our sins when those sins are made plain to us. By the Spirit of God, let us see this Word of God as it applies to ourselves and to the world in which we live today.
We read in verse 8 that He, that is, God, “discovered the covering of Judah, and thou (that is, Judah) didst look in that day to the armour of the house of the forest.” We may translate it this way: God has taken away the covering of Judah. In other words, there was a covering over the eyes of Judah. They had a veil, so to speak, over their eyes so that they could not and did not want to see certain things, certain things which conveniently they wanted to ignore. Now God had made it impossible for them to continue to go on in that ignorance.
How had God done that? The answer is given in the first verses of Isaiah 22. There we read of the Assyrian army which had entered into the land of the children of Judah and had occupied certain parts of that land already. We read that the people were going to the top of their housetops where they could see the advance of the invading foe. It was advancing toward Jerusalem. Things were becoming very uncomfortable, so they could no longer ignore certain things that they wanted to ignore. A covering was being taken from their eyes. They had been thoughtless. They had been heedless. They had not been paying attention to their calling for faith and repentance. Certain prophets among them had been saying, “Everything is OK. Do not trouble yourselves. Relax.” But now the covering was off. The Assyrian horde was advancing, forcing them to face the facts of their life.
Does that sound familiar? We see that in the world. God sends His judgment: crime, broken homes, great threats to the entire society economically and morally. Yet men would just as soon not have to deal with their sins. They say, “Don’t bother me with these things.” That can also be in our lives. Do you want to see what your sin is doing? Very often God must pull the veil that we would place over our eyes so that we see what sin has done.
What was it that God had uncovered? We read in verse 9, “Ye have seen also the breaches of the city of David, that they are many.” That is, the fact of the advance of the Assyrian army into the land of Judah had forced the people of Judah to examine the defensive walls of the city of Jerusalem, walls which they passed by every day. And they discovered that there were many breaches, that is, parts of the wall which were crumbled, cracked, and broken down. They are many. Be very clear about it. It was not the Assyrian army that had made the breaches. That army had not yet reached the walls of Jerusalem to cast up a mount against it or to try to batter down the wall. Those breaches in the walls of the city of Jerusalem were there because of the complacency, the indolence, and the slackness of the children of Israel. They were living without respect to Jehovah. They were enjoying themselves, having a good time. They did not concern themselves with their position in the world as God’s people. They did not look to their spiritual defense. Oh, perhaps, occasionally a mason or a foreman would come along and say, “Look here. It seems to me we had better do some fortifying, some tuck-pointing in the bricks and the mortar.” But the response had been, “Don’t be an alarmist. We’re having a good time. There’s always tomorrow.” And the result was, the wall had begun to crumble. Bricks and stones had collapsed and there were actually holes in the wall. Through sheer negligence and complacency, through the attitude that it is too much of a bother, breaches, many breaches had developed in the wall.
That is God’s Word. Do you hear? Does He uncover your own sin to your eyes? In the world for sure, and in our own country, the walls are filled with breaches.
Marriage, which is given to protect the gift of sexuality and the gift of children, that marriage is being broken down. Truth, honesty, faithfulness – all these are being broken down. And people respond: “Well, you shouldn’t be such a right-ring alarmist. Don’t bother us. We want our pleasures. We’ve got it good. The economy is strong, so it doesn’t matter if there are a few breaches in the walls of society.”
But what about our own spiritual lives? The walls of Jerusalem were a figure of, or represented, the salvation of God’s children. Isaiah 26:1, “Salvation will God appoint for walls.” Those walls refer to the things of our salvation in Christ, our walk of obedience, our life as those who are not of this world, as those who belong to the Lord Jesus Christ. That spiritual life of salvation does not often go to pieces overnight. It can be a very subtle, and a very slow process. You and I start by being just a little slack here and there. We say, “It’s all right. Nothing will happen. I’m not really denying my faith. It’s just once.” And so we, perhaps, forget our prayers as we were taught by our parents. Or we fall out of the daily habit of reading the Scriptures personally – your graduation Bible, your wedding Bible lies on a bedstand unopened.
But you are not overly alarmed by that. You say, “Well, true, I should be reading my Bible. But I know what’s in it.” Then issues arise with friends, perhaps. And they want you to do something that is going to blur the lines of a godly walk. There is going to be a party. There is going to be drinking. Everybody does it, you say? “Just one beer. I’m not going to get drunk. I for sure am not going to lose my purity.” Someone comes and says to you, “Look, do you know what you’re doing? Do you know what’s happening to you? You’re not faithful in your prayers and your Bible reading. You’re not faithful to your church. Your attendance is infrequent. You’re playing with fire.” Perhaps you respond: “Oh, don’t be an alarmist. I’m in control of myself. I know where I am.”
Then, suddenly, God so orders your life that He pulls down the veil that you want to put over your eyes, the veil that would keep you from seeing the consequences of your sin, what sin is actually doing in your life. And He reveals to you the breaches that are in the wall. Perhaps you have lost purity. You have compromised and spotted yourself with the world. You have lost chastity and innocence of speech. Something very precious and dear to you is suddenly gone. You awake and there it is. No longer can you deny what sin has brought into your life, into your family, into your church. You have lost that precious nearness to Christ.
Hear the Word of God. The enemy, the devil, does not come into your life as a child of God, first of all, by crashing and smashing and saying to you: “Deny Christ or die.” No. The weapons of the enemy that are brought against you as you walk in salvation are first of all sheer indulgence of your flesh, negligence of your calling as a child of God, neglect of your salvation, complacency. These are as drugs to seduce you into sleep.
God, in His mercy, sent the Assyrian army. He pulled down the veil from the Israelites’ eyes, and in a way that they could no longer avoid it. They saw what their sins had been doing.
That is where it becomes even more tragic in this chapter. For the people of Judah went terribly wrong exactly at the point of their foolish response to their sins. In fact, because of their foolish response they would eventually be destroyed. The city of Jerusalem would not be destroyed by the Assyrian army at that time. But Jerusalem would be leveled by Nebuchadnezzar. In verse 14 we read this: “And it was revealed in mine ears by the LORD of hosts, Surely this iniquity shall not be purged from you till ye die, saith the Lord GOD of hosts.” The iniquity that is referred to there is the response that they have made to the exposure of their slackened spiritual state. They did not repent. They did not look to their Maker (v. 11), neither did they have respect unto Him that fashioned them. The Lord had called them (v. 12) to weeping and to mourning and to baldness and to sackcloth and to a true repentance. But they would not. Instead they responded to the knowledge of their sins in a foolish way.
What did they do? Two things. First of all, we read in those verses that there was a frantic and futile attempt to solve it themselves. They decided that they would deal with their problem. They saw that the breaches were many. What did they do? Verse 8 says, “And thou didst look in that day to the armour of the house of the forest.” That is a reference to the stockade that Solomon built out of beams and stones from Lebanon and where was stored the weapons of war: the shields and the spears – the arsenal. They turned their attention to their arsenal. And in verse 9, “Ye gathered together the waters of the lower pool.” That is, they began to collect and store water up for the siege. Verse 10: “Ye have numbered the houses of Jerusalem, and the houses have ye broken down to fortify the wall.” That is, they conducted a survey of the existing building materials – the stone and the wood. They began to dismantle houses and took the stones and began to patch up the walls. In verse 11 we read: “Ye made also a ditch between the two walls for the water of the old pool.” They dug a moat between the outer and inner wall to protect the inner sanctuary of the city.
But, says God, ye have not looked unto the Maker thereof. Neither had ye respect unto Him that fashioned it long ago. The eternal God, the Creator of His people, the Maker, the Source of all – they did not look to Him. They had no respect. They had no confidence in Him. Instead they said, “What can we do? Assyria is coming. Through our negligence the walls are broken down. We cannot deny the results of our sins. What shall we do? We shall rush to our arsenal, tear down houses, erect barricades, dig a moat, pile up stones. We will handle it! We will save ourselves.”
In the world? The world sees its problems: broken homes, neglected children, murder. What do they do? “We’ll call a joint session of Congress. They’ll fix the problem. We have social problems? We’ll have counseling. We’ll have studies on marriage. We’ll have studies on child-violence. We’ll have studies on sexual orientation. We’ll have studies on the economy, Y2K communes. We’ll stockpile water and guns. We’ll handle it!”
And in your life? Do you try to manage your sins? That is when it is not going to work anymore to deny that there is a problem in your life. Love for sin, and pride, are too painful for you to cut. So you say, “OK, obviously I need to make a few adjustments. I’ve made some bad decisions. A few changes are in order around here. Things are getting out of hand. I’ve made some bad decisions, but I’ve learned my lesson. Now I will continue in a more appropriate way.” But you do not fall on your knees before your Maker with an overwhelming burden that you have forsaken Him who has fashioned you. And you do not cry out to Him. You do not cry out to Him in repentance, “Lord, cut the love of this sin out of my heart. No matter how I feel, no matter what I think, Lord, deliver me from the love of my sin.”
That was the first response: they would handle it in their own strength.
The second response was even worse.
There were others who simply, when they saw the Assyrian formations coming, and knew that they were now exposed, responded this way: “Behold joy and gladness, slaying oxen, and killing sheep, eating flesh, and drinking wine: let us eat and drink; for tomorrow we shall die” (v. 13). In spite of the reality of their sin right in their face, they still insisted on putting on the party-face and saying, “All is well.” They gave the impression of having it all together. They were lighthearted, flippant. They were feeling confident and assured. “Oh, these problems that I’m having because of my sin in marriage, in family, in work, in finances. Even though everything is falling apart around me, it’s nothing that a little bit of pleasure and a few good times will not solve or at least push away, push far away from my consciousness.”
Is that the way you are? The Bible is amazing, is it not? You think there is something new in human life that the Bible does not know about? I see the world in that, and I see myself in that. Do you? The enemy is advancing. The walls are broken down. The effects of sin are coming out. They are bringing more and more problems. More and more things are being devastated – and the response of the world is this: “Nothing must be allowed to disturb our pleasure. The economy is very strong. So what does it matter? It’s nothing that a good time can’t fix. Oh, yes. Things are changing. Things, perhaps, don’t look very encouraging from a moral point of view. But let’s not worry about it. We still have our drink. Give me my pleasure. Give me my sex. Give me my lust. Give me my freedom of speech. Give me the entertainment that is bold and defiant of God’s law. But nothing must be allowed to disturb my pleasure. Even though I see the breaches in the wall all about me.”
And you? What about you?
Husband and father, you know, perhaps, that your child or young person is having problems. You know that you have to talk with him. You know you have to become more involved with him. But you are tired at night. Or the game is on TV. Or you and the wife have something planned and you say, “I just can’t be bothered now to deal with that.”
There is a besetting sin in your life; there is that cancerous spiritual indifference to your devotions; there is that worldly entertainment. And in a moment of conscience, you say, “Yes, yes. These are for sure breaches in my spiritual wall. But, we’ve got to lighten up, too, don’t we? If I put away that sin, that’s going to be so unpleasant. Isn’t it easier just to enjoy life and not get so wound up in this struggle against sin? Let us eat and drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die.”
Is that what you say?
That is the height of arrogant rebellion against God. That is a challenge to God Himself. Hear the Word of God: Repent!
Repentance is not an option. Repentance is not simply a possibility to consider. It is the command of the Lord of Hosts. He calls, “Look unto the Maker thereof. Have respect unto Him that fashioned it long ago.” God, who created all, says, “Man is not autonomous. You are not the one who is allowed to regulate your own affairs.” But God is the Fashioner and the Maker. And, as God’s creature, you must look to Him. You must humble yourself in His presence. You must seek Him as your defense. You must answer to Him who has made you. His law and His command must be placed before you in every step.
Still more. The trouble is sin. There are no acts of Congress; there are no good times; there are no self-reliance ideas which are going to repair the breaches that sin has caused in your life. You must repent and go to your Maker and bow before Him in the Lord Jesus Christ. The Lord calls to a true repentance. Not simple, desperate measures: to have a national day of prayer. Not simply sprinkling a few religious sentiments over society. Not simply going to church on Easter. Not simply mentioning His name a little more often. But repent!
Realize, by His grace, that we have sinned. We have broken and desecrated His law. We have become proud and arrogant and drunk with our own self-importance. Man is going to die and stand before God. Now, by grace, as children of God, seeing the breaches in the walls of our life, let us then humble ourselves in sorrow before Him and look to Him.
We are back at the beginning. What do you do when the effects and consequences of sin are made plain in your life? When you see the breaches, what do you do?
This is God’s Word: Bow in repentance before your Maker; humble yourself under the mighty hand of God. In that way of repentance, in that way alone, a child of God may look up and know that his defense is sure.
Let us pray.
Father, sanctify Thy Word unto our hearts through Jesus Christ. Amen.