Scripture: Isaiah 29
I. You can be saved by the grace of humbling yourself.
A. In Isaiah 29:1 God calls Jerusalem by a nickname: Ariel. Ariel means altar hearth. Fire always burned in that hearth as a symbol of the burning holiness of God. Jerusalem had the privilege of being close to God because the blood of the sacrificed animals on the altar brought forgiveness. But the name Ariel also speaks of the peril, the danger, of being God’s chosen people. God is a consuming fire of holiness. Rebellion against this holy God means you will be burned.T
B. Twice in vs. 3 God says “I will” besiege you. And what was the result of this siege? Jerusalem was going to be humbled (vs. 4). Jerusalem deserves to be judged for her sin and lack of love for God. But what does God do instead? He saves Jerusalem by His grace (vs. 5). If God saved Jerusalem when they had not humbled themselves, don’t you think God will save you when you humble yourself? James 4:10: “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.”
II. You can be saved by the grace of hearing the Bible.
A. In verse 9, God gives His perspective on the people of Jerusalem: they are blind. The main problem was the prophets. The prophets were supposed to tell people the word of God and open their eyes to reality. But they blinded the people instead (vs. 10). The Bible is the book that gives to us the message of how we might be saved. And very few people in Jerusalem could be bothered to open God’s Word and read it (vs. 11-12).
B. The hearts of the people were far from God. They didn’t love God. They didn’t care about what God commanded in the Bible. They would just follow some commandments taught by men and say that was good enough (vs. 13). The Bible is a treasure for God’s people. Psalm 119: 162: “I rejoice at your word like one who finds great spoil.” As a Christian, I am very rich. The way I treasure those spiritual riches is to read the Bible every day.
III. You can be saved by the grace of God’s promises of transformation.
A. God is going to renew and transform the whole world! Lebanon will turn into a garden-land, like the garden of Eden (vs. 17). In that day, the deaf shall hear the words of a book, the Bible (vs. 18). Their blind eyes will see. One great day, all of God’s people will “stand in awe of the God of Israel.” (Vs. 23) God will finally be at the center of our lives and the center of our hearts. 1 John 3:2: “Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.”
You can’t save yourself. But God can save you by His grace through faith.
Commentaries by J.A. Motyer, Derek Thomas, David Jackman, Bob Fyall, Tim Chester.
Sermon Discussion Questions
1) Why does God call Jerusalem Ariel? What does the fact that God sees Jerusalem as an altar hearth teach us about God and the city of Jerusalem?
2) What are some of the signs that Jerusalem did not have a heart for God? What is the connection between a hunger for God’s Word and a heart for God?
3) How will God transform us in the future? Since we will be transformed, how should we now live in the present?