Thursday, September 06, 2018

A reviving for the people of God

Notes of a sermon preached by one of the ministers on Isaiah 44 v1-5 on a Monday of a communion season. Not verbatim.

"Yet now hear, O Jacob my servant; and Israel, whom I have chosen: 2 Thus saith the LORD that made thee, and formed thee from the womb, which will help thee; Fear not, O Jacob, my servant; and thou, Jesurun, whom I have chosen. 3 For I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground: I will pour my spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring: 4 And they shall spring up as among the grass, as willows by the water courses. 5 One shall say, I am the LORD's; and another shall call himself by the name of Jacob; and another shall subscribe with his hand unto the LORD, and surname himself by the name of Israel".

The context was the Babylonian ambassadors who were sent to King Hezekiah. Isaiah's message to Hezekiah from the Lord was the fact that the Babylonian captivity was a fact, that it was to take place. What a dismal prospect and what anguish for the prophet: the Lord's cause low, things only to get worse and the judgements of the Lord coming on the nation. We have all these wonderful promises from Chapter 40 of Isaiah onwards, following on from the the news of captivity and solemn judgements. There is no unfaithfulness in the viisble church which will not meet with chastisement. Isaiah was getting promises, a view of the whole of history, the coming of the Messiah, the spread of the gospel through the world, the Day of Days and even glimpses of heaven.

The three points were:

1. The steadfastness of God's covenant, that immutable security.

2. The promise of reviving for the people of God

3. The effects of reviving in the midst of their bondage.

1. Covenant faithfulness. He addresses Israel in a most gracious way -- the truly Godly would hear, whatever the nation as a whole would do. He had spoken solemnly of their sins in ch43. "Yet now hear" -- I am still speaking, I am not silent, said the Lord.

Isaiah would not have been silent. We in the pulpits nowadays would wish to have unction and preach with a broken heart but we find our own hearts dry; have pity on the ministers of the gospel. But the Lord is not silent: His promises, word, access to the Throne of Grace.

There are plenty helps to understanding the Word. Rev Neil Cameron was once very low in his soul and turned to a book of sermons by the Covenanters and read one in which Guthrie of Fenwick preached on v3 of this chapter -- Mr Cameron said that he was hardly half-way through it when his spiritual mourning was turned to spiritual dancing.

In these verses the Lord is speaking in covenant faithfulness. It was the seed of Abraham and Isaac that God chose -- there was sovereignty in it. The national election of Israel was a picture of God's chosen people in every generation. Rev Jonathan Ranken Anderson said in a sermon that the Lord's people are always looking into themselves for reasons why the Lord chose them -- this is a form of the self-righteousness -- but that the Lord strips them and shows them there is no reason there. Humanly-speaking there are many who are much nicer than those whom He did choose, it's sovereign love, nothing in them. V2...The Lord formed them "from the womb" - the womb of regeneration. "You must be born again". It's your duty to seek Christ and ask that he would give you the new Birth by His Holy Spirit. There is covenant faithfulness seen in Abraham waiting for the promised seed for many years -- don't you despair but plead for the New Birth, seek Him all you days. Life eternal is formed in the womb of regeneration.

V2 also says 'Fear Not'. You still have abundant reasons to take the Lord at His word: it's His faithfulness, word and covenant. The Lord's people are given to Christ by the Father. That's an immutable ground of security. It is purchased by the Redeemer's blood, the merit of Christ's death is signified by it, and that never loses its efficacy. (Hebrews 13 has a sublime account of the connection between the blood and the resurrection) Are you fleeing to the hope set before you by the Crucified Christ? We may grieve away the Spirit but He never leaves the soul with regard to that soul's state. When He enters the soul He takes up residence.

2. Reviving promised. These promises are made to those that are feeling thirsty and dry. Every sinner is welcome to God's promises -- there is no restraint in the gospel call. But these promises in this chapter are for the Lord's people who are feeling thirsty and dry. Tha psalmist knew this when he said: "My thirsty soul longs vehemently and faints thy courts to see" and "Like as the hart for water brooks, in thirst doth pant and bray, so pants my longing soul O God, that come to thee I may". Real thirst is vehement, insatiable, longing for moisture. It is a raging vigorous vehement powerful longing. We are very ready to say we are 'dry' and 'thirsty' spiritually, but if we really felt it, would it not drive us to the Throne of Grace for blessing?

The Saviour had physical thirst on the cross. He thirsted in order to put the Cup of Salvation on the gospel table. You're feeling your dryness and need a long draught of Jesus Christ in the gospel promise. In the past, that gave you strength and purified your desires. But by your own sloth you let it slip. Here is a promise for you: "I will pour waters on him that is thirsty". The second half of the verse shows us what that promise means. The water is a picture of the Holy Spirit. What greater blessing could be desired? The Holy Spirit, that clear crystal river of water. Christ purchased the blessings of the Holy Spirit for His people, He merited the out-pouring of this Person. The Holy Spirit was always in the church from the beginning of time, but there was a greater outpouring after the crucifixion. He sanctifies and purifies the soul and is Christ's marriage bond to the believer in conversion.

We need cleansing as well as invigoration. It's true in the natural realm. In a garden, rain is not enough. It needs weeding round the plants to be fruitful. What need we have to be convicted of sin. He shows them their sins. Surely we should be desiring to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit and when we sense that we are being urged to go on our knees or go and read the Bible we should do that, and not say we have other things to attend to. Everything else will be dealt with later if we go and pray or read at these times; if we don't, then the things to which we gave priority often turn out to be more difficult. The Monday thanksgiving day of the communion was a standing ordinance in the Church of the Reformation in Scotland since the time of the Kirk of Shotts revival. May we never lose the Monday service and may we never lose the communion season.

The Lord Jesus revives by faith laying hold, by the work of the Spirit, on the promises. If you have vehement desires for Christ, the Holy Spirit has not left you. The Holy Spirit is an infinite Person. You remember, dear unconverted friend here today, that there are people here today who have God in them. There is ample sufficiency in Him to meet all their needs.

We need reviving in our church here in the islands. Where are the young people? There is no lack of children in other areas. Have we been negligent, have we failed to shield them for influences, have we not shielded them, for example from the television? That is not enough if we don't have the Spirit. We must plead with the Lord that He would pour out His Spirit on our seed. People on the mainland speak of how well off we are for ministers in our church in these islands; but this may be a last call by the Lord. In twenty years time, unless the Spirit of the Lord is poured out on us, there will be very little left. We do believe in better days in the future but we need an outpouring.

3. The effects of reviving.

The verses mention the willow trees -- these always lean by trunk and by roots towards the river, the water source. There will be a clear witness on the side of Christ. This church was set up in 1893 to pass on inviolate the teachings of Scripture. The principles for which we stand will flourish in the future.