Monday Exposition Idea:
The Saint’s Highest Calling
(Isaiah 66:1-6)


By Franklin L. Kirksey, Pastor, First Baptist Church of Spanish Fort, Alabama, and author of Sound Biblical Preaching: Giving the Bible a Voice.

These expositions by Dr. Kirksey are offered to suggest sermon or Bible study ideas for pastors and other church leaders, both from the exposition and from the illustrative material, or simply for personal devotion.


Introduction

The saint’s highest calling is suffering and death. Oswald Chambers (1874-1917) explains, “Choosing to suffer means that there must be something wrong with you, but choosing God’s will-even if it means you will suffer-is something very different.”[1]

We read in Isaiah 66:1-6,

Thus says the Lord:
1 “Heaven is My throne,
And earth is My footstool.
Where is the house that you will build Me?
And where is the place of My rest?
2 For all those things My hand has made,
And all those things exist,”
Says the Lord.
“But on this one will I look:
On him who is poor and of a contrite spirit,
And who trembles at My word.
3 “He who kills a bull is as if he slays a man;
He who sacrifices a lamb, as if he breaks a dog’s neck;
He who offers a grain offering, as if he offers swine’s blood;
He who burns incense, as if he blesses an idol.
Just as they have chosen their own ways,
And their soul delights in their abominations,
4 So will I choose their delusions,
And bring their fears on them;
Because, when I called, no one answered,
When I spoke they did not hear;
But they did evil before My eyes,
And chose that in which I do not delight.”
5 Hear the word of the Lord,
You who tremble at His word:
“Your brethren who hated you,
Who cast you out for My name’s sake, said,
‘Let the Lord be glorified,
That we may see your joy.’
But they shall be ashamed.”
6 The sound of noise from the city!
A voice from the temple!
The voice of the Lord,
Who fully repays His enemies!

 

From our passage we will note several things about God’s people.

I. The Holiness of God’s People

God through Isaiah says,

But on this one will I look:
On him who is poor and of a contrite spirit,
And who trembles at My word (Isaiah 66:2b).

 

Rev. Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892) notes the fidelity and holiness of the saints mentioned here in his classic titled Faith’s Checkbook.[2]

The Apostle Peter writes,

15 but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.”
17 And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear (1 Peter 1:15-17).

 

Isaiah recounts the words of the seraphim, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; The whole earth is full of His glory!” (Isaiah 6:3b) We read in Psalm 29:2, “Give unto the Lord the glory due to His name; Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.” Similarly, we read in Psalm 96:9, “Oh, worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness! Tremble before Him, all the earth.” Earlier, we read in 1 Chronicles 16:29-30,

29 Give to the Lord the glory due His name;
Bring an offering, and come before Him.
Oh, worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness!
30 Tremble before Him, all the earth.
The world also is firmly established,
It shall not be moved.

 

Rev. Charles Haddon Spurgeon affirms, “Holiness is the royal road to Scriptural knowledge.”[3] Tragically, many attempt to study the Holy Scriptures without the Holy Spirit.

II. The Humility of God’s People

God through Isaiah says,

2 “But on this one will I look:
On him who is poor and of a contrite spirit,
And who trembles at My word.
. . . .
5a Hear the word of the Lord,
You who tremble at His word (Isaiah 66:2b, 5a).

 

The Holman Christian Standard Bible renders Isaiah 66:2b as follows: “I will look favorably on this kind of person: one who is humble, submissive in spirit, and who trembles at My word.”

James writes, “God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6b).

Jesus’ first Beatitude recorded in Matthew 5:3 reads, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, / For theirs is the kingdom of heaven”. To be “poor in spirit” is to be humble. We are saved by grace, we are kept by grace, and we will be rewarded by grace. As John writes, “And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace” (John 1:16). “Grace for grace” or “grace upon grace”. Paul the Apostle writes in Romans 12:3, “For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.” Paul confessed, “But by the grace of God I am what I am” (1 Corinthians 15:10a).

III. The Hatred of God’s People

We read in Isaiah 66:5b, about “Your brethren who hated you”. The words “hated you” clearly express the animosity against those who are godly. This situation reminds us of the account in Genesis as Cain killed his brother Abel. Envy churned in the heart of Cain. Those who hate God’s people are evil.

The Lord provides insight into their attitude toward worship in verse 3 and 4, where we read,

3 “He who kills a bull is as if he slays a man;
He who sacrifices a lamb, as if he breaks a dog’s neck;
He who offers a grain offering, as if he offers swine’s blood;
He who burns incense, as if he blesses an idol.
Just as they have chosen their own ways,
And their soul delights in their abominations,
4 So will I choose their delusions,
And bring their fears on them;
Because, when I called, no one answered,
When I spoke they did not hear;
But they did evil before My eyes,
And chose that in which I do not delight.”

 

The Apostle Peter writes,

12 Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; 13 but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. 14 If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified. 15 But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as a busybody in other people’s matters. 16 Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter.
17 For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God? 18 Now
“If the righteous one is scarcely saved,
Where will the ungodly and the sinner appear?”
19 Therefore let those who suffer according to the will of God commit their souls to Him in doing good, as to a faithful Creator (1 Peter 4:12-19).

 

IV. The Hurt of God’s People

God through Isaiah instructs the saints about those “Who cast you out for My name’s sake, said, ‘Let the Lord be glorified’” (Isaiah 66:5b).

The phrase “cast you out” reminds us of Jesus’ words recorded in Luke 6:22-23, which reads,

22 Blessed are you when men hate you,
And when they exclude you,
And revile you, and cast out your name as evil,
For the Son of Man’s sake.
23 Rejoice in that day and leap for joy!
For indeed your reward is great in heaven,
For in like manner their fathers did to the prophets.

 

From John 16:1-4 we read that Jesus said,

1 These things I have spoken to you, that you should not be made to stumble. 2 They will put you out of the synagogues; yes, the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service. 3 And these things they will do to you because they have not known the Father nor Me. 4 But these things I have told you, that when the time comes, you may remember that I told you of them.
And these things I did not say to you at the beginning, because I was with you.
They do this in the name of religion and in the name of God.

 

Paul warns Timothy in 2 Timothy 3:12-13, “12 Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. 13 But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived.”

Rev. Charles Haddon Spurgeon shares the following on Isaiah 66:5,

Possibly this text may not apply to one in a thousand of the readers of this little book of promises; but the Lord cheers that one in such words as these. Let us pray for all such as are cast out wrongfully born the society which they love. May the Lord appear to their joy!

The text applies to truly gracious men who tremble at the word of the Lord. These were hated of their brethren and at length cast out because of their fidelity and their holiness. This must have been very bitter to them; and all the more so because their casting out was done in the name of religion, and professedly with the view of glorifying God. How much is done for the devil in the name of God! The use of the name of Jehovah to add venom to the bite of the old serpent is an instance of his subtlety.

The appearing of the Lord for them is the hope of His persecuted people. He appears as the advocate and defender of His elect; and when He does so it means a clear deliverance for the God-fearing and shame for their oppressors. O Lord, fulfill this word to those whom men are deriding![4]

 

V. The Hope of God’s People

Isaiah shares a word of hope for God’s persecuted people, when he writes,

5 “‘That we may see your joy.’
But they shall be ashamed.”
6 The sound of noise from the city!
A voice from the temple!
The voice of the Lord,
Who fully repays His enemies! (Isaiah 66:5c-6).

 

The word “joy” reminds us of Hebrews 12:2-4, where we read

2 looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
3 For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls. 4 You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin.

 

We read in Psalm 16:11,

You will show me the path of life;
In Your presence is fullness of joy;
At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

 

The Apostle Paul writes to Timothy,

5 But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.
6 For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing (2 Timothy 4:5-8).

 

The Apostle Peter writes,

1 The elders who are among you I exhort, I who am a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that will be revealed: 2 Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; 3 nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock; 4 and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away (1 Peter 5:1-4).

 

Paul the Apostle writes in Romans 12:4, “For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function.” Paul shares about “the Lord Jesus Christ” in 2 Timothy 4:1b, “who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom.”

Conclusion

Oswald Chambers observes,

Look at God’s incredible waste of His saints, according to the world’s judgment. God seems to plant His saints in the most useless places. And then we say, “God intends for me to be here because I am so useful to Him.” Yet Jesus never measured His life by how or where He was of greatest use. God places His saints where they will bring the most glory to Him, and we are totally incapable of judging where that may be.[5]

 

In “Where Shall I Work?” an unknown poet prays,

“Father, where shall I work today’
And my love flowed warm and free.
Then He pointed me out a tiny spot,
And said, ‘Tend that for me.’
I answered quickly, ‘Oh, no, not that.
Why, no one would ever see,
No matter how well my work was done.
Not that little place for me!’
And the word He spoke, it was not stern,
He answered me tenderly,
‘Ah, little one, search that heart of thine;
Art thou working for them or me’
Nazareth was a little place,
And so was Galilee.’”[6]

 

We read in Hebrews 11:35b-38,

35b Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection. 36 Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. 37 They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented— 38 of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth.

 

George A. Young, an obscure nineteenth-century preacher, shares the following in the third stanza of his hymn,

Though sorrows befall us and evils oppose,
God leads His dear children along;
Through grace we can conquer, defeat all our foes,
God leads His dear children along.
In the chorus he explains,
Some through the waters, some through the flood,
“Some through the fire, but all through the blood;
Some through great sorrow, but God gives a song,
In the night season and all the day long.”[7]

 

Rev. Charles Haddon Spurgeon confesses,

I bear my willing witness that I owe more to the fire, and the hammer, and the file, than to anything else in my Lord’s workshop. I sometimes question whether I have learned anything except through the rod. When my schoolroom is darkened, I see most.[8]

 

May we understand that suffering and death are the saint’s highest calling.


[1] Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, “The Holy Suffering of the Saint” (London, 1927), August 10.

[2] Charles Haddon Spurgeon, Faith’s Checkbook, “Joy for the Cast-Out” (Chicago, IL: Moody, n. d.), 31.

[3] Charles Haddon Spurgeon, The Best of Spurgeon, from Spurgeon’s Sermon Notes (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1988), 39.

[4] Spurgeon, Faith’s Checkbook, 31.

[5] Chambers, August 10.

[6] Bible.org, “Where Shall I Work?” [online Scripture]; Available from http://bible.org/illustration/father-where-shall-i-work-today; accessed on 13 February 2012.

[7] George A. Young, “God Leads Us Along” (1903).

[8] Charles Haddon Spurgeon, Spurgeon’s Sermon Notes, ed. David Otis Fuller (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1990), 307.