Why God Honors Repentance, Isaiah 59

September 1, 2013

by Dan Nelson, pastor
FBC Camarillo, Calif.

God is not waiting for us to climb the Himalayan Mountains somewhere and ask the Dali Lama the secret of the universe. God is waiting for us to turn to Him in repentance and faith. He will not force anyone to follow Him and accept Christ as Savior. He has been and will be there for anyone to come to Him.

This truth was the message Isaiah gave to the people of Judah who had turned away from the true God. They had been influenced by other pagan nations who had their cultural idols and were practicing immorality along with their idolatry. Isaiah had lived through four kings: Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah. Unlike the Northern Kingdom, three out of four of these kings were not idolaters. But the kings could have exerted more influence. Instead of influencing the people, they had let the other nations influence them.

There was a quirk in Uzziah’s leadership when he tried to usurp the office of the priest. He was smitten with leprosy and it was a blue day when Isaiah looked up in the year that King Uzziah died and said, “Woe, is me. For I am a man of unclean lips and dwell in the midst of a people with unclean lips.”(Isaiah 6:5).[1]

Jotham reigned shortly and continued the slide by not going to the house of God. Ahaz was given to idolatry and plunged the people into sin. Although his son Hezekiah repaired the temple and stood for the Lord, he gave his enemies secrets. He pulled a Joe Biden blabbering government secrets. So, it is in the midst of this environment Isaiah speaks for God.

From chapter 40 on there is less of a condemnation of sin and more of a message of hope and promise. Although the people would be taken into captivity, they would be restored as a people and kingdom. From them would the Messiah come and die as a suffering servant as Isaiah details in the 53rd chapter for our sins in our place. The remainder of the book is a call to come back to God.  God has not changed. The people had changed in their departure from His teachings and their lack of reliance upon Him. So, God offers a plea to come back to Him. In the midst of this understanding we these great testimonies about how God will honor repentance.

Repentance deals with the root of our problem that keeps us from God

The prophet starts out with a tremendous promise. God has not shortened His hand neither is He deaf the prayers of His people so that He would need a hearing aid.

Don’t place the reason for your problems on God. Your sin has separated you from God that has His face turned from you. There is a fog, there is a cover between you as sinful and God who is Holy. But God stills bids you to come to Him.

Isaiah makes it clear the problem was not with God but with them. God waits to forgive and forget their sin. When a sinner encounters a great crisis the first thing they want to do is blame God. But God is not the problem; their sin is the problem.

Les Miller, one of our former deacons now with the Lord told of his ship in World War 2 sinking a Japanese ship. He tells of reaching out to save Japanese soldiers drowning but they would not take his hand. They had rather drown. They were taught it was more honorable to die than be taken prisoner.

Isaiah describes their sin in vivid terms such as: Shedding of blood, speaking perversity and lies. They don’t work to be just. They are dishonest in business and in relationships.

Those going astray passed their sin on to future generations (which is the most devastating consequence I see in our present cultural slide in America). They are like poisonous spiders hatching more eggs that breed poison if you eat of them. Many influences are poisoning the stream of freedom in America. Unrestrained sexual sins, acceptance of immorality and the role models that are corrupt are letting us down.

Their webs or coverings were similar to Adam and Eve when they sinned and covered themselves with fig leaves. Nothing we can do can hide us from God knowing our sin and judging our sin.

Their feet were swift to do evil and their thoughts are not on God but on sin and committing sin. They were going to places that are corrupt like they secret shrines. They ran to do crimes as one would rob a bank or deal drugs. They were constantly thinking about themselves and doing evil.

Jeremiah said, “The hearts were deceitful and desperately wicked, who can know it.” (Jer. 17:9). Jesus said that out of it proceed evil things (Mk. 7:20). Paul uses this description of sin in Romans 3 to describe the depravity of mankind.

We are born with a natural sin-nature that manifests itself. We need a supernatural intervention by God that only begins when we turn in repentance to Him in order to put our faith and trust in Christ.

John the Baptist was charged with preparing the way of the Lord for Jesus to come. This means to clear out the crooked paths and build a straight road. The Pharisees were estranged from God although pretending to know Him. So John’s message to them was it is time to repent and get to the ready for God will do.

The Pharisees would not repent because they were worried about what others would think. They were prideful about who they were and what they represented. Yet, John called them a bunch of snakes as Jesus did latter because they were unprepared for Judgment. Everyone will be guilty if they stand before God in self-righteousness (Rom. 10:1-4.) God would cut them down as an ax cuts down a tree.

I was putting in ground cover, in my rose garden and came across a deep-rooted stump feeding troublesome vines. The only thing that would work was an axe to take to the root of the tree and clear it out, to get rid of it. That is what repentance is to our life.

Alexander Maclaren said, “It is not because God is great that I am small, it is not because He lives forever, and my life is a handbreadth, it is not because of the difference between His omniscience and my ignorance, His strength and my weakness, that I am parted from Him. …Your sins have separated you from Him.” [2]

Many things pull us away from God in this place on Sunday like recreation, entertainment and leisure. Many don’t need the local church when it is God’s prescribed way of service and ministry.

Repentance responds to the light given to the sinner

The figure is given of a person lost on a road not knowing where they are going. They were following crooked paths and don’t even know it. They do not see judgment coming and being inevitable. They were walking in darkness because they thought they could abandon God for sin. Jesus said, “Men love darkness rather than light because their deeds are evil” (John 3:18). The futility of mankind is that he believes sin is best for him.

The sinner was groping in darkness similar to trying to walk in a pitch dark building without hitting something or tripping over something as described in v. 10.

Conviction of the Holy Spirit is God turning the lights on in your life. Repentance is turning to the light of the gospel and God’s salvation in Christ (II Cor. 4:4-5).

B. H. Carroll said,When we come to ourselves and come to Christ our sins are made invisible forever. There remains no more of them as the passing clouds or fleeting shadows on a sunlight lawn.”[3] Like the father who accepted the prodigal back, the estrangement is over (Heb. 8:12).

To be in darkness rather than light is to ignore God. You cannot ignore God though. He will not be ignored. (Rom. 10:21) says God said about His people, “All day long I have stretched out my hands to a disobedient and gainsaying people.” God is constantly pursuing us as the poem from Francis Thomas details in our running from God yet He still finds and waits for us to repent.

Repentance ends the rebellion we have against God

We are in rebellion against God through our sin. We are roaring like bears but are wounded sore like doves that are winged by a shotgun blast. Judgment (discernment about right and wrong) is undetectable because of our deluded state.

At the same time, all our sins are declaring us guilty. The mountain of evidence is rising up against us. In truth we are know we are sinners but don’t want to admit it.

Through all these false-hoods, Isaiah said we are revolting against God.

God uses the law he gave to Moses embodied in the 10 Commandments to prove we are in rebellion against Him. It is essential in us knowing that the gospel is good news of God wishing to end the hostilities by His offer of salvation in Christ.

God’s salvation in Christ is much like the attitude of Abraham Lincoln in the time before his assassination. Asked what they should do with the South after the war. He said, “We need to treat them like they have never been enemies in the first place.[4]

The biblical Gospel makes proper use of the law of God. A sinner must understand the gospel to be saved (Matt 13:15, 19, 23, Acts 8:30-31, Rom 3:11). But before a sinner can understand the mercy of a loving God, he must understand the requirements of a righteous God. Now, the law is not the gospel and the gospel is not the law; but the gospel establishes the law (Rom 3:31). That law which the Gentiles have in their hearts by nature (Rom 2:15), Israel also had written on stone – and the purpose of this law is clearly stated by Paul: “by the law is the knowledge of sin(Rom 3:20).

If we start by telling the typical Westerner “God loves you”, he will puff out his chest and say in his heart “Why shouldn’t He; I’m a good person?” Our life though is not measured by how good we thing we are.

 Driving down the freeway, there are a number of excuses one can think of to justify going at 85 mph. until the law enters. When you see a Highway patrol car on the side of the road, your foot hits the brakes. By the law is the knowledge of sin. That is what will make a man, rushing headlong down the highway of life to hell, sit up and listen. He simply must see his precarious position or he will never repent.

Repentance is turning toward God instead of Against Him

Isaiah establishes that these actions of his people were against God and His purpose for their lives. It is lying to the Lord. It is conceiving and uttering lies. It has confused people as to what is right and wrong. The person who is turned against God is in a perilous position in opposing His word and His will for their lives.

The passage ends with great hope though. We can depart from evil. With truth fallen, the person God will forgive sees the source of salvation in God. Judgment is turned. No longer are we prey for the devil. Now instead of God being against Him, God will clothe the man who turns to Him with His righteousness. He will send a redeemer who comes to Zion which is a promise of the Messiah. God will make a spirit with Him and put His in Him. He will put His words in Him so that they will be constantly in Him and his seed will know of God’s truth, salvation and mercy

B.H. Carroll said, “The new covenant herein spoken of involves giving of God’s Holy Spirit to his people (Joel 2:28 and Acts 2), and this Spirit was promised by Christ as the paraclete of the church forever. He shall not depart from God’s people while time endures, and his work will continue in men and women till Christ returns.[5]

Satan comes to snatch people away from the truth of His Word (Eph. 4:14), when we are really in the grip of His grace (John 10:28-29).

So, if God will honor repentance we must be sure of what it really is.

Repentance is defined in the following text: “Let the wicked for-sake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him” (Isaiah 55:7). Have you come to God and repented of your sin.

A mother had once contacted me about visiting her son in the county jail. He was facing trial and she wanted me to talk with him. By her own admission, “He was not a Christian.” I went into the visiting room and  picked up the phone to talk with him and he had to pick up the phone to talk with me on the other side of the glass. I was hoping he would pick up the phone and did because of the crisis in his life. He could have easily ignored me. I went over there though praying the Lord would give me an open door to talk with Him. If he had spurned Christ, it would not have been my fault. I did everything I did to be in a position to help him find Christ as Savior. He may have been incarcerated but that day He found freedom in Christ by praying with me across the glass on the phone. He turned toward God and trusted in Christ as his savior. God reached out to Him through me. Not anyone who remains unrepentant and misses heaven can blame God for not finding salvation. It is like a patient saying it was the doctor’s fault and died of a disease when they would take medicine he prescribed to cure them God stands ready to give anyone a new life we only will come to Him through Christ. Don’t let your sin separate you from Him any longer.

[1] All Scriptural quotations or citations are taken from the King James Version of the Bible unless otherwise indicated

[2]Jay Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible Commentary.  (Thomas Nelson: Nashville, 1982), Volume 3, 330.

[3] B.H. Carroll, Interpretation of the English Bible (Baker: Grand Rapids, MI, 3rd Printing, 1978), Vol. 4, Part 1, 200.

[4] William Barclay, The Daily Bible Series. (Westminster: Philadelphia, Revised edition), vol. 5, 205.

[5] Carroll, vol. 3, 246

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Thank you Brother Nelson for your series on repentance. The greatest need of the hour in SBC life is not drafting more resolutions, casting votes, or vying for theological control, but an outbreak of genuine repentance. IF my people … THEN will I. But will we?

    Dan Nelson

    My next message if they are posted in sequence will be on II Chronicles 7:14 about how we are to repent. Watch for it Sat. or Sunday.

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