Unheeded Chastening - Part IV
Dr. Joe Temple

Introduction

Open your Bibles, please, to the book of Isaiah, chapter 9, beginning with verse 8:

Isaiah 9

8The Lord sent a word into Jacob, and it hath lighted upon Israel.
9And all the people shall know, even Ephraim and the inhabitant of Samaria, that say in the pride and stoutness of heart,
10The bricks are fallen down, but we will build with hewn stones: the sycomores are cut down, but we will change them into cedars.
11Therefore the LORD shall set up the adversaries of Rezin against him, and join his enemies together;
12The Syrians before, and the Philistines behind; and they shall devour Israel with open mouth. For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still.
13For the people turneth not unto him that smiteth them, neither do they seek the LORD of hosts.
14Therefore the LORD will cut off from Israel head and tail, branch and rush, in one day.
15The ancient and honourable, he is the head; and the prophet that teacheth lies, he is the tail.
16For the leaders of this people cause them to err; and they that are led of them are destroyed.
17Therefore the LORD shall have no joy in their young men, neither shall have mercy on their fatherless and widows: for every one is an hypocrite and an evildoer, and every mouth speaketh folly. For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still.
18For wickedness burneth as the fire: it shall devour the briers and thorns, and shall kindle in the thickets of the forest, and they shall mount up like the lifting up of smoke.
19Through the wrath of the LORD of hosts is the land darkened, and the people shall be as the fuel of the fire: no man shall spare his brother.
20And he shall snatch on the right hand, and be hungry; and he shall eat on the left hand, and they shall not be satisfied: they shall eat every man the flesh of his own arm:
21Manasseh, Ephraim; and Ephraim, Manasseh: and they together shall be against Judah. For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still.

Isaiah 10

1Woe unto them that decree unrighteous decrees, and that write grievousness which they have prescribed;
2To turn aside the needy from judgment, and to take away the right from the poor of my people, that widows may be their prey, and that they may rob the fatherless!
3And what will ye do in the day of visitation, and in the desolation which shall come from far? to whom will ye flee for help? and where will ye leave your glory?
4Without me they shall bow down under the prisoners, and they shall fall under the slain. For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still.

You will remember that we are in what we referred to as the second section of the book of Isaiah. We said that the book of Isaiah fell into natural divisions indicated by calendar dates. Glance with me at verse 1, of chapter 7, where we read:

Isaiah 7

1And it came to pass in the days of Ahaz the son of Jotham, the son of Uzziah, king of Judah, that Rezin the king of Syria, and Pekah the son of Remaliah, king of Israel, went up toward Jerusalem to war against it, but could not prevail against it.

Notice particularly the first phrase of that verse: “It came to pass in the days of Ahaz…” The next calendar date that you are going to find in the book of Isaiah is in chapter 14, verse 28. Remember that verse 28 is retroactive to verse 1 of chapter 13. In verse 28 of chapter 14, we read:

Isaiah 14

28In the year that king Ahaz died was this burden.

We know immediately that everything we find from chapter 7 through the last verse of chapter 12 represents sermons, prophetic utterances, and poems and songs which were delivered by Isaiah during the reign of Ahab. If you follow this division of the book, you will be able to make the right application.

We have said that this particular section of the book of Isaiah was called by many people the Book of Immanuel because the word Immanuel , or translations of the word, or some reference to the person of the Lord Jesus Christ is made in every chapter in this particular section of the book.

We also learned that the Book of Immanuel is divided up into various sermons, prophetic utterances, and poems. For example, chapter 7 of the book of Isaiah represented sermons that Isaiah delivered when Ahaz was surrounded by Syria and Israel.

Then you will recall, beginning with verse 1 of chapter 8 and going down through verse 7 of chapter 9, there was a sermon delivered approximately one year after the sermon that is recorded in chapter 7.

That brings us to our subject of discussion in this lesson—the paragraph that we read beginning with verse 8 of chapter 9 and continuing through verse 4 of chapter 10. You will keep in mind that our chapter divisions were placed in the Bible by Bible scholars long after the Word of God was written, and the chapter divisions do not always come in exactly the place they should. This division that we are giving you now is based upon the subject matter of the section that we are considering, remembering that there is no division, verse or chapter, in the original text.

The Object of the Sermon

We know that a new sermon begins in verse 8 for two reasons. First, because of the object of that sermon. Notice verse 8:

Isaiah 9

8The Lord sent a word into Jacob, and it hath lighted upon Israel.
9And all the people shall know, even Ephraim and the inhabitant of Samaria, that say in the pride and stoutness of heart,

You will notice the word Jacob in verse 8, the word Israel in verse 8, the word Ephraim in verse 9, and the word Samaria in verse 9, and you will recall that all of those words refer to the ten tribes of the nation of Israel, or what is more commonly known as the Northern Kingdom .

The sermon that we looked at in our last lesson was addressed to Judah, the two tribes of Israel, after the nation was divided. That is one reason we know that this is an entirely different sermon.

Presented as Poetry

Another reason we know that this is an entirely different address is the manner in which it is presented. I would like to bring to your attention the repetition of a phrase in the last part of verse 12:

Isaiah 9

12…For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still.

Then you will notice down in the last part of verse 17:

Isaiah 9

17…For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still.

Now, notice down in the last part of verse 21:

Isaiah 9

21…For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still.

Then notice the last part of verse 4, chapter 10:

Isaiah 10

4…For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still.

The repetition of this phrase brings to mind what we said to you in our introductory message concerning the book of Isaiah—namely, that Isaiah used many methods of literature to get across his message. He preached sermons, sang songs, and wrote poetry. I make mention of that again, because we do not believe, as some people think, that the Bible is a hodgepodge of rambling writings that have no literary merit or no literary value. We would like to remind you if you left the inspiration of the Word of God out, which we do not do for we believe in the inspiration of the Scripture, that there is in the Scripture much of great literary merit.

Perhaps you have heard the story of Benjamin Franklin, who was a deist. A deist is an individual who believes in some kind of supreme being. He was visiting in Paris and was visiting with the Literary Society. Each member of that society was supposed to bring some piece of literature that he deemed an outstanding piece of literature and read it in the meeting. So Benjamin Franklin brought the book of Ruth, as it is found in the Old Testament, only he did not say it was the book of Ruth, and he did not say it was found in the Scripture. He read it just as the others read their ordinary pieces of literature. The entire society was overcome with the merit of this fine piece of literature, and they wanted to know from Mr. Franklin how it was that in all their search of the literature of the world, they had never come across that particular piece. Then he told them that it was from the Word of God. They said, of course, that they didn't think there was anything worth thinking about in the Word of God.

This passage of Scripture which we have read represents a Hebrew poem, and it is one of the finest pieces of poetry that you will find in literature extant. That may seem somewhat confusing to you, because if you listened as we read, you didn't hear a rhyme in the whole poem, and ordinarily you think about poetry as being related to rhymes.

Parallelism of Thought In Poetry

Hebrew poetry has an unique feature that poetry in other languages does not have. That unique feature is what we refer to as a parallelism of thought . If we wanted to use the word rhyme we could say, “a rhyming of thought.” They were not interested in the word ending in the same sound or with the same syllable, but they were interested in their poetry rhyming in thought. That is the reason in this passage of Scripture you find, as you do in other pieces of Hebrew poetry, what might be termed a repetition, and to your mind, almost a needless repetition. It isn't repetition; it is poetry—a rhyming of thought.

Let me illustrate. Look back at verse 8:

Isaiah 9

8The Lord sent a word into Jacob, and it hath lighted upon Israel.

That is rhyme of thought in Hebrew poetry—Hebrew parallelism.

The next verse says:

Isaiah 9

9And all the people shall know, even Ephraim [the thought that rhymes with that is] and the inhabitant of Samaria…

You could go through the poem and realize that what we are saying to you is true about the kind of literature that is here, but we didn't meet here to discuss literature. I did want you to understand this, because we will be running across this sort of thing in our study of the book of Isaiah, and we will not take the time to emphasize it every time we come to it.

Chastisement of God's People

This is a poem that deals with God's unending chastisement of His people. Let me say that for you again, because if you do not get the feel of this poem, you are going to miss the whole point. This poem deals with the unending chastisement of God's people. God has to chasten His children, be they nations or be they individuals or be they assemblies of the saints. God has to chasten those who are His own.

The purpose of chastening is always to bring about correction. That is the purpose of it. Sometimes it does; sometimes it doesn't right away, and God has to continue His chastening, but when there is no response to the chastening hand of God, then He has no alternative but to leave His hand out still until ultimate judgment comes.

That is the reason when you read the refrain that we called to your attention, we would emphasize that God is not stretching out His hand in mercy as He does in many instances in the Scripture, but He is stretching out His hand in judgment. For example, we read the last part of verse 12:

Isaiah 9

12…For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still.

You are reading that God still finds it necessary to chasten His people. What was it He found wrong with Israel that merited His chastisement? I would like for us to notice it for two reasons. One, we have been drawing a parallel as we have been studying the book of Isaiah between the nation of Israel and our own nation, because principles are the same whether they are in the age 700 B.C. or the twentieth century. We are also emphasizing the personal application of truth that needs to be made.

Nation Against Nation

Notice in chapter 9, the last part of verse 9:

Isaiah 9

9…that say in the pride and stoutness of heart,
10The bricks are fallen down, but we will build with hewn stones: the sycomores are cut down, but we will change them into cedars.

We have already noticed that Israel was having a trying time at the hand of Assyria. When Assyria marched into their cities and tore them down, laid them waste, did they turn to God? Did they say, “God help us. Something must be wrong.” Not at all. They said, “We're not worried. Those cities that the Assyrians tore down were made out of ordinary bricks; we'll use stones and build greater cities that they can't tear down. The woodwork that they tore down was ordinary cheap sycamore, but we will build some buildings and we will include cedar in those buildings, and they will have a hard time tearing those down.” They said it in the pride and the stoutness of their hearts. They were not humbled.

What did God say? Look in verse 11:

Isaiah 9

11Therefore the LORD shall set up the adversaries of Rezin against him, and join his enemies together;
12The Syrians before, and the Philistines behind; and they shall devour Israel with open mouth…

What is He talking about? The enemy of Rezin, king of Syria, was the king of Assyria. God said, “Do you know what I am going to do? I am going to take your friends and I am going to align them with your enemies, and I am going to cause them to get you behind and before, and they are going to open their mouths and swallow you in one gulp, because of the pride and the stoutness of your heart.”

We are talking about a period of time that existed a long time ago, but the principle is the same. If God could bring nations against nations in that day, He can bring nations against nations in this day. I wonder if we do not need to search our hearts and ask why it is that as soon as one conflict is settled, another one begins. I wonder if we do not need to pause and search our hearts and ask why it is that our friends whom we support, whom we feed, seem to take a delight in aligning themselves with others and opposing us before and behind.

The answer might be right here. Maybe God is dealing with us in chastening. Maybe God is bringing us to the place where we will be willing to acknowledge Him. If we haven't, we might ask ourselves tonight what else is God going to do before we get to the place of acknowledging Him?

Do you know what the Word of God says? It says, “If a man's ways please the LORD, He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.” Sometimes when enemies are in open conflict, it could be that God is not pleased with us.

Notice now, the next verse of this poem, beginning with verse 13. Even in spite of the fact that God put enemies before and behind, and they were ready to swallow them up in one great gulp, in verse 13:

Isaiah 9

13For the people turneth not unto him that smiteth them, neither do they seek the LORD of hosts.

Even though they know that God has smitten them, they won't admit it, and they don't seek Him, so God stretches out His hand in judgment. What does He do this time? Verse 14:

Isaiah 9

14Therefore the LORD will cut off from Israel head and tail, branch and rush, in one day.

There is your poetry again. The head and the tail rhyme with the branch and the rush. The branch spoke of a palm branch high and stately and the rush spoke of a reed that grew along the edge of the banks of the streams.

A Famine In Leadership

What is God saying? “He is going to cut off the head and the tail—the branch and the rush—in one day.” Of course, you know it's figurative language. If you have any doubt, it is cleared up in verse 15, where He tells you what He means. He said:

Isaiah 9

15The ancient and honourable [that is, the civil authorities] , he is the head; and the prophet that teacheth lies, he is the tail.

Do you notice the difference? In the Old Testament the prophet was always higher than the king, but a prophet that teaches lies is as low as a man can get. That is why he said, “He was the rush and not the branch,” and you notice he says in verse 16, “I am going to cut off the leaders of the people.” Notice now:

Isaiah 9

16For the leaders of this people cause them to err; and they that are led of them are destroyed.

What is God going to do? He is going to take away all real leadership, civilly and spiritually. It doesn't mean there won't be men who will fill the offices, and it doesn't mean there won't be men to discharge the duties, but it does mean there will be a famine of real leadership.

Have you ever stopped to consider the famine of leadership that is abroad in our land today, both politically and religiously? Could it be due to the judgment of God upon us? Now, you may know some outstanding leader whom you are willing to trust blindly, but I don't. There is a famine of leadership in our land today, and there is a famine of leadership, spiritually speaking, today, for there are very few individuals who are emphasizing the Word of God and the Word of God alone. There are any number of individuals today who are furthering their own interests and propagating their own doctrine and building their own organizations, but very few that are interested in the simple truth of the Word of God.

Mistakes That Lead to War

What happens when God takes away the leadership of the land? You are told in the next verse:

Isaiah 9

17Therefore the LORD shall have no joy in their young men…

That is a strange phrase, isn't it? It is a idiomatic expression used in the Old Testament that speaks of young men going to war. When there is a lack of leadership, there are mistakes made. The mistakes that are made draw nations into war, and nations which are drawn into war take a terrible toll of their young manhood.

You will notice the next statement:

Isaiah 9

17…neither shall have mercy on their fatherless and widows…

That is a strange statement, for God said that He would always remember the fatherless and the widows. What He is saying here is that a situation has arisen so that He can't even do what He promised to do. He can't even take care of the fatherless and the widows.

Sometimes we say, “Oh, God can do anything.” He can if we don't limit Him. Sometimes we create situations in which God Himself cannot work unless He violated every law that He has ever made. God is a God of righteousness, and He will not violate those laws. So, what do you read at the end of that verse?

Isaiah 9

17…For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still.

That brings us to the third stanza of the poem. God has to keep His hand stretched out in judgment because of what we read in verse 18:

Isaiah 9

18For wickedness burneth as the fire: it shall devour the briers and thorns, and shall kindle in the thickets of the forest, and they shall mount up like the lifting up of smoke.

He is saying that wickedness is devouring the whole nation, the briers and the thorns, as fire flashes over a prairie in this country. Sin is on the rampage.

Wickedness That Results In Anarchy

This lesson would be long if we tried to compare periods and time and say one time is worse than another time, that this age is worse than another age. There would be a difference of opinion, but God says it is time for Him to bring judgment upon a nation when that nation is consumed with its own wickedness. You evaluate the time in which you live. I will not take the time to do it. God said, “If you want a fire, I'll make one.” In verse 19, He says:

Isaiah 9

19Through the wrath of the LORD of hosts is the land darkened, and the people shall be as the fuel of the fire…

“You want a fire, I'll make one.” What does God do to make His fire? According to the next verse, He creates a state of anarchy where:

Isaiah 9

20And he shall snatch on the right hand, and be hungry; and he shall eat on the left hand, and they shall not be satisfied: they shall eat every man the flesh of his own arm:

For example, in verse 21:

Isaiah 9

21Manasseh, Ephraim; and Ephraim, Manasseh [they turn against one another] : and they together shall be against Judah…

How does God bring punishment for wickedness? He brings punishment in civil distress and civil strife. You notice a parallel in our own day? Why are we having all of the civil distress, all the civil strife, that we are having in this day?

We can talk about civil rights if we like, and we can talk about different things that are the cause, but could it be that it is the judgment of God, because we have turned a deaf ear to His pleading and because we have not been willing to respond to the chastening hand of God in our lives? Recognize that which is called civil strife in our land today many times has no rhyme nor reason. For all of this, God's hand is stretched out still.

Unrighteous Decrees of Government

That brings us to the last stanza of the poem that is found in the first four verses of chapter 10. It is necessary for God to stretch out His hand still, because of what we read in verse 1:

Isaiah 10

1Woe unto them that decree unrighteous decrees, and that write grievousness which they have prescribed;
2To turn aside the needy from judgment, and to take away the right from the poor of my people, that widows may be their prey, and that they may rob the fatherless!

What does this mean? It simply means that in the day in which Isaiah was speaking, the authorities wanted to accomplish a certain purpose. They had a program they wanted to put through. They couldn't do it any other way, so they passed laws that enabled them to further their own program, even though the very laws they passed contradicted other laws already on the books. They passed certain laws to further their purposes, which robbed people of their lawful rights.

Does that sound a little bit familiar to you today in the age in which we are living? You think over some of the recent legislation that has found the approval of the legislators of our nation and see if some of it isn't based on this very thing that I am talking about.

Ultimate Judgment of God

God is saying, “Because of what happened in Israel, I had to visit in judgment.”

Isaiah closes his poem by saying, in verse 3:

Isaiah 10

3And what will ye do in the day of visitation, [an idiomatic expression that refers to the day of judgment] and in the desolation which shall come from far? [will be the Assyrians] to whom will ye flee for help? and where will ye leave your glory?

Beloved, the day of visitation came for Israel. God said to them, “When it comes, what are you going to do? Where are you going to turn? To whom will you go for help? You already have rejected me.”

Would it be amiss for me to say, “What are we going to do when the day of judgment comes? To whom are we going to turn when the day of visitation arrives?” Isaiah closed his poem, speaking for God, in verse 4, by saying:

Isaiah 10

4Without me they shall bow down under the prisoners, [literally means as prisoners] and they shall fall under [as] the slain…

You see, Israel, as favorite a nation as she was, did not escape the judgment of God. There came a day when she was led into captivity. There came a day when she saw the flower of her nation slain on every side.

“God is no respecter of persons,” says the Word, and I might add that God is no respecter of nations. If Israel suffered the ultimate judgment of God because she was not exercised by the chastening of God in her national life, we at least, without my attempting the office of a prophet, have something to be concerned about in this nation of ours, for I do not think we have been exercised by the chastening hand of God as we should.

Personal Application of the Truth

Turn in your Bibles, please, to the book of Hebrews, chapter 12. Before we close this message, we would like to make a personal application. It could be a national application as well, but since the nation is made up of people, unless we are willing to make a personal application of the truth, it will be of very little value. Please notice, chapter 12, verse 5:

Hebrews 12

5And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him:
6For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.
7If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?
8But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons.
9Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live?
10For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness.
11Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.

The people to whom the Apostle Paul was writing this particular letter were told, “You have forgotten something that the Word says.” These were the Jewish Christians who were living immediately after the crucifixion, and immediately before the terrible destruction of Jerusalem by Titus in 70 AD, and they were suffering. He said to them, “You have forgotten what the Word of God says.” Look again at verse 5:

Hebrews 12

5And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him:
6For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.

That quotation, of course, was recorded originally in chapter 3 of the book of Proverbs, verses 11 and 12. You see, the Apostle Paul believed the Old Testament. He quoted from the book of Proverbs.

He is saying, “You Christians are going to come under the chastening hand of God, and there is a fourfold attitude that you can manifest toward chastening. You can faint (verse 5) if you want to. You can get tired, you can get weary, you can give up, you can say, ‘What's the use? I'm trying, but I am having a horrible time. The hand of God is against me, and I'm through.' You can faint if you want to. You can endure the chastening of the Lord if you want to. That is, you can go through it, tough it out and not ask God why.” You say, “Should you ever ask God why?” Of course you should. He is intelligent. You can just tough it out if you want to, or (verse 11) you can be exercised by it. That is the third thing. The word that is translated exercised is a Greek word that means “stripped down naked.” Literally, it didn't mean “naked,” it meant “stripped down to the loincloth.” It was a word that was used in the arena. If a fellow was interested in reaching the goal, he laid aside every garment he had except his loincloth. He didn't want to be hindered in any way at all. He stripped down ready for action. That is what exercise means. If the nation of Israel had been exercised by the chastening of God, His hand would not have been stretched out still.

Exercised By Chastening

If we would be exercised by the chastening of God, it would not be necessary for God to stretch out his hand still against us.

Turn please to II Corinthians, chapter 7. I think there is one of the most interesting definitions of soul exercise that is given in the Bible, when you speak of being exercised in relation to chastening. You know the background of this verse. The Corinthian church, you see here, is exercised in the assembly of the saints. The Corinthian church was tolerating sin in their midst. They weren't concerned about it. Paul said it was a sin that even the Gentiles wouldn't be guilty of, and they weren't even concerned. They came around to Paul and said, “What can we do about it?” He said, “The least you could have done would have been to be exercised about it.” He wrote them a letter in I Corinthians, and He said, “You need to be exercised about that sin.”

They received the letter graciously, so he wrote this second letter, and among other things, he said, “I want to tell you I was sorry to write that first letter. I hated to create problems for you. I hated to make you feel bad, but I'm really not sorry either, because the letter wherewith I made you sorry, created something that made me glad. You got the situation straightened out.” In verse 11:

II Corinthians 7

11For behold this selfsame thing, that ye sorrowed after a godly sort, what carefulness it wrought in you [you see the chastening hand of God was upon them, and it wrought a carefulness in them. They became anxious about things.] , yea, what clearing of yourselves [you were anxious to be sure that you were not at fault] , yea, what indignation [you got indignant with sin and with the Devil for tricking you like he had] yea, what fear, [you realized how close you came to judgment] , yea, what vehement desire, yea, what zeal, yea, what revenge the idea in the word revenge here is a desire to straighten things out and make amends for what was done.] ! In all things ye have approved yourselves to be clear in this matter.

That is real exercising, and when you feel the chastening hand of God in your life, Beloved, be exercised about it. You remember what we read in Hebrews 12: “Chastening won't last forever. Afterwards, it will yield the peaceable fruit of righteousness.”

If you glance back in Hebrews, chapter 12, you will notice the fourth attitude that you can have toward chastening. It is all in the little word despise . “My son despise not thou the chastening of the Lord.”

Look at that word despise . It means literally, “don't care so little for these things happening in your lives that you don't investigate to find out the reason for it. Don't care so little that it means nothing to you.” That is despising the chastening of the Lord. “Don't try to explain them by ordinary natural circumstances. Face the fact that God could have something to do with it.”

What are we doing today as a nation? You know, don't you? Do you know very many people who are saying, “God, why are we in the sad state of affairs that we are in? What can we do to make amends, and what can we do that you might lift your stretched out hand of judgment?” Do you know very many people who are saying something like that? No.

You know people talked about Vietnam as McNamara's folly . It probably was, but why did we have a man in such a responsible position that such a folly could occur? I don't have time to make comparisons. Every sad situation in which we are, we try to explain logically. If we would get on our faces before God and say, “God, we believe your hand is in this. Show us what to do. We are concerned. We are exercised. We don't want your hand to remain stretched out still,” I believe God would work.

Conclusion

Make this application to your own personal lives as you need it, remembering that all chastening is not because something is wrong in your life, but much chastening is. Let us apply the Word to our hearts.


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