THINGS LEFT UNDONE

THINGS LEFT UNDONE

Titus 1 (CSB)

1 Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness, 2 in the hope of eternal life that God, who cannot lie, promised before time began. 3 In his own time he has revealed his word in the preaching with which I was entrusted by the command of God our Savior: 4 To Titus, my true son in our common faith. Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior. 5 The reason I left you in Crete was to set right what was left undone and, as I directed you, to appoint elders in every town. 6 An elder must be blameless, the husband of one wife, with faithful children who are not accused of wildness or rebellion. 7 As an overseer of God’s household, he must be blameless, not arrogant, not hot-tempered, not an excessive drinker, not a bully, not greedy for money, 8 but hospitable, loving what is good, sensible, righteous, holy, self-controlled, 9 holding to the faithful message as taught, so that he will be able both to encourage with sound teaching and to refute those who contradict it.10 For there are many rebellious people, full of empty talk and deception, especially those from the circumcision party. 11 It is necessary to silence them; they are ruining entire households by teaching what they shouldn’t in order to get money dishonestly. 12 One of their very own prophets said, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.” 13 This testimony is true. For this reason, rebuke them sharply, so that they may be sound in the faith 14 and may not pay attention to Jewish myths and the commands of people who reject the truth. 15 To the pure, everything is pure, but to those who are defiled and unbelieving nothing is pure; in fact, both their mind and conscience are defiled. 16 They claim to know God, but they deny him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, and unfit for any good work.

The book of Titus is a very small book, with only three chapters. But it is a very important book for believers to study today – particularly because it outlines a plan for reforming the church in order to reach the community for Christ.

The title of this morning’s message comes from verse 5, where Paul tells Titus that he had been left in Crete “to set right what was left undone.” Before we can talk about what that entails, we need to back up and establish what had already been done. Then we can proceed to talk about Paul’s instructions for completing the mission.

The mission of reaching Crete with the gospel had already been accomplished (1-4).

Paul and his missionary team had visited Crete, had won people to Christ, and had established communities of faith in every town of the island. The book of Acts chronicles how Paul and his team went from place to place preaching the good news and planting churches to continue the work and to support their mission.

The amazing miracle of reaching Crete with the gospel happened because the team had obeyed Jesus Christ and had gone where he told them to go, and had depended on God’s grace and peace to be victorious in their mission.

The gospel that they proclaimed is described in very particular terms here. It focuses on God’s promise of eternal life (2). We have already seen that Jesus promised a resurrection to eternal life on the last day. That promise was a crucial element in the mission to reach Crete.

We have every indication that there was an immediate positive reception of the gospel in Crete, resulting in communities of believers in every town.

But all over Crete there were rebellious people who needed to be silenced and rebuked (10-16).

Many of these new congregations in all the towns had allowed unqualified teachers to emerge. These false teachers were teaching the wrong things from the wrong motives and producing the wrong results.

Let’s take a look at those wrong results.

• Instead of building up families, they were ruining them (11).

We are not told exactly how the false teaching was ruining families. I think if we knew that, we would concentrate on just that problem. Instead, the Holy Spirit told us what we need to know. There are false teachers, and their teaching is ruining families. It would do us well today to investigate the things we have been taught, and ask whether those things are helping us build strong families, or not.

• Instead of teaching gospel truth, they were introducing Jewish myths (14).

Again, we don’t know the nature of the myths. But it would be helpful for us today to examine the things we are being taught, either at church, or at school, or in the social or political realms – and discover whether or not those things are true.

Paul specifically mentions myths. Myths are teaching that are used to explain the world around us, but are not based on actual fact.

Evolution – for example – is a modern myth that is supposed to explain the origins of the world. That myth is so prevalent today that people can lose their jobs in the scientific field or in education just for questioning it. I call it a myth because science is actually based on observation, and no one has ever observed evolution. When observers point out that things are not evolving today, the standard response by those who believe the myth is to say that it takes so many billions of years. There is no evidence that everything that exists today emerged from nothing, no matter how much time you give it.

I’m not sure society today can recover from the damage caused by this myth.

• Instead of producing faith and purity they were “defiled and unbelieving” and producing doubt and corruption in the lives of others (15).

We can see the devil at work in the lives of these false teachers. We can see how their teachings were undoing the mission of the church and replacing the influence of the gospel. They were producing another culture which is anti-evangelism. If left unchecked, that culture would eliminate all the marks of Christianity on the island.

Paul had called them “rebellious people” (10). What were they rebelling against? The kingdom of God had come to Crete with the gospel. These rebellious people were chipping away at the principles that Christ delineated in his teachings. They were rebelling against the coming kingdom.

Now, let’s take a look at what Paul says for Titus to do about them:

• First, their teaching needs to be silenced. Paul says “it is necessary to silence them” (11). If the teaching continues, the corruption and disintegration of the communities will continue. Falsehood needs to be confronted by the truth. False teaching is not a mere academic issue. It damages the church and hinders the advancement of the kingdom.

• Secondly, their behavior needs to be rebuked. Paul says for Titus to “rebuke them sharply” (13). We all know what it is like when we discover that someone we have trusted is living a sinful life. These rebellious people were doing that. But the damage would continue until someone had the courage to call them out for being the hypocrites they were. Paul commanded that Titus be that someone.

In their place, leaders had to be appointed who displayed godly character and were faithful to the truth (5-9).

Paul specifically told Titus “to appoint elders in every town” (5). The Greek word for town is πόλις, which is related to our word “politics” Why didn’t he say appoint elders in every church? Elders are church leaders, but the damage was being done to the entire communities, not just to isolated congregations.

You see, the gospel had already spread to the entire island. But now this false gospel had come in and was seeking to undermine the gospel’s influence and replace it with a false gospel.

In order to rescue their island from the influence of this false gospel, all the people in every town had to learn to do this: “LIVE IN A SENSIBLE, RIGHTEOUS AND GODLY WAY” (2:12).

The word for “sensible” is σωφρόνως which means “marked by a serious awareness of responsibility.”

The word for “righteous” is δικαίως which means “being in conformity with standards for acceptable or anticipated behavior.”

The word for “godly” is εὐσεβῶς which means speaks of a life lived “in a reverent relation to God.”

This is why they needed godly leaders.

So Titus had to train, detect, and appoint people who would manifest godly character.

• They had to be people whose moral integrity was “blameless” (6,7).
• They had to be mature “elders” not inexperienced novices (5,6).
• They had to model faithfulness in their marriages and families first (6).
• They had to manage themselves first by practicing self control over their tempers and temptations (7-8).

Titus also had to train, detect and appoint leaders who knew God’s truth and who were ready to declare it and defend it.

• They had to keep “holding to the faithful message as taught” (9).
• They had to be able “to encourage (people) with sound teaching” (9).
• They had to be able “to refute those who contradict it” (9).

So, the issue is not character instead of content or content instead of character. Elders had to have both. They had to have a firm grasp on biblical doctrine and they had to earn the respect of their community by living in a sensible, righteous and godly way.

Application: It is not too late to rescue our town!

It may seem like it’s too late to rescue our society, our town, our county, state, country, planet… but it is not too late. The damage to Crete was already systemic when Paul sent Titus. What he commissioned Titus to do was impossible. But he had the power of God’s Holy Spirit. He had the life transforming influence of the gospel promise of permanent life. He knew the awesome power of God’s people “living in a sensible, righteous and godly way.” When you have that combination you can do the impossible.

There are some things that God has done among us, and I praise God for that. But we are living in an age which is quickly forgetting what God has done.

After Joshua, the Israelites who settled in Canaan and quickly forgot God and became like the nations all around them. But God would not give up on them. He sent judges – leaders who rescued his people.

We can be leaders like that. But it will take a commitment to do the things that have been left undone.

THE ROLLED-AWAY STONE

                           THE ROLLED-AWAY STONE

Luke 24:1-8 CSB

1 On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came to the tomb, bringing the spices they had prepared. 2 They found the stone rolled away from the tomb. 3 They went in but did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4 While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men stood by them in dazzling clothes. 5 So the women were terrified and bowed down to the ground. “Why are you looking for the living among the dead?” asked the men. 6 “He is not here, but he has risen! Remember how he spoke to you when he was still in Galilee, 7 saying, ‘It is necessary that the Son of Man be betrayed into the hands of sinful men, be crucified, and rise on the third day’?” 8 And they remembered his words.

We have been tracing the doctrine of the resurrection in the Bible, beginning in the Old Testament. We saw that Job expected to die, and return to the dust. But Job also believed that his Redeemer lives, and would one day stand on the dust of his decomposed, disintegrated body, and raise him to life again.

We saw the prophet Isaiah tell his people that they would live again – that their dead bodies would rise.

We saw Jesus demonstrate that he had the power to do this by raising Lazarus from the dead. We saw a crowd gather around him after that event, and follow him to Jerusalem where they joined his triumphal entry with praise and palm branches. Jesus said that if they had not shouted his arrival, then the stones were ready to do so.

But then the unthinkable happened. Jesus himself died. He died openly on a cross, his death on public display to everyone. Is that the end of our doctrine of resurrection? It would be if the resurrection were a mere religious doctrine. The resurrection is an event.

Today we are going to listen to another stone – the one that was rolled away from Jesus’ empty tomb. What is the Easter message of that rolled-away stone?

Jesus definitely did die on the cross (1,7).

The first message of that rolled-away stone is that our Lord definitely did die. Note how Luke described who it was who had come looking for Jesus that first Easter Sunday.

• “There was a good and righteous man named Joseph, a member of the Sanhedrin, who had not agreed with their plan and action. He was from Arimathea, a Judean town, and was looking forward to the kingdom of God. He approached Pilate and asked for Jesus’s body. Taking it down, he wrapped it in fine linen and placed it in a tomb cut into the rock, where no one had ever been placed. It was the preparation day, and the Sabbath was about to begin. The women who had come with him from Galilee followed along and observed the tomb and how his body was placed. Then they returned and prepared spices and perfumes. And they rested on the Sabbath according to the commandment” (Luke 23:50-56).

Neither Joseph nor this group of women would have acted if Jesus was not dead. If he was only pretending to be dead, he would not need a tomb. If he was alive, Joseph would have been an idiot to ask for his body. If he was still alive, his body would not need any preparation spices.

And so we read:

• “On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came to the tomb, bringing the spices they had prepared.”

The women came expecting a body. They had a job to do. The body of Jesus needed to be prepared with dignity.

Christians declare openly and publicly that Jesus Christ died. We are not ashamed of this truth because Jesus taught us that “‘It is necessary that the Son of Man be betrayed into the hands of sinful men, (and) be crucified” (7).

His tomb is definitely empty (2-4a,7).

These women encountered a puzzle – something that perplexed them. They found the stone rolled away and the tomb empty. They were not expecting that. They probably wondered who would roll the stone away for them so that they could perform their ministry to Jesus’ body.

• “They found the stone rolled away from the tomb. They went in but did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. … they were perplexed about this…”

At other points in the Bible, people who were cursed were killed, and heaps of stones were placed over their bodies. They stones were not to be removed as a proof of a permanent curse. God’s curse for sin had been put upon Jesus, and his death had paid the price. The rolled-away stone was proof that we have been forgiven because of the blood of Christ. Sin and its curse no longer have dominion over us.

Jesus had taught about his resurrection as well. He had taught that he would “rise on the third day” (7). This great event of the resurrection of our Savior was not hidden from these women or the disciples, but in their sorrow over Christ’s death, they seem to have forgotten it.

The stone was rolled away for us all to acknowledge his resurrection (4b-6a).

But God provided a terrifying visit by two angels to jump start the memories of these women.

• “suddenly two men stood by them in dazzling clothes. So the women were terrified and bowed down to the ground. “Why are you looking for the living among the dead?” asked the men. “He is not here, but he has risen!”

Luke mentions “two men” at points in his writings where God is getting the attention of his disciples. In his chapter 9, the two men are Moses and Elijah, and they appear talking with Jesus at his transfiguration. In his chapter 18, the two men are a self-righteous Pharisee and a humble tax collector. In this passage, and in Acts 1, the two men are angels declaring a significant event in the story of Jesus. In Acts 1 the event is the ascension. In this chapter, it is the resurrection.

The angels commanded that we remember what Jesus promised (6b-8).

Notice what the angels told the women to remember.

• “Remember how he spoke to you when he was still in Galilee, saying, ‘It is necessary that the Son of Man be betrayed into the hands of sinful men, be crucified, and rise on the third day’?” And they remembered his words.”

The conversation that the angels referred to happened just eight days before that vision of transfiguration. It began by Jesus asking his disciples who they say he is. We remember that Peter confidently proclaimed that Jesus was the Christ, the son of the living God.

But Luke tells us that after that Jesus began to warn them that he would “suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes, be killed, and be raised the third day” (Luke 9:22).

We have to remember everything that Jesus promised. This is necessary because God has a plan in which everything he promised is going to be fulfilled.

• He promised to send his Son, and he did.
• He promised Jesus would die on a cross, and he did.
• He promised Jesus would rise on the third day, and he did.
• He promised that Jesus would come again, and he will.
• He promised that Jesus would “raise us up on the last day” and he will.
• He promised that because he lives, we will live too, and we will.

At any point in time, God’s people are in danger of forgetting his words. But we cannot afford to do that. You and must remember what Jesus said. When we look at that rolled-away stone, and gaze into that empty tomb, we have to look beyond our traditions and remember the truth. The truth is what Jesus promised us.

At Easter, we have to look beyond the bunnies, and remember the Bible. The Bible tells us that this same Jesus who came out of the tomb will come back and open our tombs. He is the first-fruits of the harvest. His resurrection is just the beginning. Ours is next.

• “… a time is coming when all who are in the graves will hear his voice and come out… ” (John 5:28-29a).

We are going to hear his voice. We are going to hear that trumpet sound, and we are going to get up out of the ground. God promised it. God proved it. That settles it. Do you believe it?

THE READY STONES

THE READY STONES

Luke 19:36-44 CSB

  • 36 As he was going along, they were spreading their clothes on the road. 37 Now he came near the path down the Mount of Olives, and the whole crowd of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the miracles they had seen: 38 Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord. Peace in heaven and glory in the highest heaven! 39 Some of the Pharisees from the crowd told him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” 40 He answered, “I tell you, if they were to keep silent, the stones would cry out.” 41 As he approached and saw the city, he wept for it, 42 saying, “If you knew this day what would bring peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes. 43 For the days will come on you when your enemies will build a barricade around you, surround you, and hem you in on every side. 44 They will crush you and your children among you to the ground, and they will not leave one stone on another in your midst, because you did not recognize the time when God visited you.”

Today we are celebrating Palm Sunday. It is the Sunday before Easter, and it commemorates the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem just one week before his resurrection.

There is no mention of the waving of palm branches in today’s text. But we actually have four different historical records of this important day in Scripture. The event was important enough that the Holy Spirit inspired all four Gospel writers to describe it. John’s Gospel mentions the palm branches. Matthew’s Gospel reveals that there were actually two donkeys, and Jesus rode on one of them – the colt. All three synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) mention that the people put their garments on the animals and spread them on the road he took as well.

This was a day to praise God for Jesus and all the miracles he had done (37-38).

  • “the whole crowd of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the miracles they had seen”

They saw him cure blind people, lepers, paralytics and people suffering from all kinds of problems.

They saw him control nature, calming storms, walking on water, and turning water into wine – stuff like that.

They saw him master the supernatural, casting out demons and restoring those who had been driven insane by them.

They even saw him raise people from the dead – Jairus’ daughter, the widow’s son from Nain, and Lazarus at Bethany.

This day – this Palm Sunday – was a day of public praise and worship to commemorate God’s amazing Son who had come to show us all what his Father in heaven was like. The people had wondered what God was really like. Was he mad at them? But seeing Jesus, they dared to believe that there was …

  • “Peace in heaven and glory in the highest heaven!”

They dared to believe that God did not want to destroy them, but to forgive them. They dared to expect not God’s wrath but his grace!

This was a day to celebrate the arrival of God’s chosen king (38).

The prophet Zechariah had predicted this day. He had said:

  • Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout in triumph, Daughter Jerusalem! Look, your King is coming to you; he is righteous and victorious, humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey (Zechariah 9:9).

Can you imagine the stir? Can you imagine how excited the people were when this amazing miracle worker chose to enter into the city of Jerusalem this way?

This must be the guy! This must be the coming king who is going to replace Herod, and even overcome mighty Caesar!

This was a day to decide the fate of Jerusalem (41-44).

  • “As he approached and saw the city, he wept for it, saying, “If you knew this day what would bring peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes. For the days will come on you when your enemies will build a barricade around you, surround you, and hem you in on every side. They will crush you and your children among you to the ground, and they will not leave one stone on another in your midst, because you did not recognize the time when God visited you.”

The city could have accepted Jesus as their king, and it looked like they were ready to do that. But that was not what happened.

The crowds were going wild, but the religious leaders tried to stifle them. They tried to get Jesus to calm them down. They said …

  • “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.”

But Jesus was not about to stop this riot of praise. He told the Pharisees…

  • ““I tell you, if they were to keep silent, the stones would cry out.”

They were ready stones. They were ready for king Jesus to come and take over. I wonder if we are as ready for Jesus to take over as those stones were.

There is one more thing that happened on the first Palm Sunday, and not a lot of people talk about it. But it is just as much a part of the triumphal entry story.

This was a day to celebrate resurrection (John 12:17-18)!

You see, there was one particular miracle that had jump started Palm Sunday. We learn about that from John’s gospel.

  • Meanwhile, the crowd, which had been with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead, continued to testify. This is also why the crowd met him, because they heard he had done this sign.

Palm Sunday’s festival of praise had been a result of Jesus’ raising of Lazarus from the dead.

Jesus had taught concerning two time periods – two hours. We would use the word windows. His first hour was the window of his earthly ministry. During that hour, those who are dead would hear his voice and live. But there will be another hour in which all who are in their graves asleep will hear his voice and wake up. That will be during Christ’s second coming.

The promise of another life – a permanent life beginning at the resurrection and never ending is something to praise God about. We – God’s people who trust in Christ for our salvation will be the recipients of that promise. That is something to make some noise about. And if we were to keep quiet about that, the stones are ready to cry out!

20210328 The Ready Stones.mp3

DANIEL’S HOPE

DANIEL’S HOPE

Daniel 12:1-3, 13 CSB

1 At that time Michael, the great prince who stands watch over your people, will rise up. There will be a time of distress such as never has occurred since nations came into being until that time. But at that time all your people who are found written in the book will escape.
2 Many who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake, some to eternal life, and some to disgrace and eternal contempt.
3 Those who have insight will shine like the bright expanse of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.

13 But as for you, go on your way to the end; you will rest, and then you will rise to receive your allotted inheritance at the end of the days.”

We have been following God’s progressive revelation in scripture as we have examined two passages from the Old Testament.

When we examined Job’s declaration of his hope, we learned that death is real, and that it will mean returning to the dust. But the good news is that we have a Redeemer who is also real. Our Redeemer is going to stand on our dust and restore us to life, and we will see him with our own eyes. There is going to be a resurrection.

Jesus said the same thing. In our Easter theme verse, John 14:19, Jesus said “Because I live, you will live too.”

Last week, we looked at Isaiah’s declaration of hope in the same resurrection. He told his people “Your dead will live; their bodies will rise” (Isaiah 26:19). His people were discouraged because they did not have victory. They seemed like failures. But Isaiah reminded them that their God does not fail. They could trust in the resurrection because it was something God was going to do for them.

Today’s lesson is from Daniel. God revealed the future to Daniel. He learned of a succession of empires that would rule over the earth in the coming centuries.

• The Babylonian empire under Nebuchadnezzar
• The Medo-Persian empire under Cyrus
• The Macedonian or Grecian empire under Alexander
• The Roman empire under the Caesars

Today’s text comes from the last chapter of Daniel. In it, God gives Daniel a brief glimpse of a future further than ever. He shows Daniel what is going to happen at “the end of the days” (13).

Let’s walk through what Daniel learned.

Daniel learned of a future time of unparalleled distress (1a)

The days of Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylon will come to an end. The days of Cyrus’ Persia will come to an end. The days of Alexander’s Greece will come to an end. The days of the Caesars’ Rome will come to an end. What will be left will be an age of mixed empires, symbolized in a vision by feet of iron and clay. Then God’s kingdom will come to earth, symbolized in a vision as a stone cut out without hands (Daniel 2:34). The stone will strike the statue and crush it, and then the stone itself will become a mountain and fill the whole earth (Daniel 2:35).

Human history as we know it is going to come to an end, and God’s permanent kingdom is going to begin.

Daniel learned this about that point in the future:

“At that time Michael, the great prince who stands watch over your people, will rise up. There will be a time of distress such as never has occurred since nations came into being until that time.”

Michael is the archangel Michael, and he oversees the people of Israel. He will be waging war with the dragon at the end of time according to Revelation 12:7. It is no stretch to conclude that this battle will result in a time of unparalleled distress on earth.

Next, Daniel learned that some of his people would escape that distress (1b).

God told Daniel that “at that time all your people who are found written in the book will escape.”

Not all of Daniel’s people will escape that worldwide cataclysmic event. But some of them would. Particularly, all of them who are found written in the book will escape.

Now, what book is he talking about? The apostle Paul mentioned some of his fellow missionaries, and he said that their “names are in the book of life” (Philippians 4:3).

The book of Revelation mentions that “book of life” six times. It says that on judgment day, anyone whose name is not found in the book of life will be thrown into the lake of fire and will experience the second death. But those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life will inherit the holy city, new Jerusalem, have the glory of God in their midst, and will never again experience death, mourning, crying or pain.

That is the great escape, and Daniel learned that he would be in that number.

But Daniel also learned that some of his people would not escape, but would have another permanent destiny (2)

“Many who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake, some to eternal life, and some to disgrace and eternal contempt.”

Dr. John Roller wrote that this verse is “one of the most beautiful statements regarding the resurrection of the dead in Scripture” (God Is In Control, 64.). But he did have to explain that the Hebrew word translated “many” in the verse does not imply that some Israelites will not be raised. The word means a large number – lots of people.

Roller explains that “Each one of the billions of people who have ever lived and died (and are now sleeping in the dust of the earth according to Daniel 12:2) will someday awaken – return to conscious life – and be judged.”

The result of the judgment will be that some of Daniel’s people will inherit permanent life. But some of them will not. They will inherit disgrace and permanent contempt. Roller says they “according to hundreds of other passages throughout the Bible, will be completely destroyed – even the memory of them being considered shameful and worthy of contempt throughout all the ages of eternity.”

Daniel learned that he would be raised from the dead at the end of days (13).

By this time, Daniel is starting to sing “Lord, I want to be in that number when the saints go marching in.” And he learns that he will.

• “But as for you, go on your way to the end; you will rest, and then you will rise to receive your allotted inheritance at the end of the days.”

I want you to notice the three R’s in this passage. They are not Readin’ Ritin’ and Rithmatic. But there are three R’s.

Daniel discovers that he is going to rest. His life is going to come to an end, and he’s going to fall asleep in death. He’s not going to get his reward at death. His reward is coming when his Redeemer stands on the dust and calls it back to life. Until then, he waits unconscious in the grave. The most common figure of speech in the Bible for death is sleep.

Then, Daniel discovers that he is going to rise. He’s going to hear the voice of Jesus and wake up from his sleep. The most common figure of speech in the Bible for the resurrection is the word “awake.” When Paul argues for the resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15, the word he uses is egeirō.

Egeirō means you are not the person God intended you to be, but He can change that. Sin has imprinted itself on your life so that you begin dying the moment you begin breathing. You have an appointment in the cemetery – the sleeping place. But the good news is that our God has promised to wake you up. He will restore you to life again, and a permanent life.
Daniel discovers that once he has risen, there will be a third R. He will receive his allotted inheritance.

That inheritance is eternal life! He’s not going to wake up to fall asleep again. Lazarus did that. Jesus raised him from the dead, but he eventually died again.

But when we wake up, it will be to sleep no more!

“Ain’t no grave gonna keep my body down,
Ain’t no grave gonna keep my body down,
When I hear that trumpet sound,
I’m gonna get up out of the ground,
Ain’t no grave gonna keep my body down.”

Finally, Daniel learned to follow God’s great commission for his life (3)

Here we get the “so what?” of the resurrection. Don’t miss this. There is a reason you are going to be blessed with a resurrection to eternal life.

“Those who have insight will shine like the bright expanse of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.”

We are saved for the purpose of leading others to righteousness.

Jesus said “You are the light of the world. A city situated on a hill cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and puts it under a basket, but rather on a lampstand, and it gives light for all who are in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16).

He commissions those whose names are in the book of life to so live their lives that they draw others into that same destiny.

ISAIAH’S HOPE

ISAIAH’S HOPEISAIAH’S HOPE

Isaiah 26:14-19 CSB

“The dead do not live; departed spirits do not rise up. Indeed, you have punished and destroyed them; you have wiped out all memory of them. You have added to the nation, Lord. You have added to the nation; you are honored. You have expanded all the borders of the land. Lord, they went to you in their distress; they poured out whispered prayers because your discipline fell on them. As a pregnant woman about to give birth writhes and cries out in her pains, so we were before you, Lord. We became pregnant, we writhed in pain; we gave birth to wind. We have won no victories on earth, and the earth’s inhabitants have not fallen. Your dead will live; their bodies will rise. Awake and sing, you who dwell in the dust! For you will be covered with the morning dew, and the earth will bring out the departed spirits.”

In our preparation for the celebration of the resurrection of Christ, we have been looking at some Old Testament witnesses of the hope of resurrection. Last week we listened to wise, patient Job, as he declared his confidence that his Redeemer would one day stand on the dust that Job disintegrates into and raise him from the dead.

This week, we move several centuries into Job’s future to the time of the writing prophets. Isaiah is serving as God’s spokesman to the nation of Judah. The people of Judah are discouraged. Isaiah wants to encourage them, but at the same time, he has to admit that his people are not ready for God to intervene as he has in the past. What do you say in such a time as that?

Isaiah reminds Judah that their former lords are dead (14)

In the previous verse, Isaiah told the LORD that “lords other than you have owned us.” He was talking about the kings of other nations – like the Pharaohs of Egypt, who had dominated God’s people.

So, now Isaiah reminds them that those foreign kings are now dead as door-nails. They are not alive somewhere under the earth. Their spirits are not going to rise up and dominate God’s people again. God has punished and destroyed them. He has even wiped out all memory of them.

Prophets don’t just tell the future. They are also very good at reminding us of the past. This gift is especially helpful when we are depressed about our present circumstances. We need somebody every once in a while to slap us in the face, and remind us of what God has done for us.

Judah needed that. They needed to be reminded that Pharaoh’s oppression and slaughter and slavery is in the past. Sihon and Og are dead. Goliath is dead. There is a long line of enemies who sought to destroy God’s people, and they couldn’t do it. Instead, God punished and destroyed them.

“Where are those other lords today?” Isaiah asked. They are not alive. God has wiped them out.

Isaiah reminds Judah that God miraculously expanded their nation (15).

He turns his eyes to God in heaven, but he keeps writing, because God knows what he is going to say, but Judah needs to hear his prayer:

• “You have added to the nation, Lord. You have added to the nation; you are honored. You have expanded all the borders of the land.”

The people are discouraged and depressed. They come to Isaiah with a long list of things they expect God to do for them. So, Isaiah has his own list. He reminds the people through this prayer that God has already blessed them. In fact, they expanded into a nation because of his miraculous help.

They had forgotten to count their blessings. We sometimes forget to do that. We get so caught up with our list of what we want God to do for us now, that we forget to name our current blessings, one by one.

What Isaiah is trying to do is bring his discouraged and depressed nation back to reality. They need to see how big God is. He is bigger than their problems. He has already shown them in their own history that nothing is too difficult for him.

Isaiah laments the lack of victory that Judah is now experiencing (1-18).

The prophet was not unaware of how bad it has gotten for his people. He talks about how they are pouring out whispered prayers while God seems to be not listening. He adds himself by changing the pronoun to “we.” He says. Lord we have been writhing in pain like a pregnant woman, but all we have given birth to is wind.

• “We have won no victories on earth, and the earth’s inhabitants have not fallen” (18).

Isaiah says that this was not what any of them expected. They knew God was with them. Why haven’t they overcome all their enemies in battle?

“Are we dead Lord? Is that what it is?” Isaiah knows that God is not dead. He doesn’t need a movie to tell him that. But he wonders if his nation has lived its three-score and ten and its time is up.

So, what is God telling Isaiah. What is he revealing to the prophet? Are we dead, God? God says … Yes. But.

Isaiah challenges Judah to expect a resurrection (19).

It is in this context that the Holy Spirit inspired the prophet to declare another amazing prediction of a coming resurrection.

• Your dead will live; their bodies will rise. Awake and sing, you who dwell in the dust! For you will be covered with the morning dew, and the earth will bring out the departed spirits (19).

God tells Isaiah that his people are dwelling in the dust like they are already dead. But being dead is not a problem if you have a God who can raise the dead.

So Isaiah tells that dead nation of Judah to wake up and sing. The earth is going to bring out its departed spirits. They are covered in dust right now, but they will soon be covered with the morning dew. They are just skeletons right now, but God is going to raise them as whole living bodies.

This sounds very much like the confidence Job expressed. Isaiah was saying, remember when Job said that even after his body died, that his Redeemer would stand on his dust and raise him to life again? Well, Judah, God’s going to do that for you as well.

In his previous chapter, Isaiah had said:

• “When he has swallowed up death once and for all, the Lord God will wipe away the tears from every face and remove his people’s disgrace from the whole earth, for the Lord has spoken. On that day it will be said, “Look, this is our God; we have waited for him, and he has saved us. This is the Lord; we have waited for him. Let’s rejoice and be glad in his salvation” (25:8-9).

The apostle Paul actually quotes that text in his chapter on the resurrection:

• “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we will be changed. For this corruptible body must be clothed with incorruptibility, and this mortal body must be clothed with immortality. When this corruptible body is clothed with incorruptibility, and this mortal body is clothed with immortality, then the saying that is written will take place: Death has been swallowed up in victory” (1 Corinthians 15:52-54).

Paul knew that Isaiah was not just talking about a “spiritual revival”. Isaiah predicted an actual revival: the dead coming back to life. And Paul knew who was going to make that happen. God gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Lord, it sometimes seems like we are dying every day. It seems like death is swallowing us all up. But we trust you to raise the dead. We believe that you are going to swallow up death itself in your victory. We choose to wake up and sing. Thank you for the hope of the resurrection.