Have you ever thought about what life would be like without hope? Without hope, life is hopeless. There is nothing to live for. Without hope, life seems meaningless, there is no purpose for life.
A report just came out this week for young people aged 12 – 26. The number of young people reporting symptoms of major depression increased by 50-60% over the past ten years. Serious psychological distress and suicidal thoughts and actions rose by an alarming 70% in the same time period. There are various theories as to why this is happening. But it clear that depression and suicidal thoughts originate from feelings of hopelessness. Every person needs hope in order to live life fully.
Many things can cause a person to lose hope. True hope, living hope, comes from God alone. God gives hope for today, tomorrow and eternity. God wants you to have hope. Not only does God desire you to have hope, He desires to use you to give His hope to others.
Romans 15:4 (ESV) For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.
God gave us His Word, the Bible, so that through it, we might be encouraged and have hope. How does God’s Word give us hope? By pointing us to the God who inspired and gave us His Word.
Today, we begin a new message series entitled “Discover Hope” which is based on the book of Isaiah. The prophet Isaiah lived during troubled times. During his prophetic ministry, the northern kingdom of Israel fell to Assyrian invaders. The southern kingdom, where Isaiah lived, went into great spiritual and moral decline. That decline peaked in the reign of the most evil king, King Manasseh. According to Hebrew tradition, referred to in the book of Hebrews, Isaiah was martyred by King Manasseh by being sawn into two. Yet, Isaiah’s prophesies were written to bring hope, both to the people of Isaiah’s day and to us today.
You see, we also live in troubled times. All one has to do is watch the news to understand the troubling times we live in. In these times God wants to give us hope. In our message today, we are going to learn that hope comes only through an encounter with God, so I’ve entitled our message Encounter God.
There are many ways that a person might try to have hope in difficult circumstances. But only God can deal with the underlying issues that destroy hope and bring a living hope. So, let’s look more closely at how hope comes only through an encounter with God.
This morning, we’re going to study Isaiah’s encounter with God in Isaiah 6. But who did Isaiah really encounter?
John 12:41 (ESV) Isaiah said these things because he saw his [Jesus’] glory and spoke of him [Jesus].
So, the Gospel of John makes it clear that Isaiah really saw Jesus in His preincarnate form. You see, Jesus as God, as always existed. In fact, the Bible tells us that it was Jesus who created the universe. The vision that Isaiah saw was a vision of Jesus, given to encourage him …
Isaiah 6:1 (ESV) In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple.
Isaiah began his prophetic ministry in the year that King Uzziah died. King Uzziah had a lengthy reign of 52 years. He led the nation of Judah into both economic and spiritual prosperity. Towards the end of his reign, King Uzziah pridefully broke God’s command by offering incense in the Holy Place. God judged him by causing leprosy to break out. So, the death of King Uzziah marked the end of an era of greatness in Judah and ushered in troubled times.
In those troubled times, God gave Isaiah a vision of the Lord seated upon a throne. The glory of the Lord filled the temple. The troubled times on earth did not impact the Lord who was seated far above. Hope comes in realizing that God reigns sovereignly and is in complete control. In troubled times, we need to …
Isaiah 6:2-4 (ESV) Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke.
Around the throne, Isaiah sees seraphim, a type of angel, whose name means burning ones. As they flew, they cried out “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord.” The seraphim voice was so powerful that the foundations of the temple shook and the temple was filled with smoke. What does holy mean? Holy means that God is totally other than us, He is the creator, we are the created. Holy means that God is perfect, with no trace of sin, evil or defect. Holy means that God is exalted far above anything or anyone else and is to be worshipped. God’s holiness impacts every aspect of His being.
The seraphim repeat holy three times, emphasizing it and referring to the Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. In the vision that God showed Isaiah, He revealed His sovereign authority as He reigned from His throne and His holiness. Hope comes by seeing God’s glory.
How can we have hope by reading of Isaiah’s vision? Visions are rare in the Bible and they’re rare today as well. But God gave this vision to Isaiah and inspired him to write it down, so that we could benefit from that vision thousands of years later. What Isaiah saw in his vision is still true today. The Lord Jesus is still seated on His throne, His glory fills heaven and the angels are still crying out Holy, Holy, Holy.
Just as God desired Isaiah to focus on the power and holiness of the Lord, so He desires for us to do the same today. If we focus on the sin and troubles of our world, we will be brought down to its level. The result will be hopelessness, depression, discouragement and lethargy. But if we focus on the vision that God gave us through Isaiah, the vision of God’s glory and holiness, we can grow in hope. As you set your mind on things above, on a holy God, you will worship Him. And whatever you worship, you become like. Hope comes by seeing and focusing on God’s glory. Next …
When you see God’s glory, either in a vision or through God’s Word, it changes you. As we begin to understand God’s holiness, our own sinfulness is revealed. We must choose to …
Isaiah 6:5 (ESV) And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!”
Isaiah responded to God’s holiness by admitting his desperate state. He understood that his spiritual state was lost from the presence of God. The reason was his sin, described by being a man of unclean lips. So, Isaiah admitted his sin and chose to turn away from it. To admit your sin and choose to turn away from it is the first step in repentance.
Isaiah 6:6-7 (ESV) Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.”
Upon Isaiah’s repentance, one of the seraphim brought a burning coal from the altar and touched Isaiah’s unclean lips. The angel pronounced that Isaiah’s guilt was taken way and his sin forgiven. To turn away from sin is only the first step in repentance, the second step is to …
Isaiah 6:8 (ESV) And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.”
The Lord then asked Isaiah a question? The Lord had a task, a plan for service and He invited Isaiah to participate. Isaiah had a choice to make. Would he accept God’s call to service or would he decline. Isaiah, after seeing the vision of the Lord, wisely accepted God’s call. He responded “Here I am! Send me.” The whole course of Isaiah’s life had been altered by encountering God. He had turned away from his sin and accepted God’s call to service.
He accepted God’s call without knowing exactly what He was being called to do. He choose to do whatever God required of him, whatever plan God had for his life. Hope comes from repentance.
When you truly see God for who He is, King of Kings and Lord of Lords. When you see His glory and His holiness, it makes no sense to continue doing things your way in life. In fact, even though not many are called to be prophets, God calls each person in the same basic way that He called Isaiah. God calls every person to see His holiness and turn away from their sin. God calls every person to not only turn away from sin, but to accept God’s call to serve Him.
Did Isaiah accept God’s call to service before or after God told him what the plan was? The answer to that question is that Isaiah accepted God’s call before he knew any details of the plan. Why? Because He had seen a holy God seated upon the throne. Isaiah knew that the Lord knew the end from the beginning. The Lord had created him and had an important plan for his life. In the same way, God calls each and every person here today to turn away from sin and accept God’s call on your life, whatever that may be. After we’ve accepted God’s call, we must follow through …
After Isaiah accepted God’s plan, God then showed him what the plan involved.
Isaiah 6:9-10 (ESV) And he said, “Go, and say to this people: “‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand; keep on seeing, but do not perceive.’ Make the heart of this people dull, and their ears heavy, and blind their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.”
Isaiah was to prophesy to the nation of Judah to hear the truth, to repent and be healed. But God was now telling Isaiah, that on the whole, the people would not listen, they would not respond. They would not choose to hear with their ears or see with their eyes. They would turn away from the truth. The spiritual decline of the nation would accelerate, even though Isaiah would prophesy a message from the Lord. Their hearts would be hardened to the truth, even though Isaiah would proclaim it faithfully. God’s plan for Isaiah would be difficult, but he was required to be faithful. Even though God’s plan would be difficult for Isaiah, in the end …
Isaiah 6:11-12 (ESV) Then I said, “How long, O Lord?” And he said: “Until cities lie waste without inhabitant, and houses without people, and the land is a desolate waste, and the LORD removes people far away, and the forsaken places are many in the midst of the land.
Isaiah asked the Lord a question, How long? In other words, how long would the people refuse to hear and follow the truth? I’m sure the Lord’s answer was not one that Isaiah wanted to hear. The Lord answered that the people would not respond to the word of the Lord until the cities of Judah were destroyed, the land was desolate and the people were taken into exile. In fact, God’s judgement did not fall on Judah until about a hundred years after Isaiah lived. At that time, Judah was carried into exile in Babylon. Yet, God now gave Isaiah hope for the future, as he was faithful to follow God’s plan.
Isaiah 6:13 (ESV) And though a tenth remain in it, it will be burned again, like a terebinth or an oak, whose stump remains when it is felled.” The holy seed is its stump.
Even though God’s judgement would be severe, even though most of the people would not turn to the Lord, the Lord would preserve a remnant. Even though the nation of Judah would become like a burned over stump of a mighty oak, a holy seed would remain in the stump. That holy seed would sprout once again and bring life back to the people of God. Hope would come to Isaiah by following God’s plan.
The results of Isaiah’s faithfulness to follow God’s plan would not be seen in his lifetime. He would only see them in eternity. I believe that God’s plan for each of our lives is not easy, it is difficult. We will face many difficulties through circumstances, other people and the attack of Satan along the way. Yet, as we’re faithful in following God’s plan, we can have hope that good will come in the long run. That even if we don’t see much fruit in this life, we will see the good in eternity. This life is merely 80 years or so, give or take a few. Yet eternity is forever. Hope comes, not by following our own plans for our lives, but in following God’s plan. Our plans will have no eternal significance. God’s plans always have eternal significance and rewards. Hope comes by following God’s plan.
Every person needs hope, hope in this life and hope for eternity. Hope comes only through an encounter with God. When we see God for who He is, it produces a change in us. We must turn away from our own plans and choose to follow God’s plan. God desires for each person here this morning to grow in hope. As your hope increases, He wants to use you to give hope to those around you. God is seeking for our church family to more and more bring hope to the hopeless.