by Robin Brace
READING: ISAIAH 59.
“WHY is our society in such a mess?” the newspaper article which I was reading asked.
“We have all of this money which we can throw at social problems, our educational system has been described as one of the best – if not the best – in the world. We have been called ‘the seat of democracy’, and yet, crime stalks our city streets every evening after darkness falls. The police despair of our new ‘youth clubs culture’ which pours out hundreds of young people onto our city streets in the small hours of the morning – when these clubs close, especially at weekends. Frequently fights then break out among some of these immature youngsters – tieing up precious police resources. Many of these young people are often found to be too young even to have been in such places! Where are the parents of those kids??”
Of course, this newspaper report was telling the truth. Actually, these things are symptoms of a disease, but it is not a physical disease – it’s a disease of a moral and spiritual nature which is affecting our peoples.
In the last few years we have also increasingly been seeing attacks by young thugs on elderly people – we are also seeing ‘road rage’ attacks where some thug resents the fact that you overtook his car 2 miles back. You have forgotten about it, but he plans to attack you at the next traffic lights! We are seeing ‘hoodies’ (about 3-7 young people) attack unsuspecting passers-by and filming the vicious attack on their camcorders so they can watch the incident and enjoy a good laugh about it later! In several such cases lone young women have been attacked in this way. I could go on…. WHAT IS GOING ON IN OUR LAND??
Well the theme of Isaiah 59 is injustice!
But what is injustice?
Well, it might help to – first of all – define what justice is, because injustice will then be the opposite of that.
According to my dictionary,
“Justice is the quality of being just; propriety; impartiality; fairness – including some system of merited award or punishment.”
“The rule of justice is plain, namely, that a good man ought not to swerve from the truth, nor to inflict any unjust loss on anyone, nor to act in any way deceitfully or fraudulently.”
More recently (and more succinctly!), Benjamin Disraeli said,
“Justice is truth in action.”
I must admit that I like that definition: Justice is Truth in Action!
You know truth, equity and justice are important to God! Psalm 89:14 says that,
“Righteousness and justice are the foundation of His throne…” (Psalm 89:14, NKJV).
In the prophecy of Jeremiah 23:5, we are told that the Messiah is…
“…A king who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land.” (Jeremiah 23:5, NIV).
I am dividing this sermon into 3 sections:
THE CAUSES OF INJUSTICE.
THE EFFECTS OF INJUSTICE.
THE SOLUTION TO INJUSTICE.
1. THE CAUSES OF INJUSTICE.
Please read Isaiah 59:1-2. with me. Look, I know that that little word, ‘sin’ is no longer considered a very politically-correct word in our society, but sometimes we just have to call a spade a spade! We witness a society which is largely cut off from God because of its sins. It puts me in mind of Psalm 18:41 where it says, ‘THEY CRIED for help,………but there was no one to save them.’ Cut off because of our iniquities. A barrier, then, between our society and God. Of course, very few in our land even believe that they should cry out to God anymore – especially many of our liberally-influenced leaders. Generally speaking, they think that any concept of God or of sin is now pretty much irrelevant in our sophisticated and “advanced” 21st century! At best, some kind of ‘crutch’ which may help the more religious types cope with life’s stresses.
You see, our opinion-shapers and opinion-moulders now say, ‘Oh, its fine to have your ‘personal religion’, but it’s just that: your ‘personal religion’ – don’t try to evangelize it because that is confrontational!’ Don’t try to claim that your religion has any superior truth claims over any other religion or philosophy because that is aggressive! But, of course, as Bible-believing Christians we have a problem with that, don’t we?
Nothwithstanding certain merits in other religions (which we do not deny) we believe that the Christian Gospel and the name of Jesus Christ DOES have superior truth claims, and we can never deny that.
Verse 2 of Isaiah 59 (NKJ) says,
“Your iniquities have separated you from your God”-
There is a separation, an alienation, a gulf – but ONLY Christianity fully undersatands this separation and gulf and ONLY Christianity provides a solution – you find that in no other religion !
That separation was caused by the work of the ‘First Adam’, the solution and reconciliation comes through the work of the ‘Second Adam’: The Lord Jesus Christ! And as Paul wrote to Timothy,
“Let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity” (2 Timothy 2:19, NKJV).
And, he might have added, that is only possible through Jesus Christ. Oh, I do not say that members of other religions are “doomed”, as a few have so unwisely said, God alone will be their judge and I happen to believe that He will be supremely merciful on that Day of Judgment – which is nearer today than it was yesterday, but I DO SAY (and this is not negotiable for Christians) that we can only be saved through Christ – He is the doorway into Eternal Life!! We believe that – which is a major reason why we are Christians!
Does that knowledge, acceptance and resultant grace make us perfect? No way! Not in this life! For the moment, we have to struggle on – warts and all!
So, the root causes of injustice? REJECTION OF GOD – AND WHERE GOD IS REJECTED TODAY, MORAL INFAMY AND TYRANNY WILL FOLLOW TOMORROW! That’s the lesson of the Bible and it’s the lesson of human history.
You know, it is sometimes forgotten that Adolf Hitler and his Nazi thugs plotted to replace the influence of the Lutheran Church over the German people. It was easy to discredit the other German politicians but in order to discredit the Church they knew they also had to give National Socialism a religious facade which they did in all manner of evil and conniving ways. The pastors who objected to this were simply thrown into prison. But when Hitler’s henchmen lyingly plotted to overthrow the Lutheran Church they did not realize that they was directly attacking Christ – Germany’s fate was sealed! They brought a terrible fate on the German people as a result.
‘Where there is no vision the people perish….’
2. THE EFFECTS OF INJUSTICE.
Well, look all around you. But lets read on: Please read Isaiah 59:3-4.
You see justice and injustice have many facets. When we think of that word ‘justice’ we may initially think of a court of law – perhaps we think of the sham of justice when murders and molestors can go free because they can afford the top lawyers and the top legal counsel teams – when the guilty go free but the rights of the oppressed are not upheld. Let me tell you here today that when such things happen that is a stench in God’s nostrils! But God is aware – and He is the supreme judge!! He is the final arbiter! – and there is no higher court than the court of Heaven!!
But the topic of injustice spreads to every area of life.
‘AT MIDDAY THEY STUMBLE AS IF IT WERE TWILIGHT’ – thats spiritual blindness. Its not physical blindness. If a person is physically blind, they are aware of that, but the spiritually blind are unaware of their desperate situation. To believe – as this society does – that we are enlightened, sophisticated in knowledge and socially advancing, when the truth is that we are morally bankrupt, sincerely believing – because of our spiritual tunnel vision – that if a problem cannot be solved with money then there is no hope that it can be solved. That too is a form of injustice: when the simple and perhaps naïve look to a nation’s leaders for wisdom and guidance but are directed down a spiritual cul-de-sac of despair, hopelessness, materialism and desperation! That – I put it to you – is this land of ours in 2004.
The opinion-shapers in the media and elsewhere believe that, to quote Christian philosopher Peter Kreeft, ‘The only sin is to believe in sin, the only thing we should judge is judgmentalism and the only thing we should ever condemn is condemnation!.’ Smooth, pleasant, politically-correct niceties – but this Book disagrees with that! THERE IS such a thing as sin and it ruins lives and it leads to injustice. Its path is the path leading to all wretchedness! Why did Christ have to die on the cross? Because of sin!! We must beware of newer theologies which seem to say that maybe sin isn’t so bad after all. It is so serious that we could be restored to God in no other way but through the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus! Liberal theology says that Christ was crucified and resurrected just as our fine and inspiring example, but that is not true, its a subtle deception because it sounds nice and cosy and we can get taken in by it. No! As evangelicals we are bound to uphold ‘sustituitionary atonement’ – its a difficult term but it just means that Christ HAD to die in order for us to be reconciled to God – there was no other way. He died in our place – Now thats the reality!
Verses 14-15. Please ensure that we are all reading these verses.
God does not change in character. He said this of Israel and He says this of us today. Where there is no God, there is no justice! And a lack of justice brings eventual judgment.
So we live in this society which believes that money and education (it means purely materialistic education) can solve all ills, and if a problem is stubborn what do they do? Throw more money at it! But if those problems are of a moral and spiritual sort (like most of modern society’s problems) then no amount of money thrown at them can ever solve them!! Why don’t our leaders recognise that? Because of spiritual blindness! To underline that, did you know that as prosperity increases so does the suicide rate? Oh, thats proven – no secret about that. Impoverished third world countries enjoy a tiny suicide rate! No, money can never be a solution, in fact it often makes things worse because it initially masks the tough moral decisions which need to be faced up to! One day very soon Almighty God will have our societies face up to the fact that the ‘Almighty Dollar and the ‘Almighty Pound’ are not the magic panacea for all our problems!
Now, in the case of Israel, they didn’t have so much money, but it’s the same story: a society which once knew God getting themselves into a mess by departing from Him and coming to see the solutions in all the wrong places!!
So we have looked at some of the effects of injustice and if time allowed I could mention more but we need to move on.
3. THE SOLUTION TO INJUSTICE.
Okay, here comes the solution. Please read verses 17-20 with me.
Jesus Christ is the solution. Let me repeat that: JESUS CHRIST IS THE SOLUTION! But these verses also speak of the judgment of those who reject Him. He is the Rock, but tragically for some He will be the Rock which they will stumble upon. It says, ‘The Redeemer will come to Zion, to those in Jacob who REPENT of their sins’ Repentance is vital! What is true repentance?
It is an about-turn from spiritual blindness to spiritual ilumination.
It is an about-turn from spiritual despair to spiritual hope,
And it is an about-turn from spiritual brokeness to spiritual joy.
This chaper concludes with a few words of encouragement to us! Some words intended for the Body of Christ:
‘”As for me, this is my covenant with them,” says the LORD. “My Spirit , who is on you, and my words that I have put in your mouth will not depart from your mouth, or from the mouths of your children, or from the mouths of their descendants from this time on and for ever,” says the LORD.’ (NIV).
That is the New Covenant. It says, ‘My Spirit who is on you and My words that I have put in your mouth…’ Brothers and Sisters in Christ, thats the Holy Spirit of God – that’s why we are here – because the Holy Spirit has given us an understanding and comprehension of these matters of the Spirit – that is why we are here this fine Sunday morning – no other reason to be here! The Holy Spirit has led us to this point and we have to keep following His lead. The trouble is, humanly, we would prefer to hold back a little wouldn’t we? To keep something in reserve. To certainly commit ourselves to Christ, but perhaps only 60% of ourselves. There is somehow something so human in that. Yet the most urgent need of our day is for Christians to re-dedicate themselves to the Master! To DRINK IN CHRIST – STRAIGHT! Not mixed with these other things in our lives which we rely too much upon. But maybe our subconscious mind says, ‘Hey, that could be dangerous, you never know what He could do with you! After all, Aslan is not a tame Lion!!’ Thats right. And until we all commit ourselves 100% to Christ – yes, I include myself in this criticism we have no idea how powerfully God could use any one of us in His glorious service!
Lets read Romans 12:1 together.
So Isaiah 59 can be applied to our society of today just as much as to the Israel of around 750 BC – hopelessly cut off from God. But we are not entirely without hope and that hope and solution is in Jesus Christ.
How wonderful that God is a forgiving God,
how wonderful that God separated His people from their sins as far as the east is from the west and how wonderful that what God starts He promises to see through!
Lets finish by reading Romans 8:28-39. Please read these words with me.
Robin Brace. 2005.
(This is a Sermon Which Was Being Given by Mr Robin Brace BD, in Various South Wales, UK, Churches Around 2002-2004).