GOD’S GRACIOUS FORGIVENESS CAN TRANSFORM WORTHLESS WORSHIP INTO SURPRISING SALVATION
Today we are going to approach this passage a little differently – we are going to start at the heart of the passage – at the middle – rather than the beginning.
At the heart of the passage we see the heart of God – and the heart of God is one of forgiveness towards His chosen people.
– Whether in a national sense = Israel
– In an individual sense by way of application to those of us in this church age who have experienced forgiveness through Jesus Christ
GOD’S GRACIOUS FORGIVENESS CAN TRANSFORM WORTHLESS WORSHIP INTO SURPRISING SALVATION
I. (43:22-24) WORTHLESS WORSHIP
II. (43:25-28) FORSAKEN FORGIVENESS
III. (44:1-5) SURPRISING SALVATION
I. (43:22-24) WORTHLESS WORSHIP –
OFFERING SINS INSTEAD OF SACRIFICES
Chiastic structure: A B C B A
A1 Worthless Worship Wearies the Worshiper
“Yet you have not called on Me, O Jacob;
But you have become weary of Me, O Israel.”
Refers to prayer or invocation of God’s Name; maybe Israel has called on other gods
(2 Sam. 22:4; Ps. 14:4; 116:2)
They have been created for the purpose of proclaiming praise to their God but have not performed this function
Oswalt: although they may have thought they were giving him acceptable worship, they were not, and that this is the reason they find their worship so wearying (1:11-14; 66:3; Jer. 7:5-10; Hos. 6:6; Amos 4:4-6; Mic. 6:3-8)
B1 Worthless Worship Robs God
“You have not brought to Me the sheep of your burnt offerings;
Nor have you honored Me with your sacrifices.”
Young: you brought me a sham offering and not the real thing
On the surface, God’s complaint seems to be that they totally neglected even the activity of religious worship altogether; but this cannot be the case; rather the issue is one of motive and heart involvement
Motyer: Ritual divorced from moral and spiritual commitment neither satisfies God nor blesses his people. Indeed to the contrary, for they were acting as if their ritual was a technique for manipulating blessing, putting the Lord at their beck and call. . . in the intention of God the sacrificial system was meant to meet the needs of people as they discovered their inability to live up to the law and their constant need for forgiveness and restoration. Thus the sacrifices were designed for relief, delight and home-coming to God. By opting of r a mere ritual and evacuating the sacrifices of their power they remained in their sin and as such were a constant weariness to the Holy One. . . There was much religious fervor but no religious reality.
C God’s Worship Demands Are Not Burdensome
“I have not burdened you with offerings,
Nor wearied you with incense.”
Young: God had not wearied or exhausted the nation with His requirements for offerings. Thus, the entirety of the sacrificial system was not intended to be a burden of no profit, but rather a joyful offering of sacrifices in which the offerer would approach the Lord with a willing heart
B2 Worthless Worship Robs God
“You have bought Me no sweet cane with money,
Neither have you filled Me with the fat of your sacrifices;”
Sweet cane is used in the preparation of incense
Lev. 3:16-17 the fat was commanded to belong to the Lord
A2 Worthless Worship Wearies God
“Rather you have burdened Me with your sins,
You have wearied Me with your iniquities.”
Young: The great contrast is introduced by the important particle ‘ak (surely).
Constable: The people had brought few sacrifices and offerings to the Lord, even though His requirements of them in this regard were not excessive, and even what they had brought had not touched Him. Sweet cane (calamus) was an ingredient in the anointing oil (cf. Exod. 30:23; Jer. 6:20). What they had brought to Him in abundance was sin and iniquity. He was wearier of their worship than they were.
Parunak: They were doing many things, but not for the right reason. They may have done them to impress their neighbors, or to reinforce their link with their culture, or to satisfy their own sense of self righteousness, but their hearts were not directed to the Lord. The Lord’s warning to his Servant should serve as a challenge to us, to examine our motives for our spiritual exercises.
Oswalt: Isaiah’s point is that the carefully performed rituals had been as though not done at all, because they had not reflected genuine submission and real changes of heart. Thus the rituals themselves were sinful and iniquitous. Far from being a reason why God would owe special favors to his people, their attempts to use cultic ritual to manipulate God were only one more manifestation of their deeply ingrained inability to surrender themselves, their needs, and their destinies to him.
II. (43:25-28) FORSAKEN FORGIVENESS –
OWNING UP TO SPIRITUAL BANKRUPTCY
A. (:25) Only God Can Forgive Sins
“I, even I, am the one who wipes out your transgressions for My own sake;
And I will not remember your sins.”
Ps. 51:3, 9; Is. 44:22
No explanation given here as to how a holy God can forgive sins and still remain just
Young: climactic negative
Motyer: Blots out is used in the sense of “wipes clean” in 2 Kings 21:13 and of sin in Psalm 51:3
Constable: The Lord Himself (cf. v. 11) would forgive His people for His own sake, not because they had earned forgiveness with their worship. Forgiveness of sin is a divine prerogative (cf. Matt. 9:2-6). He pictured forgiveness as erasing something previously written on a record (cf. 44:22; 2 Kings 21:13; Ps. 51:1, 9). Another figure, forgetting sins committed against Himself, strengthens the promise of forgiveness (cf. Jer. 31:34; Mic. 7:18- 19). Since God is omniscient He never forgets anything, but in this promise He compared Himself to a person who does forget things (an anthropomorphism, cf. v. 24) to illustrate the fact that He would not hold their sins against them. He would not call their sins to mind with a view to punishing them. It was sin, not captivity, that was the root trouble that needed dealing with. Later, Isaiah revealed that God would deal with it through His Servant’s ministry (53:10-12).
Oswalt: it is plain that Israel’s problem is not solely, or perhaps even mainly, physical captivity. A deeper problem than bondage must be addressed. What about the sin that caused the bondage? It is not enough that the Lord should be the God of history who can make the pagan Cyrus serve him. It is also necessary that sin be addressed.
B. (:26) Man Cannot Justify Himself
“Put Me in remembrance; let us argue our case together,
State your cause, that you may be proved right.”
Young: The challenge is a strong way of emphasizing that the Israelites are without merit and have no justification for their conduct. It would then seem to be implied that if the Israelites cannot justify themselves they should submit to the righteousness of God so freely offered to them when He blots out their transgressions.
Oswalt: If this offer of grace is too humiliating, if the Israelites do not want a forgetful God, he is willing to be reminded of anything in their favor that they think he may have forgotten. The tone here is heavily ironic . . . We humans do not like grace; we like to feel that we deserve everything we get. We want to be able to say that our good behavior has earned favorable treatment for us before the bar of God.
C. (:27-28) Sin’s Guilt and Condemnation Have Deep Roots and Future Consequences
“Your first forefather sinned,
And your spokesmen have transgressed against Me.”
Constable: Israel’s sin was traceable all the way back to her namesake, Jacob (v. 22; cf. Deut. 26:5; Hos. 12:2-4). Other possibilities are that Adam or Abraham is in view. Even the leaders of Israel had consistently sinned against the Lord (cf. 9:15; 28:7; 29:10; Jer. 5:31); it was not just the present generation that was unacceptable to Him.
Young: “mediators” = namely, prophets, priests, and kings, all who would in some way bring the message of God to the people and instruct it in the way it should go.
“So I will pollute the princes of the sanctuary;
And I will consign Jacob to the ban, and Israel to revilement.”
Constable: God would also pollute the priests with guilt since they had for generations polluted His sacrifices with their guilt (cf. 2 Chron. 24:5). They, of all people, should have been holy since they dealt with the holy things connected with Israel’s worship (cf. 65:2-5; Lev. 10:3). God would consign the whole nation to the ban (Heb. herem), something devoted to destruction. Israel had become like Canaan (cf. 1:9-10; Josh. 6:17; 1 Sam. 15:21), and it would become the object of Gentile reviling as Canaan had been for the Israelites.
Young: It will no longer be the people of God, the light of the world, but a nation set aside for destruction. Jacob will simply become reproaches
Oswalt: The nation has not merely sinned; it has become the very opposite of what it was meant to be. Far from its behavior providing some justification for deliverance, that behavior gives ample reason for its complete abandonment. Nevertheless, God will not allow that to happen. Why not? Solely because of his own grace. . . God is the only savior, and it is by means of his grace alone that deliverance will be effected.
III. (44:1-5) SURPRISING SALVATION –
OVERFLOWING IN THE BLESSINGS OF REDEMPTION
A. (:1-2) Redemption is Certain
Chiastic structure: a / b / a
1. (:1) Listen to the Lord – based on special relationship to God
“But now listen, O Jacob, My servant;
And Israel, whom I have chosen:”
Servant: called to follow the Word and the Will of the master; Israel did not look like God’s servant at many points in her history
Chosen: comfort of doctrine of election – despite protests by people who think it is against their concept of fairness
2. (:2a) Hope in the Lord — Your Creator Is Your Redeemer
“Thus says the LORD who made you And formed you from the womb,
who will help you,”
not in the kingdom by accident
3. (:2b) Trust in the Lord – based on special relationship to God
“Do not fear, O Jacob My servant;
And you Jeshurun whom I have chosen.”
Oswalt: Jeshurun – only other OT usages: Deut. 32:15; 33:5, 26; etymology is uncertain; the root may be ysr, which has to do with straightness or uprightness.
B. (:3-5) Revitalization is Celebrated
1. (:3) Accomplished by the Spirit / Abundant in Blessing
“For I will pour out water on the thirsty land And streams on the dry ground;
I will pour out My Spirit on your offspring, And My blessing on your descendants;”
How is this revitalization brought about?
2. (:4) Attained Through Healthy Growth and Abundant Prosperity
“And they will spring up among the grass Like poplars by streams of water.”
What does this revitalization look like?
Numeric abundant growth
3. (:5) Affirmed by Allegiance
“This one will say, ‘I am the LORD’s’; And that one will call on the name of Jacob;
And another will write on his hand, ‘Belonging to the LORD,’ And will name Israel’s name with honor.”
Who will this revitalization attract?
Every Jew will be proud of their affiliation …
Are we proud of our identification with Christ?
Do we make our boast in Christ?
Oswalt: This segment speaks of God’s gracious salvation that will lead to persons vying for the honor of being an Israelite and belonging to her God (v. 5).
Beall: Thankfully, despite the English chapter division, the story does not end there for the nation Israel. Isa 44:1-5 belong to the end of this section, as they show that the nation (note the Jacob and Israel interplay once again), as God’s servant and chosen people, was special to Him, and He would redeem them.
Beall: v. 4 indicates that Israel will flourish and prosper as grass and willows (both of which need water to flourish).
Oswalt: This section has four emphases. The first is God’s continued love for Israel (vv. 1-2); the second is the outpouring of the Spirit (v. 3); the third is abundant offspring (v. 4); and the fourth is the privilege of being counted as an Israelite (v. 5)
Malachi’s message – Outline
OUTLINE: GOD ANSWERS 7 KEY QUESTIONS OF THE SELF RIGHTEOUS
I. (1:1-5) HOW HAS GOD LOVED US?
THE LORD’S COMPASSION GIVES HOPE AND SOFTENS THE BLOW OF HIS REBUKE OF THE PROUD CRIES OF THE SELF RIGHTEOUS
II. (1:6 – 2:9) HOW HAVE WE DISREPECTED THE NAME OF THE LORD?
THE LORD REBUKES THE SELF RIGHTEOUS PRIESTS FOR OFFERING SUB-STANDARD WORSHIP
III. (2:10-16) WHY HAVE WE BEEN DENIED THE FAVOR OF OUR GOD?
THE LORD REBUKES THE SELF RIGHTEOUS PEOPLE FOR PROFANING THE SACRED COVENANT OF MARRIAGE
IV. (2:17 – 3:6) HOW HAVE WE QUESTIONED THE INTEGRITY OF GOD’S JUSTICE?
GOD PROMISES TO DEMONSTRATE HIS JUSTICE AND PURIFY HIS PEOPLE WHEN HE SENDS HIS SPECIAL
MESSENGER OF THE COVENANT TO ESTABLISH RIGHTEOUS WORSHIP
V. (3:7-12) HOW CAN WE REPENT IF WE DON’T KNOW WHERE WE HAVE GONE WRONG?
GOD REBUKES THE SELF RIGHTEOUS PEOPLE FOR ROBBING HIM OF HIS DUE TITHES AND OFFERINGS
VI. (3:13-15) HOW HAVE WE SPOKEN ARROGANTLY AGAINST GOD?
GOD REBUKES THE SELF RIGHTEOUS PEOPLE FOR DENYING THE VALUE OF OBEYING AND SERVING GOD
VII. (3:16 – 4:6) HOW WILL THE RIGHTEOUS BE CLEARLY DISTINGUISHED FROM THE WICKED?
GOD WILL REMOVE THE BLURRING OF THE DISTINCTION BETWEEN THE RIGHTEOUS AND THE WICKED
Followed by THE SILENCE OF GOD until the coming of John the Baptist and the Messiah