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Lowell Brueckner

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Words and Actions Uncover the Heart


We will not be writing the whole portion of Scripture in the article, so you will have to have your Bible open and follow along, as I attempt an expository lesson.

4. An expository study of Isaiah, chapter 3

Not one Word in the Bible is wasted or insignificant. Here is a word that we might tend to overlook: It is “Behold!” Pay attention! Take your eyes and ears off all else, and focus on the Word of the Lord. Lay aside all the forms of media, the news, world events, teaching and information, and focus on the prophet Isaiah, the man who is hearing from God. What God is communicating has incomparably more value for your soul. Be sure you get the word from God. It is a word that never dies; that holds the same value today that it had when it was first spoken. Jesus saw that Isaiah also spoke to the people of His day, and so we should see that the living word addresses our generation.

Incompetent leadership

He is presented as the Sovereign, the absolute Lord over all… Lord over all lords. Jehovah of hosts means that He is the Captain of unnumbered armies, which He enlists from wherever He wants to enlist them, whether among angels in heaven or men on earth. He will not fail to carry out everything that He has said that He will do. If God be for us, who can be against us and, if God be against us, who can be for us. Regardless of who we are and when we appear in history, we don’t want to have God for an enemy.

He has said that He will cut off Jerusalem and Judah’s supply of water and bread (v.1). This is a general statement threatening their reserve and resources. A nation may be rich in water, agriculture and minerals, but its greatest resource is its people and we have a detailed list of the leadership over Judah’s people. The physical leaders, the skillful artisans, the spiritual guides, the teachers, and the military officers are going to be removed (v.2-3).

Unprincipled youth will take their place, rising up against the honorable men of the past generation. The elders saw leadership as a sacred responsibility, but these immature scoundrels are playing fanciful power games. They have no intention of being civil servants, but are bent on personal gain at the price of the common citizen. They are oppressive (v.4-5). So society will degrade.

Competent leaders will be hard to find, since no one wants to take the reins over a ruined people with a glorious past. There is no honor left in any position that has been stripped of its moral character (v.6-7). In the days of Zechariah, the prophecy of Isaiah had unfolded to the degree that the office of a prophet was despised: “He will say, ‘I am not a prophet; I am a tiller of the ground” (Zec.13:5). The Lord commanded Zechariah to “pasture the flock doomed to slaughter” and Zechariah complied: “So I pastured the flock doomed to slaughter” (Zec.11:4,7).

Words and actions that reveal an evil heart

“You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks,” said Jesus (Mt.12:34). The heart was a rebel and the mouth ultimately followed the commanding influence of the heart. So did Isaiah prophesy that it is so; so it was in Christ’s day, and so it is in ours. You cannot fight against spiritual principle, because it never fails. The mouth speaks and the feet and legs respond, acting against the Lord. The capital city and the nation is brought to ruin by a people, whose hearts are evil against the presence of the Lord (v.8).

“He came to His own and His own did not receive Him” (Jn.1:11). He was Emmanuel, “God with us”, but that was too much for the evil society of His day. Evil spirits cried out, “What have we to do with You, Jesus, you Son of God?” and evil men confirmed their conformity with the evil spirits. We have seen it happen over the centuries in the church. When a preacher was called and anointed by the Spirit of God and when a people, moved by the Spirit of God responded, an evil people, although usually religious, rose up in unison against the presence of the Lord. It never failed to happen. Let God begin to move and watch men, driven by evil powers, oppose.

Give the heart enough time and it will show itself on the facial expressions (v.9). The writer of Proverbs tells us of haughty eyes, and goes on to speak of evil manifesting itself in bodily members (Pr.6:17), the devil completely taking over man’s being. That which was created in the image of God, takes on the image of Satan.

“They have brought evil on themselves,” Isaiah declares. The body becomes a means through which evil powers display their personalities visibly. The lesson of Sodom, given in the book of Genesis, continues to repeat itself throughout human history. Already in the book of Isaiah, God has pointed to individuals and their society and identifies them as Sodom and Gomorra (1:10). The spirit that ruled in those two cities comes back again and again; men with evil hearts yield to them in word and in deed until society becomes totally perverted. No longer is it a fit place, in which to live. Surely today, our entire planet has brought evil on itself, preferring the rulership of Satan to the presence of God, the mentality of devils to the Word of God, the perversion of sin to the Lord’s sovereign purposes, and the fantasies of deceit to the reality of truth.  

Words to the righteous

Now, God has a comforting promise to His flock, the remnant in Israel: “Say to the righteous that it will go well with them, For they will eat the fruit of their actions” (v.10). Just so, His sheep must be fed in these dark days, where we can see the manifestation of evil, which Isaiah describes, so evident around us. His people, more than ever, need to hear comforting words from their God. Anyone can tear down and certainly today, many false walls need to fall, but to build up is another thing. Destructive power can be displayed without much help from heaven. When man receives power, he turns it into atomic bombs; but the ultimate display of the power of God is in His love which imparts eternal life. True edification is not just encouraging, positive talk. To feed God’s sheep requires divine love, heavenly wisdom and Holy Spirit anointing.

However, every true servant of God must deliver a well-balanced message, not according to man’s scale, but through the measure of divine gifts. Every true preacher and teacher, called and sent from God, tells the righteous that it will be well with them, but then also he tells the wicked that it will go badly with him (v.11). “What he deserves will be done to him.” There are no positive-speaking-only specialists in God’s clinic. Such false teachers infiltrate themselves into the ranks of the righteous, but they will ultimately be tossed into the Lake of Fire. Those under the tutorship of the Great Physician learn to give faithful and true diagnosis.

Perverting God’s purposes

We must be so careful to listen when God expresses Himself with passion… “O My people!” (v.12) He cries; He grieves. You will feel the beat of His heart, if you are abiding close to the vine. He protests in earnest, because all His purposes are overturned and His intentions are perverted. His house of prayer has become a den of thieves. Children should not be oppressive and women should not be ruling. Do you know what He is talking about or have you become accustomed to the abnormal? Have you been in Christian homes, where the children oppress the entire household with their noisy and unorderly behavior? The mother tries to hold things together, because the “head of the house” is busy watching football on TV in another room away from the noise.  

Of course, what Isaiah sees is many times worse, but it springs from the same source; it simply needs opportunity to reach its potential. At the root of the problem are unwise counsellors, who might be called experts, but they have looked for answers at the wrong sources. The guides for God’s people should be grounded in the Scriptures, but look at the results of the guidance of these teachers… they lead the people astray. Other definitions for the Hebrew word, lead astray, are vacillate, reel, err, deceive. They are bringing in deviant thinking that causes vacillation or reeling between two paths… the way of Scriptural truth and this other doctrine; in effect, it brings confusion. I think James would call it doublemindedness. One of the leading sources for confusion among Christians in our day is psychology, with its own deviant doctrines of self-expression and self-love.

The Judge in all cases is the Lord and He judges only according to His word (v.13-15). There are no clauses that come from any outside source. Jesus said, “He who rejects Me and does not receive My sayings, has one who judges him; the word I spoke is what will judge him at the last day” (Jn.12:48). On that basis he enters into judgment with Israel’s guides, the elders and the princes. He brings the evidence from their fancy houses, inside and out. The expensive building material and the extravagant décor at the expense of the common people testifies against them. They have crushed the grapes and drunk the juice; they have ground the wheat and eaten the bread. They have devoured the Lord’s vineyard, as if they were the owners. The grapes are “My people” and the ground wheat is “the face of the poor”.

Judgment upon young women

As we proceed to the next verses, once again we see the relevance of the book of Isaiah to New Testament teaching. Paul said, “I want women to adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and discreetly” (1 Ti.2:9). Modesty, says the Greek dictionary, through the idea of downcast eyes; bashfulness, that is modesty or awe towards God. However, look at the young ladies in Hebrew society in Isaiah’s day: “Because the daughters of Zion are proud and walk with heads held high and seductive (undisciplined) eyes, and go along with mincing steps and tinkle the bangles (ankle ornaments) on their feet…” (v.16). He is talking about the way they hold their heads, the way they look with their eyes, and the way they walk.

Say what you will in self-justification and self-defense, ladies, or call it obsolete standards, Old Testament and New, the Lord says that He is against this kind of demeanor. It calls for judgment (v.17,24). I agree, God looks first at the heart, to be sure, but didn’t we learn earlier in this chapter (in verse 8 precisely) that words and actions reveal what is in the heart? It is the heart that is provoking this outward behavior. The Lord said that His judgment would eliminate things which are listed from verse 18 through 23. I count 21 items.

I am going to give some advice that I rarely give, but I have run into a portion of Scripture, which calls for our attention. What can we do, but face it. Ladies, here’s my suggestion: Of course, some of these things are no longer in use. But would you look honestly at this list and substitute or add to it, to bring it up to date. See if the use of any of these things are revealing pride, immodesty, or a desire in the heart to draw attention to yourself. If so, the first thing that you must do is admit it or confess it. Then repent and turn away from it. Call upon God to deal with what is in your heart… this will be the difficult part and it might take some time. In any case, it will be better for you, than if severe judgment falls, as it did upon the young ladies in Israel.

Verses 25 and 26 add the young men to this portrayal of judgment. They speak of war and its dire consequences. This was coming into Israel’s future and it was certain. It did come! When I was in Orissa, India, the people told me of the great persecution that came to their area in 2008. Many who bore the name of Christ were beaten, tortured and killed. Their concern was to be sure that they were right with God, so that they would not suffer in vain. In other words, they were going to suffer anyway, but would they suffer as true Christians? It seems that persecution lies ahead, perhaps in the very near future, for Christians in the western world. Are we ready to face it with hearts that are fully surrendered to Christ, beating fiercely for His honor and glory, burning with passionate love for Him?


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