Exhortation for China – Isaiah 2
This exhortation is based on our daily Bible readings from Isaiah 2. We are told in Isaiah 1v1 that the prophecy of Isaiah was given in the days of Kings Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah. It is probable that Isaiah 2 was written in the reign of King Uzziah. So this exhortation not only considers the lessons from Isaiah 2 but also key points from the reign of King Uzziah whose life is recorded in 2 Chronicles.
One of the key ideas in Isaiah 2 is that of exalting or lifting up. Isaiah 2v2 says that in the last days the LORD’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains and shall be exalted above the hills. This verse looks forward to the time of God’s Kingdom when He will be exalted and lifted up and all the earth will respect Him and go to Him to learn of His laws and words.
In contrast to this picture look at Isaiah 2v11. In comparison to God being exalted in v2 are men exalting themselves in v11. They are ‘lofty’ and ‘haughty’ now but in the day of God’s Kingdom, God alone will be exalted and man humbled. v12 continues by saying they are ‘proud’ and ‘lifted up’. This idea of man exalting himself continues in v13-17 and again it states in v17 that in the end God alone will be exalted.
From this we have an insight into the times when Isaiah 2 was written. God’s people in general were exalting themselves, they were lifting up themselves, thinking how great they were, and they were not exalting God. They were proud in their achievements and their greatness. And yet how wrong was their attitude. They were not thinking of the time of the future, when God’s Kingdom will come, and when God alone will be lifted up and exalted in that day and man humbled.
With these points in mind lets now look at the reign of King Uzziah in 2 Chronicles 26 which gives us more detail of what was happening among God’s people at the time of Isaiah 2.
2 Chronicles 26v3-5 tell us that King Uzziah was a godly man. He did what was right in the sight of the LORD (v4). He sought God and God made his reign to prosper. So King Uzziah started his reign well. His heart was in the right place, he was ready and willing to listen to God and obey His commandments. But notice an important point in v5 where it says ‘as long as he sought the LORD, God made him to prosper’. God was with Uzziah as long as Uzziah was with God and sought Him. Seeking the LORD should be a life long thing. It is no good seeking the LORD to begin with but not continuing it. Throughout our lives we have to consistently seek the LORD. Unfortunately we find that Uzziah began well, he sought the LORD for many years of his reign, but then failed in the closing years of his life.
2 Chronicles 26 goes on to tell us of Uzziah’s successes. In those years he sought the LORD and everything went well and prospered for him because God was with him. v6-8 tell us how Uzziah subdued the Philistines, the Arabians and Ammonites. These were nations which surrounded the land of Israel and Judah. Uzziah extended the borders of his kingdom and this created peace on every side. This time of peace gave him opportunity to engage in various projects in the nation of Judah. In v9 Uzziah fortified Jerusalem to ensure that no enemy could conquer it. In v10 he engaged in farm projects and opened up the deserts for agriculture. In v11-15 he organised and strengthened his army and provided them with weapons. Uzziah brought the nation to the second highest point after the reign of Solomon. Notice the important phrase in v15, ‘he was marvellously helped till he was strong’. God was with Uzziah in all he did and his work amongst the nation while Uzziah exalted God and recognised that God was his strength.
But then sadly we read 2 Chronicles 26v16. Uzziah had gone about winning wars, subduing his enemies, strengthening the nation of Judah’s defences and was very successful because he sought God (v5). But then he changed. Instead of recognising God as his strength, Uzziah trusted in his own strength. He was proud of all his achievements and what he had accomplished so successfully in the nation. And Uzziah thought it was because of his strength. v16 tells us that Uzziah’s heart was lifted up which was the key idea we noticed in Isaiah 2. Uzziah began his reign lifting God up in his heart, he exalted God, but then he sadly ended his reign by lifting and exalting himself. He removed God from the exalted position He should have had in his life and turned to his own way.
There is an important lesson in this for ourselves. We need to seek God as Uzziah did in the beginning of his reign (v5). We need to exalt God in our lives, to make sure He is the focus and the centre of everything we do. And to do this we need to humble ourselves. But we also need to continue this attitude throughout our lives. We might have done well and have success in various areas of life like Uzziah had. But let us never become proud like Uzziah, let us never exalt ourselves instead of God because God is the strength of our lives, not ourselves.
2 Chronicles 26v16 continues by telling us what Uzziah did wrong. He went into the temple to burn incense on the altar of incense. God’s law stated that he was not allowed to do that. Only the priests were allowed to burn incense on the altar of incense. But Uzziah did not take notice of what God’s law allowed or did not allow. His attitude was that He was the king who had been so successful in the nation so he could do what he wanted. He exalted his own ideas of worship and in doing so removed God and His law from the exalted position it should have had in his life. This is pride, which God hates (Proverbs 6v16-17). Pride lifts up man, pride works so that we do not listen to God but only to ourselves.
2 Chronicles 26v17-21 tells us that the Azariah the priest and 80 other priests courageously stood up against Uzziah and told him he was wrong to burn incense on the altar of incense. Uzziah was angry (v17). He still felt he was right, he could not be reasoned with, he would not listen. But then God smote him with leprosy (v19) and he quickly went out of the temple. Uzziah was then a leper until he died. He was cut off from the nation. He was isolated. He could never join the nation in worship again. He died a sad and shameful death, because he exalted himself and not God.
This record of Uzziah in 2 Chronicles gives us a deeper insight in to the words of Isaiah 2 and provides powerful lessons for ourselves. The first part of Isaiah 2 in v2-4 focuses on the time of the Kingdom of God when He will be exalted not just in Israel and Judah but in the whole world. v2 tells us the LORD’s house will be established in the top of the mountains and exalted above the hills. The LORD’s house is referring to the temple of God which Uzziah treated with disrespect by trying to burn incense on the altar of incense, something which God allowed only the priests to do. But in the Kingdom age God’s house, the temple will be exalted and respected. v2 tells us that all nations will flow to it. So God and His house will be the focus of the whole word in His Kingdom. In v3 there is enthusiasm amongst all nations of the world. They will ask and encourage each other to come to God’s house to be taught of His ways and law. These nations will be humble and teachable. They want God to tell them how to serve Him acceptably. They are not like Uzziah who did not listen to God’s law and words but did what he wanted to. v4 tells us that this time of God’s Kingdom will be a time of wonderful peace.
The appeal of these words in Isaiah 2v2-4 is then given in v5. On the basis of the wonderful time of the Kingdom when God alone will be exalted, when His word and law will be taught among all nations, v5 appeals to the nation of Judah to come and walk in the light of the LORD. For all the material successes of Uzziah in the first part of his reign, he neglected to lead the nation of Judah in this regard. He did not attend to the real needs of the people, their eternal salvation. The focus of Uzziah’s reign was more on the cares of this life, the defences of the city, arming his troops and agricultural projects. But he did not lead the people in exalting God in their lives.
The second part of Isaiah 2 shows that this appeal of v5 fell on deaf ears. In v6-7 the land was full of gold and silver some of which came from subdued enemy nations. Uzziah’s reign was prosperous. There was lots of money around. v7 also shows that the land was also full of horses and chariots which Uzziah used to strengthen his army. v8 tells us that the land was also full of idols. The people at the time of Uzziah were not interested in exalting God, His house or His law.
So in v11-17 God says that the pride of man in material achievements will be eventually humbled. Regardless of the successes proud man has now in this life, man will be humbled and God exalted (v11, v17). In v12 God will be against everyone that is proud and lofty, those who exalt themselves like Uzziah did.
This is a powerful exhortation for ourselves. The challenge for all of us in today’s world is to ensure that God is exalted as the centre and focus of our lives, and also to humble ourselves to listen and obey Him. So often it is too easy to do the opposite like Uzziah did at the end of his reign. It is so easy to exalt ourselves, to be proud in our own achievements and successes, to place emphasis and trust in our own strength, to be full of self importance. But the exhortation is to remove pride from our lives, to be humble and exalt God alone. If we do this then by God’s grace we will be part of the Kingdom age in which God and His house will be exalted.
In conclusion we shall look at 1 Peter 5v5-6. These verses teach us to submit to one another, to be humble and not be proud. Submitting and being humble ensures that we do not exalt ourselves or force our ideas on others. God is exalted in our lives and we try and worship Him in the way He shows us. Having this attitude will create a united and positive ecclesial environment in which the truth of the gospel will flourish. If we consistently humble ourselves before God and our brothers and sisters God will exalt us in due time (v6). This means that in the Kingdom of God He will give us eternal life and we will be part of that time spoken about in Isaiah 2v2-4.
So now we are to take of bread and wine together in remembrance of what God has done for us in His son. Philippians 2v5-11 shows the Lord Jesus Christ’s amazing example of humility (v8). He was not proud at all, he was submissive to his Father’s will, even to the death of the cross (v8). Every day of his life Jesus Christ exalted God. God was his focus and centre of everything he did. And so even though Jesus died, God exalted him the third day by raising him from the dead and giving him eternal life. God has highly exalted him and given him a name above every name (v9). What a wonderful example to contemplate as we take this bread and wine together and rejoice that following Jesus’ example of humility we have hope of eternal life in the Kingdom of God.
· Exhortation based on Isaiah 2
· Isaiah 1v1 – Given in days of Kings Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah以赛亚1章1节－当乌西雅，约坦，亚哈斯，希西家，作犹大王的时候
· Isaiah 2 – Written in reign of King Uzziah
· Key idea in Isaiah 2 – exalting, lifting up:
o v2 – God’s house exalted in the Kingdom age
o v11 – Contrast – men exalting themselves – but time coming when God exalted
o v12 – ‘proud’, ‘lifted up’. See v13-17
12节－ 骄傲，太高 看13－17节
People at time of
Isaiah exalting themselves – proud in their achievements – their minds not on
the Kingdom when God exalted
· King Uzziah:
o 2 Chronicles 26v3-5: Godly (to begin with) – Seeking the LORD should be a lifelong thing (v5)
o 2 Chronicles 26v6-15: Uzziah’s Successes
§ v6-8: Subdued nations, extended borders, created peace
§ v9: Fortified Jerusalem
§ v10: Farm and agricultural projects
§ v11-15: Organised and strengthened army
o Note v15 – ‘he was marvelously helped till he was strong’ – God with Uzziah while Uzziah exalted God in his life
· King Uzziah’s Mistake
o 2 Chronicles 26v16: Went into temple to burn incense – not allowed by God
o Uzziah was proud – exalted himself and his own ideas
o 2 Chronicles 26v17-21: Uzziah challenged by the priests and struck with leprosy
· Isaiah 2v2-4: God’s Kingdom – God exalted – His laws respected by all
· Isaiah 2v5: Appeal to God’s people on basis of v2-4
· Rest of Isaiah 2 shows people unrepentant:
o v6-7: Silver and gold in land – prosperous times of Uzziah
o v7: Horses and Chariots used to strengthen Uzziah’s army
o v8: Land full of idols – people at time of Uzziah not exalting God
o v11-17: Pride of man in material things be eventually humbled – God will then be exalted
· Challenge for us – ensure God is exalted as centre and focus of our lives – humble ourselves and obey Him
· 1 Peter 5v5-6: Submit, be humble, not be proud
· Philippians 2v5-11: Example of Jesus Christ – Humble, then exalted by God after his resurrection