The Messiah in Isaiah Bible Study
Isaiah 59:14-16 - The trampling of truth and the salvation of God
by I Gordon
The week I was preparing this message ended with Valentine's Day and I was sent the following 'roses are red' type poem which nearly brought a tear to the eye. Here it is:
God made the rivers, God made the lakes,
God made you. We all make mistakes.
Ok, so the tears were in laughter! It's hard to get respect around here! : ) What has that got to do with Isaiah 59 you ask? Well, its, um, if you, well, hmmm... yeah nothing comes to mind. So moving on (quickly), the study before us today comes from Isaiah chapter 59 and gives us a glimpse again at the heart of man and the spirit of the age leading up to the return of Jesus Christ. It obviously contains things that some would call 'negative'. Yep. That is true for the last days are difficult days and the Bible doesn't try to sugar coat what things will be like. There isn't any getting around that. But in this study I also want to draw your attention to the work of salvation that God is bringing in areas of the world where you would least expect it!
You may remember that we said that the book of Isaiah is like a mini-Bible all in one book  . Just as the Old Testament focuses more on the law, holiness and judgement of God, so this is the focus of the 1st half of Isaiah. The New Testament focuses on grace and the coming of Jesus, just as the 2nd half of the book of Isaiah does. Well, we are now getting near the end of the book of Isaiah and the overriding theme of the last part of Isaiah is, not surprisingly, the same as the last part of the Bible itself. That is, the conditions at the end of the age and the return of Jesus Christ. That is the background to our passage today. The context is very much the time of the end and the subject is the trampling and falling of truth leading to Jesus once again taking matters into His own hands to bringing salvation. Today is really a Jesus plus nothing message you could say. Let's look at the passage before us in Isaiah 59:14-16.
Oh Justice! Where art thou?
Isaiah 59:14 Justice is turned back, And righteousness stands far away; For truth has stumbled in the street, And uprightness cannot enter.
So as a glimpse of the conditions leading up to the return of Jesus Christ, we read the following: Justice is turned back... truth has fallen (or stumbled) in the street. Here we see Isaiah using poetic language to personify these great attributes of justice, righteousness and truth. So let's examine what he says as it relates to our age I believe.
Justice is turned back...
Justice is said to have been turned back. She has been turned away. In short, the leaders no longer want Justice around so she is stopped from getting into the heart of the city. As a direct consequence, the innocent are seen as the guilty and the guilty are set free. Earlier on in Isaiah it says the following:
Isaiah 5:20 - 'Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.'
And that is the very state that Isaiah predicts will prevail leading up to Jesus' return. Turn on your television and watch the news. Do you see much of an issue with 'justice' and 'injustice' around the world? It is everywhere is it not? Justice has been turned back in so many areas just as predicted by Isaiah. But sadly, she is not alone in being turned away.
And righteousness stands far away...
Righteousness too can only stand and look from a distance. Her voice is not easily heard anymore. She still speaks  , but from a distance, and is not where the masses are. If people desire to listen to Righteousness, they still can, but they would have to leave the popular places and go out to where she is.
Truth has stumbled in the street...
And what of truth? What has happened to her? Truth lies fallen in the street. In the place where she used to be received and accepted, she is no longer wanted. In the Hebrew this word means 'to totter and waver, and to falter, stumble and fall or be cast down'. In other words the majority are saying that they don't like truth  . 'We hate how she is so sure and absolute about things! We won't listen to her. Weaken her! Knock her down! Look! She is starting to waver, she is starting to fall! Get rid of her!'
That is the picture that is painted of the conditions leading up to the return of Jesus Christ. It applies primarily to that which is occurring within the world, but can also be applied to parts of the church as well as it follows the thoughts and ways of the world.
Hands up who wants to be a prey?
Isaiah 59:15 'Truth is nowhere to be found, and whoever shuns evil becomes a prey.'
This verse tells us that if you want to fit in, it's not hard... just keep doing and approving what everyone else is doing and approving. And yet it says that if you turn from those things, and have different values, if you turn from evil, then you make yourself a prey. In other words, to be different and uphold the truth as given in God's word can bring derision, laughing and scorn. Well that is the result in Western world. In other parts where the church is persecuted, the result can be beatings, burnings and martyrdom.
Isaiah 59:15 '...The LORD looked and was displeased that there was no justice.'
As mentioned earlier, one 'biggie' in the last days will be injustice. Look at our world... All over the world people are protesting about injustice. The Arab world has had ongoing protests concerning the rights of the people for justice, freedom and democracy. Governments have fallen yet the people could well end up with a worse situation that what they had. Through the USA, Europe and the Western world people are protesting against injustice, corruption and greed. Yet the banksters are NEVER brought to justice for their many crimes and have left the common man holding the bill for their corrupt practises. But man is not the only one watching. God watches it as well. He sees it all in its many forms... And He is not pleased.
But who can intervene? Who can bring salvation?
Isaiah 59:16 He saw that there was no one, he was appalled that there was no one to intervene; so his own arm worked salvation for him, and his own righteousness sustained him.
Everyone around the world is looking for a man... Someone to bring hope! Someone to bring change! Someone who can solve the world's many problems.  'This guy looks good, let's vote for him!' 'Let's get this man in. He'll save the day!' The problem is they are all just fallen men and women and as the old saying goes, 'power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.' God looks and what did He see? That there is no man... And the women aren't any better for that matter! So His own arm brought, and brings, salvation! Jesus plus nothing!
As we have seen, we are in an age when truth is falling. Justice is being shut out. And one of the key areas that is under attack is this central truth that it is only Jesus Christ that brings salvation.  Even within the Church we have movements like the Emerging Church, that try to redefine Christianity and what being evangelical is all about. Some even redefine salvation from being about the souls of people to being about the salvation of this physical planet! Many are no longer willing to say who goes to Heaven. Some are no longer willing to say whether Moslems worship the same God or not. Truth is falling. And yet God's own arm still brings salvation!
Our scripture says that the Lord looked and saw no man... there was no one to intervene or intercede. So He, Jesus, alone brought salvation. Not Abraham, not David, not Moses, not Buddha, not Muhammad... Jesus alone! Jesus alone died for the sins of the world and salvation is found in no one else. George W Bush is not right. All religions do not worship the same God. The 'emerging church' is not right.  And yet despite the current cloudy haze and confusion that has settled upon many evangelicals in the west, God still works His wonderful plan of salvation out in the lives of those that truly want to know the truth!
One fantastic testimony!
Let me give you an example of this as we conclude. The following is a story that I read in Joel Rosenberg's book 'Inside the Revolution'. It is the testimony of a Muslim terrorist who truly desired to know who the true God was. It is quite long but WELL WORTH reading so I will quote it in full. While it is easy to lose heart when you look at the church in the west, it is really encouraging reading stories such as this that show a sovereign Lord bringing salvation in miraculous ways to those that seek Him from their heart. Be encouraged as you read this. Remember that if things get darker, it simply makes it easier to see the light. Or, to quote from Isaiah only a few verses on in Isaiah 59:19 'When the enemy comes in like a flood, The Spirit of the Lord will lift up a standard against him. (NKJV) Amongst persecution and many hardships in countries such as Iraq and Iran (and other Moslem dominated nations), God is revealing truth and salvation in amazing ways! Here is the quote from Rosenberg's book:
I met 'Shakir' during my first trip to Iraq in February of 2008. Another fearless and effective evangelist, church planter, and pastor in his war-torn country, Shakir (pronounced 'Shah-keer') has a tremendous passion to care for the poor and needy, preach the gospel - especially in villages and rural areas - and help young converts from Islam study the Bible and become fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ. But this was not always the case. Indeed, how Shakir became a Christian and entered full-time ministry is one of the most fascinating testimonies I have personally had the privilege of hearing firsthand. What's more, spending time with him helped me understand more fully the theology of the Revivalists.
Our journey to a humanitarian relief project we were doing together was long and dusty and required our little team, traveling in an old Chevy Impala, to pass through numerous military checkpoints, each manned by heavily armed Iraqi soldiers and policemen checking passports and asking questions, all on high alert for members of al Qaeda and the Mahdi Army. Along the way, I found myself staring out at a landscape that was often as barren as the surface of the moon, covered with rocks, nearly devoid of vegetation, and only scarcely populated. During a lull in the conversation with an Iraqi in the car whom I had known for several years, I asked the meek-looking and mild-mannered Pastor Shakir how he had become a Christ follower and a pastor.
'Were you raised in a Christian home?' I asked through our translator.
'No,' he replied quietly. 'I was raised a Muslim.'
'Really!' I said, a bit startled. 'What did you do before becoming a pastor?'
'I was a jihad cell commander.'
I gulped. You don't say, I thought. He certainly had my full attention now. 'Please, tell me your story,' I said eagerly, pulling out my notebook. Shakir graciously agreed.
He explained that he was born in 1975 to a devout Sunni Muslim family and that as he grew up he became deeply religious. Even at an early age, he loved going to the mosque regularly, and by the age of seventeen, he had joined a secret Radical Islamic movement. He studied hard and learned quickly, and before long he was teaching the Qur'an in various mosques.
'My leaders then sent me to a military training camp where I was trained to use light weapons - pistols, machine guns, and RPGs [rocket propelled grenades] - against the infidels,' he told me. 'I was so excited because I wanted to do jihad for God. I was fully convinced that the Shias and the Christians were blasphemers and that if I killed them I would be blessed.' After successfully completing 'Terrorism 101,' Shakir was made a jihad cell commander and was ordered to quietly recruit other jihadists. 'I soon had a group of my own followers,' he explained. 'I would put them through this military training and then help them get jobs in different government offices and other shops and businesses so they could spy for me and be in position to do great damage when we launched the overthrow of Saddam and his regime.' One day, one of Shakir's Radical Muslim disciples came to him and said that someone was distributing Bibles to everyone in the machine shop where he worked. The disciple was very angry and told Shakir that he had cursed out everyone in the shop, collected all the Bibles, and promptly destroyed them. All but one. 'He brought one Bible - a New Testament - to me and said I should read it and see how to react to it and counter it,' Shakir explained. He said he praised his disciple for acting quickly and decisively. Then he sent the disciple away and took the Bible home, and that night he began to read the Gospel according to Matthew.
'I read the book very fervently to find all the blasphemies and corruption,' Shakir said. 'But I discovered the words started affecting my mind, and my heart started changing. These were powerful words, not human words. They seemed to me like God's words. But I thought, 'How could this be?''
Shakir became deeply troubled. He kept reading through Matthew but was ashamed of himself because rather than finding fault with these Christian Scriptures, he found himself completely intrigued. He had so many questions. But whom could he ask? He couldn't very well start discussing the life and teachings of Jesus with the members of the terrorist cell group he was leading. He couldn't very well ask questions of the terrorist leaders above him. He didn't dare seek out any Christians. So night after night he kept reading the Gospels, searching for answers. The more he did, the more troubled and anxious he became.
'After reading the Bible in a deep way, I began comparing it with the Qur'an,' he told me. 'I was so confused, and in my confusion, I began pleading with God, 'Please show me Yourself.' I begged God, 'Please, show me the right way - is it the Qur'an or the Bible?''
This went on for several nights.
'One night,' he said, 'I was really pleading with God fervently to show me the true, straight path. And that night I had a dream. I found myself standing on the side of a road. There was a large crowd gathered on both sides of the road, and they were cheering and very excited. And I realized that they were awaiting a parade to go by. So I looked down the road to see who was coming, and I saw many prophets riding on horses coming towards us. Suddenly Jonah was riding by. And then David. And Abraham. And Moses - riding on high, strong horses. Everyone was cheering and I was cheering. It was so exciting to see these prophets.'
Shakir kept waiting for Muhammad to come riding by as well, but Muhammad never came. He was not in the parade of prophets. Instead, Shakir said that 'at the end of the procession, I saw another person riding, but He was riding on a donkey instead of a horse. He was wearing a white robe, and His face was covered by a white shroud. When this person approached, for some reason I heard myself calling out to Him and asking, 'Are you Jesus?' Like I said, His face was covered by a white cloth. So I couldn't really see His face at that moment. But when He heard my question, the man pulled the cloth away from His face and smiled at me and nodded yes.
'Something came from His face that filled me with a joy I had never felt in my whole life. I started shouting, 'I saw Jesus! I saw Jesus!' I was so happy and so joyful and I was laughing. But as soon as I woke up, I realized that my pillowcase and my sheets were all wet around my head. I realized that at some point during my dream I had been crying - sobbing - in shame for all of my sins, for all of my hatred.' Shakir said he found himself overcome with the realization that he had been so wrong about God, about Islam, about terrorism. He also found himself incredibly grateful and humbled that Jesus would come and rescue him and forgive him of all of his sins and set him on the true path to heaven.
'I felt a strong joy, and I wanted to find my Muslim disciples and tell them that I loved them and that Jesus loved them,' Shakir explained. 'After that dream, my life was completely changed. I was eager to evangelize - to tell people about the love of Jesus Christ. I couldn't hide that joy. The more I read of the Gospels, the more I felt I had to tell people about this love of God, even people that I had hated. This was not easy. I was mocked and persecuted by many. Once I was beaten by eight people. I was nearly assassinated three times. But it is okay. Since I came to know the Lord Jesus as my Savior, I am ready to put my life - and my family - as a sacrifice for Jesus.'
What a remarkable transformation, I thought as Shakir finished his story. He seemed to be thinking the same thing, for when our time was up and the interview was over, Shakir stood up, looked me straight in the eye, and without any expression on his face said, 'Joel, you are very lucky.''Yes, I think that's true,' I said. 'But why do you say it?'
He took a deep breath. 'Because if I had met you in 1993, I would have killed you immediately.'
My pulse quickened, and then he added, 'But now you are my brother in Jesus, and I love you!'
A huge smile flashed across his face. He threw his arms around me and gave me a bear hug. I breathed a big sigh of relief, and - laughing - gave him a hug as well.