We have been looking within the word of God at a study entitled 'The Man of the Millennium' and, as I've already intimated, we were looking at the baptism of the Lord Jesus Christ last Lord's Day morning. But I feel led to break with that subject for a little while, and continue on what we hit on last Lord's Day morning on the subject of consecration. I want us to turn to a passage in Isaiah - in the book of Isaiah in the Old Testament scriptures and verse 21 will be our text, but I want us to read the whole chapter to get the context of our text in verse 21. Now, let me say this: you may feel that I preach on this subject quite a bit. I feel that this subject is second only to the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. If you read the New Testament scriptures and indeed the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the apostles after Him, you will find that this is what they laboured on. They did not labour on our infirmities down here on earth. They laboured on our consecration, our witness, our life, and our ministry for the Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore I hope in my ministry here that I do not fail to do such. First and foremost comes the gospel, but secondly our consecration and dedication to the Lord Jesus Christ.
I heard a story this week a brother was telling me, about a man who was preaching for three weeks in an assembly in England. He was a gracious brother - maybe more gracious than I am - but as he preached the first week, he preached on the subject of our dedication, total surrender, all, everything that we have - giving it over to God for His use. As he ministered and stood at the door on the way out, the elders gave him a pat on the back and said: 'That was a great message'. The second week he ministered on the same subject. It wasn't so great that week. Then on the third week, as he ministered again on the same message from the word of God, he says that fear gripped him as he could visibly see those in the oversight within the assembly gripping their hands in anger because they realised that he was speaking to them. Now, I hope you realise every week that I'm speaking to you - that it's not a ritual. I'm not sermonising up here, or going through an act. I'm not an actor, but the messages that I bring, I believe, are from the Lord - and they're to you!
Let's read this passage of scripture together, verse 1: "Woe to thee that spoilest, and thou wast not spoiled; and dealest treacherously, and they dealt not treacherously with thee! When thou shalt cease to spoil, thou shalt be spoiled; and when thou shalt make an end to deal treacherously, they shall deal treacherously with thee. O Lord, be gracious unto us...". Sorry! Isaiah chapter 33, sorry about that! Isaiah chapter 33 - I thought you were gripping your fists in anger there, but, no!
Verse 1 again: "Woe to thee that spoilest, and thou wast not spoiled; and dealest treacherously, and they dealt not treacherously with thee! When thou shalt cease to spoil, thou shalt be spoiled; and when thou shalt make an end to deal treacherously, they shall deal treacherously with thee. O Lord, be gracious unto us; we have waited for thee: be thou their arm every morning, our salvation also in the time of trouble. At the noise of the tumult the people fled; at the lifting up of thyself the nations were scattered. And your spoil shall be gathered like the gathering of the caterpillar: as the running to and fro of locusts shall he run upon them. The Lord is exalted; for he dwelleth on high: he hath filled Zion with judgment and righteousness. And wisdom and knowledge shall be the stability of thy times, and strength of salvation: the fear of the Lord is his treasure. Behold, their valiant ones shall cry without: the ambassadors of peace shall weep bitterly. The highways lie waste, the wayfaring man ceaseth: he hath broken the covenant, he hath despised the cities, he regardeth no man. The earth mourneth and languisheth: Lebanon is ashamed and hewn down: Sharon is like a wilderness; and Bashan and Carmel shake off their fruits. Now will I rise, saith the Lord; now will I be exalted; now will I lift up myself. Ye shall conceive chaff, ye shall bring forth stubble: your breath, as fire, shall devour you. And the people shall be as the burnings of lime: as thorns cut up shall they be burned in the fire. Hear, ye that are far off, what I have done; and, ye that are near, acknowledge my might. The sinners in Zion are afraid; fearfulness hath surprised the hypocrites. Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? Who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings? He that walketh righteously, and speaketh uprightly; he that despiseth the gain of oppressions, that shaketh his hands from holding of bribes, that stoppeth his ears from hearing of blood, and shutteth his eyes from seeing evil; He shall dwell on high: his place of defence shall be the munitions of rocks: bread shall be given him; his waters shall be sure. Thine eyes shall see the king in his beauty: they shall behold the land that is very far off. Thine heart shall meditate terror. Where is the scribe? where is the receiver? Where is he that counted the towers? Thou shalt not see a fierce people, a people of a deeper speech than thou canst perceive; of a stammering tongue, that thou canst not understand. Look upon Zion, the city of our solemnities: thine eyes shall see Jerusalem a quiet habitation, a tabernacle that shall not be taken down; not one of the stakes thereof shall ever be removed, neither shall any of the cords thereof be broken". Now here's the verse that we're going to concentrate on this morning: "But there the glorious Lord will be unto us a place of broad rivers and streams; wherein shall go no galley with oars, neither shall gallant ship pass thereby. For the Lord is our judge, the Lord is our lawgiver, the Lord is our king; he will save us. Thy tacklings are loosed; they could not well strengthen their mast, they could not spread the sail: then is the prey of a great spoil divided; the lame take the prey. And the inhabitant shall not say, I am sick: the people that dwell therein shall be forgiven their iniquity". May the Lord bless His inspired word.
Let's look at our text again that I believe the Lord has given me to deliver to you today. Verse 21: "But there", in that place, "the glorious Lord will be unto us a place of broad rivers and streams; wherein shall go no galley with oars, neither shall gallant ship pass thereby".
As we look at this passage of scripture we find that the nation of Assyria is the enemy of God's people, and their strength and their cruelty is against them. The foe of God's people is so graphically described within this chapter of Isaiah 33 - such a foe that Judah has! They become helpless, they become hopeless, as the enemy comes in and as the Lord gives a vision to Isaiah of what was going to happen in the days to come. But what a blessing it must have been for them, in verse 10, to see that in the light of all this destruction and oppression that they were going to face, that God's prophet was bringing to them a message in verse 10: 'Now', God says, 'will I arise. Now will I lift up myself. Now will I be exalted'.
The outlook changes and all the force of the foe of Assyria is brought and reduced to nothing. Why? Because we read such a graphic description that the Lord came down! And when the Lord came down, He came down as a devouring fire. God's people stood hopeless, helpless in their sin and iniquity and backsliding, in oppression; in the enemy coming and killing their boys and girls, and their husbands and wives, and sacking and taking, raping them of all the riches that they had. As they stood there they looked, as Israel will look one day, to heaven - and God said: 'Now will I arise', and God came.
The question was asked by the prophet Isaiah: 'Who will survive the fires of God's burnings?' The fire of divine wrath! Look at verse 14, because there we have the answer. When God comes as a fire, when God comes in judgement upon Judah's enemies and even upon Judah himself, who will survive the burnings of His wrath? In verse 14 we read: 'The sinners in Zion are afraid; fearfulness hath surprised the hypocrites. Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? Who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings?'. The answer, verse 15: 'He that walketh righteously, and speaketh uprightly; he that despiseth the gain of oppressions, that shaketh his hands from holding of bribes, that stoppeth his ears from hearing of blood, and shutteth his eyes from seeing evil'. Who will endure the fire of God's wrath?
We read in the book of Isaiah, and if you were to turn to it, to chapter 35 - two chapters from where we are - we read this in verse 8, take time to read it with me. God speaks in chapter 33 of a highway that the children of Judah have gone off. Here we have in verse 8 of chapter 35, God says again: 'And an highway shall be there, and a way, and it shall be called The way of holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it; but it shall be for those: the wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein'.
Here is the question that I bring to you from the word of God today - listen now: there is a highway of holiness for the child of God, for the redeemed soul. There is a place, like Abraham who interceded for the righteous in that place of Sodom, there is a place where that when the fire comes down from God in judgement, only the holy shall endure it. Now my friend, I'm not talking about the saved here - that's not what I'm talking about. Oh, I know that you will not come to the fires of hell for all eternity. I know that because the blood of Christ is able to save to the uttermost, yes! But when God comes, and when judgement begins in the house of God, it is only they on the highway of holiness that will endure it. Are you on God's highway of holiness?
Oh, we are all enduring the onslaught of the enemy, the one who goes around as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. But I wonder, as a believer, could it be that as we walk on our highway that we not only have to deal with the onslaught of the enemy, but we have to endure the awful fire of God's holy anger? It's a hard thing, isn't it, to be a Christian? It's a hard thing, day by day, to contend with the roarings and the roamings of the lion Lucifer. He seeks to destroy us and if he can get us into his teeth, into his jaw's clutch for a few seconds, he'll rip us to shreds. It's hard, but imagine what it would be to have God's holiness against you too. Imagine that!
It's like the man in the water, and his leg is being devoured by a man-eating shark. He's swimming there, trying to get away from it and his life is at threat from two fronts: from the lacerations of the razor-sharp teeth of the fish in his flesh but also, because he's being pulled under the surface of the water, he's drowning. We're like that at times, aren't we? We're like soldiers on the battlefield and we have to contend with friendly fire from our own people and also the fire of the onslaught of the enemy. However, those illustrations fall short. Do you know why? Because in our passage that we read together, the children of Judah - they were onslaughted not only by the enemy of Assyria, but by the holy fire of Almighty God - but on both counts they brought it on themselves.
It reminds me of Moses in the book of Exodus in chapter 4, and we don't have time to go into all this. But I used to be astonished when I read this passage in my readings. When I saw that Moses had been chosen to go and deliver God's people from Egypt - he had just seen God, got the call of God, the commission of God, and he is going on his duty on the ministerial road to deliver people, to save people - and it says he went into an inn on the way, and when he went in God sought to slay him. Have you ever read that passage? God sought to kill God's messenger! Why? Why would God do the like of that? The description is given that when it happened, and I don't know whether God took him by the throat or was choking him, or his heart, or what it was - but as God was seeking to kill His own chosen one, his wife, Zipporah, took a knife, cut off the foreskin of her son and threw it at Moses' feet and said: 'A bloody husband thou art to me, a bloody husband!'.
You see, Moses was going to these people and preaching: 'You've got to do this: on the eighth day your child's got to be circumcised to keep the covenant of God and the law of God'. But do you know what? From the pressure of his own wife he disobeyed himself. Paul says: 'Lest we preach to others and become a castaway'. Do you know what that passage says to me - and I hope I'll preach on it some day, there's so much in it - but do you know what it says? Disobedience cannot be tolerated by God! No matter if you're Moses or not!
Isaiah looked at the land around him, and Isaiah could see the plunder that the enemy would bring. He looked at his own people. He was discouraged when he saw that many of them were helping the cause for judgement that was coming upon them. It was their sins! He looked around and he could see traitors of his own people who were giving out to the enemy. He saw ambassadors of his people who sought to make an alliance, and compromise with the enemy of Egypt. He saw religious hypocrites that pretended to serve God. But, praise God, he saw a godly remnant that obeyed the Lord, that interceded for the land. They prayed, and it says that they saw the Lord exalted. They heard the word of encouragement from the Lord. They viewed the King in glory and in power.
Now, let's look at our text. Isaiah says: 'But there, when we get to that place, there the glorious Lord will be unto us a place of broad rivers and streams'. First of all, I want you to see this: that there is a destination not yet reached. There! Another place other than where we are now! I wonder, do you feel like that as a Christian? 'Oh! I just wish I could be a better Christian'. Do you feel that there is a place there that you have never got to, and you're on this highway leading to heaven, but perhaps you have never got onto the highway of God's mighty holiness? So many of us are unfit, aren't we? Our unfitness could be caused by slowness, we've no desire to get there! We've no motivating factor, there's nothing within us - but listen to what Paul says in Philippians: 'I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus'.
That Greek word 'press toward the mark', do you know what it means? It has the idea of two horses coming to the finishing line of the race, and they're stretching their necks out, all the sinews and muscles are visible as they seek to stretch their noses over to win the race. Is that the way you live your Christian life? It's the meaning behind the word that David uses in the Psalms when he says this: 'My soul followeth hard after Thee'. Do you have slowness in your walk? What about your diet? Are you feeding on the living bread? Or are you feeding on the carcass dead?
Do you remember the Nazarite vow? They were many things he wasn't allowed to do, but one of the things was this: he wasn't allowed to touch dead things. Why? Because he was consecrated to the Lord. Do you remember Samson? Do you remember? 'After a time', it says, 'he returned to take her, and he turned aside to see the carcase of the lion: and, behold, there was a swarm of bees and honey in the carcase of the lion' - and Samson took of it and ate! It says: 'He took thereof in his hands, and went on eating, and came to his father and mother, and he gave them, and they did eat: but he told not them that he had taken the honey out of the carcase of the lion'. So many of us, we latch onto the dead things of this world, we get our life off them, and we live by them - and we don't tell, like Samson didn't tell his father and mother what he was doing, no-one knows what we are doing - but we know!
What about exercise? The old divines used to say: 'We need to avail ourselves of the means of grace'. What is that? It doesn't mean that you can be saved by doing things, that's not what it's talking about. The means of grace are the gracious provisions given by God to His children to make them grow! The apostles doctrine, fellowship, breaking of bread and prayers - do you exercise, Christian? There's obstacles - Paul talked about them in Hebrews 12: 'Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us'. What does it mean? We're not running on the highway of holiness, because there's things stopping us!
Sometimes it's because we're comfortable with the pace of others, isn't that right? We have a tendency, as human beings, to compare ourselves with others. That's a very very dangerous thing to do in the church of Jesus Christ, do you know why? Because generally most are spiritually impoverished. The result is that we feel a sense of achieving their standard, but how do we fare on God's highway of holiness?
My friend, you find in this verse that there is a destination that we have not yet reached - 'there' - but there is a goal of the Christian pilgrim: 'there the glorious Lord will be unto us a place of broad waters'. You know, what we seek in the Christian life is not revival, what we seek is not primarily the Spirit-filled life, and to see souls saved, and to see the church built - those are all side-effects of getting 'there', and finding that when we get 'there' the glorious Lord is there! He will be our glory, He will eclipse the enemy. We were looking in Ephesians 1 and verse 6 that the glory of God is His graciousness: 'to the praise of the glory of his grace'. It's not simply that we'll be going and doing well as Christians if we're seeking God to give us blessing, why? Because He is the blessing. He is the blessing in His grace taking us to heaven and, my friend, if you don't know that assurance you will die in your sins and you will be damned in hell forever. If you have never got to that place were you have found God as your gracious Saviour, you need Him. He is the place, the goal of our pilgrimage in heaven - but, Christian, never you forget this: He is the goal of our pilgrimage on earth. We are to seek God, to seek God to come down and bless us! Frederick Brook, in his lovely hymn, epitomises this thought:
'My goal is God Himself, not joy, nor peace,
Nor even blessing, but Himself, my God;
'Tis His to lead me there - not mine, but His-
At any cost, dear Lord, by any road.
So faith bounds forward to its goal in God,
And love can trust her Lord to lead her there;
Upheld by Him, my soul is following hard
Till God hath full fulfilled my deepest prayer'.
One of the marks of revivals, when you read about them, is this: people often use the expression 'When God came down'. Have you ever experienced a meeting where God came down? Have you? You know, God wants to come down, but we must follow hard after Him. I say it reverently: we must hunt, like the mighty hunter, after God. We must seek Him and find Him, and when we seek Him and find Him we will find Him - but only when we seek Him with all our heart.
There, a destination we have not yet reached. The glorious Lord, the goal of our Christian pilgrimage - but thirdly it says: 'the glorious Lord will be unto us a place of broad rivers and streams'. He will be an oasis of infinite refreshment and reviving. 'A place of broad waters', that means this: God will be the Saviour of Jerusalem, and her glorious Lord will be a guard against her enemies. In other words, like a moat right around the city of Jerusalem, God would come and cover, protect, defend His saints. If you've ever been to Jerusalem you'll know that Jerusalem doesn't have a considerable river of water flowing through it. It only has the brook Kidron - nothing, and therefore that's why it was prone to people coming in and plundering it and destroying it. But this is the reason why God says He will come, He will come and protect them, He will be a guard round about them. Even in their natural deficiencies that they have as a city, they can't defend themselves like us, but God will come if we entreat Him.
Isaiah chapter 48 and verse 18 speaks of God as the river of living waters, and as the wide broad streams, and saying: 'O that thou hadst hearkened to my commandments! Then had thy peace', He says to Israel, 'been as a river, and thy righteousness as the waves of the sea'. He looks over the whole land of Palestine in Isaiah 64, and he sees the dearth. There's no crops, God is judging them, there's no harvest - if you like, today, no-one being saved, no great work being done for God the way that God wants it to be done. He looks over the hills and the valleys, and he cries to God: 'Oh that thou wouldest rend the heavens, that thou wouldest come down, that the mountains might flow down at thy presence'.
Fourthly, it is a destination that we have not reached, it is the goal of our Christian pilgrimage, it is an oasis of infinite refreshment and reviving, but no human energy will bring us there. Look at the verse: 'there the glorious Lord will be unto us a place of broad rivers and streams; wherein shall go no galley with oars, neither shall gallant ship pass thereby'. 'Wherein shall no galley go with oars' - you might say: 'Well, hold on, I know that Jerusalem was being attacked because they had no river round them, but would that not mean if God became a broad stream and river that the enemies in their boats could come down and attack them, they would have an access to get to them?' - no. It says no man of war or battleship can invade here. Isn't it true that we have nothing of ourselves? It's all of grace, all of sovereign grace we are saved. Unsaved friend, backslider, remember this: never forget that you can never work your way to God! Like the hymnwriter says:
'Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace will lead me home'.
But you know, never make the mistake, Christian, as we are saved by grace, sovereign grace will bring me to God on earth, sovereign grace. If we find God's highway of holiness, do you know something? It'll not be because we've achieved it by force. It'll not be because we're striving for it - and I want you, please, to listen to this and to grasp what I am saying here. Zechariah chapter 4 and verse 6 - we were studying the books of Habakkuk and especially Haggai, and we saw there how the temple was destroyed. God's judgement had come, but they were crying to God that God would come and rebuild the temple. They couldn't find the motivation, they couldn't find the power, they were doing all they could and God said through his prophet Zechariah: 'Then he answered and spake unto me, saying, This is the word of the Lord unto Zerubbabel, saying', listen, 'Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the Lord'.
We see it in nature, don't we? A flower, a little bud, or a seed, cannot be forced into growth. You can't take a spade or a trowel and beat it into growth! It must come by the natural elements around us, they must be appealed to, and when the combination and the harmony of nature is complete the fruit will come and the bloom will blossom. Is that not what Paul meant when he said: 'I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase'. My friends, if we are to see souls saved, if we are to see the saints revived, we've got to have God! Nothing more, nothing less, He must do and He alone!
All we can do is prepare the ground, as the prophet said: 'Break up the fallow ground, for it is time to seek the Lord'. We can dig up the ground and plough it, we can deal with our sins, we can forsake them, but what we cannot do is bring God's blessing - for whatsoever is not of faith is sin! It's hard to explain this because it has taken years for me to realise it, but if you think of prayer. You can say in a statement that prayer brings blessing, but you know we also read that God does not hear us for our asking, but according to our faith. It's not because we pray a certain amount of times, or we shout, or we quote certain verses, that's good but it's not primarily why God answers - He answers because we believe Him!
According to the riches of His grace - there God will be to us a place of broad waters and streams, but we will never get there by striving, we'll never get there by working - but the secret of that victorious Christian life of blessing and fullness in the Spirit is simply this: your car breaks down on the way home, you take it to the garage and you find that there's something drastically wrong with it. They're in the workshop, and they mess it up and break something more - and they ring you up at home and they say: 'Look, something else has gone wrong with your car, you're going to have to fix this'. What do you say? 'I left it with you, you fix it'. My friends, it's a simple as this - but this is the deadly blow of the Christian life: we need to consecrate everything to God. Those things that we're struggling with, those things that we're striving with, and when we consecrate it and surrender it to Him, the next time we have a problem with it we reverently come to God and say: 'Now, Lord, I gave that over to You. You're in charge of this'.
Can you imagine the day? It's like the drunkard who was in a field in London, and he had been converted, and it had been a couple of weeks. Now the temptation was coming back to him again to have a drink, and to get full, and he fought and he struggled against it - until he said to himself, listen: 'God must have a better way than this!'. Kneeling in the field, he looked to God and said: 'Oh God, can't You make a better job of me than this?' - and God did.
You'll not do it by the flesh: 'no galley with oars'. A man rowing will never get up that river of God's holiness and blessing. You'll not do it with a gallant vessel - it's not the pride of learning, or what you have from your denomination, or what you have inherited in the Iron Hall, or even from the word of God - nothing can bring us there, save God! Dr J. Wilbur Chapman asked William Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army, on one occasion, he said this: 'Tell me the secret of your great life for God and man'. Booth humbly replied: 'Since the first day that God put poor people on the streets of London He had all there was of William Booth'.
My friend, how much does God have of you? For if He doesn't have all, you'll never have Him in His fullness.
Let us pray, and let me say that there is as much of a need of a response from the Christian at the morning meeting as there is from the unsaved person in the evening. Has God spoken to your heart? Well, tell Him. Like a sinner that needs to be saved, all we need to be is willing that God will change us - for it's not the pulling of the oars that will do it, it's not the gallantness of the vessel, but it's the God that we arrive at. Our Father, we thank Thee that there the glorious Lord will be unto us a place of broad waters, and streams wherein shall go no galley with oars, neither shall gallant ship pass thereby. We pray, dear God, rend the heavens, let those rivers of water come down upon our lives that we may be filled by Thee, and the presence around us may be an aura of godly presence, that men shall see it and fear and trust in the Lord. Amen.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered on a day of fasting and prayer at The Iron Hall Assembly, Belfast, Northern Ireland, by Pastor David Legge. It was transcribed from the tape, titled "Consecration - The Highway Of Holiness" - Transcribed by Trevor Veale, Preach The Word.
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