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Oct 20 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

October 18, 2015 – Isaiah 57:3-10, 15

A Weary Spirit and A Broken Heart

You were tired out by the length of your road,
Yet you did not say, “It is hopeless.”
You found renewed strength,
Therefore you did not faint.
. . .
For thus says the high and exalted One
Who lives forever, whose name is Holy,
I dwell on a high and holy place,
And also with the contrite and lowly of spirit
In order to revive the spirit of the lowly
And to revive the heart of the contrite.
 Isaiah 57:10 & 15

Intro: My thoughts today were inspired by several experiences this past week

First, in our meetings Wednesday and Thursday, listening to God speak through the Scriptures
– I was reminded of the importance nurturing our passion for God
• and how that passion is expressed in worship

Another moment of reflection occurred during a conversation with a friend
– he had visited his father who lives in one of the Bible belt states
• his dad belongs to a gospel quartet” that was invited to sing at a “revival”
• I remember the revivals of my childhood
◦ on week out of every year, Dad would hang a revival sign in front of our building
◦ he would also invite a lively evangelist to deliver emotion-charged messages
◦ then we would wait for sinners to pour in, get converted and the church to grow
(that part never happened)
– tent revivals have a long history in North American culture
• the one my friend attended was in a tent set up next to small church building
• he described the exciting atmosphere and how “inspired” it felt

The third trigger was a Facebook invitation I received to join the group “Revival Call”

Then, on Friday, my daily reading brought me to Isaiah 57

Conservative Christians take concept of revival for granted

However, the word “revival” never occurs in scripture
– we do see examples of what could be called revival
• periods or “seasons” when God brings to life the spirit of his people
– in the Old Testament, this is usually linked to a resurgence of devotion to Law
• being static and stable, this represents a return to that which does not change
• but it also included a fresh energy for worship
◦ restoration of the temple, renewal of sacrificial ritual and (from David’s time) a music revival
◦ in fact, there was a “revival theme” in their music:

Give thanks to LORD for he is good,
For His lovingkindness is everlasting
(2 Chr. 513; 7:3, 6; 20:21; Ezra 3:11 (Neh. 12:24, 46) & even future revival, Jer. 33:11)

– NT: Pentecost in Acts 2 – then in other places

In American history, tent revivals find their roots in the “Great Awakenings”
– these were periods when the nation’s churches experienced spiritual renewal
• this renewal was accompanied by many conversions and significant societal change
• depending on how you count them, there have been three or four Awakenings
– it was as if the Church had been a slumbering giant, needing to be awakened and put to work
• to some extent, they came when truth had been intellectualized and needed to be infused with passion
◦ what Jonathan Edwards referred to “Religious Affection”
• or when social conditions needed fixing–e.g., slavery–or during national crises–e.g., the Civil War

Revival, then, meant new life, renewed passion, and a return to the church’s sense of mission
– churches emerged from their buildings and into world

Isaiah was thinking of a different sort of revival: personal revival

We first need to see the glaring contrast Isaiah develops in this chapter
– his message begins with “the righteous,” who “enters into peace” (vv. 1-2)
• and ends with the wicked for whom “there is no peace” (vv. 20-21)
• in between, the text swings back and forth like a pendulum between the two opposites
– in verses 3-13, Isaiah elaborates the wicked and their mad pursuit of idolatry’s illusions
• even when they were exhausted from traveling this hard road, they would not give it up

You were tired out by the length of your road,
Yet you did not say, “It is hopeless.” (v. 10)

Sin is demanding when it is not simply “missing the mark,” but intentionally going against God’s law
– sin is never satisfied – as illustrated by Israel’s religious and political leaders

And the dogs are greedy, they are not satisfied. (Isa. 56:11a)

• hunger can be satisfied, but gluttony cannot — even when full, it is driven by compulsion
• the tight grip of our sin can create for us a sense of hopelessness

Look at you way in the valley! . . .
You are a swift young camel entangling her ways,
A wild donkey accustomed to the wilderness,
That sniffs the wind in her passion.
In the time of her heat who can turn her away? . . .
Keep your feet from being unshod
And your throat from thirst;
But you said, “It is hopeless!
No! For I have loved strangers,
And after them I will walk.”
 (Je. 2:25)

– it is the nature of addiction to require more from a person and return less
• it robs us blind in the process — our health, our sanity, our relationships, our integrity
• the whole time we live in sin, we’re fighting our conscience
◦ fighting the influence of our best friends, and fighting God
◦ we’re swimming upstream and it gets fatiguing

Why don’t we just quit, dump the sin and walk away?

A friend recently told me about a alcoholic who realized drink was ruining his life
– so he just stopped drinking – without the help of a clinic, program or anyone else
• for him, it was the logical course of action — but such a person is an extreme rarity
– why can’t the rest of us simply walk away?
• because, when it comes to sin, we have a remarkable capacity for self-renewal

Yet you did not say, “It is hopeless.”
You found renewed strength,
Therefore you did not faint. (v. 10)

– at times, doing right requires much more energy than doing wrong

Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary. (Gal. 6:9)
For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. (Heb. 12:3)

We need to know and read the symptoms of weariness that comes from doing good
– and we need to do this before we “faint” or “lose heart”
• although self-renewal to sin comes “naturally,” it seems more difficult when doing good
– we can be depleted by overwork, excess empathy and the constant criticism of others
• but another, very different form of weariness that monks knew a lot about was acedia
◦ a-c-e-d-i-a is not depression, but can overlap with depression
◦ nor is it laziness, sluggishness or lethargy
• acedia can be experienced with or without despair
◦ it is a state of being emptied out of all feeling
◦ you stop caring about everything and you don’t care that you don’t care
◦ you live in a vacuum of emotion in which death seems preferable (a remedy chosen by a few monks)

Although it feels permanent, I believe acedia is a threshold state — a transitional period
– it occurs prior to a breakthrough
• for example, passing from the experience of nothingness in prayer into the fullness of God
– at any rate, we need to be renewed when we are weary from doing good

This brings us to verse 15

Isaiah wanted to make certain his readers appreciated the absolute contrast between God and them
– the first three lines of verse 15 stress God’s infinite superiority over all that is human

  • he is the unique “high and exalted One”
  • he lives forever
  • his name (person, nature, being) is holy
  • he lives in a high and holy place

• but then the verse takes a sudden and radical turn in the fourth line
◦ here we discover God has a “second home”

  • he lives with the contrite and lowly of spirit
  • to revive the spirit of the lowly
  • to revive the heart of the contrite

– you may already know that the Hebrew word translated contrite literally means ground to powder
• Jesus described himself as “gentle and humble [lowly] in heart” (Mt. 11:29)

I think it is remarkable how God is drawn to the lowly spirit and contrite heart (cf. Psa. 34:18)
– there is an energy in brokenness and humility
• the Chinese philosopher, Lao Tzu asked:

Why is the sea the king of a hundred streams?
Because it lies below them.
Therefore it is the king of a hundred streams?

• gravity works in favor of the humble, the lowly and contrite
– there is also a reviving energy in resting our souls in God’s presence, allowing him to heal (v. 18)
– and, again, there is an energy in joy and praise (v. 19)

for the joy of the LORD is your strength (Neh. 8:10)

Conc: Every Christian hits lulls–and some of us will hit the wall

Can we find silence? Can we find a serene place?
– can we find the faith to go there and allow God to find us?
• to draw near to us and revive us?
– is it enough to do God’s will without being passionate about our service for him?
◦ is it enough for us to keep at doing good without passion?
◦ is it enough for God, that we do his will without passion?
• if our passion has drained away, why not take a time-out–a Sabbath–to let God revive us?

But even when we cannot be passionate, we can be faithful
• faithful to those disciplines that always turn our attention back to God
– C. S. Lewis described couples who not only fell in love, but for whom being in love lasted

He explained that the persistence of being in love was not because of the illusory promise of unending happiness that came at the beginning of their courtship nor “solely because they are great lovers but because they are also . . . good people; controlled, loyal, fairminded, mutually adaptable people.”

• our passion–for God, for Jesus, for scripture and for each other–can also last
• or at least our spiritual passions can be revived

If we continue on the road God has called us to travel,
then when we are in need of refreshing,
we will find ourselves at that very place where the water flows,
and that the well from which the living water is “springing up to eternal life”
is, in fact, within us (Jn. 4:14; 7:37-38)


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