Do You Think You Are Unaccountable? – Isaiah 17:1-3, 7-9; 18:1-7
By Pastor Lee Hemen
February 2, 2014 AM
There are many in our day think they are unaccountable to anyone for what they say or do. This is simply misguided. Our choices affect not only our lives but the lives of others as well. Richard Sherman of the Seattle Seahawks found this to be true much to his chagrin and the embarrassment of his teammates. Sherman made some wild comments following the NFC Championship Game in the heat of the moment and now is the focus instead of his team. When God’s people decide to circumnavigate God’s command, others, like family or friends, will be affected by our ungodly choices.
Some folks are continually sorry for the outcome of their actions, but their sorrow never leads them to change their lives. They blame others, family, society, income, education, physical or emotional disabilities. God’s people need to take responsibility for their lives. God wants to work in His people’s lives to transform them into a faithful followers, and this is what the church should be a part of helping folks to do. Let me ask, “Do you think you are unaccountable?” Let’s see what Isaiah teaches us…
Isaiah prophesied against foreign nations primarily for the benefit of Judah. Judah trusted more in military alliances than in God’s protection. In fact, they seemed more willing to worship the false gods of other nations than God Himself. Isaiah hoped if his people knew God would destroy the faithless nations on whom they depended and feared, Judah might return to God. Babylon, Assyria, Israel to the north, Cush, and Egypt would all be destroyed. Isaiah teaches us whether great or small, even…
I. The Powerful Are Accountable! (Isaiah 17:1-3)
1. Like the prophecy to King Ahaz, Isaiah’s prophecy regarding Damascus (Syria’s capital) dates to 734 B.C. The two major roads connecting Mesopotamia to Egypt (the Via Maris or coastal road and the King’s Highway or interior road) both passed through Damascus. The strategic location of Damascus enabled the city to exercise influence far beyond its size. Isaiah’s prophecy of the complete destruction of Damascus came true remarkably quickly. In 732 B.C. the Assyrians captured Damascus, carrying many of its inhabitants into exile. For most of Old Testament history, Israel and Damascus experienced an uneasy relationship. One or the other dominated the other. Isaiah proclaimed God would create peace between the two nations, not by healing old wounds but by destroying both lands! “See, Damascus will no longer be a city but will become a heap of ruins. The cities of Aroer will be deserted and left to flocks, which will lie down, with no one to make them afraid. The fortified city will disappear from Ephraim, and royal power from Damascus; the remnant of Aram will be like the glory of the Israelites.” The folks who had aligned themselves with Damascus, Moabites and others would be “deserted and left to flocks” all the way from the northern kingdom of Israel (Ephraim) to Damascus! Their fortified cities would disappear and the royal court would be gone! Isaiah sarcastically compared the remnant of Damascus after its destruction to the faded splendor of Israel after its destruction. Assyria conquered Damascus in 732 B.C. and Israel ten years later, reducing both kingdoms to mere shadows of their former greatness. Those who think they are powerful and important today are so much dust tomorrow! Isaiah’s inclusion of Israel in his prophecies against foreign nations implied their rebellion against God had placed the nation among those who had never known God! Syria and Israel trusted in their power instead of God. God holds us accountable for our lives and our decisions! Isaiah teaches us that the powerful are accountable!
EXAMPLE: We see people like Justin Bieber, Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, and Miley Cyrus using their fame and ungodly actions in order to gain financially and have greater personal recognition. Then there are those in politics who think they can continually fool people by promising them what they want to hear but not following through with their promises. The Bible teaches us that even the powerful are accountable to God!
Both Syria and Israel trusted in their power, believing they had no accountability before God. Their power did not exempt them and could not save them from God’s judgment. If we think position in the community or in church exempts us from accountability to God, we are mistaken. God holds us accountable for our lives and our decisions. In fact, Isaiah teaches us…
II. The Privileged Are Accountable! (Isaiah 17:7-9)
1. God’s people had turned away from Him to such a degree that the designation of God as the “Holy One of Israel” emphasized the great separation between God and His people. God is pure, but they were sinful. Israel had rejected its “Maker”. As Creator, God had made all things and all peoples, but He also had made Israel, His people, into a nation (Exodus 19:4-6). Israel had forgotten its birthright! God’s judgment of Israel had a positive goal. God hoped in difficult times His people would look to Him rather than to false gods. They had fallen so much that they had begun to stare intently at false gods, things, and the works of their own hands to save them instead of the Living God! Isaiah reminds them, “They will not look to the altars, the work of their hands, and they will have no regard for the Asherah poles and the incense altars their fingers have made.” God desired Israel to focus on Him and experience life, but accomplishing His goal required the drastic measure of punishing Israel for its rebellion. God will do the same in the life of Christians who continually reject His teaching and instead depend upon themselves and the ungodly world to live their lives! This is why over and over Scripture reminds us that God will not be mocked. God’s judgment would accomplish His goal. Israel would turn from false gods and to the true God. Israel had altars to many false gods, choosing to worship what they made rather than their Maker. “In that day their strong cities, which they left because of the Israelites, will be like places abandoned to thickets and undergrowth. And all will be desolation.” Asherah and her husband El served as their highest gods, with Asherah being the important fertility goddess. Asherah supposedly gave birth to 70 gods, including Baal, who demanded child sacrifice! Worship sites often featured Asherah groves or poles erected at high places. God’s punishment would prove Asherah had no power to provide life. God had chosen the Israelites to be His special people, but as the years passed both Israel and Judah abandoned their faith in God. In response, God sent judgment to punish His people for their sin. Their privilege did not remove their accountability before God. Chillingly, in the following verse we read, “You have forgotten God your Savior; you have not remembered the Rock, your fortress.” This should remind us as believers; even the privileged are accountable to God!
EXAMPLE: There are believers who think that because they have placed their faith in Christ, they can live their lives on the edge of disobedience. There is no such thing as minor disobedience in God’s kingdom because if you are disobedient in what you consider minor things, you are still disobedient! Thinking we can do whatever we want in our personal lives without consequence is dangerous thinking. Jesus taught, “That men will have to give account on the Day of Judgment for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned” (Matthew 12:36-37 NIV) and that, “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden…let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14, 16 NIV) This should remind us as believers; even the privileged are accountable to God!
God sent judgment to punish His people for their sin but even more to encourage them to return to faith in Him. Being a member of the church today also does not exempt us from accountability before God. Having taken the name of Christ, we need to grow in faith and let our words and deeds match our commitment. Isaiah teaches us that…
III. All People Are Accountable! (Isaiah 18:1-7)
1. God says there will be “woe” to all people who ignore His promise. In fact, God tells His people to send, “swift messengers, to a people tall and smooth-skinned, to a people feared far and wide, an aggressive nation of strange speech, whose land is divided by rivers.” His people were to take His message to every corner of the world! Just as in all four gospels and the Book of Acts where we are commanded to “go therefore into all the earth”! God’s judgment would come and “All you people of the world, you who live on the earth, when a banner is raised on the mountains, you will see it, and when a trumpet sounds, you will hear it.” Cush wanted Judah to join them and promised help if Assyria attacked. When the Assyrians moved against Judah Cush quickly retreated, leaving Judah to suffer the consequences. Judah sinned by trusting in human alliances rather than God. Judah willingly went to the ends of the earth to secure help but refused to turn to God. Isaiah appealed to all people to notice the hand of God at work and to turn to Him. God told Isaiah, “I will remain quiet and will look on from my dwelling place, like shimmering heat in the sunshine, like a cloud of dew in the heat of harvest.” Nothing escapes God, including any opportunity to call His people back to Himself. Even though we may not see action, God is at work watching and waiting. However, “before the harvest, when the blossom is gone and the flower becomes a ripening grape, he will cut off the shoots with pruning knives, and cut down and take away the spreading branches.” God would act before the fruit of their disobedience could fully form! “They will all be left to the mountain birds of prey and to the wild animals; the birds will feed on them all summer, the wild animals all winter!” Corpses would fill the fields and scavengers would enjoy a year-round feast because not enough people would remain to bury the dead! Where Israel failed, Cush would understand God’s actions as indicating His sovereignty over all people and their accountability to Him. Cush would journey to Jerusalem bringing a gift to God, “At that time gifts will be brought to the LORD Almighty from a people tall and smooth-skinned.” Do you understand what God is telling Isaiah? Those who were not originally the chosen people would recognize God! They would understand all people are accountable to God!
EXAMPLE: As Sovereign Lord of the world, God justly holds all people, including Christians accountable. God does not excuse believers from accountability; but like a loving Father, He judges our rebellion and seeks to guide us along a better path. Accountability functions positively to lead us away from a destructive lifestyle separated from God so we can live for God, blessing others and guiding them to find faith and life in Christ.
The powerful, the privileged, and all of us are accountable to God!
This article is copyrighted © 2014 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.