“Turn the Holy Spirit Loose”
Isaiah 63:15 – 64:12

The book of Isaiah was written to those Israelites living in the southern kingdom of Judah, at a time when they were in a lot of serious trouble. Tension had split the kingdom in two, and already the northern kingdom had been carried into captivity by the Assyrian army, forever. The southern kingdom would also be captured by the Neo-Babylonian empire, but not without Isaiah’s interwoven words of redemptive peace given to those who would listen and believe. 

Isaiah has been warning the Israelites of the dark days ahead because of their stubbornness and unwillingness to do what is right. In today’s Scripture Isaiah speaks directly to God and asks Him why He allows human failure to exist? We can divide his discourse into four different sections. 

First, Isaiah articulates the lament for the people of Israel. Basically, it is a complaint, one that we have heard many times in our own lifetime. It goes something like this, 

“God, why do you seem so far away from your people?” 

“Why does it seem like you are exalted in your lonely isolation of unapproachable holiness and glory and we are stuck down here on earth in the mess?”

Verse 15

“Where is your tenderness and compassion?”
“Why are you withholding them?”

Isaiah goes on to speak for the Israelites in a way that many of us who have children have often heard. They put the blame more on someone else, this time on God, rather than on themselves. Look at verse 17, he asks, 

“Why, O LORD, do you make us wander from your ways and harden our hearts so we do not revere you?” 

God answers this confrontation in chapter 65, but suffice it to say, God rejects the accusation. 

The complaint continues in verse 18-19, and notice how the element of time somehow becomes distorted. In verse 18, the lament is that the Israelites possessed God’s holy place for just a “little while.” When in reality, they had done so for a long time. 

How is it that time seems to go longer when we are in stress, than it does when we are doing okay? We still tend to magnify the tragic and minimize the positive. 

Following the complaint, Isaiah enters the second section of this Scripture with his petition. However, this petition contains a contradiction and Isaiah knows it. Isaiah’s request is simple, 
“Please God, come down from heaven. Come down and help us.” 

Isaiah is an excellent debater as he uses the reason for doing so, not for the Israelites, but for God, as he says in verse 2, “come down to make your name known to your enemies.”

Isaiah also uses the argument of a precedent already being set. God’s previous actions have demonstrated that this petition has been answered in the affirmative before, in miraculous ways. Take the parting of the Red Sea, from Exodus 14, for example.

Herein lies the contradiction, Isaiah knows God can act, however, he also knows that there are conditions that need to exist in order for God to do so, check out verses 4-5. Isaiah recognizes that having a relationship with a holy God while doing things that are contrary to that God’s character, is a contradiction of terms. 

That sentence comes too close to home. Instead of God’s presence being a blessing to the people, it had become a curse. Is this a Catch-22? Isaiah is asking God to break through the barriers of time and space and make the Israelites back to a righteous nation, but the very unrighteousness of Israel prevents the petition from even being heard. Or does it?

Which brings us to the third section of today’s Scripture, verses 6&7 give us the contradiction. Remember, the people have already blamed God for their hard-heartedness, and in these verses, they don’t even try to minimize the extent of their condition. Isaiah’s description is far from describing the nation as a light to the nations, no, they continue to live lives that are as far away from holy as one can get, “unclean,” “filthy rags.”
Isaiah uses another image of a dead leaf which is swept away by the wind of sin. 
Which is it? The chicken or the egg? 

Are we wasting away in our sins because we won’t turn to God or we won’t turn to God because He has hidden His face from us?

What is to be done?

Isaiah chooses to repeat the request. He cries out to God again. He pleads with God to be the one to break the cycle, to stop the punishment, to restore His people. Again, Isaiah proves to be a good debater as he uses the very essence of God to prove His request. He claims these facts:
Israel only exists because of God, the Father that brought them into existence
God is the “potter” who formed the “clay”
God shouldn’t let sin be the deciding factor that makes Him forget His people
God also shouldn’t overlook that all of His sacred places, that He presumably treasures are in “ruins”
Isaiah closes this section repeating his original plea, verse 12, “After all this, O LORD, will you hold yourself back? Will you keep silent and punish us beyond measure?”

God’s response to this question is found in next week’s Scripture. 

For now, I will focus on how this question fits in our lives today?

How many of you remember a show called, “Dragnet?” One of its trademarks is appropriate for today’s Scripture, 
“Ladies and gentlemen: the story you are about to hear is true. Only the names have been changed to protect the innocent.”

Isaiah could be our spokesperson today. America has shifted from the land of opportunities back to the mind-set of the old world. 
It used to be that people wanted to come to America where “The sky’s the limit” and the only limitations on a person were placed there by themselves. There was the idea that “all men were created equal.” Of course that statement wasn’t inclusive and really meant, “white men,” for if you were colored or a woman, you had some issues. 
Putting that aside, the message of “being created equal” was much better than how the old world saw people. The old world had lines of class and places were firmly fixed from the moment you were born. 

Which one of those scenarios resonates with the Biblical message? 

Old world paganism, which states that your life is directed by fates. The position of the stars on the day you were born determines the possibilities in your life.


New world perspective that every person has real choices to make regarding the purpose of their life and that one day will be held accountable for those choices. 

Today, we are like the Israelites. We are sliding back into the old world view of fate. There are a few reasons for this, one reason, that was probably a similar reason for the Israelites was because, frankly it’s an easier way of life. People don’t want to work for what they receive; we would rather have it handed to us. 
Case in point – the rise in state-run lotteries and state-sponsored gambling institutions, which are both contributing factors and symptoms 
We also have naturalistic behavioral sciences telling us we are no more than the sum of our biological and sociological conditionings. 
Thirdly, let’s face it, our lives have become more complex. Success and failure no longer seem dependent on as much of our own effort and will as it does the outside contributing factors in our lives.
These attitudes have also made their way into our religious thinking as well. Here is where we resonate with the Judeans for whom Isaiah was speaking. Many of us see ourselves as victims. Sure, we realize that we are far from what God would like us to be, our world is definitely sinful, but somehow we feel we do not have the ability to change. We often fall back with these statements, 
“It’s just the way I am.” 
“Now if God could step in and change me, well that would be different. It’s not like I haven’t asked Him to do that? He just hasn’t done it. But thank God, He loves me just the way I am.” 

Do you see where that type of thinking gets us nowhere?

Somehow people often think that in order to become Christ-like, God needs to come down and make us into a different person. Like redemption means to have our personality destroyed and replaced with a “Jesus” personality. 

Nope. It’s not like that.
God is the creator, “the potter with the clay.” Just as He has created various birds, flowers, insects, and animals, He has also created different people. Each of us has unique features that only we contain. Even twins with the same DNA are different. So, God isn’t going to destroy something He has “fearfully and wonderfully made.” Psalm 139:14. What God does want to do, is to cleanse us from the sins that cloud over our uniqueness, and make us just like millions of other sinful people. 

Yes, but how. 

Again, many of us want the easy way out. We want God to come down and zap us, and instantly get rid of the things in our lives that cause us to struggle and infect our relationship with Him. And in a way, that’s exactly what God has done. 
We read in Romans 8:9 that every believer has been given the Holy Spirit.

Just like that, we don’t need to “get” the Spirit. When we decide to follow Jesus, He’s in us. 

What we do need to do is, turn the Spirit loose.

Paul tells us how to take the spiritual power within us and use it for God’s glory, 1 Corinthians 9:25-27

Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.

With that image, one can begin to understand why so many people choose not to get rid of their sinful nature. “Strict training” sounds painful. 
Actually, that’s true, getting rid of sin can be painful. However, the Holy Spirit is our helper. He reveals those specific behaviors that are offensive to Him and then He assists us in:
isolating the causes of those behaviors, 
learning what triggers them in us, 
avoiding the places where we are likely to fall into them again, 
celebrating our successes,
reminding us to stop beating ourselves for our failures, and 
encouraging us to walk on!
Paul compares his walk with God to that of an athlete training for the Olympics! Sacrifices are made, self desires are not always given into. How many athletes in training desire to sleep in, or eat hot fudge sundaes, but they choose not to in order to be able to compete and win. 
We are in a competition, every day, and that competition relates to the question Isaiah posed to God today in this Scripture. Self will or God’s will? Unlike Isaiah, the gift we have from God is the Holy Spirit in us. Turn the Holy Spirit loose, walk toward God, in faith, with a hammer in your hand, listening to the Holy Spirit and do what you need to do in order to crucify the part of your “self” will that is God’s enemy. You’ve got a helper, listen to Him and go forth!

Let’s pray.