The True Glory of the Church

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1 The True Glory of the Church Ps. 97: 1 4 Ps. 78: 3 Ps. 68: 1, 8 Ps. 102: 6, 7 Ps. 48: 1, 3 Scripture reading: Isaiah 2: 1 4: 6 Text: Isaiah 4: 1 6 Beloved congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ, Judah enjoyed great prosperity, they had plenty of gold and silver, and there was no end to their treasures 2: 7. Outwardly everything seemed to be prosperous. However, water has been added to the wine. The wine still had the same colour, but it lost its precious flavour. And what seemed to be silver was only dross. The outward show of religion was still there, but inwardly they have become corrupt. They were living a double life. When they stretched out their hands in prayer, it was stained with the sin which they committed during the week. Because of their ungodly life their worship has become an empty show. Therefore the LORD refused to receive their worship any longer. Furthermore, they have become a proud people. Man became very important; and the Word of the LORD became less important. They started to glory in their own power and greatness. Their wealth became a snare to them. Their gold was turned into idols. 1

2 They became like a rich and wanton woman that adorns herself with jewellery and ornaments and make-up and all kinds of vanities. But she has lost her true beauty: holiness. Her vain glory became a stench to the LORD. And so the time was ripe for judgment. In chapters 2 and 3 the prophet Isaiah proclaimed a threefold judgment: a universal judgement on all the high and mighty, judgment on the church leaders, and judgment on the women of Judah. However, these judgments are not meant to destroy the church. Instead these judgments shall be executed in order to restore the church. The main theme in these chapters is the future glory of the church. In the latter days the church will be high and exalted and all nations shall flow to it 2: 2. And again our text, here in chapter 4, speaks about the future glory of the church. The future glory of the church forms the main theme, and yet these chapters contain judgment upon judgment. The reason is simply that the future glory of the church will only come through the execution of these judgments. It is through these judgements that Jerusalem will be purified. Jerusalem will be thrown into a melting pot in order to remove her dross from her. She will go into the furnace in order that the hypocrites and all the ungodly may be consumed by the fire of God s wrath. It is by these very judgments that the ungodly will perish so that only a small remnant will remain, a purified remnant. That is the way in which the LORD will restore His church. Within this context we find our text. The future glory of the church will not be her silver and gold, but her purity. Her future glory will not be the greatness of man, or the glitter of worldly splendour. Holiness will be her beauty and her glory. The LORD will make His church a Holy of holies, and He will dwell in her. There will be no proud and ungodly church anymore. 2

3 Every man will be brought low before the majesty of the LORD. In that day He alone will be exalted. And yes, the church will enjoy great glory: the glory of His presence! The presence of the Lord will be the glory of the church. And holiness will be her beauty. Purity will be her splendour. I proclaim to you God s Word with the theme God s presence will be the glory of a purified church We will note 1. That God shall strip His proud church of her vain glory 2. That Christ shall purify a church for Himself 3. That God s presence shall be the glory of His church In the first place we note that God shall strip His proud church of her vain glory in that day seven woman shall take hold of one man, saying, We will eat our own food and wear our own apparel; only let us be called by your name, to take away our reproach 4: 1 This verse actually belongs to the previous chapter. It is the closing words of the judgment against the woman. That is: against the rich and distinguished women of Judah. He described their glamour as they walk with proud outstretched necks, flirting with their eyes, tripping along as they walk. They are covered with jewellery and ornaments. All the things he mentions there the big variety of dainty clothes, the abundance of jewellery and makeup speak of their wealth and wantonness. Therefore he pronounces judgment on them. But this judgment on the women of Judah forms part of the big picture: judgment on all the high and the proud and the lofty; yes, judgment on the vain glory of man. So then, the judgment against the women, that is the proud and wanton wives of the rulers, was a side-piece to the judgement on the rulers themselves, and both these judgements were again part of a greater and universal judgment on all the proud and lofty of the earth. 3

4 In the centre of these judgements stands Jerusalem. She is the proud and wanton woman who tries to adorn herself with the fake glory of vanities, with an ungodly and worldly glory. She will be cleansed through judgment when the LORD strips her of her false glory and cloth her with the true glory of holiness and purity, even the glory of God s own presence when He will make the purified Jerusalem His dwelling place. Yes, the day of judgement is coming, and it will start at the house of God. Its first fulfilment was with the Babylonian exile, but, at the same time, this judgement serves also as an example and a picture of God s judgement at the end of days. That is: the time in which we are living. Brothers and sisters, this prophecy is today even more relevant than in the days of Isaiah, because: its final fulfilment has now come so much closer. It is for us to listen carefully and to take heed. The vain glory of man shall perish. In that day the LORD alone will be exalted. There will be no proud church; only a small remnant under the shelter of her mighty God. The harlot will be no more. Christ will purify His bride and make her a humble virgin, submissive to her Lord and to His Word. Now, the judgment against the women of Judah ends with these words of our text: in that day seven women shall take hold of one man This will happen when all the men died in the destruction of war. Your men shall fall by the sword, and your mighty in the war. Her gates shall lament and mourn, and she being desolate shall sit on the ground. These were the closing words of chapter 3. The city, Jerusalem, will be desolate. No one will pass through her gates because her inhabitants are gone, wiped out in war. In that day seven women shall take hold of one man and beg him to marry them. What does that mean? 4

5 The proud daughters of Zion, the wives of distinguished men, each one who thought much of herself as the wife of such and such, will end up in this unnatural and shameful state, that seven of them will offer themselves to the same man, any man, even if he is too poor to care for them, too poor to provide food or clothing for them as long as he marries them and take away the reproach of their widowhood (compare 54: 4). only let us be called by your name, to take away our reproach It is a picture of Jerusalem. She, the proud and lofty one, will lament and mourn. Jerusalem will be desolate. Her desperate state of reproach and humiliation will be shocking. Her nakedness, as the prophet said in the previous chapter, will be uncovered (3: 17). But it is then, when she will be stripped of her vain and ungodly glitter, that the LORD will clothe her with the true glory of holiness and purity. Dear congregation, is there any danger that we may start to measure the prosperity of the church by the abundance of her gold and silver? Or is there any danger that the church in our day may start to adorn herself for the world with all the makeup and vanities of this world, instead of adorning herself for the Lord? In what does the beauty of the church consist? Is the church still attractive because of her purity and holiness? Or does she try to make herself attractive by an abundance of organisations and activities and attractions, forgetting that her true beauty is holiness? Is the church still beautiful and attractive because of her purity? What is her splendour? Is it all vanity, or is it the true thing? Do we still seek to adorn ourselves for the Lord by living a humble and obedient life before His face? Is the church still a humble virgin seeking to please her Lord and Master in all that He commands? Or has she become a spoiled and wanton woman flirting with the world? Is there any danger that the church of our day seek to impress and to please man rather than God? 5

6 And all the religious activities of the churches is it still the true thing, or is it a lot of makeup and vanities? Do we recognise anything of this prophecy in our own day? A church may seem to be very prosperous outwardly and adorned with all kinds of makeup and vanities, while inwardly she has become defiled. Yes, also the church of our own day stands in need of reformation. We note this in the second place, that Christ shall purify a church for Himself In that day the Branch of the LORD shall be beautiful and glorious verse 2. Our translation speaks of a branch, but we should rather translate the Hebrew word with shoot or sprout. It is something that sprouts and shoots up. Isaiah uses this word shoot or sprout with reference to the coming Christ. There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse Isaiah 11: 1 (ESV). And: He shall sprout forth like a tender shoot and as a root out of dry ground Isaiah 53: 2 In these passages it becomes clear that the Shoot or Sprout of the LORD was a name for the coming Christ. We find this Name also in Jeremiah: 6

7 Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, that I will raise to David a Branch of righteousness; a King Jer. 23: 5. And again: In those days and in that time I will cause to grow up to David a Branch of righteousness; He shall execute judgment and righteousness in the earth Jer. 33: 15. We may replace the word Branch with Sprout. A Sprout of righteousness will come who will sit on the throne of David and execute judgment and righteousness. Listen how this Sprout is described in Zechariah: Behold, the Man whose name is the BRANCH! From His place He shall branch out, and He shall build the temple of the LORD; yes, He shall build the temple of the LORD. He shall bear the glory, and shall sit and rule on His throne; so He shall be a priest on His throne Zech. 6: 12, 13. So then, this Sprout will be a Man. He will restore the temple. This Man will restore the church. Furthermore He will be both a king and a priest. And He will rule on the throne of David. There is no doubt then that this prophecy speaks of Christ. So what does our text say? Jerusalem will be desolate. All her vain and false glory will be gone. The proud and the lofty, the high and the mighty, the spoiled and the wanton they will all be gone. She will be chopped down. But then a Sprout will come and He will be the glory and the splendour of Jerusalem. 7

8 Now, a sprout is not the same as a big tree. A sprout is something small and tender. And yet, although the glorious kingship of this Man will have a small and humble beginning, even despised by men, He will restore true glory to the church. This is a theme that runs throughout the prophecy: the true glory of the LORD over against the fake and vain glory of man. And the Day of Judgment will reveal this. Then all the proud and the lofty, every high and exalted man, will be humbled and brought low, and the LORD alone will be high and exalted in that day. No glory for man, but all glory will be to God alone! The lofty looks of man shall be humbled, the haughtiness of men shall be bowed down, and the LORD alone shall be exalted in that day. For the day of the LORD of hosts shall come upon everything proud and lofty, upon everything lifted up and it shall be brought low 2: 11, 12 And again he says: The loftiness of man shall be bowed down, and the haughtiness of men shall be brought low; the LORD alone will be exalted in that day 2: 17 Now, this judgment will start at the church. Jerusalem shall be humbled; her haughtiness shall be bowed down, and the LORD alone shall be exalted in that day. These judgments were every time announced with the words in that day ; and now again our text says, chapter 4: 2, in that day the Branch of the LORD shall be beautiful and glorious Our text is speaking of that Day of Judgment. The coming of Christ will be judgment day. Then all the high and lofty will be brought low, and the LORD alone will be exalted and glorious. No man will be exalted; God alone. No man will be glorious; God alone. No man will be great or important; God alone. 8

9 We said the main theme is the future glory of the church; but in what will this glory consist? The answer is that the LORD Himself will be her glory. She will adorn herself with His holiness, and His glory will be her covering. Our translation says that the Branch will be beautiful and glorious, but we should rather translate the Hebrew that the Sprout of the LORD will be unto beauty and glory. The Sprout will be unto beauty and glory to those who are saved. Here you have the contrast between the worthless pride and vain glory of an ungodly people on the one hand, and the true beauty and glory of a holy and purified people on the other hand. The one is a filthy and proud woman who seeks to adorn herself with the cheep glitter of this world, the other is a holy bride clothed with the beauty and splendour of her Saviour. Yes, in that day there will be no proud church and no glory for man. In that day things will be as they should be: the LORD alone will be great and important. And the church will have no other glory than the presence of her LORD. He will be all her glory and all her exaltation. When we note the prominence of this theme throughout the prophecy then we realise that the exalted and glorious LORD of chapter 2 and the Sprout of chapter 4 must be the same Person. For in that day there will be only one who is exalted and glorious: the LORD alone. And now we hear that the Sprout of the LORD will come, and that He will be unto beauty and glory. So then, this Sprout will not also be unto beauty and glory, but: He alone shall be unto beauty and glory. When the unfaithful Jerusalem will be chopped down and all her vain glory will be gone, this Sprout will shoot up and He will be the splendour of that small and humble remnant that will come out of the furnace. 9

10 In that day the Sprout of the LORD shall be unto beauty and unto glory and the Fruit of the earth shall be excellent and appealing for those of Israel who have escaped verse 2. We have here two names for the Messiah: the Sprout of the LORD, and: the Fruit of the earth. We should also translate the word Fruit with a capital letter. He will not only sprout forth and shoot up and grow, but He will also bear fruit. There is no way in which we can separate the Sprout and the Fruit in our text. The name Sprout refers to the humble but also the sudden way in which He would appear. When all expectation of glory is gone, then He will shoot up. It will be a humble beginning, like a tender shoot that appears from a stump. But He will shoot up and bear fruit. The fruit, then, points to the consummation of His work. When Christ Himself is called the Fruit of the earth it means that He Himself will be the consummation of everything. The whole history of this earth will reach its consummation, its final fruit and fullness, in Him. The whole harvest of fruit will be found in Him! So then, both the Sprout and the Fruit refers to Christ. He will be unto beauty and glory and exaltation and adornment for those who escape from death. Our translation speaks of the Fruit of the earth that shall be excellent and appealing. The ESV says the fruit shall be the pride and honour. The NIV says the fruit shall be the pride and glory. The Hebrew words should indeed be translated the pride and the glory or the pride and the beauty. The Hebrew word that is used here for glory or beauty can also be translated: ornament, decoration, splendour. And this word clearly refers back to what has been described in the previous chapter. The proud women of Judah adorned themselves with ornaments, but that pride and beauty will be taken away from them, and the remnant will receive a different beauty and glory. They will adorn themselves with the beauty and the splendour of Christ. He will be their ornament and their pride. The fruit of His labour will be unto splendour and glory for those who have escaped. 10

11 Would the people of Judah understand this? They did not know the Christ to the extent that we know Him. It was still a mystery to them. And yet He has been revealed to them. Isaiah spoke much about this Sprout. He will be born of a virgin 7: 14. He will be called Mighty God, and He will rule on the throne of David forever 9: 6, 7. He will Sprout from the stump of Jesse 11: 1. He shall grow up before the LORD as a tender shoot, and as a root out of dry ground, He will be punished for our transgressions and will offer Himself as a sin offering for us, He will again rise from the dead and be exalted chapter 53. The whole gospel of our Lord Jesus is contained in this scroll of Isaiah, and it is here in our text that the prophet introduces the coming of the Messiah. The words of our text may at first look somewhat cryptic; but when one reads the whole prophecy the pieces of the puzzle forms one picture. It is only when we get the big picture of the whole prophecy that these words fall into place. And then the meaning is clear: When Jerusalem is stripped of her worldly pride and vain beauty, Christ will be the pride and the beauty of the remnant that escape death. In chapter 28, the same chapter where Christ is called the precious cornerstone (28: 16), Isaiah also says that the LORD Himself will be a crown of beauty and glory to the remnant of His people 28: 5. That clearly corresponds with our text. The LORD Himself, or as He is called here, the Sprout, will be the beauty and the glory of the remnant. This will now be explained in the next verse, verse 3, where we read: And it shall come to pass that he who is left in Zion and remains in Jerusalem will be called holy everyone who is recorded among the living in Jerusalem. Their new beauty and glory will be holiness. In the Hebrew text the emphasis of the whole verse rests on this one word: holy! 11

12 Previously the proud and ungodly people of Jerusalem distinguished themselves according to rank and wealth, but now all their beauty and glory will be holiness. This holy remnant will be washed and purged. We read that in the next verse: When the LORD has washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion, and purged the blood of Jerusalem from her midst, by the spirit of judgement and the spirit of burning verse 4. Her filth will be washed away. She will be purified in the furnace of God s judgment. Dear congregation, the wrath of God s judgment was on Christ. Only in Him a remnant is preserved. For else we too would be consumed in the fire of God s wrath. Without Christ there would be no remnant. It is a remnant of grace. Only those who are recorded in the book of life, only those who are in Christ, they alone will come from this furnace like pure gold. They will be the remnant preserved in Christ a holy remnant; a purified remnant. What shall happen to the big and proud church? Her dross and stubble shall be burned away in the judgment of the LORD. The Spirit of judgement and the Spirit of burning refers to the Spirit of Christ. He will judge in righteousness and devour His enemies with the breath of His mouth. The judgment will proceed from His mouth like a burning fire. The hypocrites of chapter one, and the ungodly and the proud of chapter 2, and the spoiled and flirting women of chapter 3, will all be consumed only a purified and holy remnant will be left. Dear congregation, we see that the glory of the church will not exist in her great multitude for it will only be a small remnant. The excellence of the church does not consist in great numbers, but in purity. 12

13 Brothers and sisters, the church does not suffer any loss when judgment strikes her, for although it may cause her numbers to be greatly reduced, she is at the same time comforted by the casting out of many hypocrites. A diseased body can only be healed when it casts out that which corrupts it, and so the church is also purified when the ungodly is removed from her midst by the judgments of God. Once we understand this, it provides a great comfort to us. For, we are inclined to look for a great multitude, and to be impressed by numbers. We easily estimate the prosperity of a church by counting its members. But we are taught by the Lord that the splendour of the church will shine forth in the holiness of a small remnant. When Christ appears He will come with judgments, and only a remnant will be saved. He will be her splendour no matter how small the remnant may seem to be. His presence will be her glory. We note that in the last place God s presence shall be the glory of His church Then the LORD will create above every dwelling place of Mount Zion, and above her assemblies, a cloud and smoke by day and the shining of a flaming fire by night. For over all the glory there will be a covering verse 5 During the days of Israel in the wilderness the LORD were present with His people in a pillar of smoke by day and a pillar of fire by night (Ex. 13: 21). When the tabernacle was erected the cloud covered the tabernacle of meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. Then we read: Moses was not able to enter the tabernacle of meeting, because the cloud rested above it, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. Whenever the cloud was taken up from above the tabernacle, the children of Israel would go onward in all 13

14 their journeys. But if the cloud was not taken up, then they did not journey till the day it was taken up. For the cloud of the LORD was above the tabernacle by day, and fire was over it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel, throughout all their journeys Ex. 40: But here in our text it is said that something new will be created. The cloud of the LORD will not only be over the temple, but above every dwelling place of Mount Zion! The glory of the LORD will not only fill the Holy of holies; the glory of the LORD will be upon all the assemblies of His people. The whole mountain will become a holy of Holies, because of the holy presence of the LORD and of His glory. The whole nation will be holy and filled with the glory of the LORD. The assembly of Jerusalem will be an assembly of saints, and all her inhabitants will be holy. And the very presence of the LORD will be their glory. The LORD will cover His people in a cloud of glory, just as He covered the Holy of holies. And there will be a tabernacle for shade in the daytime from the heat, for a place of refuge, and for a shelter from storm and rain verse 6 Not only will the LORD descend to make the whole assembly of His people into a Holy of holies, His sacred dwelling place, but they will also dwell with Him in safety. He will be their tabernacle in which they may safely dwell. Brothers and sisters, the final fulfilment of this prophecy will be on the great day of Christ s appearance, the great Day of Judgment. On that day the lofty looks of man shall be humbled, the haughtiness of men shall be bowed down, and in that day the LORD alone shall be exalted. The day of the LORD of hosts shall come upon everything proud and lofty (2: 11, 12). And this judgment will start at the church. In that day no proud church will be able to stand, only a purified remnant that seeks shelter under the shadow of her mighty LORD. On that day the LORD will descend and make His dwelling with us, and we will dwell in the divine glory of His holy presence. 14

15 The whole church will become a Holy of holies filled with the glory of God. In that day the LORD alone will be high and exalted. He alone will be our glory and our exaltation. Let us then not measure the excellence of the church by counting her members. Let us not look at the abundance of her makeup and vanities, but let us rather be impressed with holiness. For in such a purified church the glory of the LORD is present. Let us be stripped of all the worthless pride of man, and from all worldly vanities, and adorn ourselves with the beauty of Christ s holiness. Brothers and sisters, the true beauty of the church is her purity. The true glory of the church is the presence of the LORD. That is the glory unto which Christ shall restore His church. That is how He will build the temple of the LORD: by purifying a people for Himself. Sometimes we see and we feel the pressure to conform to this world. We hear arguments in favour of makeup and vanities when it is said: let us to this or that to make the church attractive. Or else we will lose the youth! Or we will lose our members if we exercise church discipline! Yes, we are often very concerned about the size of the church, and to please men, and inclined to adorn ourselves with plenty of makeup. But, will that truly make us attractive? And will that make the church glorious in beauty and splendour if we follow all the inventions of our day and try to keep up with the world? No, the excellence of the church does not consist in great numbers or in abundance of makeup. The beauty and the glory of the church is her purity. In such a church the glory of the LORD will dwell. 15

16 Brothers and sisters, let us then not seek after a worldly glory and look for great numbers and adorn ourselves with the vanities of this world, but adorn ourselves for the Lord with the beauty and the splendour of holiness. Let us humble ourselves under the judgments of God, and He will preserve us. Let Christ be our beauty, and His presence our glory. Amen. 16

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