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Janet's Corner

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Fall Brunch Lecture

Fall Brunch 2005 – Isaiah – Isaiah 8:18 and Isaiah 61:3b

"We are signs and symbols…an oak of righteousness a planting of the Lord to display his splendor."

As I was considering our study this year and began studying the book of Isaiah in the Old Testament, I realized how many truths have been built into my heart and mind and life from Isaiah. Truths that have kept me in times of joy, prosperity, trouble, pride….and the list goes on and on. It is these truths that have "kept me" that I want to share with you this year…Keepsake truths. Each week we will have one truth – one Bible verse that the lesson will be built around – And I hope they will become your keepsake truths. So let’s see what’s in my keepsake trunk…some signs and symbols that Isaiah uses to communicate truth to us.

1.  Grapevine –He looked for a good crop of fruit and could only find a bad crop of grapes (Isaiah 5).

2.  Chains and cross – Jesus came to set the captive free (Isaiah 61).

3.  The Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9) And someday the lion will lie down with the lamb.

4.  A watering can - God wants our lives to be like a well- watered garden.

5.  The Hand of God represented

       A heart pillow - His lovingkindness Lump of clay – He’s the potter we are the clay in his hands

       Bar bell – God’s strong righteous right arm intervening in our lives.

Do we realize the importance of signs and symbols in our society today?

Many of them are marketing tools. Some give a person an identity.

Take for instance the NIKE symbol (hat). What’s the phrase that goes along with it? (" just do it")

How many of you have some sign or symbol of your Christianity either as a piece of jewelry or an object in our homes or on our cars? There many symbols of our faith, representing who we are.

As we drive along the highways there are many signs that give us directions and even warnings. My parents lived in New Orleans for awhile. Just so you understand how flat it is down there, as we road along a highway outside that famous levy you have all heard about, there was a sign on the road that said "hill" and before you knew it you had been over what I would have called a slight incline in the road. Not sure whether that sign was one of warning or one of hope!

There are signs that give us warnings, but there are signs that give us hope.

In the book of Isaiah, which we will all be studying together during the first hour of Bible Study, there are many signs and symbols that are used to portray who God is and who we are. There are also many signs and symbols that give us warning and others that give us hope. And that’s what I have chosen for our theme for Isaiah –

We are signs and symbols…they will be called oaks of righteousness a planting of the Lord to display His splendor." Isaiah says of he and his family that they are signs and symbols (Isisan8:18). I say to you today that we are also – demonstrating our faith as oak trees.

Isaiah was a prophet of God, speaking to the nation of Judah about the coming judgment of God for their sin. Yet in the midst of all his warnings there are great messages of hope. He mentions two different images of an oak tree, one represents a warning and one represents hope.

In Isaiah 1:30 "You will be like an oak with fading leaves…"

In Isaiah 61:3 "they will be like oaks of righteousness a planting of the Lord to display his splendor."

Judah, which is the southern kingdom of Israel, is in the time in their history when they have chosen to worship idols – something other than the Holy One of Israel, the one true God, who called them as a nation. And it is in these gardens "of the sacred oaks" that they would make sacrifices (even their children) and burn incense to their gods. It is in these gardens that they would commit acts of sexual immorality. All done to appease their gods. The Lord had told them to have no other gods before Him. Isaiah doesn’t waste any time in confronting them with the truth of their sin. Isaiah 1:4 says that "they have spurned the Holy One of Israel, turned their backs on Him." Isaiah says to them this is what you will be like – an oak tree with fading leaves. You will be withered, fruitless, and dried up. An oak tree with withering leaves indicates its lack of water, if not its eventual death. Several years ago we had an oak tree fall on our house because of the drought. The roots of the tree were so compromised that it could no longer stand up! The nation of Judah was forsaking the Lord to worship other gods who could not bring them help, who would not benefit them in any way. Isaiah is saying, even to us, that when we cut ourselves off from the living God, we will fade away, becoming unfruitful and dry up. A sign and symbol of warning to Judah and to us.

Yet in Isaiah 61, there is a message of hope – a sign and symbol of hope through the image of the oak tree. We will be "called oaks of righteousness." Now you may not really like that image for yourself, but take a look at this picture. When we think of an oak tree, what’s the image that comes to mind? It has a certain dignity and strength of character.

God is saying to his people you don’t have to be a fading oak, you can be an oak of righteousness – dignified and strong in character. The people who are walking according to God’s truth, God’s ways, God’s Word, the people walking in the righteousness of God, will be like a strong oak tree. A life that is strong, magnificent, and distinguished for uprightness, justice and right standing with God. Verse three goes on to say that this oak tree, our lives, is a planting of the Lord, You are a work of God’s hand (Isaiah 60:21) you don’t plant yourself, - God plants you. He roots and grounds you in His love (Ephesians 3:17)

Our lives are to display his splendor. God’s desire is to plant us, to grow us so that we might display his splendor. I looked up that word, splendor. It means magnificent, glorious, radiant, beautiful… When we display the splendor of God, our lives will radiate the beauty of God. Our lives can be a symbol and a sign to the beauty of God – His splendor, His majesty.

So what about you? How could this contrast of the two oak trees – one fading and one radiant – make a difference in your life?

Maybe you need to start at the beginning and learn of God’s love for you - His desire to be your God, His desire to plant you and water you in His ways and truth. God loves you, He sent his Son to die for your sin so that you could be right with God. Perhaps you will see a message of hope and promise for you despite the pain and sorrow or loneliness you are experiencing right now, despite the things that have become before God in your life. I pray that you would learn how God can be placed first in your life, how you can receive His grace and love, His very life and worship Him. Come and learn how you can be "a planting of the Lord…"

On the other hand, maybe you need to reflect on how your life is a sign or symbol displaying His splendor– Is there something in your life that needs a touch of God’s radiance? Come and learn how you can be "An oak tree of righteousness a planting of the Lord to display his splendor."