Ministry Sermons

The Ministry of the Isaiah Watchman

Yesterday, I talked about the difference between the Ezekiel watchman who has a ministry of proclamation, and the Isaiah watchman who has a ministry of prayer.  The Ezekiel watchman is probably the better known of the two, but consider what Isaiah 62:6-7 tells us about the important ministry of the Isaiah watchman.  In this post, I’ll point out three important aspects of the Isaiah watchman’s ministry:

6 On your walls, O Jerusalem,
I have set watchmen;
all the day and all the night
they shall never be silent.
You who put the Lord in remembrance,
take no rest,
7 and give him no rest
until he establishes Jerusalem
and makes it a praise in the earth.

1.  The watchman reminds God of his eternal purpose.

“You who put the Lord in remembrance, take no rest, and give HIM no rest UNTIL he establishes Jerusalem and makes it a praise in the earth.”

God is saying this:  “I have chosen watchmen who are going to tirelessly ask me to do what I have already determined and promised that I am going to do!  If you read the rest of Isaiah 62, you will hear God declaring all of the wonderful things that he is going to do for Jerusalem.  And then God says, “these watchmen are going to REMIND me of all these promises I have made.”  Think about what this verse implies about prayer. 

Prayer is putting God in remembrance!  Prayer is NOT convincing God to do something that he does not want to do,  or that up until the time you asked, he hadn’t considered doing.  Prayer is not giving God advice about what he should do.  Prayer is not adding some ethereal power of “faith” to God’s power to accomplish something.  

Prayer is an assignment, given to us by God, to faithfully remind him of what he has already revealed to us that He is going to do.  

Now do you think we REMIND God of these things, or “put the Lord in remembrance” as it says here because he has FORGOTTEN?  Or because he is so busy with all that he has going on in the world that he needs us to act as his secretary reminding him of his commitments?  Of course not!  

The fact is, God could do what he has decided to do without us ever praying at all!  Prayer is one of the great mysteries of the Bible, and part of this mystery is that God uses our prayers to accomplish his eternal purposes.  

Now some people see in that an excuse not to pray.  “Well, if God already knows what he is going to do, and has already determined to do it, then what is the point of me asking him for it!?  That sure seems like a waste of time.”

And I think THAT objection is a good place to bring in the second aspect of what it means to be an Isaiah watchman.

2.  The watchman (as he prays) expresses his desire to see God’s purpose fulfilled.  

Those who use this excuse (God’s gonna do what he’s decided to do, so there’s no point getting involved through prayer) betray that they don’t have a heart for lost people.  When God reveals to us that he wants us to pray for the lost, and we do not do that, we are saying that the lost do not matter to us.  Dare I say that using this excuse to not pray for lost people may even betray that the person with this attitude has no relationship with the Son of Man who CAME to seek and to save the lost?

The Isaiah watchman doesn’t pray for God’s purposes to be fulfilled because he’s obligated to, but because he has been chosen by God for such a glorious task

One of the great reformers (Calvin) said that prayer is digging up the treasures that God has already prepared for us.

I would add, NOT PRAYING shows that we don’t value what God values.  We don’t treasure what he has revealed to us that he is going to do.  And if we truly treasure gold or silver, we are willing to toil in our digging to get to it, and when we truly value what God values, we will toil in our prayers until we see his purposes accomplished.

The text says that these watchmen “shall never be silent”  and they “take no rest”.  Do you see in these phrases the revelation of what is in the watchman’s heart?   It is an ever-present desire that God’s eternal purposes would be accomplished.  And that heart attitude that is always present frequently erupts into a verbal expression of longing for God’s will to be done.  And that’s prayer!

So the Isaiah watchman is reminding God of his eternal purposes because he longs to see those purposes worked out.  But there is still one more aspect of this watchman’s ministry to point out.

3.  The watchman prays for the establishing of Jerusalem.  

In the Bible Jerusalem represents the meeting place between God and his people.  We know that as holy history has unfolded, that place is no longer a geographical location in the Middle East.  Jesus said in Matthew 18:20  “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”  The CHURCH, not the cathedral, or the sanctuary, but THE CHURCH, the Body of Christ, made up of Jews and Gentiles, Male and Female, Slave and Free… this is where God meets with his people.  So the establishing of Jerusalem is the establishing of Christ’s Church!  

That is what these watchmen are commissioned by God to pray for.  That is what they are to remind God of constantly:  that he has sovereignly determined to build his church!    

How I desire for God’s people to see that prayer for missions is so much more than just praying for the messengers.  There’s certainly nothing wrong with praying for missionaries.  Paul asked the churches to pray for him.  But in your prayers for missions, don’t forget to pray for those lost people that Jesus desires to bring into His Church!

And as you pray for the lost millions of whatever people God has called you to be an Isaiah watchman for, here is what is so wonderful:  GOD is the one who commissioned you to pray for them!  And he is asking you to remind him of what he has already determined to do!  And he WILL find those lost people whom he has chosen, and for whom you are praying.  

In Matthew 18, vs. 12-14, we read this…

What do you think?  If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray?  And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray.  So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that ONE of these little ones should perish.

Do you see what this parable is teaching in Matthew?  The man is not going to rest until all the sheep are saved.  Jesus compares this shepherd to his Father.  He says, “It is not his will that one should perish.”  The Father is not going to leave a single sheep behind!  He is going to “establish Jerusalem.”  He already knows those who are His among the people here where I am living, and HE WILL save them.  Speaking of his followers, Jesus said in John 6:37…

“All that the Father gives me will come to me.”    In verse 39 he said, “And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose NOTHING of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.”

In John 10:16 Jesus said,

“And I have other sheep that are not of this fold.  I MUST bring them also…. and then in verses 27-29  “My sheep hear my voice and I know them and they follow me.  I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.  My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.

Jesus has sheep right here in… (where I live)… that the Father has given to him!  Right now, they are lost, but they WILL BE FOUND.  As the Good Shepherd, he has committed himself to that, and he wants us to remind him of it!

As an Ezekiel watchmen preparing to labor among this unreached people, that encourages me!  And it should encourage you whom God is calling to be an Isaiah watchman for this people group.

Ministry Sermons

Isaiah and Ezekiel Watchmen

Currently my family is ministering among an unreached people group in the 10/40 Window.  At the present time, because we have just moved here, our ministry is pretty basic:  Getting the language down so that we can communicate the good news of Jesus!  

But before we moved here, someone introduced me to the concept of the Isaiah Watchman.  This is a ministry that anyone can have to an unreached people group… whether you are living in the country or not… whether you know the language or not.  So before we left our home country, we started several Watchmen prayer groups where anywhere from 2 to 20 people come together monthly to pray for the advance of the gospel.  These intercessors are our “Isaiah watchmen.”  Let me explain…

Two kinds of watchmen in the Bible

In the Old Testament, both Ezekiel and Isaiah talk about being a “watchman”, but they use the terms in two very different ways:

Let’s look first of all at the Ezekiel Watchman.  In Chapter 3, God is commissioning Ezekiel as a prophet and he says this in Ezekiel 3:16-19

…the word of the LORD came to me:  “ Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel.  Whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me.  If I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die’, and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, in order to save his life, that wicked person shall die for his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand.  but if you warn the wicked, and he does not turn from his wickedness, or from his wicked way, he shall die for his iniquity, but you will have delivered your soul.”

An Ezekiel watchman, then, is someone who is appointed by God to proclaim  a message of salvation to the wicked.  It is a warning message, “You shall surely die!”  It is an announcement both of the tremendous predicament we all find ourselves in because of our wickedness, (we are facing the death sentence).  But it is also an announcement of salvation.  Verse 18 says that the warning is given to bring the wicked to repentance in order “to save his life”!  

So the ministry of the Ezekiel watchman is a ministry of proclamation.  

This is a responsibility that all of us have, not just those of us who live among unreached peoples.  We are to proclaim the gospel that all men are facing the wrath of God for their sin but that because of Jesus, when they come to God in repentance, they will be saved from God’s wrath.

All of us can be Ezekiel watchmen, warning the lost people around us and sharing with them the good news of Salvation.  Everyday we come in contact with people who need an Ezekiel watchman in their lives.

But the ministry of the Isaiah watchman provides a way for those who may not live among unreached peoples to play a major role in reaching them with the Gospel. This role is described in Isaiah 62:6-7

6 On your walls, O Jerusalem,
I have set watchmen;
all the day and all the night
they shall never be silent.
You who put the Lord in remembrance,
take no rest,
7 and give him no rest
until he establishes Jerusalem
and makes it a praise in the earth.

What do these watchmen in Isaiah have in common with the watchman of Ezekiel 3?  First of all, they are also chosen by God.  God says, “I have set watchmen on your walls o Jerusalem.”  God put them there.  He gave them this responsibility.  And also, like the watchmen in Ezekiel, the Isaiah watchmen are speaking.  It says… “they shall never be silent”.  But here is where the two watchmen begin to be distinguished.  In Ezekiel, the watchman speaks to the people, to the wicked.  He gives a warning.

But in Isaiah, the watchman speaks NOT to the people, but to GOD.  They are speaking to God!  Isn’t that what we usually teach our children as a definition of prayer?  Prayer is speaking to God.

So God says here that he has established watchmen who will speak to him in prayer.  As I am preparing to be an Ezekiel Watchmen among the unreached people where I am living, it encourages me immensely to think that God is taking the initiative to establish for this people Isaiah watchmen who will pray that God’s Kingdom will be established here.  

But it gets even better when you consider what God establishes these Isaiah watchmen to do!  I’ll talk about that tomorrow.

Cross-Centered Life Theology

Importance of the Lord’s Supper

To identify the central event in all of human history is not difficult.  Indeed, the same event is not only at the center of human history, but is central in the universe and even in eternity.  this event is, of course, the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  

It is impossible to over-emphasize the importance of Jesus’ death on the cross.  It is impossible to do too much to keep Jesus’ death central in our thinking, in our daily living, in our conversation and relationship with others, in our service to and worship of God.  

And if it is impossible to make too much of Jesus’ death in our individual living, how much more so is it impossible to make too much of his death in our corporate life together as the people of God.  Without Jesus’ death, there would be no church.  There would be no worship.  There would be no sermons on family life, or money management, or dealing with conflicts, or any of the manifold things we talk about in church.  

I believe we have a sinful tendency to marginalize the death of Christ.  Because of the sin that still indwells us, we tend to drift away from the gospel.  When we first come to Christ, the gospel is right in the forefront of our minds.  We see Jesus crucified in our place, as our substitute, taking upon himself the punishment that we deserve.  We see him as our wonderful Savior and we overflow with love to him.

But as time goes on, our tendency is to treat Jesus and what he did for us at the cross like a movie ticket stub.  When you go to the movies, you pay to get in and they give you a paper ticket stub.  Without that stub, you can’t get past the usher into the theatre to see the movie you want to see.  That stub is your ticket in.  But once you show it to the usher and go into the movie theatre, what do you do with it?  You put it in your pocket and you forget about it.  

That can be a picture of how we think about the death of Christ.  It is our “ticket in”.  We understand that without what Jesus did for us on the cross, we will not be admitted into heaven.  We understand that without his death, we can not be adopted as God’s children and enjoy the privileges of belonging to his family, but the more distant we get from that date when we first entered the family of God, the easier it is to forget the centrality of Jesus’ death on the cross to everything that we do.

Our Lord, knowing our tendency to drift from what should be at the center, gave us, his people, two sacraments to help us keep Jesus’ death constantly before us.  The first sacrament, baptism, is meant to be performed only once.  It pictures for us our entry into the family of God.  Through our identification with Christ through faith, we are united with him in his death and resurrection.  But the second sacrament, the Lord’s Supper, Jesus told us to repeat.  He said, “As often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” (1 Cor. 11:26).  

The reason for two sacraments is that the cross of Jesus is not just our “ticket in”.  It IS that, but it is so much more.  Jesus’ death on the cross that atoned for our sins and propitiated the wrath of God is the source of every single good thing that God has ever given us or the world.  It is the foundation upon which a sinful world and sinful people have any basis for relating to God at all.  As I said before, it is at the center of everything.

For this reason, we gather together often to remember Jesus’ death on the cross.  We come together to pause and think about what he did.  If we only think of Jesus’ death as our “ticket in” we will very soon drift back to a dependence on our own righteousness to earn us a right standing with God.  But when we look often to the cross and what Jesus did there, we will mature in our faith and grow in our relationship to God.  There is a powerful, sanctifying effect that comes from meditating on the cross of Jesus Christ.  That is what we come together at the Lord’s table for.  

I believe that every time we come to the Lord’s table, we should focus on some aspect of what Jesus did for us there.  We can never exhaust the tremendous store of meaning that there is in Jesus’ cross.  Every time we come together to eat the Lord’s Supper together, it should be looking at another facet of the beautiful diamond that is the work of Jesus on our behalf at the cross.  Here are just a few of those facets that come to mind.  

When we meditate on the cross, we can consider the SERVANT-NATURE of our Savior.  Jesus himself said, “the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matt. 20:28).  Isn’t it amazing that the God whom we had rebelled against and scorned would stoop to serve us, his enemies?  

When we meditate on the cross, we can consider the OBEDIENCE of our Savior.  Jesus saved us by obeying in our place.  When we were disobedient to the Creator’s commands, Jesus came in our place and said, “Behold, I have come to do your will, O God…” and the author of Hebrews goes on to say that “…by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.”   

When we meditate on the cross, we can consider the FORGIVENESS that Jesus provides through his death.  We can put ourselves in the place of the repentant thief and know that we will be in Paradise because we have repented and looked to the Savior.  We can hear him say to US:  “Father, forgive them, they don’t know what they are doing.”

When we meditate on the cross, we can consider the REDEMPTION that Jesus purchased with his death.  We were enslaved to sin, but we were ransomed, not with perishable things like silver and gold, “…but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.” (1 Pet. 2:19).

When we meditate on the cross, we can see the SERIOUSNESS OF OUR SIN.  Nowhere do we more fully grasp what we are guilty of than when we look at the cross of Jesus.  It is there that we see our sin, because “God made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Cor. 5:21) We see our sin at the cross because as Isaiah 53:6 says, “The Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” 

When we meditate on the cross, we can see the JUSTICE of God.  As God himself declared to Moses when he revealed to him his holy name:  “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty…”  

But God, who does not clear the guilty, is able to say in 1 John 1:9 that “he is faithful and JUST to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  He is JUST to forgive us our sins–because he has already judged our sins in Christ, and therefore it is right and just for him to forgive us.

And finally, when we meditate on the cross of Christ, we can see the LOVE OF GOD for us.  This facet is worth quoting several scriptures…

John 15:12-13  “…love one another as I have loved you.  Greater love has no one than this, that someone lays down his life for his friends.”

John 3:16  “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life.”

And 1 John 3:16, and 4:9-10 show us HOW God, in his love, gave his only Son… not just in the incarnation, but at the cross:  “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us…”  “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.  In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”

For those of us who are married, our unions are meant to display the love that Jesus showed us when he died for us.  Ephesians 5:25 “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.”

Unless we meditate on the cross and Jesus’ death there as our substitute, we will not be able to comprehend the depths of his love for us, his children.  We were, Ephesians 2 says, “dead in our transgressions and sins… following the course of this world…following the prince of the power of the air… we were by nature children of wrath….         BUT GOD, being rich in mercy, because of the GREAT LOVE with which he loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ.   TOGETHER with Christ, he says, pointing to the fact that Jesus shared our death, so that we might together with him, be made alive.

And perhaps the most incredible passage displaying the love that Christ showed us at the cross is Romans 5: 6-8:  “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.  For one will scarcely die for a righteous person–though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die–but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

These are just a few of the many facets of this beautiful diamond which is the death of Christ on our behalf.  So every time you eat the bread, which represents his body given for us, and every time you drink the cup, which represents his life-blood which flowed out of his body for us, remember that the cross of Jesus isn’t just your “ticket in” to the Family of God, to be shoved into your pocket and forgotten.  It is the spring from which flows your entire relationship with God.  Meditate on it often, and not just on Communion Sunday!