Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Leslie Basham: Here’s Dr. John Piper:

Dr. John Piper: There are no detours between God’s plan and God’s accomplishment. No suffering is without meaning.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts for Friday, May 23, 2014.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Yesterday, we began hearing a message from Pastor John Piper called "In the Throne Room: The God of Holiness and Hope." I realize that most people don’t think of connecting holiness with hope, but Dr. Piper showed us why God’s holiness is such a beautiful topic.

When you see the holiness of God, it will invariably lead you to greater worship and trust and hope. Dr. Piper’s message has been adapted into a chapter in a new book called Here Is Our God. I had the opportunity to contribute a chapter to this book as well. I think the whole book will point you to God’s greatness, His holiness, His majesty in a fresh way.

After we hear this message, I’ll share with you how you can get a copy from Revive Our Hearts. We’ll be glad to send it to you when you make a donation to Revive Our Hearts for any amount.

When we left off yesterday, Dr. Piper was exploring Isaiah 6. If you’re in a place where you can open your Bible and follow along, I’d encourage you to do that. He was in the middle of showing us eight glimpses of the holiness of God in that chapter. So let’s get back to that message.

Dr. John Piper:

Glimpse number six: God is holy.  

In Isaiah 6:3, what these beings are saying in this vision is, “And one called to another and said, ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts.’” Language is pushing its limits with the word holy. What does holy mean?

In one sense, when you’re done trying to define holy, you have said, “God is God.” But we should try. The language was not used for nothing. Many of you have studied this, and you know that the root meaning of this word, holy, is "to cut or to separate." So a holy thing is cut off from—or separated from—something else, and usually devoted to something else.

So the holiness of it consists in that it is not part of the common, not part of the profane or impure. It’s devoted unto God. So you read about holy ground, holy assemblies, holy Sabbaths, holy nation, holy garments, holy city, holy promises, holy men, holy women, holy Scriptures, holy hands, holy kiss, holy faith. Almost anything can be separated unto God, devoted to God, consecrated to God, separated from the common, the profane.

But notice what happens when we try to apply this definition to God: separated unto. The very “God-ness” of God means He is separate from all He has made. There is an infinite, qualitative difference between God and everything else that is! All of that is made, and dependent upon His second-by-second upholding it in being. He is who He is!

“What,” Moses asked, “Shall I tell them is Your Name?”

“Tell them, ‘I AM Who I AM. Tell them I AM sent you.’ That’s My essential being. I AM, and I’m not dependent on anything outside of Me. All of you are totally dependent on Me. I’m not dependent on anything—I am separate.”

Which, in the end—we’ve said—is His holiness in this respect. It's His “God-ness.” That’s not wrong, that’s a right thought. God is absolutely unique in this regard.

The other side of holiness is, holy things are devoted to something . . . not just cut off from, separated from . . . They’re devoted to . . . What are you going devote God to? There is nothing above God to which He should be devoted.

It’s blasphemy to think that God’s holiness consists in His conformity to something other than Himself, which means if there’s anything like holiness in the world, it is God. It just starts there; that’s what it is.

  • God isn’t good because He conforms to a law above Him . . . He wrote the law!
  • He’s not holy because He keeps the rules . . . He made the rules! 
  • He’s not holy because He keeps the law . . . the law is holy because it reveals God. 

God is absolute. Everything else is derivative and dependent. So, what then did they mean, “Holy, holy holy.” Thrice holy?

I think they meant, doing my best with language, His holiness is his utterly unique, one-of-a-kind, sui generis, in-a-class-by-Himself, pure, essence, which therefore has infinite value. The more rare a diamond is, the more value it has, and if there’s only one of its kind, it’s valuable.

I just read in the news yesterday that one of George Washington’s books sold for nine million dollars. Why would that be? There was only one of those; there would never be another one. You can’t duplicate it. It’s got his handwriting in it.

God is infinitely valuable, determining the value and the goodness and the truth of everything else. I can’t think of anything that would have a greater impact in your life than for you to believe that. The most important value in the universe is not you; it's not your family; it's not seven billion human beings; it's not billions upon billions of galaxies.

They are, we are, as nothing—a drop in the bucket—compared to the value of God! The main problem in the world is the failure to feel that. God is infinitely valuable. He has infinite worth. All other value has value in proportion to its reflection of His value. It changes everything. Absolutely everything!

Chuck Colson, waking up to a wholly new experience of God and a taste for His majesty; Job waking up; Isaiah waking up; the twenty-three-year-old John Piper waking up and experiencing a Copernican Revolution, where the value, the supremacy, the majesty of God goes square to the center of everything.

There is no questioning anymore whether he has any rights. We have none. And we had none before we fell. Humans and angels don’t have rights before their Maker. God is right and has all rights. He defines “right.” He is right and holy. You will know that you have experienced something extraordinary when that is sweet to you. It is sweet. And I’ll try to make plain why in just a moment.

Glimpse number seven: God is glorious.

We said He’s holy, and now the last glimpse is, God is glorious. The silence that’s coming, the shaking of the house, the all-concealing smoke that is going to descend upon the house . . . before that happens, these "Blue Angel" seraphim say, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his [what word does he use?] glory!” (Isa. 6:3).

Why? Why didn’t they say, “Holy, holy, holy; the whole earth is full of Your holiness.” Because—this is my best effort to understand the glory of God—in God’s mind and Isaiah’s mind, and in most places in Scripture, I believe is the manifestation of the holiness of God.

God’s holiness is His incomparable perfections, His intrinsic infinite worth. When that goes public—when that goes on display—it’s called, in the Bible, the glory of God. “God is glorious” means God’s holiness has gone public. His glory is the open revelation of the secret of His holiness.

Here’s Leviticus 10:3: “I will show myself holy among those who are near me, and before all the people I will be glorified.” Interesting. “I will show them My holiness, and their response—‘glorious!’” Because in the move from the intrinsic, infinite, eternal worth and perfection and purity and transcendent wonder of God; in the movement out, what we see is the radiance of God. That’s called “glory” in the Bible.

The glory of God is the radiance of His holiness. When God shows Himself holy, we see glory. The holiness of God is concealed glory, and the glory of God is revealed holiness.

Now, the end of my seven glimpses . . . Last question: What does all of that have to do with Jesus Christ, Incarnate Son of Man, co-eternal with the Father? “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was [this] God” (John 1:1). This God has a Name: Jesus.

What does this vision have to do with the Jesus we meet the Gospels—who goes to the cross and dies for sinners and rises again that we may make this vision the unfathomable delight of our souls? There is a place in the New Testament which blows my mind away with the way it applies what we have seen.

John 12, where John, writing the most exalted story of Jesus, quotes Isaiah 6 once, and he quotes Isaiah 53 in the same context. I’m going to close by trying to explain to you what I think John is doing, so that this vision will be not only majestic, but sweet.

In verse 10 of Isaiah 6, Isaiah realizes he must take this vision and preach it with very bleak effect. The people will be hardened. “Make the heart of this people dull, and their ears heavy, and blind their eyes” (Isa. 6:10). Isaiah’s ready now. He’s dedicated himself, acknowledging his sin, receiving the coal of purification. He’s ready to go preach this vision, and God says, “It’s not going to go well.”

This vision is going to make people very hard. It’s going to have an effect on Israel like that. A hardening will come upon Israel, but at the end of the chapter, as the tree is cut down, a stump of faithfulness remains—do you see that at the end of verse 13? A stump remaining when the oak is felled and (the last phrase): “The holy seed is its stump” (Isa. 6:13).

What is that? There’s a remnant, and the remnant is going to flower. The stump has been cut, but something is going to happen. When you get to chapter 53, which you know so well, what do you see? I think you see the Seed—the Suffering Servant—despised and rejected by man, a Man of Sorrows and acquainted with grief.

So the description of the Seed in chapter 53 of Isaiah, the picture of Christ is misery and suffering. People would look at Him. He doesn’t have any form or beauty that people would behold Him. So that chapter begins also with the bleak, “Who has believed our report?”

So you’ve got bleakness in chapter 6, “Nobody’s going to hear this exalted vision.” You have bleakness in chapter 53, “People aren’t going to hear this Suffering Servant who lays down His life and takes the sins of Israel upon Himself, like a slaughtered sheep. They’re not going to listen.”

In the Gospel of John, Jesus’ public ministry ends at the end of chapter 12, and the rest is all about Him talking to His disciples and dying. And as chapter 12 draws the public ministry to a close, John has to explain, “Why haven’t they believed?” Why has there been such a hardness in Israel. Why is Jesus being rejected for who He is by the very leaders that He came to bring the kingdom to?

John uses Isaiah to answer his question. He doesn’t just use verse 10 of chapter 6, which we would expect him to, he uses verse 1–2 of Isaiah chapter 53. “He had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. Who has believed what he has heard from us?” And they reject. The people then rejected Him.

So what’s John trying to show us? He’s trying to show us that Jesus is the fulfillment of this majestic vision in chapter 6. He’s the fulfillment of the Suffering Servant in Isaiah chapter 53. He has brought them together in His incarnate lowliness, making claims that “I and the Father are one,” and “If you’ve seen Me, You’ve seen the Father.” And yet, He is presenting Himself as a lowly suffering servant who gets down on His knees and washes His disciples’ feet . . . and both of those are rejected.

They don’t want majesty, and they don’t want miserable, lowly suffering. They don’t want Isaiah 6, and they don’t want Isaiah 53. Why not? John answers this in John 12:43, “[The people] loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God.”

If I have any prayer for you, it is that it would not be said of you, “The women loved the glory of other women—you can tell by the way they dress—they loved the glory of man more than the glory of God.” Back in John chapter 5, verse 44, Jesus said, “How can you believe [in me], when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?”

Faith in this Jesus is impossible for those who crave the approval of other people more than they crave knowing and enjoying the glory of God. Can’t do it! If you are so desperately needy that you live second-handedly off the glory of other people—women or men—you will look at this vision and it will repulse you, and you will look at the miserable, lowly, serving Jesus and it will repulse you . . . because both of them take your glory away.

Decide whether you will love that glory or yours. That’s the answer John gives to “why” in Isaiah’s day, and His day, and I would say in our day. People don’t love Isaiah 6 or Isaiah 53. They don’t want an authoritative God over them, and they don’t want a suffering Savior that might imply they would have to take up their cross and follow Him and get on their knees and wash somebody’s feet. They don’t want either, and Jesus was both.

Which leaves one last observation. The reason Jesus was rejected ultimately, was it the sin of man, or was it the plan of God? “The Son of Man came not to be served, [but] to give His life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). That’s why He came. That’s why the Trinity agreed with one another, “The time is full, Son. Go do this great work of dying for Our people. Which means You will be rejected. That’s the way it’s going to go. We wrote the book that way.”

There are no detours between God’s plan and God’s accomplishment. There are no wasted centuries. Every byway has a meaning. No suffering is without meaning and no rebellion is without meaning. Will Israel be thrown away because they rejected their Messiah . . . because this hardening came upon Israel? Will they be thrown away—this long-convenanted people?

Paul answers, “No.” Romans 11:25–26 says, “A partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And in this way all Israel will be saved.” The nation will one day turn to her Messiah. So Romans 11:31 says, “So [Israel] too has now been disobedient [rejecting the God of Isaiah 6, rejecting the God of Isaiah 53, rejecting the Jesus who embodied both so humbly, so magnificently, so sweetly—for us] in order that by the mercy shown to you [Gentiles] they also may now [through the mercy shown to you] receive mercy [will be shown mercy].”  

God isn’t done with Israel or the nations. Things are right on schedule . . .which led Paul to end like this, so I’m going to end like this. You know how he ended? He came to these chapters 9, 10, and 11 of Romans, looking at these strange and inexplicable ways of God in history. And he says,

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! For who has [ever] known the mind of the Lord, or who has [ever] been his counselor? Or who has [ever] given a gift to him that he might be repaid? For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory [yes, glory!] forever [and ever] (Rom. 11:33–36).

Nancy: That’s Dr. John Piper, who’s been showing us the greatness of God’s holiness by taking us through Isaiah 6. He gave that message at the Gospel Coalition Women’s Conference in 2012. I was in the audience that day, and I have to tell you that after this message was finished, I could hardly breathe.

I just felt like I needed to go and get alone with the Lord and worship Him. So I skipped the next session. I went back to my hotel room. I got on my knees, and I just got in the presence of the Lord and worshiped Him. I thanked Him for His holiness, His greatness, His majesty, His beauty! It had that kind of an impact on my heart that day. I trust that it has ministered to you in a special way, today, as well.

The plenary messages from that conference have been compiled into a book called Here Is our God. I had the opportunity to contribute a chapter on the transfiguration of Jesus. Others who gave messages at that conference are also included in this book—Pastor Tim Keller, Paige Brown, Dr. Don Carson, and several others. I know this book will expand your idea of who is God is.

It will inspire greater appreciation for His beauty and wonder, and you’ll be able to trust Him more with your life’s circumstances as you see Him and those circumstances in proper perspective. We’d like to send you a copy of this book, Here Is Your God, when you support Revive Our Hearts this month with a gift of any amount.

Your financial support helps make it possible for us to speak to woman like Lee Ann, who wrote and said,

Since 2006, I’ve been listening to Revive Our Hearts. There has not been a single series or broadcast that God has not used to radically change my heart and deepen my faith. Thank you for helping me to grow closer to the Lord and challenging me to surrender more and more  to Him.

That kind of email touches my heart so deeply, to think how God is using this message to radically transform lives for His glory. You and all of our listeners play a crucial role when you give to Revive Our Hearts. You allow us to speak to Lee Ann and countless other women around the world over the radio, the Internet, and through our other outreaches.

The month of May, as we’ve been sharing with you, is important in helping us determine whether we can keep up with our current levels of ministry, or whether we’ll need to scale back in the months ahead. This month marks the end of our fiscal year. That’s when we wrap up our annual budget, and we launch a new one.

We’re trusting the Lord to meet the needs of the ministry and help us end our fiscal year in the black. To do that, we’ve been asking Him to provide at least $435,000 dollars in donations this month. That’s a really significant amount for us, but I believe the Lord is able to provide that, as those who believe in this ministry and want to see it continue, seek the Lord and give just as He prompts.

If you’re in that place, I want to encourage you to make your donation now and help us to reach this goal by May 31. And if you’ve never given before to Revive Our Hearts and it’s on your heart to do that, as we’ve been mentioning this month, a group of ministry friends has pledged to match any gifts from first-time donors, up to $70,000 total. That special offer ends May 31, so I want to encourage you to make that first-time gift over this next week.

Whether you’ve supported this ministry in the past, or you’re making a gift for the very first time, be sure to ask for the book Here Is Our God when you call with your donation. The number is 1–800–569–5959. Or you can visit us at ReviveOurHearts.com, or write us at P.O. Box 2000, Niles, Michigan, 49120.

Leslie: Thanks, Nancy. Today’s the final day we’re letting you know about a special offer. When you support Revive Our Hearts with a gift of any size, we’ll say “thanks” by sending the book you heard about today. It’s called Here Is Our God. Ask for it when you call or write, or follow the instructions at ReviveOurHearts.com.

How does someone become great? Nancy Leigh DeMoss will explore a biblical answer to that question next time. I hope you will enjoy services at your local church this weekend, then join us back on Monday for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries. 

*Offers available only during the broadcast of the podcast season.