mark this: Isaiah 66:5 —
Hear the word of the LORD, you who tremble at his word:
“Your brothers who hate you, and exclude you because of my name, have said,
‘Let the LORD be glorified, that we may see your joy!’
Yet they will be put to shame.”
Isaiah ends with a picture of heaven and hell. If you want to see heaven, it’s there in 66:22-23. If you want to see hell, it’s there in the final verse, 66:24.
Who’s going where?
There are various poetic pictures of the division: “the sheep and the goats” (1) will be separated; the “wheat will be separated from the tares.” (2)
Alright. But those pictures beg the question: Which is which? How can you tell the difference?
“My sheep hear my voice,” we are told in John 10:27.
Why do they hear his voice? Because they listen. They listen out of respect and reverence and what the Bible calls the fear of the LORD. Isaiah puts it this way: “they tremble at his Word.”
I go to a church–as real and valid a church as there is–but not everyone there opens his Bible every day. They don’t all fear him enough to tear themselves away from the inducements and allurements of the world for the 15 minutes a day it takes us to “stand in the rain.” They don’t, so to speak, fear the boss enough to open his emails. They don’t love the LORD enough to read his letters.
The great demarcation in Christianity today is not between the Protestants and Catholics. The great demarcation is between those who tremble at his word and those who do not. In any church on any corner, you’ll find both sheep and goats: Sheep listen. Goats don’t.
There are “brothers,” according to Isaiah 66, who will hate you because you tremble at his word. They might be the biological brothers of your household. They might be so-called brothers in your church. You’re the Bible banger, they’ll say:
“My God, he takes all that stuff seriously!”
“It’s worse than just seriously. He takes it literally.”
I’m going to get sentimental for just a second, and then I’ll go.
Ruth was an outsider, a foreigner from Moab. But she chose the God of Israel as her God, and God’s people as her people.
Jesus was thrown out of his hometown (3). “Even his own brothers did not believe in him” (4).
Once, while he was teaching,
his mother and brothers came to Him, and they were unable to get to Him because of the crowd. And it was reported to Him, “Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside, wishing to see You.” But He answered and said to them, “My mother and My brothers are these who hear the word of God and do it.” (5)
My natural family also severed over the issue of Jesus Christ. That’s the way Jesus said it would be:
“From now on families will be split apart, three in favor of me, and two against – or the other way around. There will be a division between father and son, mother and daughter, mother-in-law and daughter-in-law.” (6)
You–who tremble at his word–you’re my family now. Thanks for taking me in. Where you go, I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. (7)
(1) Matthew 25:32; (2) Matthew 13:30; (3) Luke 4:29; (4) John 7:5; (5) Luke 8:20; (6) Luke 12:52; (7) Ruth 1:16