Sermon, Text: Isaiah 6:1-5, James 2:2-4, Isaiah 63: 1and 2, Zechariah 3:4, Revelation 21:2, Title: Royal Trains

Introduction

Isaiah wrote in a time of great turmoil for the kingdom of Judah. It was the year that king Uzziah died. He died in humiliation. God had punished him with leprosy because he usurped the right of a priest and attempted to burn incense in the temple. Disgraced, he lost his throne and died in isolation. However, for much of his 52 year reign he did what was right in the sight of the Lord.  He sought God, built fortifications, defeated enemies, promoted agriculture, and raised and equipped a mighty army. During Uzziah’s leprous exile his son Jotham reigned in his place, but he died in his 40’s and the death of Uzziah and Jotham occurred close together.This left Judah without a good king, because the successor was the wicked Ahaz who did not do what was right in the sight of the Lord and was a flagrant idolator whose evil behavior brought judgments upon Judah and this continued until his son Hezekiah later restored the temple worship and services. At such a time the people needed a vision of the true king, Jahweh, to remind them that God was in control in bad times as well as good times. That vision is Isaiah 6. In it we see that God is transcendent, or in the words of the prophet high and lifted up. The throne, the seraphs who themselves are holy and yet in the presence of such exalted glory must cover their faces and feet, the earthquake, the fire and smoke, and the reaction of the prophet all point to God’s transcendence. But the message of Isaiah does not end there. He also teaches us God is imminent, or near, even among us. He cleanses the prophet and speaks to him. When we read on in the book of Isaiah we discover that it is all about this exalted God coming near. In the very next chapter we have the prediction that a virgin will bear a son and his name will be called immanuel, which means God with us. In the ninth chapter we have the prediction that a son will be born to us who is the mighty God. In Chapters 40-66 we have frequent predictions of the Servant of the Lord who through his visitation will redeem his people through suffering. He came near. The one who inhabit eternity and is highly exalted has humbled Himself in our midst and become our Savior. Today we focus solely on one item in the vision, the robe of God.

I The Robe is Symbolic

In this remarkable vision of God rich with imagery and truth we read that the train or the following tail of God’s robe filled the temple. As we consider the meaning of this aspect of Isaiah’s vision, we must first see the importance of clothing in the Bible and societies.You have heard the clothing makes the man. True? Yes, if you go to a job interview wearing a muscle shirt and gym shorts you will probably depart still unemployed. On the other hand you have heard correctly that appearances can be deceiving. As Scripture says, man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks upon the heart. Clothing can disguise a man’s true character. James 2:2-4. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in shabby clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? The advent of mini-skirts in the 1960’s troubled and divided many church congregations, and led to a lot of self-righteous observations about the character of women. Both the style and the observations were bad. Clothing can be a big deal depending on the circumstances. Turning to the Bible history-look at all the trouble created when Jacob adorned his favorite son Joseph with a coat of many colors. Clothing is also a status symbol. Speaking of John the Baptizer’s simple clothing, Jesus said, Indeed those who are gorgeously appareled and live in luxury are in king’s courts. (Luke 7:25) According to Judges 8, when Gideon subdued the Midianites the plunder included the ornaments, pendants, and purple robes of the defeated kings. According to II Samuel 13 Tamar a daughter of David was wearing a robe of many colors similar to Joseph’s and typical of the King’s virgin daughters. Psalm 45 says the clothing of the king’s daughter is of wrought gold. Royal apparel is mentioned often in the book of Esther. Point taken. Monarchs demonstrated their importance and power by their clothing.

II The Robe is Sizable

And so, look at the length of the robe. The train filled the temple. In Princess Diana’s wedding most of the world got to see the train of her dress carried by attendants-25 feet long. A royal train. But then I read about a new attempt to break a record for the Guiness book of world records. A wedding was held in Guagehiou City, Jilin Province, China where the train of the bride’s gown was so long that it took 200 people 3 hours to unroll it just to carry it behind her. It was 2162 meters; more than 20 football fields long or over a mile. When you are sitting at a RR crossing, how long does it take for a freight with 100 cars to go by?  That Chinese groom only thinks he has the record and Guiness may agree, but I do not. You have the record in front of you. Remember this is a vision and the train that filled the temple was a symbol of God’s presence with his people. His people are His temple. But even that’s not the record. In Acts 7 the first Christian martyr, Stephen quotes Is. 66, Heaven is my throne and earth is my footstool, what house will you build for me says Yahweh. The train in the vision God’s royal robe, is filling the created universe! I guess we know who is the winner. We  know who is God alone. In fact there isn’t any room left for other trains. He fills it all. How glorious is that? Who is the king of kings and Lord of Lords?

III The Robe is Sacrificial

As unlikely as it may seem, that robe that filled the temple is a sacrificial robe. To begin with, Yahweh is a king but his place of residence in the Old Testament was the tabernacle and the temple. In fact the same Hebrew word can be translated either palace or temple. He established his residence in the midst of Israel over the mercy seat in the holiest place, the place of ultimate sacrifice. He was telling them and us that he is a God of mercy who sacrifices on behalf of his beloved people. Now a question. Whom did Isaiah see in his vision and whose train was it? John 12:40 and 41 answers the question. Jesus said, they could not believe, because, as Isaiah says elsewhere:  “He has blinded their eyes and deadened their hearts, so they can neither see with their eyes, nor understand with their hearts, nor turn—and I would heal them.” Isaiah said this because he saw Jesus’ glory and spoke about him. In Isaiah 6 the prophet sees the glory of Jesus, the Christ, the only begotten Son. He was the one along with the Father and the Spirit whom the seraphs praised. So our Savior’s train filled the temple. That was the robe in glory, but in Isaiah 63:1,2 the prophet says of the royal garments of the  Messiah, the Servant of the Lord, Why are your garments red, like those of one treading the winepress? “I have trodden the winepress alone; from the nations no one was with me. The mighty train of the royal robe is stained with blood, not only blood of judgment, but also blood of redemption. In John 19 the robe of glory is mocked and despised as the prophets predicted, The soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on His head. They clothed him in a purple robe and went up to him again and said “Hail, King of the Jews.”The blood of the Savior drips from the crown of thorns on the mock royal robe.Then, later in John 19 we read that the Romans soldiers took Jesus garments and divided them. When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took his clothes, dividing them into four shares, one for each of them, with the undergarment remaining. This garment was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom.  “Let’s not tear it,” they said to one another. “Let’s decide by lot who will get it.” They kept the tunic which was seamless, whole and cast lots for it. They tore up everything else along the seams. This certainly involved the royal robe because the material was so valuable. The dyes used in such material were very rare and expensive and only the very wealthy of aristocracy could afford such garments. Which is why we have a color today called royal purple or royal blue. Lloyd C. Douglas, a Lutheran minister wrote a completely fictional work in 1947 entitled “The Robe”, later made into a movie in 1953. The true part of his story is that the robe is intact. The fiction is that it is  in the possession of a Roman soldier Marcellus who is eventually converted to Christianity. Thus the robe of glory became the robe of shame so that we might be saved.

IV The Robe is Sufficient

Think of it this way my friends. The real robe, not the mock robe, the robe of glory that filled the temple and the person wearing it whom the seraphs praised as Holy, Holy, Holy, was laid in a tomb. And then the robe of glory and the victorious Savior rose from the tomb and He ascended to the glory that He had with the Father before the world began and He was given all power in heaven and earth. This meant He was able through His Spirit to impart the benefits of His death and resurrection to all who believe. And guess what He gives to all his chosen ones who come unto Him? A Robe- a robe of righteousness. Like Joshua the High priest in Zechariah 3:4 who was dressed in filthy clothes. The angel in the vision says to those standing there, take off his filthy clothes. And then he says to Joshua “See I  have taken away your sin and I will put rich garments on you. As the the Lord says in Psalm 132:16, I will clothe your priests with salvation, and we are a kingdom of priests. In Revelation 21:2 when the New Jerusalem descends from heaven she is beautifully prepared like a bride dressed for her husband, I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. The train of that bridal dress is not mentioned, but I will tell you about it. It fills the temple because the church is clothed with the infinite righteousness of the Son of God that has been bestowed upon us. As Isaiah says (61:10) He covered me with a robe of righteousness. And as Paul says in Romans, Christ is made unto us righteousness and Grace reigns through righteousness. Let us understand that the sacrifice on Calvary was not first of all for us, but for God to be glorified in His judgment and mercy. How big did that sacrifice have to be to satisfy the infinite justice of God? Infinite! And how big does the righteousness of Christ have to be to satisfy the demands of an infinitely holy God? Infinite! Consequently, how big is the righteousness that has been given to you? Infinite. When you were born anew, and believed in the Son of God, you were clothed with an infinite righteousness. You became everlastingly, totally, infinitely pleasing to God. I did not make this up. When Paul reflects on the power of the Gospel in Romans 1, he says in the Gospel the righteousness of God is revealed. The New International Version says a righteousness from God, but that is not a correct translation. The Greek uses the genitive, simple possession. It is the righteousness of God, Himself that covers us.

Conclusion

Someone has said, “The god of this century no more resembles the Sovereign of Holy Writ than does the dim flickering of a candle the glory of the midday sun. The god who is talked about in the average pulpit, spoken of in the ordinary Sunday school, mentioned in much of the religious literature of the day, and preached in most of the so-called Bible conferences, is a figment of human imagination, an invention of maudlin sentimentality. The heathen outside the pale of Christendom form gods of wood and stone, while millions of heathen inside Christendom manufacture a god out of their carnal minds.” We need the vision of Isaiah to see the glory and holiness of the God who is there, and to see the grace that is displayed in his bringing down the train of His glory to a stable in Bethlehem, to a cross on Calvary, and a tomb. We see His glory in His exaltation and in His humiliation and then we can know and worship. But as we have considered the train that filled the temple, let us remember above all, that unless that unending robe of holiness becomes our own, we have no hope. Jesus told a parable in Matthew 22: 1-14 that sums it up. Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying: The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come.“Then he sent some more servants and said, ‘Tell those who have been invited that I have prepared my dinner: My oxen and fattened cattle have been butchered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.’ “But they paid no attention and went off—one to his field, another to his business. The rest seized his servants, mistreated them and killed them. The king was enraged. He sent his army and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. “Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. Go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.’  So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, both good and bad, and the wedding hall was filled with guests. “But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. ‘Friend,’ he asked, ‘how did you get in here without wedding clothes?’ The man was speechless. “Then the king told the attendants, ‘Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ “For many are invited, but few are chosen.