Responsive Reading: Isaiah 47:1-11
Key Verse(s): Isaiah 47:10
Background Scripture: Isaiah 45:1-13; Habakkuk 1
Stop playing the fool – Self-righteousness, the thoughts of and the actions of, have been at the forefront of my sermons the past couple of weeks. Job, in his self-righteousness, accused God of not caring about him because bad things had happened to him, a righteous man. Sarah and Abraham believed they were owed their blessing from God because of their righteousness and when the Lord did not move fast enough for them, they acted hastily and irrationally to force their blessing.
So, I have asked the past couple of weeks, do we believe we are the bosses of God? Do we believe we can dictate to Him what to do and when to do it? We, the genuine believers, can be very foolish in those moments of times where we question the Lord and then move ahead of Him believing that we know what is best.
We, the true believer, should know better than believing our wisdom is more than God’s wisdom and that we know more than Him. You see, we are playing the fool when we begin to believe it in our hearts that we know more than God. We also know the end results of one that plays the fool and then, in playing the fool for so long, eventually becomes a fool.
The Fool Deceives Himself
Now, let me make it clear that when I speak of the fool, I am speaking from a spiritual view. I often reference the book of Proverbs when I speak of the foolish and the wise because Solomon, from a spiritual viewpoint, did an excellent job of defining what makes one wise and the other a fool.
The wise and the fool defined
We will see Solomon state in scripture, “A wise man will hear and increase learning, and a man of understanding will attain wise counsel (Prov. 1:5).” So, the wise, Solomon defined, was one that was able to perceive words of understanding and receive instruction of wisdom (Prov. 1:2). The instruction of wisdom, we should understand, comes from the Lord, as Solomon said, “fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge (Prov. 1:7).”
Now, pay very close attention to the fact that Solomon was defining wisdom not by the knowledge that one has procured of worldly doctrine but by the instructions of God. So, the fool, spiritually speaking, is one that does not fear the Lord and does not seek to hear or adhere to His instruction. As Solomon said, they despise God’s wisdom and instruction; they much rather adhere to the instructions of others or to their own instruction.
So, let’s consider what I have said of the self-righteous over the past couple of weeks: they do not adhere to the instructions of God as they much rather follow their own instructions. They do this believing that their wisdom is wiser than God’s wisdom and they have no need for it. By doing this, the self-righteous are fully convicted in turning away from the instructions of God.
So, the one that is fully convicted in their self-righteousness is one that is truly a fool and in doing this they deceive themselves. This is just as Paul said in his letter to the Galatians when he wrote, “If anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself (Gal. 6:3).”
We often speak of the devil being our great adversary, which is certainly very true, but at the same time we miss the fact that we can be our own worst enemy because of our self-righteousness. Our self-righteousness can blind us and it can deceive us into believing our own deception. I tell you today that self-deception can be very grave, just as scripture shows us it can be.
There Is None Like Me
In the book of Isaiah, we find that self-righteousness and the consequences of it come into focus. Both Israel and Judah were consumed by wickedness and self-righteousness which deceived them and led to them turning from the Lord. In turning from God, we know that eventually the northern kingdom was conquered by the Assyrians and the southern kingdom was conquered and destroyed by the Babylonians.
Now, the Babylonians will be our focus today as they were also victims of their own self-righteous deception. The Babylonians are considered by many to be the world’s first “superpower”. In this passage of scripture from Isaiah 47, we will see that they certainly believed they were all powerful, had no equals, and could not be touched. This is the kind of mindset that certainly sounds very familiar to me.
Like we see in our society today, the Babylonians lived with a very self-righteous mindset. In our key verse for this week’s message, God pointed out about their mindset that the Babylonians thought so highly of themselves that their “wisdom” and “knowledge” had warped them. Warp: to turn or to twist out of or as if out of shape; to choose to act wrongly or abnormally; pervert; distort.
So, what I want you to understand is that the self-righteousness of the Babylonians had deceived (warped) them. They were so consumed with their own self-righteous deception that they would boast, “I am, and there is no one else besides me.” Do you see the graveness of this warped mindset? If you do not see it, let me explain the graveness of this self-deception to you.
Self-deception causes one to hide the truth from themselves – even when they may recognize the truth. For example, one can be told that the sky is blue but, if they are deceived by their own self-righteousness, they will find a means to argue that the color of the sky is otherwise. What’s frightening about self-deception is that some can deceive themselves so well that they even begin to believe their own lie.
Living in such ignorance is what is leading many people away from the Lord. So, self-deception, we should understand, has the power to lead to a very great sin. This great sin is to ignore the truth of God to believe in one’s own so-called might, wisdom, and power.
Many, sadly, have deceived themselves into believing in their own self-righteousness. As shown a couple of times in this passage of scripture, there are many people who will boast of themselves, ‘I am, and there is no one else besides me.’ We should pay a great deal of attention to this kind of self-righteous deception developing within our hearts. Again, this kind of self-righteous deception is what ends moving people away from God because they are raising their righteousness above God’s righteousness..
Beliefs of the self-righteous heart
Now, let us note why the Babylonians thought so highly of themselves and so that we can be on the lookout for this mindset developing within us.
In Isaiah 47:8, we will see that what led them to think so highly of themselves was their power and might; they did not fear anyone or see anyone being on their level. This is the kind of mindset we are actually taught to have when we are children; this way of thinking was to push us to be the best and to give us confidence. The danger of this mindset is when confidence grows into a superiority complex.
The Babylonians looked down on others as they believed all people were beneath them. In fact, they thought nothing of the Lord as we saw kings like Nebuchadnezzar build images of himself to be worshiped by others (Dan. 3:1-7). There is a history in our society of people looking down on others they believe are beneath them all because their self-righteousness has deceived them.
No person should ever think in such a manner! Fact: we are all human at the end of the day with nobody being perfect! To think so little of others while believing you are high and mighty is, again, a very grave self-righteous deception. I want you to understand that this is a mindset that is frowned upon by the Lord as shown when the Pharisee, in his self-righteousness, prayed himself up believing he was better than the tax-collector (Luke 18:9-14).
So, we will see that the Babylonians lived according to that mindset and in that mindset that were given to pleasures (Is. 47:8). In their believed power and might, the Babylonians believed that nobody could kill them and their loved ones. Absent from their mindset was any humility; they truly believed they were gods! This, again, I tell you is the greatest deception of self-righteousness – believing you are a god.
Personally, I live in a manner of truth and humility where I value my life because I realize that I can be here one day and gone the next day. You see, I am not immortal as this physical body of mine can be destroyed. Now, according to scripture, one day I will be like Him when I put on my immortality but that day has not come just yet (1 Cor. 15:50-58). We should not fool ourselves into believing ourselves to be something that we are not; we should especially not believe ourselves to be gods.
The truth at hand
The truth of the matter is that none of us are perfect. Anything that you and I gain is because of the Lord and not because of our own power and might. What the Babylonians had gained did come because of the power and might of their own hands but because of the hands of God. In the book of Habakkuk, the Lord clearly tells the prophet that He raised up the Chaldeans (the Babylonians) for the punishment of Judah’s wickedness.
As we see in our scripture today, God gave His people over to the Babylonians because He was angry and frustrated with them (Is. 47:6). Why was the Lord angry and frustrated with His people? Because they had strove against Him in their self-righteousness. As we know, they lived in wickedness by worshiping idols, offering up vain offerings, and brought great harm to each other while ignoring God’s instructions.
So, because they strove with the Lord, He raised up the Babylonians and profaned (gave up) His inheritance for the children of Israel. Judah, in their self-righteousness, was punished as they lost their land, their temple, and even the treasures that were stored in the temple. In other words, everything the Jews believed gave them power, they ended up losing as the Lord gave it away.
The Lord, in doing this to His own people, should have actually served as a warning to the Babylonians who were even more self-righteous than the Jews. I would suggest to you today that the Lord doing this to His own people should also serve as a warning to all people, especially those out there playing the fool and deceiving themselves by their own self-righteousness.
God, we must remember, is in charge of all things at all times. Through the prophet Jeremiah, the Lord said, “I have made the earth, the man and the beast that are on the ground, by My great power and by My outstretched arm, and have given it to whom it seemed proper to Me (Jer. 27:5).” Daniel, spoke of this same thing when he spoke about how the Lord even removes kings and raises them up (Dan. 2:21). We should never deceive ourselves into believing all we accomplish we do so by our own might – this is a very foolish thought to have!
The Self-Righteous Humbled
Who are we to believe that we can raise ourselves above others, and then turn around and also raise ourselves above the Lord? When you begin to fool and deceive yourself into believing that there is no one besides you, alarms should be ringing in your heart. When you notice that others are thinking and behaving in such a way, the alarm should be ringing in your heart. This is the path that leads to destruction and you should, yourself, be turning back and also encouraging others to turn back from the path of self-righteous deception!
Fall of the prideful
The Babylonians paid little attention to the price the Jews paid because of their self-righteousness, as they lived in a manner where they trusted in their wickedness. Because of this, the Lord said to the Babylonians, “Come down and sit in the dust .. Sit on the ground without a throne (Is. 47:1).”
In a couple chapters prior, you will see how the Lord spoke of Cyrus the Great who would come to destroy the Babylonians and free the Jews from their exile (Is. 45:1-13). The Lord warned the Babylonians by saying, “Woe to him who strives with his Maker!” Yes, the Lord was their Maker just as He is all of our Maker.
God then asked, “Shall the clay say to him who forms it, ‘What are you making?’ Or shall your handiwork say, ‘He (the Maker) has no hands’ (Is. 45:9)?” Again, who are we to ever question the Lord, our Maker, and believe that we are the boss of Him? No power or might that you believe you have in your self-righteousness, can ever make you the dictator of the Lord.
As the Lord took away what made the Jews feel powerful and mighty, God set out to do to the Babylonians (Is. 47:1-3, 5, 9, 11) – it was time for the self-righteous to be humbled and awaken from their own deception. The Babylonians went the same way as many other empires and kingdoms that were so deceived by their self-righteousness, they fell.
History shows us that the prideful only sits high for a short period of time as they eventually fall in a very mighty way. Again, we should take this notion as a warning sign if we are living our lives playing the fool, believing in our own might and power. Let us remember that it was his pride and self-righteousness that led to the fall of the devil. As Jesus said, whoever exalts himself will be humbled (Matt. 23:12).
Stop playing the fool
We cannot and should not deceive ourselves so much that we begin to believe a lie of our own making and miss the warning signs of a coming fall. I encourage you today to do this: stop playing the fool before you become that fool. I would also encourage you to stop following after a fool before you become that fool as well.
In order for us to stop playing the fool, Paul encouraged us to always self-examine ourselves – test whether we are in the faith (2 Cor. 13:5). Personally, I believe that this is a self-examination that we should do often so that we can ensure ourselves that we are: remaining humble, not being self-righteous, and not deceiving ourselves.
You see, if you can never stop to take a look at yourself, then that already speaks to the idea that you believe you are too righteous to even look within your own heart. To the Romans, Paul encouraged them, and therefore all of us, not to think of ourselves more highly than we ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith (Rom. 12:3). Sadly, many of us have already become too righteous to look within ourselves – to examine our own thoughts and actions.
If you desire to no longer be deceived by your own self-righteousness, the very first step you should take, which is often the case, is to humble yourself. If we can humble ourselves, examine our own blemishes and flaws, that would be a huge first step into not deceiving ourselves and letting go of our pride and self-righteousness.
Secondly, we must remain humble and think soberly (subdued) of ourselves as well as others. You see, we are no higher than each other as all of us are flawed and imperfect. That said, every single one of us has the Lord who is more than able to lift all of us up from our blemishes and flaws – we cannot do this ourselves. I tell you again, the fact of the matter is that none of us can do anything by ourselves and we should give credit to where it is due – to God.
Let us stop playing the fool by thinking of ourselves more highly than we ought to. All of us, as you have heard me say quite a bit over the years, are in need of the Lord. It is when we truly give ourselves to Him that the veil of deception is lifted from our eyes. You see, it is certainly better to move about with a heart (soul) that is not obscured by self-righteousness than a heart that is blinded by it. The heart that is not obscured by self-righteousness is a heart that is fit for all of those around it and a heart that is fit for the kingdom of heaven.