Sunday service 10 January 2021 – Awake, arise. Touch no unclean thing.

We greet you, brethren, in the wonderful name of our Lord Jesus Christ. We thank God for the technology with which we can communicate. We thank the Lord so much for His word because it is His word that brings us together.

In these days it is a privilege to be alive and healthy. The world should recognise the need for God and that our only hope is in the Almighty God. When we wake up in the morning, we can only thank God because it is not our own doing. There is nobody who is unaffected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Some have family members who are unwell or seriously ill. Some family members have passed away. If it has not directly affected your family, it has affected your congregation. We desperately need God. Without Him we can do nothing.

I have a burden on my heart that we should intercede and ask God to intervene because it is only God who can help us in this situation. I will ask Baba Dube to come forward and intercede for us so that God will intervene and this scourge will be eradicated.

Jabulani Dube
Oh God, we ask for Your help from the four corners of the earth. Lord, you see how much suffering there is. Lord, we have experienced how You have taken some of our loved ones. Right now there are some who are sick and some who have been admitted to hospital. Oh God, You who sit on Your thrown, please have mercy on us? Lord, when your people pleaded, You got rid of that plague of locusts, and Lord, as You are in heaven with Your holy angels, we know that You can intervene. Lord, officials, loved ones and Your servants have been removed from our midst because of this disease. You have taken members from different congregations and denominations, Your church. Please take this service into Your hands, Lord. Anoint Your servant who will speak. May he express what is on Your heart. Lord, we hunger and thirst after Your word and we wait expectantly for what You have in store for us today.

Michael Ngubane

We are so thankful that we pray to a God who hears our prayers. We are not praying to a dead idol like Baal but a living God who hears and answers, a God who has mercy and indescribable love for us. When one observes God’s love for us, one wonders why God loves us? One cannot understand that God would love us. We trouble Him so often. We go astray. We are unfaithful. Why does God love man above all His other creatures and creation? The answer is obvious – there is something of God that He has implanted in man, and that is why man is so precious and why God follows man.

Some arrogantly beat their chests and say, “Look at me, I don’t need God as a crutch in my life, I am unbeliever and don’t need Him!” Despite such words, God will still follow you. Even though you might run and hide, God will pursue you, like a hound until your grave. Right now, you may not be spiritually where you should be which is why God pursues you.

God followed the nation of Israel. They would go astray and He would punish them to get them to return and shortly thereafter they would be off on another trail again.

Awake, awake, put on your strength, O Zion; put on your beautiful garments, O Jerusalem, the holy city; for there shall no more come into you the uncircumcised and the unclean. Shake yourself from the dust and arise; be seated, O Jerusalem; loose the bonds from your neck, O captive daughter of Zion. For thus says the Lord: “You were sold for nothing, and you shall be redeemed without money.”  For thus says the Lord God: “My people went down at the first into Egypt to sojourn there, and the Assyrian oppressed them for nothing. Now therefore what have I here,” declares the Lord, “seeing that my people are taken away for nothing? Their rulers wail,” declares the Lord, “and continually all the day my name is despised. Therefore my people shall know my name. Therefore in that day they shall know that it is I who speak; here I am.” How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.” The voice of your watchmen—they lift up their voice; together they sing for joy; for eye to eye they see the return of the Lord to Zion. Break forth together into singing, you waste places of Jerusalem, for the Lord has comforted his people; he has redeemed Jerusalem. 11 Depart, depart, go out from there; touch no unclean thing; go out from the midst of her; purify yourselves, you who bear the vessels of the Lord. Isaiah 52:1-9, 11

This text stirred my heart deeply. Isaiah was sent to declare the word of God and he explained what God’s heart is like towards His people. Chapter 51 speaks of God’s desire for Zion. God reminds His people of the time He worked together with them; He remembers the good times; He remembers when they were oppressed in Egypt and had gone astray; when they were in their own land and the Assyrians oppressed them. Every time when God saw their misery, He did not keep quiet. He brought about a way of escape because their wailing reached His ears.

Remember how Moses was sent by God to free the people although he had many reasons why he could not do what God expected him to do. Just like many people today who duck and dive when God has called them. Some have separated from God because they do not want to obey Him. Who has sent you? Moses was to say, “I AM who I AM has sent me.” I AM. The I AM is speaking, do you obey? Some are not willing to obey when God speaks. They want Him to speak repeatedly but they remain stiff necked and stubborn. God said, “You will tell them that the I AM has sent you to deliver them. Their cry has reached My ears and I want you to lead them out.”

In Ezra and Nehemiah, God wanted His people to be released from Babylon and return to their country. God revealed Himself. Awake, awake, put on your strength, O Zion; put on your beautiful garments, O Jerusalem, the holy city; for there shall no more come into you the uncircumcised and the unclean. Isaiah 52:1 Arise and clothe yourself with strength. It is time for you to get out of the hole you are in. Wake up! Get out of that place of bondage! There is a better place for you. You cannot remain and die there. There is the city of Zion. Clothe yourself with royal garments of splendour because there is a much better place that God has for you.

Because we cannot meet as a church, some members are cold, and some have left the church. This is not the place God has for you. He has a better place for you. God says, “You were not sold for money, you will not be redeemed by money.” Some are not spiritually healthy, and they are not where they should be. You have been sold for nothing. You have been pulled down into criticism, you have been bought into lie. You have heard lies about God’s children and God’s work and you did not discern whether what you heard was true. Awake, arise! You have no strength. You have become weak through criticism and sin. You are a famous city, Jerusalem. God has called you to rise and put on beautiful garments, not just any kind of clothing, but royal garments of splendour that are fitting for the saints of God. God calls the people who have been called by His name and have been bought with his blood to be clothed with strength. Shake off the dust of the things that have defiled you! Get rid of it so that you may be what you should be. Some doubt the confession of sin but look at how clear the Bible is on this subject. Rid yourself of those things so that you can be the Jerusalem you should be.

You need to realise who you are. You belong to Jerusalem. You have given your life to God, and therefore you are a citizen of heaven. You need the recognise that you have been bought. You cannot live in any manner. Remove the bonds and fetters of Babylon. Leave those things that have bound you from those foreign lands where you have been dictated to and return to what you were meant to be – a liberated child of God. Those who were taken captive lived according to the customs of the lands. God forbade them to marry foreigners but when they did, the foreigners taught them to serve their gods. They learned to serve and pray to idols whereas they knew they were serving the living God who hears and answers prayer. They were disobedient to God’s command and because of this sin entered their lives and they left God. God words says that you cannot serve two masters - you will love the one and hate the other. Do you wonder why your life is like it is? You are serving two masters. You are serving God and mammon. God and a dead god. If you serve one of them, the other will suffer. God knew that if they married foreigners, they would forget God, which is what happened.

Are you surprised at why you are getting involved in things the world does? You may have become involved in ancestral worship. You are compromising and doing the things that the rest of the family does to not offend them. Some family members are surprised at what you are getting involved in things because they knew that you had given yourself to God. They recognise that there is something wrong in your life. Let us examine our lives? Have we not been taken captive? What is your life like now? Are you among the conquerors? Do you still obey God? Do you abide in the word of God? Do you still rejoice in His commands or have you been abducted by the enemy? Do you do the things of the enemy? Do you still serve the living God who created you or are you serving the creation?

The nation of Israel was in turmoil. Those who were close to them tempted them to forsake God, indulge in idol worship and do evil practices because they disobeyed God’s command to refrain from marrying foreigners. Today, you eat anything whether it has been dedicated to idols or not. You accept anything that comes your way which is why you go to bed without praying and you no longer pray before you eat. You become angry and irritated and you cannot control yourself. Is there not something close to you that is leading you into temptation and drawing your heart away from God? You cannot overcome. You indulge in things that are unclean – pictures and videos - but God has not called you for this. He says, “Get out of those things.”

God remembers the days when you wholeheartedly served Him but you have drifted away from that. When are you going to return? You loved the Lord with all your heart, is it still like that? You have sold yourself to Satan for nothing and now you are in a trap and you do not know how to get free. You are called today to get up, get out, arise, shake off that dust and return to that place where God has called you! We are called to salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. It is through Him. He has redeemed us, and we have been bought with the price of His blood.

We have been given a solution. In the wilderness when the people had been bitten by fiery serpents and were dying, God said, “Erect a bronze serpent and everyone who looks at the serpent will be healed.” COVID-19 is a terrible pandemic but there is no pain worse than the pain of a person falling from the faith. How long will you remain in this terrible state? How long will you continue with that poison in your veins? How can you continue living among God’s people with the spirit of criticism which makes you like poison in their midst? How long can you continue living with that poison in your life which poisons you. That is why you feel like a prisoner among them.

In His love and mercy, God provides a way of escape. Although you have been bitten by those serpents, if you would look at that bronze serpent, you would be cured. This requires humility. You need to submit to God and admit, “Lord, I am lost. I have sinned against you. I have gone astray.” What is the use of hiding and denying the fact that you have been bitten? Everyone can see it. God has made a way through our Saviour. If you hold onto him, He will save you. It requires humility and repentance. You need to have remorse over your sin and then the Lord will save you from it. You need to say, “Lord, I have sinned. This kind of poison has entered my life. This is my problem.” You may be astonished at your ability to gossip – how can I gossip so much? Why do you now do things you never used to? Do you realise how you have drifted from those who used to help you and become closer to those who are no help to you?

God says, “Awake, awake. Put on your strength, O Zion, put on the beautiful garments of splendour, Jerusalem.” It is clear through the way a person dresses that there is no spiritual life in that person. Some clothes are only clothes in name, they expose the body and show the state of the heart. People say that God is unconcerned about the outward appearance, He is only concerned about the heart. God says, “Get rid of those shameful rags that you are wearing and put on royal garments befitting a child of God.” You cannot enter the new Jerusalem in any old fashion, you must get rid of the rags and put on holy garments.

God has prepared our salvation for us. We can rejoice and sing and live that overcoming life now. How can we sing and praise God dressed in rags and in any kind of garment that is not befitting the city of God? There should be a clear distinction between the one from Babylon and from Zion. If we want to enter the holy city of God, we need to shake ourselves from the chains that bind us. Let us throw them off and let it be seen that we are liberated and redeemed by the blood of Jesus.

God tells us how we who bear the vessels of God ought to prepare ourselves. We must purify ourselves. There should be nothing in our lives that is not holy. We need to be clothed in a way that brings glory to God. We need to burst out in song and be united. The waste places of Jerusalem need to break forth in singing and praise to God for His mercy and grace. Those who are walking in the victory of God are those who can sing and praise God, who are one in heart and spirit. Those who preach the gospel should be united. They should sing in harmony. They should sing the same song so that people are attracted to the song and when they hear the word of God, it will touch their lives. When people hear what we preach or sing, what do they experience? Even though we have not sung together for a long time but when I meet with a brother or sister, there should be an immediate sense of unity – we live, we sing, we die together. We are one. If something separates us and we are not united, what kind of song will people hear? It will repel them and not draw them. We should be so united that it will be seen that God is in our midst.

11 Depart, depart, go out from there; touch no unclean thing; go out from the midst of her; purify yourselves, you who bear the vessels of the Lord. Isaiah 52:11

Here is the secret to obtaining this unity: depart from the evil, depart from that evil place where people draw our hearts away from God. God says that the uncircumcised and unclean shall not enter. Any defilement must be got rid of. Gossip should be far from us. Why are you so busy with other people? Why don’t you find fault with yourself and not others? There shall no longer be found that which is unclean in your midst. It should be clear from your tongue and speech that you have been cleansed. Your eyes should be pure. They should not look at that which is defiled. God remembers how things used to be. He remembers what fellowship there used to be. Is it still like that?

16 What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 17 Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, 18 and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.” 2 Corinthians 6:16-18

What fellowship is there between the temple and idols, light, and darkness? God cannot have fellowship with us if there is an agreement between us and idols. If we walk on God’s way, it must be obvious that we have renounced sinful ways. That which belongs to God and that which is outside, have no fellowship. The temple of God and the temple of idols has no agreement. We are the temple of God. God should be proud of us. Things of the world should not be found in us: the worldly way of speaking and doing things. What fellowship is there between Satan and the things of God? We belong to God not Satan. God says, “Go out from their midst and be separate from them.”

We are the children of God. Let it be clear. We walk in the light and not darkness. We are no longer a people separated from God, we belong to Him. We do not take after the world because we belong to God. What fellowship is there between God the world, between light and darkness? Depart from there. Be separate. It must be clear that we have been separated from evil. It should be clear that we belong to God. People should not doubt whether we are believers or not. It must be crystal clear.

This is what harms the gospel. We sit on the fence. Unless we are seen to be coming from church, it would not be clear that we are Christians at all. People want to do what the world does. They want to please others. They are afraid to offend people. Yes, we do try to win the world and others to the faith but there is a time when we must stand firm and refuse to move from what we believe. God’s people ought to have backbone and stand firm. As a young man, you can speak about girls or as a young lady you can speak about boys, but you call yourself a Christian? What agreement is there between the temple of idols and God?

Confess your sins, remove those garments so that it will be obvious that you are a soldier of Christ. God has taught us so much through the message of revival. He has taught us what His standards are. Do you want to leave this? If so, leave then but allow us to serve God. You who carry the vessels of God and the temple, depart from there and touch no unclean thing. You should not get involved yes, but you should not even touch those things. You cannot glorify God with the world next to you. It must be clear where you stand.

Child of God, where do you stand? Will you continue sitting on the fence, be amongst the crowd and this mixture of things? Come out of it, depart! Let it be clear where you stand. Do not keep it a secret and say that it is my private matter, I do not want others to know about it. Come out into the open so that it is clear where you stand. What agreement is there between the temple of God and Satan? Do not touch anything unclean.

Jabulani Dube
The text says, “Awake, dust yourself off!” This means that there is still the opportunity for you to repent and be cleansed from the things that defile you. If you can awake, arise and shake yourself off – what does that mean? Shake off that which has defiled you which is your sin. If we have fallen, let us awake, shake off the dust. You know whether you have fallen.

Go and think about the ways you have walked, the places you have visited and what you have done. Have you not left God behind somewhere and separated yourself from God? Does your behaviour and speech still show that you are a child of God? People possibly marvel at what you get up to now. Go and examine where have you lost the Lord Jesus, then wake up there where you have fallen. You might remember when you went to that town, that city, that university, what you got involved with there. It was there where you lost the Lord and have become what you are today. You still can get rid of those garments and put on the garments of Zion.

Regarding this disease – if as a nation we would wake up and admit to God that we have sinned, even as a nation – (Daniel and Nehemiah confessed the sins of their fathers saying we have sinned and our fathers have sinned in this way before You. They cried to God and He heard their prayers) – and if we would do the same, God will hear us.

If God’s servants, the preachers of the word, would call out to God, God will hear and heal our land. It is obvious that we have lost God and His way somewhere which is why things are as they are.

If you have fallen into mud, the dust or the dung – whether animal or human dung –you must go and cleanse yourself and your clothing must be washed.