Archive for July, 2020
“Listen to Me, you stubborn-minded, who are far from righteousness. I bring near My righteousness, it is not far off; and My salvation will not delay. And I will grant salvation in Zion, and My glory for Israel” (Isaiah 46:12-13).
In matters of faith, stubborn-mindedness is most often associated with those whose arrogance leads them to believe they have no need of God’s deliverance. Here, however, the hard-headedness isn’t so much the absence of faith as it is a deliberate refusal to believe in the nearness of God’s salvation and his power to fulfill all promises. What may, from our perspective on time, look delayed is but an accomplished certainty from the perspective of the One having no sense of past or future, but who exists as I AM.
“To whom would you liken Me and make Me equal and compare Me, that we would be alike” (Isaiah 46:5)?
Speaking through his prophet, Isaiah, the point of God’s three question test is that the One called I Am transcends all standards of human measurement. The gods of Babylon you have found so attractive were fashioned in the likeness of men; a vast pantheon of choices to suit your desires. As Babylon falls, however, their impotence is now showcased. Putting I AM to such a test reveals the uniqueness of his being; he is beyond comparison, has no equal, and is like no other. The Living God cannot be tested; only the quality of our faith in him. That we have such angst and unrest in times of exile, or a pandemic, seasons that bring such disruption to our lives, reveals that we, perhaps, have been trusting to greater degree the gods of our culture than the Lord our God. Put it to the test and discover where your true confidence lies.
“Even to your old age I will be the same, and even to your graying years I will bear you! I have done it, and I will carry you; and I will bear you and I will deliver you” (Isaiah 46:4).
The narrative of scripture weaves an account of God’s faithfulness not only in days gone by but, also, the assurance of his provision for the future that is to come. The five verbal phrases found in this verse, in association with the personal pronoun “I,” offer a stark contrast to the impotence of the pagan Babylonian gods, Bel and Nebo, who, in the hour of national crisis, are dependent upon their human creators for sanctuary and protection (v.1-2). Ours is a God who carries us; we do not carry him.
“Listen to Me, O house of Jacob, and all the remnant of the house of Israel, you have been borne by Me from birth and have been carried from the womb” (Isaiah 46:3).
To be reminded from whence we came keeps before us the heritage of faith of which we are a part, and the responsibility of perpetuating it as sacred trust. In honest reflection we must ask, “Does my family, and do my friends, and acquaintances, see in me a steadfast, and unwavering commitment to Christ that guides, both, my life and how I lead my family in furthering the legacy of faith handed down from previous generations? Or, do they see in me an occasional religious expression, limited to holidays and a few Sunday’s through the year when no other activities are on the schedule?” Two passive participles, “borne” and “carried,” capture God’s faithfulness to us. I’m certain he would be pleased with some present active participles emerging from our devotion to him—the gathering saints; the worshipping followers; the serving saint; the discipling dad.
“Bel has bowed down, Nebo stoops over; their images are consigned to the beasts and the cattle. The things that you carry are burdensome, a load for the weary beast” (Isaiah 46:1).
With the invasion of Babylonia by Cyrus the Great in 539 B.C., and the accompanying end of Babylonian domination, there is a humorous irony in that the chief deities of this once mighty empire are now dependent upon their human creators; loading them upon carts, pulled by beasts of burden to places of safekeeping. As realized by all that give them a place in their lives, false gods are dead weight that eventually become a burden to all that carry them. Unlike religion, the life of faith is never a burden.
“Nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified” (Galatians 2:16).
With any word processing application the action of aligning the text with the right and left margin is known as justification. Theologically, justification is the action of God to bring our broken lives back into alignment with him. We are justified not by the works of the law, or any amount of religious performance, but through faith in Jesus Christ. He makes us a document worth saving.
“I do not receive glory from men. How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and you do not seek the glory that is from the one and only God?” (John 5:41,44)
Nothing more quickly closes the door to the offerings of Christ than posturing one’s life to receive glory from man. A significant part of the freedom afforded us in Christ is the deliverance from such selfish preoccupation and the desire to be esteemed by others. There is no greater sense of release to be realized than choosing to live one’s life for the final judgment of the One, rather than the favorable opinions of the fickle masses.
“The Lord appeared to him from afar, saying ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have drawn you with lovingkindness’” (Jeremiah 31:3).
Due primarily to the influence of pagan religion, the most prevalent image of God is one of a crotchety, petulant, foul-tempered old man that must be appeased. While divine wrath and anger is expressed throughout scripture, it does not represent the prevalent theme of God’s person and activity. In the entirety of scripture, the actions of God are driven and sustained by his persistent and unwavering love. Seeing him as he sees you makes for a far more rewarding relationship.
“And the wolf will dwell with the lamb, and the leopard will lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little boy will lead them. Also the cow and the bear will graze, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. The nursing child will play by the hole of the cobra, and the weaned child will put his hand on the viper’s den. They will not hurt or destroy in all My holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” (Isaiah 11:6-9).
When Christ returns, and the redemptive purposes of God fulfilled, a radical reversal and transformation of all creation will have been accomplished, resulting from the full knowledge of the Lord. Sound far-fetched? Is it any less far-fetched than the faith and convictions we hold regarding the messianic age ushered in by Christ Jesus? As strongly as I hold to this belief in Christ, his birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension, I am no less certain he will finish what he started.
“And He will delight in the fear of the Lord, and He will not judge by what His eyes see, nor make a decision by what His ears hear; but with righteousness He will judge the poor, and decide with fairness for the afflicted of the earth; and He will strike the earth with the rod of His mouth, and with the breath of His lips He will slay the wicked” (Isaiah 11:3-4).
In the Messiah, we observe the requisites necessary to rightly judge others. Since we are lacking in the full knowledge of God, and incapable of the resulting objectivity; offering only subjective speculations based upon what we hear and see, the judgment of others is a practice best avoided (Matthew 7:1-2); and all the more in our speculations regarding the plight of the poor, the helpless, and the outcast—those to whom God has accorded special protection. In the arrogance of our prosperity the lens of grace, through which we are called to view the world, is often clouded.