Sunday, August 4, 2013

Isaiah 10-14: God is love or God is wrath? Yes.

We hear a lot about how God is a God of love and that is the truth, but this kind of love extends far beyond just a feeling.  This is the kind of love that wants the best for the object of its affection.  It is a protective, compassionate, love that is driven for the growth and well-being of the ones that are loved.  This love will be as tough as it needs to be to get to what it must have, by its very nature.  This is a love of justice first and foremost, and a desire for those God created to become like Himself. 

That type of love will express itself in wrath.  It cannot be any other way.  That passion includes protection for the beloved and a demand for the right, even from His beloved.  We see it reflected in the passion of a momma bear--protective and unyielding, first to any attacker, but also in correcting her own.  In Isaiah 10, God shows his wrath against unfair judges and their treatment of the poor and oppressed.  In response, He sends Assyria as a tool to correct those judges, but their love of violence makes them the next target for His wrath.  Similarly, God chooses to use the Babylonians as a tool of correction for Israel's idolatry and injustice, but their cruelty does not go unpunished either. 

That's one of the reasons so many of these passages ultimately include promises of a Messiah that will execute God's justice rightly.  His wrath will be sure and final, but only toward those who abuse others and reject His leadership.  Peace cannot be had when men oppose an omnipotent God. 

If we measure our offenses by the scales that compare our sins to others, we might be able to get the scales to balance or come close but that's not the scales that will be used.  The wages (balancing punishment) for sin--any sin--is death.  His justice cannot abide the affront to His righteousness or the offense to His other children.  It is amazing that there is any rescue afforded at all. 

That's why chapter 12 is so profound.  He provides our salvation so that His anger can be satisfied, therefore:

    “I will praise you, O Lord!
You were angry with me, but not any more.
    Now you comfort me.
See, God has come to save me.
    I will trust in him and not be afraid."

Friday, August 2, 2013

Isaiah 5-9: God's expectations and the coming storm

These chapters look remarkably familiar.  Can you see our own headlines in these chapters?

A well tended vineyard that produces sour grapes...

Real estate investing and hoarding along with evictions of the poor resulting in mass vacancy...

Addictive drunkenness and partying...

The wise in their own eyes, declaring evil good and good evil...

The Lord, high and lifted up in His Glory and righteousness, showing us our corporate wickedness...

A calling to speak out to a doomed people...

A promise of rescue but no faith to receive the promise...

The people to be rescued gloating over their enemies downfall...

A national disaster in return for their gloating...

Conspiracy theories distracting God's people from worship...

Spiritism, mysticism and mediums sought, though God's word is readily available...

People arrogantly declaring their rebuilding will be better than their past...

Just last week we saw Solomon telling us that nothing is new under the sun--ain't that the truth.  There is always a chance to repent, but without God calling the hearts of the people, we have about as much hope as Israel and Judah had.  It's a pattern that has happened over and over again.
Still, God promised that if His own people will seek His face and turn from our wicked ways, He will respond and heal all of us. 

Does He have your attention yet?

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Isaiah 1-4, Pride or Praise?

Isaiah kicks off the books of the prophets with a great overview.  God lays out his arguments against Israel (and against us) in stark detail (vs 11 and 17--He even says it twice). 

"Human pride will be humbled,
    and human arrogance will be brought down.
Only the Lord will be exalted
    on that day of judgment."

We have focused on our beauty, our festivals, our celebrations as a tool to glorify ourselves.  Our pride has led us to exalt flash and glitter, with only a side glance toward either God or justice for others.  Emotion and salesmanship lead the day.  We worship ourselves rather than Him and we hardly even realize we've done it.  God's reaction is absolute nausea.

The shift can be so subtle.  We believe he deserves our best so we pursue excellence in order to bring Him a gift that is suitable for His grandeur--rather than realizing that the best we can give on our own is no better than filth in His eyes.  Like a child bringing mud-pies to their parents, the gift may be acceptable in childhood, when offered in humility as the best we can offer.  When, as mature believers, we continue to hold up mud-pies and cow-patties made from our own resources as a meal fitting for a King, His disgust shouldn't come as a surprise. 

We have nothing of value of our own to give Him.  To hone our skills for our glory is the essence of pride.  That pride means that we seek for ourselves the praise and adoration of others that rightfully belongs to Him.  This withholds from Him the only thing of value we have to give--our own adoring hearts and the adoration of others.  Not only that, our self-focus robs us of the compassion needed to desire justice for others, multiplying our wrongs toward a God who expects us to be fighting with Him rather than against Him. 

Does that mean we offer Him sloppiness or lack of preparation?  Absolutely not.  However, in our pursuit of excellence, He is our leader, companion and guide, not merely the object of our gifts.  We cannot give anything to Him that He hasn't crafted within us.  We create at his side, using His tools and the gifts of the Spirit.  Far too often, I have used the tools of the enemy, like perfectionism and a critical, argumentative spirit, to try to fashion for God something that only exalts myself.  He is patient with my weakness, but there's still nothing good about anything that is created using those tools. 

Lord, I choose a spirit of Praise.  Thank You for exposing my pride.  Forgive me for the foolish and self-centered things I have tried to give you.  Bring me back to true worship of You only.