Thursday, December 18, 2008

Isaiah 1

I began reading Isaiah today and I thought I'd write about a few things I've noticed. First, the tone of Isaiah is a bit difficult to stomach, at least, at first glance. What I mean by that is, the voice of God is, at first, presented in a harsh, almost ascetic tone. He labels the people of Israel: a "sinful nation"; a "brood of evildoers"; "children given to corruption," etc. Sounds pretty harsh, does it not? He goes on further to say that they have no "soundness" in their flesh, that their country is desolate, and then He presses the matter even further with more unflattering descriptors. Why does God begin in this manner? Perhaps, He is a merciless God of judgment after all? Not in the least.

I believe the primary motivation behind this rather abrupt style of dealing with the children of Israel is God's love of Truth (by "Truth," I mean the sum of all truths). Remember, when Jesus made the "good confession" to Pontius Pilate, He said that the reason He came into the world was to "testify to the Truth." That is how important God deems Truth.

What is Truth? Well, Jesus said in the gospel of John that He is "the Truth"; however, I'm afraid that by using this definition alone, we actually do more harm than good, especially considering the post-modern culture we live in. You see, by referring to Christ as "the Truth" in this abstract manner, we unwittingly allow ourselves to prevaricate about the necessity of obedience. We say that Christ is "The Truth," but we also say, in the same breath, that our disobedient behavior is somehow justified by Christ Himself. In most cases, this is done by saying that since God is a holistic God, He cares equally as much for poor people as He does for upholding right theology, living holy lives, etc. However, in this slide of hand, we reduce the Christian life to ideals (i.e., being nice to people, helping the poor/oppressed, etc.) that can never fully be attained. Therefore, we are free to live our lives free of worry, for God's "grace" is sufficient (i.e., using Christian jargon to say, as it were, "no one's perfect"). As long as we strive toward perfection, we have met God's expectations. Never mind the fact that the Bible says that "without holiness, no one will see God." We claim to be concerned with the whole of God, yet we focus only on the aspects of His nature that allow us to live freely -- at least, "free" by our definition of freedom. And this "freedom" is a freedom from responsiblity, a freedom to do as we like and whenever we want, yes, even a freedom from the command of God. My friends, this is not freedom. "The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul..." (Ps 19).

So, back to original question regarding Truth. I believe that the Truth that Jesus came to testify to is nothing more than reality -- the reality that He created. That is why He says of Himself, "I am...the Truth" (Jn. 14:6). Because Jesus is God, He defines what is true. Said more concretely: God defines reality. So, in Isaiah 1, God is showing the children of Israel that they aren't living in reality. They are battered, bruised, and bloody -- all because they refuse to obey Him (i.e., live by the Truth). That is why He says, "'Come now, let us reason together,' says the Lord. 'Though your sins are like scarlet,they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool'" (Isa. 1:18). Reality is important to God, and He wants them to acknowledge their sin and their incredible need for Him. But God, being rich in mercy, offers the balm of hope to their weary souls. It's as if God were saying, "If you would but trust Me and turn from your wickedness, I would heal you." The condition of their receipt of this consolation is nothing but obedience to His word: "If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the best from the land; but if you resist and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword" (Isa. 1:19-20).

Let us not reject this important truth. Let us humbly accept that God has purposed us to live for Him, and Him alone. Let us not deceive ourselves with clever speech into believing that there is a middle ground aside from the simplicity of obedience to God's Truth and the wholesale rejection of that Truth. Let us embrace our calling, the calling that was made possible only by the shedding of the precious blood of Christ. Let us live for Him!

"And this we will do, if God permits" (Heb. 6:3).


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