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Only One risen Saviuor

Only One risen Saviuor
There is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved - Jesus

Thursday, 10 August 2017

Isaiah Days 6 through 10




Isaiah Day 6 - The Truth Is Hard to Hear Sometimes



1:10 Hear the word of the Lord,

You rulers of Sodom;

Give ear to the law of our God,

You people of Gomorrah:

11 

“To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices to Me?”

Says the Lord.

“I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fed cattle.

I do not delight in the blood of bulls,

Or of lambs or goats.

12 

“When you come to appear before Me,

Who has required this from your hand,

To trample My courts?

13 

Bring no more futile sacrifices;

Incense is an abomination to Me.

The New Moons, the Sabbaths, and the calling of assemblies—I cannot endure iniquity and the sacred meeting.

14 

Your New Moons and your appointed feasts My soul hates;

They are a trouble to Me,

I am weary of bearing them.

15 

When you spread out your hands,

I will hide My eyes from you;

Even though you make many prayers,

I will not hear.

Your hands are full of blood.

16 

“Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; Put away the evil of your doings from before My eyes.

Cease to do evil,

17 

Learn to do good;

Seek justice, Rebuke the oppressor;

Defend the fatherless, plead for the widow.



If there is a more soul exposing rebuke in all of Scripture I haven't found it, although Matthew 23 might run a close second. Clearly religion is not what God is after. Some people get uncomfortable when I criticize religion but I am in good company. James wrote that religion pure and undefiled is to help orphans and widows in their troubles. He didn't make that up. The truth is that every time God gets upset with His "people" it is always based on how they mistreat the vulnerable among them. How we treat each other is the most important thing to Him. That's why He told His disciples "They will know you are My disciples if you love each other as I have loved you."

Religion in most cases is not about others. It is a selfish enterprise not unlike prostitution. Prostitution is self-gratification without relationship acquired by payment. Religion is reward acquirement by payment without relationship and the reward is always about self-gratification. Why do you think they were bringing so many sacrifices? Why were they so religious while being so evil? Because to them God was just a Being to be appeased/manipulated for their own selfish purposes. In other words they treated God like they treated each other and since there was nothing to be acquired from a widow or orphan they just ignored them. Justice was whatever was profitable, never what was right unless the two happened to be the same.

It is said that the true character of a society is seen in how they treat their elderly and children. Those among us who aren't "profitable". 

God doesn't want more money from us, more prayers, more church attendance, or more "good deeds". Multiplying our religious activity will never replace being His hands and feet to the less fortunate around us.

Do you know what one of the reasons is that I love God? He is honest, but never to hurt. He is straight up but always for our good. He doesn't sugar coat but is never cruel. We'll see how true that is tomorrow...



Isaiah Day 7 - It's Not Too Late



1:18 

“Come now, and let us reason together,”

Says the Lord,

“Though your sins are like scarlet,

They shall be as white as snow;

Though they are red like crimson,

They shall be as wool.

19 

If you are willing and obedient,

You shall eat the good of the land;

20 

But if you refuse and rebel,

You shall be devoured by the sword”;

For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.



At our pastor's meetings the week before camp meeting one of the pastor's preached to us from Isaiah 1:18. The message was simply called "Shall". I was intrigued by the title. The message was uplifting. He began in this verse and went through much of the Bible drawing on all the things God says shall be. Ezekiel says we shall receive a heart of flesh. Jesus said we shall become fishers of men. 

As good as the message was the verses were all plucked from their context and when we return to the garden from which the roses were picked we see that all these promises have conditions. "Come let us reason" together says the Lord. Jesus said "Follow Me and you shall become..." 

Here in Isaiah God is dealing with cause and effect. If you choose this path, the end result will be... If you choose this path there will be another result. The nation of Judah is not suffering because God is having a Divine temper tantrum. They are not suffering because God arbitrarily made some rules and is dealing our arbitrary consequences for them not towing the line. 

Recently someone shared a research article with me that was looking at the brains of CEOs and other powerful leaders. What they are finding is that leadership changes brain chemistry and even structure. The largest measurable change was a lack of empathy as I recall and the longer a leader was in power the more they changed. This is not to say it happens to all leaders or is inevitable but the phenomenon was widespread. People become cogs in a machine rather than human beings. Compassion gives way to control and structure. People are valued not for who they are but for what they produce. Like a chicken who doesn't lay eggs anymore or a computer that can't keep pace they are tossed aside for the next person in line who can produce.

So it was in Judah. Children, especially ones without parents were seen as unproductive burdens. Widows the same. The elderly as well. The more this mindset takes hold the more heartless a society becomes and the degree we love others becomes the degree to which we love ourselves. Hearts grow cold and turn to stone. That's why God told Ezekiel (a prophet who followed shortly after Isaiah) that He would remove their hearts of stone and give them hearts of flesh. It was a metaphor for renewing their capacity to love. 

A society that can't love is doomed to fail. They don't need an enemy to destroy them. They will destroy themselves. We will learn as we go that the later destruction of Judah by Babylon was an act of mercy designed to reboot the nation with the remnant (smaller group seeking God and restoration) who still were open to change. It was the flood on a much smaller scale. God never wants these things to happen but love is rooted in choice and freedom. He values our free choice over all else. He forces no one.

He does however plead. He longs to reason with us. He longs to have us choose life, happiness, love. Religion minus love is a curse that God literally hates. He said so Himself. He refused to hear religious prayers but is open to a real conversation. It's not too late. If we are living and breathing and any tiny part of us desires a better way there is hope. Reason with Him. There is no stain on your soul He can't remove.



Isaiah Day 8 - A Sad State



1:21 

How the faithful city has become a harlot!

It was full of justice;

Righteousness lodged in it,

But now murderers.

22 

Your silver has become dross,

Your wine mixed with water.

23 

Your princes are rebellious,

And companions of thieves;

Everyone loves bribes,

And follows after rewards.

They do not defend the fatherless,

Nor does the cause of the widow come before them.



When you haven't seen a child for a long time it's always shocking how much they have grown/changed. If you remember a car or truck a certain way it can be shocking to return years later and see how much time/weather/corrosion has turned it into a mere shadow of what it used to be. The buffer of time and space creates a contrast that makes the before/after condition stark. However if you saw the child or vehicle daily would you notice the changes?

So it is with the character of a Nation. It is an ever moving target. Sometimes the changes are good, sometimes they are bad, and often it's a mix. I can tell you my country is changing. Canada has been an international mixture of cultures ever since Europeans started coming over but it has accelerated and the variety of countries from which we come is expanding. The first waves of immigration were primarily Judeo/Christian but that isn't the case now. 

Another change for me has been learning how dark some of our history is, from the Japanese camps to the abysmal/shameful record of the residential schools for First Nations children. A record of shame that continued into the 1990's. Canada for me has lost some of her shine and much of her perceived innocence. 

All of this to illustrate that a nation is always changing and Judah was changing too but the changes were not positive. I'm not sure how much commentary is necessary because Isaiah lays it out pretty plainly. I do want to point out one thing though. Every society has problems and problem individuals. There is never a moment when every citizen can be held up as a shining example of what that society stands for. Crime is always present to some degree etc...

However that's not the issue in Judah. The problem isn't that some people are bad and the government is working on solving it. The problem was that Judah was rotten at the core. Those responsible for maintaining justice and defending the vulnerable were themselves the crooks. They used their position as law enforcement and judiciaries to line their pockets with bribe money so the evil could thrive at the expense of the poor and disenfranchised. When a society reaches the point that those who make and uphold the law are corrupt how can justice prevail?

Judah started out well but things changed slowly yet drastically. What has been will be again. There is nothing new under the sun. 

Let's defend truth, honour, and justice rather than flags and countries. 



Isaiah Day 9 - Love and Restoration



1:24 Therefore the Lord says,

The Lord of hosts, the Mighty One of Israel,

“Ah, I will rid Myself of My adversaries,

And take vengeance on My enemies.

25 

I will turn My hand against you, and thoroughly purge away your dross,

And take away all your alloy.

26 

I will restore your judges as at the first,

And your counselors as at the beginning.

Afterward you shall be called the city of righteousness, the faithful city.”

27 

Zion shall be redeemed with justice,

And her penitents with righteousness.

28 

The destruction of transgressors and of sinners shall be together, and those who forsake the Lord shall be consumed.

29 

For they shall be ashamed of the terebinth trees which you have desired;

And you shall be embarrassed because of the gardens which you have chosen.

30 

For you shall be as a terebinth whose leaf fades, and as a garden that has no water.

31 

The strong shall be as tinder,

And the work of it as a spark;

Both will burn together,

And no one shall quench them.



The Lord of hosts literally means the Lord of armies. God is about to go to war against His own children. It is important to note this and recognize it because some accuse God of genocide, of favouring some over others. Taken in isolation some accounts sound that way but it simply isn't true. If it were why would He ever allow the "bad guys" to win against "His own"? 



God is only at war against one thing and that is evil. He fights against wherever He finds it. However we must understand that despite the language He doesn't fight like we fight. We read it that way because we think that way. Look closer:



"I will... purge away your dross."

"I will take away all your alloy."

"I will restore... as at the beginning."

"Afterward you will be called the city of righteousness, the faithful city."



"Zion will be redeemed..."



God is at war against evil, not against people.



Look at what is happening. They have no time, resources, or love for the fatherless and widows but they have time, care, and attention for fancy gardens, and imported trees. They have the latest iPhones, new vehicles, beautiful homes, and take amazing vacations and... Wait, I got then and now all lumped together... My bad.



As the economics tighten today who suffers first? The vulnerable and marginalized. Education is being cut, they are just children after all. Funding for those with disabilities and for their caregivers is being cut. Nursing homes are being shut. I could go on but the point is clear. When push comes to shove we shove away those who have the greatest needs because they aren't "producers" and when God sees that among "His people" or "any people" He goes to war. The truth is we are all His people and He does everything He can to prevent us from self-destruction. Restoration is ever His goal. 



"Come let us reason together..." says the LORD. "I can fix anything and everything if you let Me."



Isaiah Day 10 - Desire



1:28 The destruction of transgressors and of sinners shall be together, and those who forsake the Lord shall be consumed.

29 

For they shall be ashamed of the terebinth trees which you have desired; and you shall be embarrassed because of the gardens which  you have chosen.

30 

For you shall be as a terebinth whose leaf fades, and as a garden that has no water.

31 

The strong shall be as tinder,

And the work of it as a spark;

Both will burn together,

And no one shall quench them.



None of this sounds good and it shouldn't. Why would it? Bad choices never produce good results and the most deceptive and dangerous kind of bad choice is the one that seems great at first only to crash and burn after.

Go back to the very beginning. Adam and Eve desired the fruit from the forbidden tree. They took it, thinking it would increase their satisfaction and abilities. The adventure was captivating, even intoxicating. Eve took some first and she immediately wanted Adam to join her. Then came the crash. We are given no timeline. Was it moments, hours, a day, several days? Regardless the crash came and they were suddenly scrambling to hide, to cover up, to escape the feelings of shame and embarrassment. 

Desire came first, then the choice to fulfill that desire, then euphoria followed by a crash into shame, fear, and embarrassment. 

Don't make the mistake of thinking desire is the evil culprit. There is nothing wrong with desire. However when desire is misplaced or aimed at the wrong place, trouble follows. It doesn't follow because God is mean. It follows because sin is it's own trouble maker.

I have said it before and I will say it again. Theft is still theft even if you are an atheist. Same with adultery etc... We never villainize the court system when they punish criminals so why do we villainize God when he deals with sin and sinners? The truth is we villainize Him when He doesn't intervene for being passive and weak and then call Him a tyrant when He does. All the while we are deflecting blame. We say if God is love and all powerful why do we have so many hungry/starving people in the world? The truth is God has provided a world with more than enough for everyone. It is the desires of some to have as much as they can get of wealth and resources that leads to the oppression and even starvation of others.

Some want the fancy gardens and imported "Terebinth" trees and they are determined to fulfill their desires at any cost. Sooner or later what goes around comes around and their greed turns to shame and embarrassment. How could they let other human beings suffer and die so they could have more stuff? 

Now I want you to especially notice verse 29 before we head into chapter 2 tomorrow:

"For they (the sinners) shall be ashamed of the terebinth trees which you have desired..."

Do you notice the inconsistent pronouns? They and you. Why? Because God is pointing at those who have already made their selfish desires king and using their choices as a warning to the rest of us who have the same desires but are still deciding.

The truth is we all desire things we don't need, things that will cost too much in time, in resources, and bring no meaning return. If you want to spend, spend on people, invest in others, brighten the life of someone else. Love given never returns shame or embarrassment. There is no morning after the night before regret when we pursue desires that are rooted in love.

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