Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising up every time we fail. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Will you be His Servant or left outside the gate?

I was reading Romans 10 this morning, and Paul was talking about some passages in Isaiah, namely Isaiah 65. I was interested in what all the text there said, as some of the phrases he quoted were very piercing. He was referring to Israel not coming to follow Jesus and continually leaving what is good in God's eyes, but reading those words I kept thinking about how God can be so upset with his "natural" children (Israel), how much more upset could he be with his adopted ones (Gentiles). He continually is trying to bless His family and they continually spit on what He does. It was a "wow" moment, and an eye opener, not that I wasn't already aware of that. I decided to flip back to Isaiah (I am going to be honest here: Paul, not my favorite guy in the Bible. I know, I know, he wrote a lot of the NT, or at least some scholars think he did, and being a Bible scholar myself, and having studied with someone who gave us various translations in Hebrew and Greek, it is believed some of those were probably not Paul, as the tone is terribly different. He was a serious trouble maker. I mean, Jesus stirred up some trouble, but Paul really likes to pick fights. Seriously. And he is rather redundant in his writing style. He says the same thing ten times in the same passage. Anyway, I appreciate his work; we need it, but I like the other NT guys a bit better. So, I can talk about that later) because I like to see what Paul is quoting and what was going on at the time. In this case, the Lord is talking about what He has done for His people, and what they have done in return, and it isn't pretty for quite some time:
I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me; I was found by those who did not seek me. To a nation that did not call on my name, I said, "Here am I, here am I." All day long I have held out my hands to an obstinate people, who walk in ways not good, pursuing their own imaginations-- a people who continually provoke me to my very face, offering sacrifices in gardens and burning incense on altars of brick; who sit among the graves and spend their nights keeping secret vigil; who eat the flesh of pigs, and whose pots hold broth of unclean meat; who say, "Keep away; don't come near me, for I am too sacred for you!" Such people are smoke in my nostrils, a fire that keeps burning all day. See, it stands written before me: I will not keep silent but will pay back in full; I will pay it back into their laps-- both your sins and the sins of your fathers, " says the Lord. "Because they burned sacrifices on the mountains and defied me on the hills, I will measure into their laps the full payment for their former deeds." Isaiah 65:1-7
Talk about heavy, right? God gave Himself to those who didn't ask, because He loved them enough to know they needed Him. He could leave us all floundering. It is what we (and Israel, I know this is an OT passage, but Isaiah is one of the most insightful prophets in the Bible. What he calls on as passing is amazing, and what he says about Israel is just as easily applied to Gentiles, and our current state of being here in America.) do in response that is just heart breaking. He is trying to give us a gift of a life of blessing that we can never fully grasp, life that goes beyond the grave, and we keep ignorning Him, and not just ignorning that gift, but taking what we know is important to Him and walking all over it. Worshipping other gods, whether actual religion or the gods of time and materialism. Intentionally straying away from Him for fear that He might change the place where we are and in a society where comfort is an idol, being uncomfortable is scary. And what is His reaction? Well, He tells us that He warned us and that He has every right to take vengeance on our actions. Can I just say that ticking off *GOD* is a very, very scary thought. Like, way scarier than being uncomfortable. Just ponder on that a moment, because if you think that mad leaders of countries with nuclear bombs are scary, just think of what someone who controls this life we live *and* the afterlife can do. It doesn't end when you're dead. Ouch.
So, the thing that gives us a glimpse of hope is the next passage:
This is what the Lord says: As when juice is still found in a cluster of grapes and men say, "Don't destroy it, there is yet some good in it," so will I do in behalf of my servants; I will not destroy them all. I will bring forth descendants from Jacob, and from Judah those who will possess my mountains; my chosen people will inherit them, and there will my servants live. Sharon will become a pasture for flocks, and the Valley of Achor a resting place for herds, for my people who seek me. Isaiah 65:8-10
Whew! Right? We have hope that He will not destroy everyone. He has mercy for those who are His servants, those who do their best to make a relationship and serve Him. He will not necessarily be so with those who blatantly run:
But as for you who forsake the Lord and forget my holy mountain, who spread a table for Fortune and fill bowls of mixed wine for Destiny, I will destine you for the sword, and you will all bend down for the slaughter; for I called but you did not answer, I spoke but you did not listen. You did evil in my sight and chose what displeases me. Isaiah 65:11-12
So, you can't keep turning away. You can't put things like fame, fortune and "fate" before God, or, like a lover you leave waiting while you play with someone else, things will get ugly. The worst part in all this is, He is ever forgiving if you just listen, unlike many of those in adulterous relationships here. Even before Jesus arrived He was promising to forget all our selfishness and foolishness if we just love, honor and obey. We still have our freedom, it is what we choose to do with that freedom that makes all the difference. There is so much talk about end times and the scary things that could happen in the media, and if we stop to see what God says about it, it is terribly comforting to know that He has it covered if we trust and love Him:
Therefore this is what the Sovereign Lord says:  "My servants will eat, but you will go hungry; my servants will drink, but you will go thirsty; my servants will rejoice, but you will be put to shame. My servants will sing out of the joy of their hearts, but you will cry out from anguish of heart and wail in brokenness of spirit. You will leave your name to my chosen ones as a curse; the Sovereign Lord will put you to death, but to His servants He will give another name. Whoever invokes a blessing in the land will do so by the God of truth; he who takes an oath in the land will swear by the God of truth. For the past troubles will be forgotten and hidden from My eyes.
So, if we live by Him, we can really live, and He will forgive what we've done in the past, so long as we trying to live the lives He wants us to. That doesn't mean that He pre-destines life for us, but rather, living by His guidelines, most of them coming back to loving Him and loving others, and not necessarily by the world's standard of love, but by His, a standard that is hard to fathom, but may be easiest to see in context of a parent and child. He calls us His servants, but He loves us like a parent loves their child. They build a good relationship with them when they are young, and eventually, as they grow, can let them go off on their own to build more *good* relationships, but always maintaining, relishing and honoring their original relationship with their Father. If we can't or won't honor that, then we are playing roulette with what will happen. God holds onto the promise that He can save us from a firey end, but only if we choose Him. If we don't, he makes very clear what will happen.
Now, put all of that passage into the context of how the world is behaving, especially America-a country founded on Christian ideals-today. We do not hold sacred what He tells us is important. The nation is very blatantly turning Him away, pushing Him out of everything so as to not offend others. The problem is that the others do not hold our life and afterlife in their hands. I would much rather offend them (though I do not aim to blatantly offend unless it has to do with my God) than a God who can manipulate the ultimate vengeance. All that aside, I know He loves me, and I love Him, and for that reason I want to please Him. This country no longer loves Him, and most certainly is behaving in a way that does not please Him. There is still time to turn back, like a prodigal son, and make Him cry out with joy. There is serious truth and thought provoking prophecy contained in the Bible that is easy to overlook or say is out of context in our "modern" world, which is a cop-out. If He is true and good always, then so is His word, and the warning is given; will you be a servant or left outside in the storm?

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