Wednesday, June 06, 2018

Throwing My Idols..... Sudden Waves of Grace or Clouds of Judgement?

The more I read the Old Testament (which I love) two powerful images seem to be grabbing my attention.

The first image is a man, clinging to an idol, who has his eyes opened to the beauty, majesty, and compassion of Yahweh and casts his idol to the ground, running to the open arms of his God.

The second image is a man, clinging to his idol, refusing to acknowledge or bow to Yahweh who casts his idol to the ground when God appears in the cloud of judgement knowing now it was a foolish disposition.... too late.

The Bible is so full of powerful passages that dictate the details of God's grace. But there are also many places where Scripture sings it poetically.... and the images produce powerful healing and comfort.

Recently in my reading, God poured out such a passage. It was one of those times...I was beyond weary and needed to wait on the of those ever present seasons of life.... and just when I was convinced I was done for... He surprised me with an extra dose of grace.

The source of this experience is Isaiah 35- GREAT NEWS!


Note: Reader warning.... a so- called trigger alert..... the following is not for the weak.

Before we get to 35... let's backtrack in context and see why this is so dramatic and sweet. This passage comes after some sad sections of what was going to happen (AND DID HAPPEN) because of sin and the promise of judgement for that rebellion. Chapters 28-33 have SIX oracles of WOE. Let me say that 1 WOE is BAD enough, WOE/WOE/WOE is the normal cry and has the power of the trifold fullness of completions (contrast to trifold HOLY/HOLY/HOLY). BUT SIX WOES...OH MY! 

There is equal distribution of judgement here.... the images are very similar... and the cycle is familiar.... prosperity leads to a temporary glory, but because of sin and idolatry the inevitable decay happens. Sin has its own consequences contained in the activities. But during the slow decay, God also has a surprised settled time where he drops the final hammer of destruction.

It's sad how many people see God as the bad guy here.... He is only doing what He says He will do... He has to, it is His nature to do so, and Sin is a corrosive enemy... like a rotted section of a building... at some point, it HAS to be taken out- it is too harmful NOT to do so.

The Bible never shys away from this brutal truth... God has a response of wrath in the face of sin... a face of fury when confronted with the destructive cancer of sin.

It is in the New Testament as well.... Want to see how much God hates sin? Just look at what took place on that cross!

 Behold, the Lord has one who is mighty and strong;
like a storm of hail, a destroying tempest,
like a storm of mighty, overflowing waters,
he casts down to the earth with his hand. (Isaiah 28:2 ESV)

And the results of this response to sin? It is a wiped out wasteland when He finishes... 

the proud crown of drunkards are trodden underfoot, those who make lies their refuge are beaten down in sheer terror, the proud are lowered to the dust, the scoffers are broken into pieces,  all of God''s enemies are surprised by the  sudden destruction by war, those who hide secret sin in the dark are suddenly exposed in shame, those who manipulate and make alliances with the world discover that refuge to be suddenly worthless and empty. Those who seek justification by turning to 'smooth words' of heresy are suddenly broken to pieces like a clay jar whose fragments and shards can no longer be found. The armies of enemies, strong in the their armor and weapons, will be terror-stricken at the voice of the Lord when He strikes them. At the sight of God, people start throwing away all of the idols that they were holding on to as slaves to their worthless promises...too late!

What does the countryside look like after this visit of God's settled disposition to all things sinful?

chaff, wastelands, deserts, blood, waterless soil of sulfur, smoke of destruction, decay of death, thorns, wild animals... who now would want that real estate?!

But this happens to all of us who continue in sin... this is the state of our inner man of indwelling sin... it is a sleepwalk of death... we are PRONE TO WANDER...and it is a wonder if we ever come back!

Paul asked a great rhetorical question in Romans 6:21.... " what is the benefit of the things that you are now ashamed?" and follows it by ending the discussion "The end of those things is death".

It is UNBELIEVING to continue in sin
It is ILLOGICAL to continue in sin
It is UNTHINKABLE to continue in sin

Yet- how sad that we do so... I go back and pick up my idols way too often!


Even in the chapters I just buzzed through... all throughout, there are ample promises of God's goodness, his promise to restore, to repair, to rebuild, to heal....

Isaiah 30:18–22
Therefore the LORD waits to be gracious to you,
and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you.
For the LORD is a God of justice;
blessed are all those who wait for him.

[19] For a people shall dwell in Zion, in Jerusalem; you shall weep no more. He will surely be gracious to you at the sound of your cry. As soon as he hears it, he answers you. [20] And though the Lord give you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet your Teacher will not hide himself anymore, but your eyes shall see your Teacher. [21] And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left. [22] Then you will defile your carved idols overlaid with silver and your gold-plated metal images. You will scatter them as unclean things. You will say to them, “Be gone!” (ESV)

It is never true to say the Old Testament is about a God of wrath and the New Testament is about a God of Love.... Both Testaments glorify the same God Whose nature never changes.

Isaiah 35

[1] The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad;
the desert shall rejoice and blossom like the crocus;
[2] it shall blossom abundantly
and rejoice with joy and singing.
The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it,
the majesty of Carmel and Sharon.
They shall see the glory of the LORD,
the majesty of our God.

I can apply this figuratively to my sin sick soul.. but there is a dual fulfillment of these promises. These things came true literally and we can apply them as principles.

Sin leaves me dusty and thirsty, broken and fruitless.But here is the promise...waves of grace are about to change the desert wilderness to beautiful, restored brilliance.

(3] Strengthen the weak hands,
and make firm the feeble knees.
[4] Say to those who have an anxious heart,
“Be strong; fear not!
Behold, your God
will come with vengeance,
with the recompense of God.
He will come and save you.

This is how I often feel, but God is gracious to save me- 
never late... but seldom early.

[5] Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
and the ears of the deaf unstopped;
[6] then shall the lame man leap like a deer,
and the tongue of the mute sing for joy.
For waters break forth in the wilderness,
and streams in the desert;
[7] the burning sand shall become a pool,
and the thirsty ground springs of water;
in the haunt of jackals, where they lie down,
the grass shall become reeds and rushes.

Sudden waves of grace! I LOVE vs 7

[8] And a highway shall be there,
and it shall be called the Way of Holiness;
the unclean shall not pass over it.
It shall belong to those who walk on the way;
even if they are fools, they shall not go astray.

Am I on the highway of holiness?.. it is the upward call of God in Jesus Christ for obedience. 

[9] No lion shall be there,
nor shall any ravenous beast come up on it;
they shall not be found there,
but the redeemed shall walk there.
[10] And the ransomed of the LORD shall return
and come to Zion with singing;
everlasting joy shall be upon their heads;
they shall obtain gladness and joy,
and sorrow and sighing shall flee away. (ESV)

What a place! How I long for that state of bliss!

As I close, I recently read an amazing prayer of confession from John Owen. Here is that prayer:

"I am a poor, weak creature; unstable as water, I cannot excel.
This corruption is too hard for me, and is at the very door of ruining my soul; and what to do I know not.
My soul is become as parched ground, and an habitation of dragons.
I have made promises and broken them; vows and engagements have been as a thing of nought.
Many persuasions have I had that I had got the victory and should be delivered, but I am deceived; so that I plainly see, that without some eminent succour and assistance, I am lost, and shall be prevailed on to an utter relinquishment of God.
But yet, though this be my state and condition, let the hands that hang down be lifted up, and the feeble knees be strengthened.
Behold, the Lord Christ, that has all fullness of grace in his heart, all fullness of power in his hand, he is able to slay all these his enemies.
There is sufficient provision in him for my relief and assistance.
He can take my drooping, dying soul and make me more than a conqueror.
He can make the dry, parched ground of my soul to become a pool, and my thirsty, barren heart as springs of water;' yea, he can make this habitation of dragons,' this heart, so full of abominable lusts and fiery temptations, to be a place for grass' and fruit to himself,"

Go back to the fist images that I outlined... which idol thrower do you desire to be? Then throw yourself fully in the Savior's care! Don't wait until it is too late.

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