Friday, May 20, 2011

Isaiah 51 – We, Israel, and Our Identity

“Listen to me, you that pursue righteousness,

you that seek the LORD.

Look to the rock from which you were hewn,

and to the quarry from which you were dug.

Look to Abraham your father and to Sarah who bore you,

but I blessed him and made him many.”

~Isaiah 51:1-2 (NRSV).

In this life we can be sharply mistaken for who we actually are; or better put, whose we are. We are God’s, of course; the Lord’s chosen nation; offspring of Abraham.

We’re a saved nation and this puts us in a privileged, yet vulnerable, situation. We’re gifted with the Presence of the indwelling Holy Spirit and, still, we have responsibilities under the oath of our salvation; the desire to respect and obey God.

Living as Restored

Verses 1-3 open this chapter in the broad terms of our restoration. What was once a parched land is now one streaming with living water. Like the Garden of Eden, joy and gladness have replaced a forlorn longing for life elsewhere. We are thankful, today, that we know Jesus.

Israel’s identity — that is us, the church — is keenly felt in the phenomenon of obedience, revival and growth-made-possible in, and of, Jesus.

News of Salvation

Verses 4-6 set the minds of believers, once more, upon the reality of salvation. The earthly life looks so real, yet it is fading, as our physical bodies are.

Salvation is Good News now, but the eternal salvation beckons. This fact isn’t in our faces as much as it should be; we’re distracted from ruminating over this eternal destiny. God has designed us for here and now — to be useful for God, no matter how small the role — in this saved way.

Called to Fearlessness

Another “listen to me” phrase commences the verse 7-8 bracket. We’re told, like in other places in the Bible, that we’re not to be afraid of other mere humans, no matter how powerful or influential they seem.

But people we don’t like, and even those we shouldn’t or don’t trust, will get the better of us. They may seem to have the last laugh, but they never ultimately will. They, like we, are physical aberrations; the core of our being is, conversely, everlasting. We’re spirit as God is Spirit. Those without the eternal hope we have are destined for eternal darkness — the ‘wins’ they have over us now are transient at best. They’re not really wins at all. They’re a mirage.

The LORD Implores Repentance

The modus operandi setting Israel apart — the idea making them holy and sanctified; designed for God’s sacrosanct purpose — is one rooted and established in repentance. That is, the ability and will to turn back to God.

Isaiah recalls in this section (verses 9-11) the rich tradition of our Exodus God.

When we submit in fear to the aggressiveness of others, not looking to the Lord, we go our own ill-informed way; there is no repentance in sight. Instead, as we submit to the inevitable aggression — the way of the world — we bow only to the Lord. It’s a subtle, but defining difference. The latter has both humility and dignity about it; the former, neither humility nor dignity.

An eternal reality here on earth is this fact that we’ll have need of the Exoduses of our time. These can only take place due our repentance. They solidify repentance in faith, linking the two. God cannot rescue those who don’t want to be rescued; those who have not the faith to repent.

As we repent we’re promised comfort.

Judgment Thus Far Isn’t the Final Word

Many of us were brought to our knees by the circumstances of life; then, and only then, did we turn to God.

Like a staggering drunk we meandered through life without hope. We couldn’t understand the purpose of life, and we even openly reviled God, whether by act or omission. We found that the paradox was, we were walked over by the sinning world.

When we finally turned to God, we found that even though we’d done the wrong thing, we didn’t have to pay the full price of our sin. The insults were removed somehow. The consequences became bearable, and we began to fully and honestly comply, fearing less.

Taking our positions as part of the family of the saved, we’ve learned to hope for continual salvation, knowing the way there is via repentance — the commitment to trust and obey God.

© 2011 S. J. Wickham.

No comments: