December 18, 2014

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom

God’s people in the Old Testament had seasons of faithfulness, but it seems most of the time they were not. God sent many prophets to exhort and warn them. One, Isaiah, lived during the decline of Israel. He spoke the Word of God to a people who were “deaf and blind” and refused to listen. He warned that their sin would bring God’s judgment. Here is a portion of what he told them . . . 

“'Ah, stubborn children,’ declares the Lord, ‘who carry out a plan, but not mine, and who make an alliance, but not of my Spirit, that they may add sin to sin; who set out to go down to Egypt, without asking for my direction, to take refuge in the protection of Pharaoh and to seek shelter in the shadow of Egypt! Therefore shall the protection of Pharaoh turn to your shame, and the shelter in the shadow of Egypt to your humiliation.’” (Isaiah 30:1–3)

God had been good to them for decades, but they were bent on making their own plans and ignoring God’s direction, not even asking for it. This is so common today that I am amazed God does not strike us with lightning.

Yet a radio pastor included a true story in his message yesterday. He also spoke to God’s people about going ahead with sinful plans and thinking God would let them get away with it. These are people who should know better, people who have access to God and can ask and receive His guidance.

The story was about a Christian couple whose children were adults and the two of them were ready to find a retirement home. They looked and finally found the place they wanted. They talked with the owner, also a Christian, and expressed their interest. However, within a few weeks, the wife suddenly asked for a divorce. Her husband was completely bewildered as she told him she had found another man, actually the man who owned the house they planned to buy!

She left and moved in with this new lover. However, God was not looking the other way. Within a short time (only a week or two as I remember), the new lover had a heart attack and died. As the Bible says, “But if you will not do so (obey God), behold, you have sinned against the Lord, and be sure your sin will find you out.” (Numbers 32:23)

God doesn’t always deal with sin so suddenly. Otherwise, no one would live. But He can. Isaiah kept warning the people and told them . . .

“Therefore thus says the Holy One of Israel, ‘Because you despise this word and trust in oppression and perverseness and rely on them, therefore this iniquity shall be to you like a breach in a high wall, bulging out, and about to collapse, whose breaking comes suddenly, in an instant; and its breaking is like that of a potter’s vessel that is smashed so ruthlessly that among its fragments not a shard is found with which to take fire from the hearth, or to dip up water out of the cistern.’ For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, ‘In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.’ But you were unwilling, and you said, ‘No! . . .’” (Isaiah 30:12–16)

Sin is a serious matter. Strong “I wants” do something to our ability to see clearly, even when they are legitimate wants. Escalate them to sin and think our holy God is not looking and does not care? I don’t think so. I know that deliberate sin has the potential to be deadly. It is by grace I am saved. God has brought me into His unshakable kingdom. My response to this is supposed to be gratitude, remembering that He is Almighty God and it is by His mercy that I live and breathe. Instead, as the writer of Hebrews 12 says, “Let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.”

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