August 26, 2015

Adversity and Grace

Isaiah 52:1–54:17, Luke 20:41–21:24, Job 12:1–12

Isaiah 53 and 54 are two of my favorite chapters in the Bible. They speak of Jesus and His sacrifice for our redemption, and point to the promises of God concerning future guidance and protection. The original audience is Israel, yet this is the living Word of God; it speaks to me also.

It says of Jesus: “He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:3–6)

Such great injustice, or so it seems. Yet we so easily forget the prevalence of sin (don’t we all turn our own way much of the time?) and our need for redemption and forgiveness. Take time to think of what this says.

It says why Jesus had to die: “Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand. Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors.” (Isaiah 53:10–12)

Besides the plan of God, these chapters also declare His grace: “For a brief moment I deserted you, but with great compassion I will gather you. In overflowing anger for a moment I hid my face from you, but with everlasting love I will have compassion on you,” says the Lord, your Redeemer . . . . All your children shall be taught by the Lord, and great shall be the peace of your children. In righteousness you shall be established; you shall be far from oppression, for you shall not fear; and from terror, for it shall not come near you. If anyone stirs up strife, it is not from me; whoever stirs up strife with you shall fall because of you . . . . no weapon that is fashioned against you shall succeed, and you shall refute every tongue that rises against you in judgment. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord and their vindication from me, declares the Lord.” (Isaiah 54:7-8, 13-15, 17)

In the good times, we sinful beings tend to forget God. When adversity happens, we tend to blame others or the devil. Job had it right when he said, “In the thought of one who is at ease there is contempt for misfortune; it is ready for those whose feet slip. The tents of robbers are at peace, and those who provoke God are secure, who bring their god in their hand. But ask the beasts, and they will teach you; the birds of the heavens, and they will tell you; or the bushes of the earth, and they will teach you; and the fish of the sea will declare to you. Who among all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this? In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind.” (Job 12:5–10)

Just as God planned the greatest injustice in the death of His sinless Son, He also is in charge of all adversity. He has a purpose for everything that happens to us. Even all creation knows this is true. What I don’t always remember is that when adversity comes, I can seize it as opportunity to share the goodness of God, just as Jesus said I should . . .

“Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and pestilences. And there will be terrors and great signs from heaven. But before all this they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors for my name’s sake. This will be your opportunity to bear witness.”

That is not the normal reaction to terrible trials, but by the grace of God, it can be. Jesus adds further instruction so that I can bear witness to Him, no matter what: “Settle it therefore in your minds not to meditate beforehand how to answer, for I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or contradict. You will be delivered up even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and some of you they will put to death. You will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your lives.” (Luke 21:10–19)

Jesus encourages me to remember that God is sovereign over the good times and adversities. I can rest in His promise to give me His attitude, His words, His peace, all because of His amazing grace.

No comments: