August 7, 2015

Exodus is over, but what about Babylon?

Isaiah 13:1–14:23, Luke 5:1–39, Job 4:1–11

This week God has shown me how His dealings with me are like Exodus and like Babylon. Exodus speaks of being released from the bondage of sin. It is about salvation and new life. God has done that for me.

However, Babylon is about an exile that God used to purify His people. They had become idolatrous, but their time in Babylon cleansed them from idolatry.

This is deep stuff. Three years ago I prayed that God would bring me into a total surrender to Him. I had no idea what to expect. Had I, maybe I would not have asked for such a thing because immediately things began to happen to test my faith. These experiences were revealing and painful. I began to see how little I trusted God and how many idols I was trusting instead. The experiences of Israel in exile in Babylon are vivid descriptions of what God was doing in my life.

Isaiah said to them, “Wail, for the day of the Lord is near; as destruction from the Almighty it will come! Therefore all hands will be feeble, and every human heart will melt. They will be dismayed: pangs and agony will seize them; they will be in anguish like a woman in labor. They will look aghast at one another; their faces will be aflame . . . I will punish the world for its evil, and the wicked for their iniquity; I will put an end to the pomp of the arrogant, and lay low the pompous pride of the ruthless.” (Isaiah 13:6–8, 11)

I wanted to skip all those parts, but was compelled to read them today after being encouraged by a woman’s testimony on the radio. She also confessed her idols. She wanted power and control, and relied on people to meet her needs instead of God. Anything we rely on instead of Him is an idol.

Toward the end of the passages, I became encouraged by a more positive prophecy: “For the Lord will have compassion on Jacob and will again choose Israel, and will set them in their own land, and sojourners will join them and will attach themselves to the house of Jacob. And the peoples will take them and bring them to their place, and the house of Israel will possess them in the Lord’s land as male and female slaves. They will take captive those who were their captors, and rule over those who oppressed them. When the Lord has given you rest from your pain and turmoil and the hard service with which you were made to serve, you will take up this taunt against the king of Babylon . . . .”(Isaiah 14:1–4)

Job also helps me recognize the taunts of the enemy while I struggled under the hand of God. One of Job’s friends told him that he was suffering because of sin. While that was closer to the truth for me, this taunt was a distressing lie for Job . . .

“Behold, you have instructed many, and you have strengthened the weak hands. Your words have upheld him who was stumbling, and you have made firm the feeble knees. But now it has come to you, and you are impatient; it touches you, and you are dismayed. Is not your fear of God your confidence, and the integrity of your ways your hope? Remember: who that was innocent ever perished? Or where were the upright cut off? As I have seen, those who plow iniquity and sow trouble reap the same. By the breath of God they perish, and by the blast of his anger they are consumed.” (Job 4:3–9)

Regardless of whether they are true or not, taunts and accusations are painful. Many times I lost sight of what I had prayed and thought God had abandoned me. It took time to realize that He was doing what I had asked Him to do.

Today’s NT verses depict a real event in the life of Jesus and of Simon Peter, yet I also see myself in what happened. Jesus was speaking to a crowd from a boat. When He was done, He told Simon to, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.”

As soon as they obeyed, the nets filled up and began to break. They called for help and wound up with so many fish that the boats were sinking.

In a great sense of weakness and inability, like a fishless fishermen, God sends to do things that seem useless, yet when I obey, He does the unexpected and my boat is filled! At the same time, this is still “Babylon” and I feel like Simon Peter who “fell down at Jesus’ knees saying, ‘Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.’” (Luke 5:4–11)

Right now, the idols seem to have been smashed (will they come back?). I know fear and have a great sense of weakness because I deeply realize that all I am and can do depends totally on Jesus Christ. I’ve known this since my exodus, yet now I know it in a deeper way, a way that is both liberating and terrifying.

For that, Jesus says to me as He said to Simon, “Do not be afraid . . .” Because He loves me, and because He is sovereign, I can leave everything and follow Him.

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