August 19, 2015

Faith is about a mighty God . . .

Isaiah 39:1–40:31, Luke 14:1–35, Job 9:12–19

A funny story tells of a golfer who always tried to appear better than he was and often lied on his score card. One day, he got a hole-in-one. He marked a zero for the score on that hole!

I’ve been laughing about this and reminded of my own silly pride. What a contrast to today’s scripture readings! They speak of the God whom I serve and who does not need to prove anything.

In the OT, Hezekiah’s realm seemed secure, but God said, “The days are coming, when all that is in your house, and that which your fathers have stored up till this day, shall be carried to Babylon. Nothing shall be left, says the Lord.” (Isaiah 39:6) He spoke it, and this unexpected thing happened.

A bit later, the same God who chastened His people then declares, “Comfort, comfort my people. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.” (Isaiah 40:1–2) He measures out chastening, but also knows when to stop and comfort me.

He also promised centuries before that Jesus would come, “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” (Isaiah 40:3–5) For this and all other promises and statements in His Word, He says, “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.” (Isaiah 40:8) God is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

This God will come “with might, and his arm rules for him; behold, his reward is with him, and his recompense before him. He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young.” (Isaiah 40:10–11) Again he says that this God who chastens sin also forgives it and shows mercy and grace to His children.

Lest I forget He is more than my personal saving God, Isaiah asks this: “Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand and marked off the heavens with a span, enclosed the dust of the earth in a measure and weighed the mountains in scales and the hills in a balance?” (Isaiah 40:12) He reminds me of God’s realm and His power. He also says that to God the nations are “like a drop from a bucket, and are accounted as the dust on the scales . . . the coastlands like fine dust.” (Isaiah 40:15)

His Word lifts Him high: “Do you not know? Do you not hear? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth? It is he who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers; who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them like a tent to dwell in; who brings princes to nothing, and makes the rulers of the earth as emptiness . . . . Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable.” (Isaiah 40: 21–23, 28)

Yet His promises bring Him near: “Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:30–31)

Job echos Isaiah’s wonder at this amazing God, “Behold, he snatches away; who can turn him back? Who will say to him, ‘What are you doing?’ . . . . If it is a contest of strength, behold, he is mighty! If it is a matter of justice, who can summon him?” (Job 9:12, 19)

And then the gentle Jesus comes and stands the scoffers on their ears. When reproved by the religious leaders for ministry on their sacred day, Jesus responded, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath, or not?” But they remained silent. Then he took him and healed him and sent him away,” rebuking them again by saying, “Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 14:3-4, 11)

This One who revealed the glory of God in human flesh gives examples in human terms. To be like Him, He says that when I give a feast, I’m to invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and I will be blessed, because they cannot repay me, but I will be repaid at the resurrection of the just. His life and this example tell me what it means to renounce all that I have to be His disciple. (Luke 14:13-14, 33) And like all these descriptions of what He is like, it seems illogical unless read with faith, believed because God said it, and acted upon because that is the result of genuine saving faith.

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