Isaiah 17:1–19:25, Luke 7:1–35, Job 5:1–7
When asked how to get into heaven, those who believe there is life after death are apt to say, “I’ve lived a good life” or in some way justify themselves by their behavior. I can slide into that thinking too, patting myself on the back in self-righteous pride. However, this is not how salvation works. “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8–9)
In case anyone thinks that salvation by grace is NT only, today’s OT reading from Isaiah is about the fate of Egypt in the hands of God. It says, “In that day man will look to his Maker, and his eyes will look on the Holy One of Israel. He will not look to the altars, the work of his hands, and he will not look on what his own fingers have made . . . .” (Isaiah 17:7–8)
Salvation has always been by grace. Sin thoroughly messes up any human ability to seek God, never mind any hope of becoming righteous or doing what God wants us to do. God must initiate and carry out salvation because we are helpless. He says we are “dead in our sin” and in His sight our so-called goodness is like filthy rags.
Yet He can save us. Isaiah goes on to describe the results of His saving power for Egypt: “In that day there will be an altar to the Lord in the midst of the land of Egypt, and a pillar to the Lord at its border. It will be a sign and a witness to the Lord of hosts in the land of Egypt. When they cry to the Lord because of oppressors, he will send them a savior and defender, and deliver them. And the Lord will make himself known to the Egyptians, and the Egyptians will know the Lord in that day and worship with sacrifice and offering, and they will make vows to the Lord and perform them. And the Lord will strike Egypt, striking and healing, and they will return to the Lord, and he will listen to their pleas for mercy and heal them.” (Isaiah 19:19–22)
I easily lose sight of this amazing grace, particularly after reading or hearing the latest world news. Many world events fill me with a sense of hopelessness. How can so much evil be overturned? Is there any hope for such foolishness and lack of caring for one another, never mind the total distain for God?
One of Job’s friends may have felt the same way. He said, “Call now; is there anyone who will answer you? To which of the holy ones will you turn? Surely vexation kills the fool, and jealousy slays the simple. I have seen the fool taking root, but suddenly I cursed his dwelling. His children are far from safety; they are crushed in the gate, and there is no one to deliver them. The hungry eat his harvest, and he takes it even out of thorns, and the thirsty pant after his wealth. For affliction does not come from the dust, nor does trouble sprout from the ground, but man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward.” (Job 5:1–7) We so easily forget the power of God.
Today’s NT reading points to Jesus, the One who saves sinners and transforms lives. His grace and power healed a centurion’s servant without seeing or touching that servant (Luke 7:6–10). The same grace and power raised from the dead the only son of a widow (Luke 7:12–15). In that same hour, “He healed many people of diseases and plagues and evil spirits, and on many who were blind he bestowed sight” (Luke 7:21).
For God, the messiness in the world is no problem, nor is disease and death. Jesus conquered all of it. One day, entire nations will turn to the Holy One of Israel, worshiping Him because He alone has saved and healed them.
Even the thought of what God is going to do fills my heart with anticipation and joy!