Isaiah 33:1–17, Luke 11:37–12:21, Job 8:1–10
God is the Savior; I am not. My heart resonates with what Isaiah says, “O Lord, be gracious to us; we wait for you. Be our arm every morning, our salvation in the time of trouble.” (Isaiah 33:2)
He saves and is the same today as He was in years past: “The Lord is exalted, for he dwells on high; he will fill Zion with justice and righteousness, and he will be the stability of your times, abundance of salvation, wisdom, and knowledge; the fear of the Lord is Zion’s treasure.” (Isaiah 33:5–6)
God’s people fear the Lord, but trembling also seizes the godless who ultimately must ask: “Who among us can dwell with the consuming fire? Who among us can dwell with everlasting burnings?”
God answers, “He who walks righteously and speaks uprightly, who despises the gain of oppressions, who shakes his hands, lest they hold a bribe, who stops his ears from hearing of bloodshed and shuts his eyes from looking on evil, he will dwell on the heights; his place of defense will be the fortresses of rocks; his bread will be given him; his water will be sure. Your eyes will behold the king in his beauty; they will see a land that stretches afar.” (Isaiah 33:14–17)
Yet this righteousness is a gift. We do not possess it nor can we earn it. God is just and justice means we ought to get what we deserve, which is death not life, wrath not blessing. Yet God is merciful. Because of His plan of redemption based on the death of His Son for our sin, we are not recipients of wrath, but of grace.
Job’s friend Bildad focused only on justice and thought Job was receiving what he deserved for some unknown sin. He said to Job, “Does God pervert justice? Or does the Almighty pervert the right? If your children have sinned against him, he has delivered them into the hand of their transgression. If you will seek God and plead with the Almighty for mercy, if you are pure and upright, surely then he will rouse himself for you and restore your rightful habitation. And though your beginning was small, your latter days will be very great.” (Job 8:3–7)
This sounds good, but the error in Bildad’s statement was making Job responsible for his own salvation. If he would just seek and plead, be pure and upright, then God would bless him and take away his present punishment. Bildad was calling on Job to be “religious” and do all the right things. That is not the plan of God.
The Pharisees were “religious” but Jesus called them fools. He said many things about their external piety and their internal sins: “You Pharisees cleanse the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. You fools! . . . You tithe mint and rue and every herb, and neglect justice and the love of God. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others . . . You love the best seat in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces . . . You are like unmarked graves, and people walk over them without knowing it.”
Their teachers, called lawyers, were also condemned. Of them Jesus said, “Woe to you lawyers also! For you load people with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not touch the burdens with one of your fingers . . . You build the tombs of the prophets whom your fathers killed. So you are witnesses and you consent to the deeds of your fathers, for they killed them, and you build their tombs . . . You have taken away the key of knowledge. You did not enter yourselves, and you hindered those who were entering.”
And then they plotted to “catch him in something he might say” so they could condemn Him to death (Luke 11:39–54), but He said of them, “Everyone who acknowledges me before men, the Son of Man also will acknowledge before the angels of God, but the one who denies me before men will be denied before the angels of God.” (Luke 12:8–9)
Religious people may look good on the outside, but Jesus knows the heart. If they don’t accept Jesus, then God will deny them. However, lest I be harsh in condemning others (when I don’t know their hearts), I must remember that Jesus knows my heart also. The only difference between them and me is that in mercy God has given me Jesus, and granted to me the gift of His eternal life.