August 18, 2015

Gospel, the answer to threat and the way to spot errors

Isaiah 37:14–38:22, Luke 13:1–35, Job 9:1–11

King Hezekiah heard that the king of Assyria was coming to destroy Judah. This enemy was mocking God by saying He deceived His people by His promises. Hezekiah went to the house of the Lord and prayed.

“Truly, O Lord, the kings of Assyria have laid waste all the nations and their lands, and have cast their gods into the fire. For they were no gods, but the work of men’s hands, wood and stone. Therefore they were destroyed. So now, O Lord our God, save us from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you alone are the Lord.” (Isaiah 37:18–20)

His answer came through the prophet Isaiah, “Therefore thus says the Lord concerning the king of Assyria: He shall not come into this city or shoot an arrow there or come before it with a shield or cast up a siege mound against it. By the way that he came, by the same he shall return, and he shall not come into this city, declares the Lord. For I will defend this city to save it, for my own sake and for the sake of my servant David.” (Isaiah 37:33–35)

It was an unusual victory: “The angel of the Lord went out and struck down 185,000 in the camp of the Assyrians. And when people arose early in the morning, behold, these were all dead bodies. Then Sennacherib king of Assyria departed and returned home and lived at Nineveh. And as he was worshiping in the house of Nisroch his god, Adrammelech and Sharezer, his sons, struck him down with the sword . . . .” (Isaiah 37:36–38)

These few verses illustrate the gospel. Sin and Satan attack my life. I pray to God telling Him what is happening (He already knows) and asking Him to take care of it. In doing this, I’m acknowledging my helpless inability to save myself and relying on His amazing ability to save me.

Job knew this wonderful truth also. When his ‘friend’ Bildad said,“Behold, God will not reject a blameless man, nor take the hand of evildoers” (Job 8:20), Job answered according to the gospel. He said: “Truly I know that it is so: But how can a man be in the right before God? If one wished to contend with him, one could not answer him once in a thousand times. He is wise in heart and mighty in strength . . . .” (Job 9:1–4)

Of course God will not reject a blameless man, but how can a man be blameless? For all his logic and smug rightness, Bildad forgot that blamelessness is found through salvation by grace through faith, and both are a gift from God. No one is saved based on performance. As God later declared, Job had it right and Bildad spoke error.

Jesus had it right too. In His day, people still had the idea that calamity was an act of God who was punishing sin. “There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices.” They were suggesting that these who were killed must have been guilty of something awful.

Jesus gave essentially the same answer as Job, only from a different perspective. He answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” (Luke 13:1–5)

The news is filled with stories of awful things that happen to people. Sometimes I find myself thinking, “I wonder what they did to deserve that?” but thankfully, realize that all are sinners. Before God, our sin condemns us and all deserve death. I am no better than Hitler or terrorists or rapists or anyone else guilty of sins that I abhor. While we view sin by degrees or measure it in awfulness, to God, sin is sin. It separates us from Him. Except for Jesus, we would all perish.

As for the calamities, I once saw a cartoon of a man looking to the heavens and saying, “How come there is so much violence in the world?” A voice came back and said, “I might ask you the same thing.”

It isn’t God who sins. What a horrid thought. We create it, every one of us. And if someone sins against me, all I can do is what Hezekiah did; ask God to deal with those who do evil, and trust Him. If I cannot do that, then I am just as guilty of unbelief and sin as anyone else. 

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