Monday, March 30, 2009

A Beautiful Verse: Reflections from Isaiah

I continue to be enriched and made happy by the slow and steady study of Isaiah that I have undertaken. What a beautiful book and my eyes have been opened to and my mind reminded of some of the most beautiful verses and simple statements of faith that I have ever seen. One such reminder occurred in my preparation for Sunday School this week as I read through Isaiah chapter 26. In verse 12 of this chapter Isaiah makes a most profound yet simple statement of his trust and belief in God when he states: "O LORD, you will ordain peace for us, for you have indeed done for us all our works. (ESV)"

It is important to understand that Isaiah was living his life with the knowledge that God was soon to let loose a combination of enemies on his home land and was the man who personally delivered the message of impending doom and horror that was soon to beset these people. Isaiah knew that God's wrath was upon his people and that there was no escape other than to believe that God was going to care for those who trust in Him. God and God alone allowed Isaiah to be able to stand up and say so boldly "O LORD, you will ordain peace for us, for you have indeed done for us all our works."

How important for us to follow the example of Isaiah and to understand that God works through the Holy Spirit in us who have accepted that gift through baptism the same way that He did Isaiah. I strive so hard to keep, maintain, and understand that only God can ordain or grant me the peace in life to be truly happy. How hard I try to trust in Him to help me understand that even though when I open my eyes I see a world and people who care not for God's will and who laugh at the fact that Christian's believe in a murdered yet risen Savior that He has promised me that everything will be fine. I fight a continuous struggle to give my concerns over to God and to follow what He leads me, and me alone to do. I look at my family and their needs and I do trust that God is guiding me to make the proper decisions and choices for my families spiritual well being and that He will guide me in making sure of my children's spiritual growth. God will, can, and has ordained peace for me. I just have to get out of the way and let Him grant it to me. Easier said than done which is why the second half of this verse rings so loudly.

Isaiah states "for you have indeed done for us all our works." How do I accept the peace that God has to give me? By coming to an understanding and belief in that statement by Isaiah. How do I keep myself from being constantly tormented and worried over the state of my own wretched heart? By understanding that God, through the sacrifice of His son Jesus Christ, has given me a gift that if I simply trust in the fact that Jesus was enough to cover my sins that I am promised a home with Him in Heaven. God has indeed done all of our works for us. I am incapable of living a life that is sinless. We all are. That was the necessity of Christ and why He was punished on the cross. That work alone makes me eligible for salvation and all that is asked of me is that I believe and accept the fact that Christ died for my sins. Christ asked us to believe and be baptized so that we may dwell in His body and have our hearts circumcised. He gives us His Holy Spirit which if we just listen, follow, and trust will lead us to the peace which Isaiah felt. It makes me so sad to see people, friends, and loved ones who don't have this peace simply because they are on a perpetual slide of failure trying to justify themselves and at times making up laws which they feel will give them more peace. We all know these people who believe that if they follow this law, this law, and this law to a tee that it will make them more righteous. Think about those people and their attitudes and ask yourself why they are not at peace. Why are you not at peace?

I want that peace that Isaiah felt. For those of us who have been led to do works that we know were not contrived or meant for any reason other than to glorify God, it is a joyous feeling. How dare we cheapen those moments by taking credit for them ourselves or even worse look at others who have not been led to do the same things and judge them for it. There is no peace in that. There is no God in that. There is only you and your wretchedness or desire to justify yourself for sins in your past.

Should I possibly find myself more holy than the person who does not teach Sunday School? Foolish. Should I possibly find myself more worthy of Christ's forgiveness because I bring my children to church. Foolish. Should I possibly consider myself more righteous because I study my Bible? Foolish. These acts are simply ones to which Christ attached certain promises but make me no more or less worthy of avoiding God's judgment than the person who never does these things. This is a dangerous game and one that Isaiah warned against in earlier chapters of Isaiah. In the same breath, to not accept these promised gifts by doing these things as instructed in scripture is also foolish.

To receive the peace of knowing that God has already provided for us we need look no further than scripture. It is full of scripture letting us loose from law and our own works and binding us to Christ on the cross. Jesus has done all of our works for us already. Imagine a church full of men, women, and children who truly believe and trust in this promise. Imagine a world where this message, the gospel message, is preached without any man made designs, flaws, or self-righteous intentions. To do so in my opinion is to imagine Heaven.

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