In my quiet time a few days ago I found myself in Isaiah. I think it is one of my all time favorite books. It is so full of God’s promise and it gives us a very clear picture of just how much God loves us.
However even with God’s unfathomable love there comes consequences if choices are made to live outside of His plan. I know I have lived outside of God’s plan many times in my life. It’s human nature to think we can come up with a better one. It’s human nature to want to listen to our sinful side. Listening to the world is so very easy. Isaiah heard God’s voice so very clearly. There are times when I would wish for that clarity, but then I know that with that clarity comes the reality of what happen next.
8 Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”
And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”
And I said “Here am I. Send me!” Those are very powerful words when spoken, even more powerful if you really mean them. I know there have been a few time in my life where I have really felt that God was calling me into an area of service. It was a bit scary but the obedience required was over shadowed by the very real an insistent nudging I felt in my heart to answer the call.
I can only imagine how Isaiah must have felt when God sent him out to preach this message to his chosen people. I can inflect a bit of my own opinion here and feel God’s frustration. He does not say “Go and tell “my” people” who, myself included, has not used this popular distancing technique at the end of the day when the hubs walks through the door, “Well your child did….”
9 He said, “Go and tell this people:
“‘Be ever hearing, but never understanding;
be ever seeing, but never perceiving.’
10 Make the heart of this people calloused;
make their ears dull
and close their eyes.
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
hear with their ears,
understand with their hearts,
and turn and be healed.”
God’s chosen people, this people, had stepped off the path and they had become so calloused an accepting of the world around them that they no longer could recognize the truth of God. They were ever seeing, but sadly they were also never perceiving. The other difficult concept is that God gave them over to their sinful nature. He closed their ears and their eyes so that even if they wanted to turn and be healed they would not be allowed to.
The question I always ask myself is how does this apply to me and my life today. What do the actions of the Israelites thousands of years ago have to do with me today? What examples can I find around me that line up with this lesson?
I am trying to keep this as real as I can so here goes!
How many television shows have I watched that promote concepts and lifestyles that are directly opposite from what God's word tells me is right. In essence I am ever hearing but never understanding and ever seeing but never perceiving. The solution for me is not an easy one. I have had to go in and delete some of my long time favorite show off the DVR.
It’s a gradual process to be desensitized to what is acceptable. It’s a gradual process of what I have always done,
watched on television and learning how to do something different. It is also a sacrifice to deny the sinful nature of what the world wants to put before me in favor of what I know to be true, noble, right, pure or lovely. (PHL 4:8) My sinful nature wants the steamy, the gruesome and the naughty because the sinful side speaks very loudly.
However God’s word always prevails and God is always more satisfying than any momentary pleasure that comes from indulging my sinful nature. Plus there are no lasting or difficult consequences to endure as a result of indulging my sinful nature.
The other fact that I must not miss is the opportunity for redemption. Isaiah asks a very important question. What child has not asked “Are we there yet?” or “How much longer do I have to do this?” or the favorite in the home of any parent of a teenager “How long will I be grounded?”
I ask it all the time. “How long O Lord, How long?”
11 Then I said, “For how long, O Lord?”
God’s answered may not seem very hopeful at first glance.
And he answered:
“Until the cities lie ruined
and without inhabitant,
until the houses are left deserted
and the fields ruined and ravaged,
12 until the LORD has sent everyone far away
and the land is utterly forsaken.
13 And though a tenth remains in the land,
it will again be laid waste.
leave stumps when they are cut down,
so the holy seed will be the stump in the land.”
I have not been able to get this image out of my mind.
The image of a stump jutting out of the dusty ruined land surrounded by the devastation of the invading armies. The Israelites had been hauled off into captivity and there was nothing left but ruin and stumps.
Have you ever been pruned so much you felt like a tree stump sawed off to the very ground?
Have you ever been a witness to someone else's pruning and wondered when they will finally get the message?
I know in my life there have been many
many, many, many times that I truly felt my life resembled a barren wasteland with a tree that had been pruned right down to the ground. Sometimes the trimming comes from God’s heavenly pruning shears, they are sharp and very painful. Other times circumstances beyond my control wreak havoc in my life and I feel completely stripped down to nothing. Utterly forsaken, those are powerful and descriptive words.
But what I try to focus on is the fact that God will always be faithful to provide a way out, through or around (1 COR 10:13) just like He did for the Israelites. After the divine justice was metered out, after God’s people had been cut down to stumps and laid waste there was the hope in the Holy Seed! The shoot off the stump of Jesse. (ISA 11:1) Our Savior, Jesus!
In those times when I am feeling like a stump jutting out of the ground surrounded by ruin and wasteland I remember that from the stump comes new life.
I look back on the lessons I have learned from my garden. When I prune my Rose of Sharon and only when I prune them will I get the beautiful blossoms each summer.
I am enjoying them every day and I can defiantly attest to the need for regular pruning.
Will there ever be a time in my life when I will no longer require pruning?
Am I thankful for the hope of the holy seed. Absolutely!
8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
1 Corinthians 10:13
13 No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.
Isaiah 11:11 A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;
from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.