From Richard Roberts:
I am starting to read through the book of Isaiah again, and I thought that I would start blogging some thoughts. These are from Isaiah 1:1-9.
I have been helped by Alec Motyer's wonderful work and translation in Isaiah by the Day. I recommend it. He translates verses 2-9 of chapter one in the following way:
Hear, O Heavens,
listen, O Earth,
for Yahweh has himself spoken:
"Sons I have nurtured and reared
and they - they! - have rebelled against me!
An ox knows its owner,
and a donkey its master's trough;
it is Israel who does not know!
My people who have no discernment!
Ah! Sinning nation,
a people heavy with iniquity,
seed of evil-doers,
sons acting corruptly.
They have forsaken Yahweh,
spurned the Holy One of Israel,
turned themselves back into foreigners.
What use is it to continue stubborn? -
you will only be beaten down again!
The whole head is disease-ridden;
from the sole of the foot to the head
there is no soundness in it -
bruise and scar and fresh wound;
untreated, and unbandaged, and unsoothed with ointment.
Your land a desolation,
your cities burnt with fire,
your country -
in front of you foreigners are eating it up,
like something overturned by foreigners.
And the daughter of Zion is left over
like a shed in a vineyard,
like a hut in a cucumber patch,
like a blockaded city."
Were it not that Yahweh of Hosts himself
had left over for us a tiny remainder,
we would have matched Sodom,
we would have resembled Gomorrah.
The craziness and irrationality of sin is displayed here by Yahweh has He calls His people, us, to see rightly, to see in truth. It doesn't make sense to sin. It doesn't make sense to rebel. The Lord calls us "sons whom I have reared", and "My people." Yet, this identity is set alongside the contrarian behaviors of rebellion, iniquity, sin, evil-doing, corruption, and an attitude of carelessness like that of a foreigner (one who does not love the people or the land as one who belongs to them).
How like the battle between the Flesh and the Spirit is this? How irrational can my heart be, who knows the blessings of God, the joy of His presence, the comforts of His goodness, and yet, like a deluded man stumbling after his delusion, do I turn my back on the Lord and seek to find life in something or someone else? This is not merely the problem of the people of Israel in the 8th century BC. This is the problem of the heart of God's people in all times and places.
It doesn't make sense. We see the truth. We see the pain. We see the consequences...Yahweh calls us to look out upon our land, to look out upon our churches, to look out and see the devastation and repent. Why? Because of that line of grace in verse 9, "Were it not that Yahweh of Hosts himself had left over for us a tiny remainder...." Yahweh has not brought utter desolation. He has not treated us like Sodom or Gomorrah, but has left over a lily pad of grace in the flood of His judgement.
On this side of the cross we see that this is not only a lily pad, but a solid rock, a stayed foundation, an island of infinite stability that flourishes with the life of God. We see Jesus anchoring our souls, the grace of God who has appeared and has rescued us and is also calling us to reject ungodliness.
Paul wrote of this to his brother, Titus (2:11-14):
For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all people. It trains us to reject godless ways and worldly desires and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, as we wait for the happy fulfillment of our hope in the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. He gave himself for us to set us free from every kind of lawlessness and to purify for himself a people who are truly his, who are eager to do good.
We are not Sodom and Gomorrah because Jesus was utterly devastated in our place. He bore the judgement upon rebellion and corruption, bearing our iniquity upon that Tree, so that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him. We belong because He brings us in. Without Him, we are utterly ruined and without hope. With Him we are extravagantly blessed and full of hope.
May the Lord fix your eyes upon the desolation today, then draw your focus to the "tiny remainder" of His grace in Jesus Christ.