For the LORD has abandoned his people, the descendants of Jacob, because they have filled their land with practices from the East and with fortune-tellers like the Philistines. They have made alliances with pagans. Isa 2:6
It is so scary to think of God leaving his people, even rejecting them, as some translations say in this passage. I was praying through a bad mood yesterday, and it was so comforting to me to remember that God promised to always be with me. It would be horrible to not have this.
It was horrible for King Saul. Our Sunday school lesson for the kids this coming week is going to be how the Lord left King Saul. As a result, Saul went mad. He had fits of rage. They brought David in to play the harp for him and sooth him.
And, I think of Jesus on the cross. I think one of the hardest things for Jesus wasn’t the physical torment he endured, but that he felt abandoned. He cried, “My God, My God. Why have you forsaken me?” It could be that he felt that way because he was bearing our sins, and was separated from God as a result.
I’m not worried about going in and out of my salvation, having God with me when I think I am doing good, and having God abandon me when I sin. I do feel space between myself and God when I think I’ve messed up. Some of that is my own difficulty in forgiving myself. But I know believe that it is true that “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1)
I do think that if I continued to sin over a long period of time, I could fall away. “If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God.” Heb 10:26 But I take much comfort in the scripture, “His mercies are new every morning.” (Lam 3:23) God’s grace is sufficient. It is an spring that bubbles up day after day, washing me clean. “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (II Cor 5:21)
Yet I think this passage teaches me that I must have a great soberness about the polluting effects of the world. I am surrounded by all kinds of terrible influences, and I’m so used to them, and I don’t even notice them anymore.
What does God condemn his people for? Filling their land with practices from the east. When I researched this, I found that it refers to this passage: “Now King Ahaz went to Damascus to meet Tiglath-pileser king of Assyria, and saw the altar which was at Damascus; and King Ahaz sent to Urijah the priest the pattern of the altar and its model, according to all its workmanship.” (II Kings 16:10)
The King of Judah built a foreign altar, not worshiping as God prescribed.
I am really convicted that another translation for Is. 2:6 includes the phrasing, “Because they be replenished from the east.” The word used there does mean “filled,” but when I see the word “replenished,” it reminds me that we can feel empty, and we can find the wrong things to assuage that emptiness. It’s so easy to do.
Here is what I find myself doing. I keep surrounding myself with order and perfection. I want everything to go well. Then I feel safe and secure. The other day, I got really grumpy at church because a couple of things went a little wonky.
This desire for perfection is a false altar. My security and well being can only come from God. I can’t only be happy when things are going as I think they should. I need to be able to trust God when things are wonky! And of course, there is much more to trust God about right now in my life than a couple of worship service items.
I have to remember the thing we stressed in last week’s Sunday School lesson, “Man looks at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart.” (I Sam 6:17) God doesn’t care about things looking perfect. That is a “practice of the east.” It is what the world does. Let me show you this post that I recently saw on Facebook.
Poor mothers today don’t know what to do. They feel the pressure to be perfect, but everyone has a different idea of what perfect is! We all need to get our security from God, not how we fit in to the world.
Yes, God does want us to give him our best, and serve him with excellent. But he wants this to come from a place of wholehearted devotion to him. “For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.” (II Chron 16:9)
This morning I was having trouble sleeping, and I remembered the words of a song I wrote years ago:
Let me worship you with my whole heart today
All of my mind, strength and soul I pray.
May the distractions leave my mind.
All of the worries left behind.
‘Til in you a peace I find.
So ready, so ready, to worship you.
Let’s shake off the influences of the world and be wholly devoted to God, knowing only he will meet our needs.
It is in our seeking replenishment elsewhere that we begin to leave him. But he will not abandon us. Let draw closer to him instead.