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LISTING AND LISTENING
A MATTER OF DISOBEDIENCE and DELIGHT
In the old days, back in Rome, they had a disagreeable practice of proscription. In this, names would be listed, and these were prepared for vital disfavour, such as deletion.
In Germany, in World War II, Jews were listed, by the Star of David, in a more practical fashion, not to mention such other lists as appealed to their self-appointed mentors, now delisted among the nations, the Nazis.
In this life, it is perfectly possible to either be, or list others as being lousy. That is, you may become covered with lice, follies of your own toleration, and become verminous: spiritually so as well. One way to achieve such notoriety is to condemn others on lists. You decide, as in one case at large on the internet, to attack someone, people, prescribing a judgment, telling them just how spiritually awful they are, maybe using some text without evidence of its applicability, to flurry or harry or worry them. It is not a mere exposure that all men are sinners, but special charges reserved in the Bible for the wanton, the woeful, the shameless.
These are as in Paul's day, likely to be "false apostles", forgetful of the fact that we must, in terms of subjective outrushes and mere desire, "judge nothing before the time". Ignoring this, they proceed to achieve an involvement on the part of the victim(s), so that available odium may be attached. As Paul put it, concerning such arrogant invasion on the part of pugnacious spiritual agencies, in delivering the Church at Corinth from such things:
"For you put up with fools gladly, since you yourselves are wise!
"For you put up with it if one brings you into bondage,
if one devours you,
if one takes from you,
if one exalts himself,
if one strikes you on the face.
"To our shame I say, that we were too weak for that!"
You notice the list here! With intense irony as you see there, in II Corinthians 11:19-21, Paul describes their voluntary submission to intruders who do not adhere to the commandments of Christ, who may judge or strike or order about, who may seek to turn people from reliance on Christ only, to reliance on themselves, or act in such a way. Consider what one might say if so attacked.
At least it is original. One might be slandered on all sides for so long for holding to every particle of the Bible, and giving Christ His own place, that to be attacked in a dishonour list for not responding to JUDGES, the lords who are appear self-appointed, is at least novel. They throw dirt as did Shimei at David.
One might well tremble at any thought of consenting to the evaluation and listing of such judges, who apparently measure themselves by themselves as in II Cor. 10:12, and not satisfied with that, proceed to the review of others. It is not well to respond to folly.
Let no one have the offer of Christ in His own supreme glory, idly lost through being intimidated by false apostles! Christ on the other hand, is a great finder and keeper. HE only is your Rock if you are His! (Psalm 62, 71:14-16, Isaiah 44:8, II Samuel 22:32-34, Isaiah 30:29, Psalm 18:31ff.).
Submit to US or be listed in shame, they say, as far as their delisting from virtue by their list for a list is concerned. I Corinthians 4:4-5 ends this squalor at once:
“For I know of nothing against myself, yet I am not justified by this;
but He who judges me is the LORD.
Therefore judge nothing before the time,
until the Lord comes,
who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness
and reveal the counsel of the hearts.
Then each one’s praise will come from, God.”
How great to have God as one’s judge, who is also one’s Saviour, and the Conqueror! (I John 2:1-2, Isaiah 32:1-5). Instead of reading lists, such critics would do better to read the Bible, and then to follow it.
The lords of listing alas, do not always list to do well, but to take over from the Lord in His powers, contrary to His word, and pre-empt the judgment for which ignorance is no preparation.
Be warned: for anyone to subject him or herself to such illicit and disobedient authorities is a grave compromise of relying on the Lord; and as Proverbs says, in 14:7, "Go from the presence of a foolish man when you do not perceive in him the lips of knowledge." The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and a good understanding, we read, have those who keep His commandments. God Himself is good at lists as at all else, and when it is He who speaks in His own word, not a shanghaied version, it is well to listen.
Accordingly, He has shown some lists of His own. Thus the prophet Isaiah has lists too. They are given by direct inspiration of God (Isaiah 59:21ff., I Peter 1:10ff., II Peter 2:18ff., I Corinthians 2:9ff.), and do not involve presumptuous and overbearing assessment, contrary to commandment, but what is based on indubitable knowledge and the long testimony of history.
God certainly does not empower anyone to break His commandments, but He has given power to pronounce His word, and a prohibition of adding to it (Proverbs 30:6). False apostles may bark and bite, but the true apostles and prophets of old, and on whom the Church was founded, as Paul notes in Ephesians 2:20-22, the "household of God" has a different foundation.
LISTS FROM THE LORD
IN HIS AUTHORITATIVE WORD
Let us then hear some authoritative lists from Isaiah, as in 24:1-4, which has been given here with some of its context as well. Listings are inset.
"Behold, the LORD makes the earth empty,
and makes it waste, and turns it upside down, and scatters abroad its inhabitants.
And it shall be, as with the people, so with the priest;
as with the servant, so with his master;
as with the maid, so with her mistress;
as with the buyer, so with the seller;
as with the lender, so with the borrower;
as with the taker of usury, so with the giver of usury to him.
The land shall be utterly emptied, and utterly spoiled: for the LORD has spoken this word.
The earth mourns and fades away, the world languishes and fades away; the haughty people of the earth languish. The earth also is defiled under its inhabitants ; because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant. Therefore has the curse devoured the earth, and those who dwell in it are desolate ..."
This is the list for those facing judgment, in its time; and judgment is sometimes in prelude form, in terms of indisputable happenings, sometimes in the form of previews, as here, of what is to come; and again as here, you see not seldom, it may come with an array of the reasons, in short form. At other times, they may be in a broader spread. Our God is reasonable (Isaiah 1:18). Sin is not.
"Fear, and the pit, and the snare, are upon you, O inhabitant of the earth.
And it shall come to pass,
that he who flees from the noise of the fear shall fall into the pit;
and he that comes up out of the midst of the pit shall be taken in the snare:
for the windows from on high are open, and the foundations of the earth are shaken. The earth is utterly broken down, the earth is clean dissolved,
the earth is moved exceedingly.
The earth shall reel to and fro like a drunkard,
and shall be removed like a cottage;
and the transgression thereof shall be heavy upon it;
and it shall fall, and not rise again."
Now there comes Isaiah 28:14-16
"Therefore hear the word of the LORD, you scornful men,
that rule this people which is in Jerusalem.
"Because you have said,
We have made a covenant with death, and with hell are we at agreement; when the overflowing scourge passes through,
it will not come unto us:
for we have made lies our refuge,
and under falsehood have we hid ourselves
"Therefore thus says the Lord GOD,
Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone,
a tried stone, a precious corner stone,
a sure foundation: he who believes shall not make haste.
Judgment also will I lay to the line, and righteousness to the plummet:
and the hail shall sweep away the refuge of lies,
and the waters shall overflow the hiding place.
And your covenant with death shall be annulled,
and your agreement with hell shall not stand.
When the overflowing scourge shall pass through,
then you will be trodden down by it."
Notice once again, the inset listing! There is a prodigious thoroughness about dealings of the Lord, and lists can reveal this well. In this case, it is to LISTEN to the list, and all that the Lord lists to put in it, which is the call. "Therefore hear the word of the Lord," it begins.
Hearing the truth, they find that they have made lies their refuge,
just as in organic evolution (The gods of naturalism have no go!),
dismissal of Christian history
and of godly morals in this country (News 19),
these wanderings from wisdom founded on philosophic irrationality,
are proceeding to do.
It is not that people affected and infected, necessarily are lying in the sense of knowingly speaking fraud; but the basis of such speech is so absent, and the ground of truth itself so evident, as in Romans 1:17ff., that man, holding down the truth, like a wrestler, before God is so depicted: that is, he wilfully becomes subject to "the lie" which denies God and His manifest ways. Instead, in masses and multitudes, he clings to the warrantably dismissible, and asserts the unsustainable.
Did nothing make anything ? How did it do this, since it is then something with potential, and not nothing at all, from the first: a flat contradiction in terms. Did something inadequate do it ? the same. OUR logic is based on His, OUR capacity to investigate His universe is based on the way HE made it, His verified word is just one more attestation that He who has time under His hand altogether, speaks like it, acts like it, and is to be believed.
His morals are to be believed; His Son is to be believed, for like His word written, there is no comparison in all of history (cf. SMR Ch. 6, The Magnificence of the Messiah, Christ, the Wisdom ... Ch. 8 and Repent or Perish Ch. 2). Having a precision built and operated body and mind, and then acting as if the Maker went on holiday for the prescriptions for use of the same, is to take it that one has more nous than He does, a ludicrous self-made arrogance. So it is "the lie" which God designates the effort to avoid His word, wisdom, ways and power, truth and Gospel in that same Jesus the Christ (as in Romans 1:25, II Thessalonians 2:11).
You can ignore the testimony of doctors concerning pathological areas in your body, as of the Lord concerning the same in your mind and spirit, but you cannot ignore the results for the very simple reason that God does not. Thus not only is stringently condemned misuse registered within you (as in Romans 1:27), but registered before God. His listing towards mercy is the greatest marvel, together with His actions to implement it freely (Romans 5:17, 6:23, Ephesians 2). It is this which makes life not only tolerable, but tolerable to truth. It is a two-way matter! It is the payment for sin which makes it dismissible as to guilt, and the result in regeneration which makes it ineffectual for misrule.
God has created, not from nothing, but
from His sufficient and eternal prowess these: the body, mind, spirit,
freedom, this allowing for misuse of the same, and then restoration,
reconciliation, redemption all provided for; and that is just like Him,
thorough, conscientious, qualified, surveying with wisdom, acting with grace.
Everything is covered, and God has covered it, with creation and salvation, the
former without our own consent, the latter through it.
Now we turn to listen to what God asks us to HEAR, in Isaiah 24:13-16
"When thus it shall be in the midst of the land among the people, there will be as the shaking of an olive tree, and as the gleaning grapes when the vintage is done. They shall lift up their voice, they shall sing for the majesty of the LORD, they shall cry aloud from the sea. Therefore glorify the LORD in the fires, even the name of the LORD God of Israel in the isles of the sea.
"From the uttermost part of the earth have we heard songs,
even glory to the righteous. But I said,
woe unto me!
the treacherous dealers have dealt treacherously;
yes, the treacherous dealers have dealt very treacherously."
What an aspect we come upon, here! A spiritual group including Isaiah, or a representative group of those seeking and enquiring of the Lord, declare this: " ...we have heard songs!"
Isaiah 24 has dealt with the judgment of the earth. Isaiah 25 moves on to the way in which the Lord will deal with the death that sin brings (as in Isaiah 25:8), that "He will swallow up death forever." Isaiah 25, 49-55 shows how and with what result. In the meantime, we see some of the cost. While man rejoices in carelessness, God acts. Such we see in Isaiah 25. Thus there will, even in the furthest parts of the earth, a great glorifying of the Lord (Isaiah 24:16), an immense and emotionally exuberant awareness of His majesty and abundance of grace.
Linked to this flurry of wonderful conversion (so far from Isaiah 29:13's hypocrisy), there will be on His own part, the experience of treachery. To be sure (Psalm 41, 55, 69, 109 for example, as in Zechariah 11), there had to be someone to do it, to betray the Messiah; but there is to be a nation which above that individual fact, will sanction it (Isaiah 49:7). It is as if a doctor came to a pestiferous jungle village to help, and was purposely then set upon by those whose smiles had suggested a welcome! While some saturninely were glad to kill the Christ, in their obliterative efforts in collusion, yet we find here in Isaiah 24:15-16, many rejoiced over the results of the death of the Messiah, in their exultant and exalting singing.
There was good ground, not only for their own deliverance in His goodness, but in what He so willingly paid to secure this. Thus, HE experienced the horrific loss and lapse smash of betrayal. Treachery is never a good thing; it tends to smite the soul with volcanic ashes of horror, and stab the heart with an anti-love dagger. I have often experienced it. Yet it can be almost like a vitamin pill, though it is only the Lord who can make it so, in His own comfort and strengthening! (cf. II Corinthians 1, I Peter 4:12-14).
But what is this like, this spiritual betrayal, as by one's fellows, companions. It is a thing that seemed associated with the sublime become fit for extermination; the flow of grace to help, turned to poison by secret injection. WOE IS ME! God declares (cf. Zechariah 11-12).
He foresaw it, His sacrificial mode of redemption, the pang of achieving salvation for man, as many as received Him, the Lord and the Saviour for man. Yet not in the least does this diminish the acrid acuity of His experience of it! Though the servant cannot redeem, he or she can experience the sting of twisted attack.
We, my wife and I, for example, have known we would be subject of many a verbal and other assault, when responding to the work and ministry of Jesus Christ; but this in no way, even for us, limits the impact when those using the name of Christ, bring in their recriminations, disloyalties and frank betrayals. In the special case, where you have known them well, it has added impetus to horror. It is as though hell had erupted into a scene of peace. Yet for all the bumble and breach, the Lord alone stands faithful in all things, never varying, disciplining with knowledge, educating with understanding, the relish of the soul and protector of peace, faithful to and beyond death, its scourge and from it the deliverer for all time, for all of His people, one by one, for everyone in Zion appears before God.
It is He, after all, who experienced in His perfect purity, in His glorious ultimate and effectual philanthropy, in securing salvation, the acrimony of nails, the lust of the sword and the sin in all its putridity and guilt, of all who would ever receive Him. That is why it may be said as Paul declares, that Christ is all and in all. In Him dwells the fulness of the godhead bodily (Colossians 2:9), and through Him is found the Father, as the Spirit opens the eyes and the heart assimilates His gift. HIS experience thus leaves as if nothing that of His servants, His friends, for in Him is found the gravamen of grace, the glory of merciful love, the truth for transformation of the soul, and not only the way of life, but its very base, both originally and in salvation (Colossians 1:15, John 1). To achieve that, He worked, and treachery worked as it betrayed Him, that He might die, that wse might live.
Yes, says the Lord in prophetic exclamations, "the treacherous dealers have dealt very treacherously." His emotions of horror are listed, His review of the abasement is incandescent, linked by a blessed contrast to the response of those singing of the glory which grace showed in the Messiah's willingly enduring such a listable series of inward torture, to add to the pain of the cross (Psalm 22). After all, if the cross had been the end of the matter, there would be no-one to superintend the fulfilment of all that He had said, apparent now daily before our very eyes in this remarkable generation of degeneration, our own. Through it all and overall, this is the case: as He said, so He does. What is more,
"When you make of His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed...",
for then grace has won one more as a forgiven child of God, to His glorious gift of eternal life (cf. Isaiah 53:10, 51:11, Titus 2-3). A child found, founded, forged and regenerated, kept and maintained, blessed and secure in Him (John 10:9,27-28, II Timothy 1:8-12): that is a post of perfection, with an intimacy divine.
When therefore the prophet Isaiah
speaks of those hearing these rapturous songs of praise to God, and reveals as
an approach to what follows in His prophecy, what the Lord was to suffer,
listing the unloveliness of it all, on behalf of the same of love, let us hear
One Blessed Listing
Paul lists some of those equally - through faith by grace, centred in Jesus the Christ - in one family. This is found in Galatians 3:26 - 29.
"For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus... There is
neither Jew nor Greek, there is
neither bond nor free, there is
neither male nor female:
for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ's, then are you Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise."
When it comes to eternal life, the chief blessing is not in the guarantee of the land to Israel, though this is secure as stated by the word of God unconditionally (Genesis 17:7-8), and the return of Israel to its station is as foretold (cf. Ezekiel 36ff., SMR Appendix A, It Bubbles ... Ch. 10). This moreover is a telling and irrefutable testimony continually before the eyes of the world. Rather, the essential crux is it the return of any - either in Israel or in the other nations, to the LORD, as specified in a separate act both in Zechariah 12-13 and Ezekiel 37. In Isaiah 44, you see those who come in various approaches to the Gospel grace,
some saying simply, I am the Lord's,
some coming calling themselves by the "name of Jacob," Messianic Christians, feeling the Jewish prelude in their veins, but acquiescing to the godly law over all, for their hearts (Romans 4:25ff.). Again in Isaiah 44, you find
a third group, indicated by
one who "will write with his hand, the Lord's, and name himself by the name of Israel." This group is very direct about Christ the Saviour, but these realise that they are in a sub-group within that, which is as in Romans 11, once cut out and now "re-grafted" into the tree of grace and eternal life.
Thus, however much anyone feels a prior impetus and meaning before becoming a Christian, this is sunk absolutely in the grace and mercy of God in Christ Jesus. You see the things behind, but forgetting these in the sense of having no comparison in value or meaning with Christ Himself, except of course that there may have been A TESTIMONY to this in those things past, you yearn forwards in Christ to the mark of His high calling. Whatever indeed the past, the present is tense with truth, once one is converted, and in that sense, the things behind are left behind.
You do not therefore seek to amalgamate your past culture with Christ, having a dual and synthetic Saviour. That is mere blasphemous derogation of the value of the sacrifice of the pure Lamb of God for sin (John 1:29), as if sinners could in some way contribute. On the contrary, when you know Christ, as in Colossians 3:11, "Christ is all and in all" He is the site for all action, the Lord over all movement, the meaning of all attribution, the sole agency of salvation (Acts 4:11).
If you want another Gospel, Jesus or Spirit, you can go where such darkness lies; but if you want Christ, on His own authority, you must "forsake all" to begin. This is not the final qualification, but an entry-level beginning! (Luke 14:27ff.).
The Exclusive and the Inclusive
We move on in Galatians, and we come to 4:7. "Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ."
We move through this list in sequence, going from
a slave to
a son to
The exclusive Christ - God was, in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself (II Corinthians 5:19) -forbids any entry but in heart and soul, in mind and in strength. With God, you meet One who KNOWS you and all of you and about you, and either you want Him above all or you do not. If not, it matters in this sphere, little what the reason may be; for the result is the same. He is the EXCLUSIVE way (John 14:6).
On the other hand, once you are His, then there is the INCLUSIVE result, for not only do you desire to serve Him with zeal like a slave, looking out not for your own things, but His, but you also want to walk with Him as a son, full of friendship and fellowship, as is illustrated in such cases as those of Abraham, Moses, Joshua, David and Samuel, Paul and John, Peter, and so the list goes on.
Then as a son, a child of His, by regeneration and adoption, both and all (cf. Titus 2-3, Ephesians 1), by seal and by securing, by ransom and by realisation, and in this, in what is quite parallel to begetting, though this be a spiritual begetting of grace and rescue, what then do you become ? It is this: you become heir to His realm, having in it a place reserved (II Corinthians 5, John 14, Daniel 12).
Do not then be listless,
living without listing
to the one side or the other (Ephesians 4:14),
but with straight feet (Ezekiel 1), be as one
proceeding onward with desire,
surging heavenward with undeniable attraction,
drawn by Him whose compassions drew the plan of salvation!