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SPURNING DIVINE DELIGHT
DRAGS A DREADFUL DENOUEMENT
In Isaiah 29, that profound revelation sitting in its beautiful purlieus, Isaiah 28 with its foundation in the Messiah (28:16), 30 with its divine intimacy as in 30:21 (and equally sovereign repudiation of the Israel that would vaunt itself, rather than come in faith), 32 with its Messianic glory, we find this. There is an intense and excoriating, a relentless and derisive exposure of hypocrisy and pretence which must remind us of Matthew 23, where it comes direct from the mouth of the Lord Himself.
Equally (in this combination which is so intense in this area), there is a beauty of holiness revealed in 29:17-24, where the work of the Messiah, as indeed in Isaiah 35, is seen in the extraordinary and immeasurable donations of bliss, in healing that is not only a restoration, but one with such vigour as to demarcate the supernatural ease of divine intervention.
How we are reminded of Hosea 5, in the opening verses of Isaiah 29:1-8. There is to be distress to the recalcitrant, and "you shall speak out of the ground," so low is the destiny of wild formalism, and "your voice shall be like a medium's, out of the ground" which is a fitting rebuke to the naturalism to which they, like our present generation, are so akin. Thus, loving the earth as if it were a mother, which is a mere environment made together with man by the God of law and design, destiny and intricacy, wisdom and work, they can speak from its 'bosom', the dust. Yes "your speech shall whisper out of the dust" - Isaiah 29:4.
It will be as a dream, You think you quench thirst, but on waking, the pangs are the same. You think you eat, but as you awake, your hunger stays. So is the hunger diverted from the Lord to the mere fruits of fulness, the mere love of pleasure, which takes no notice that reason is his gift, man's joy and his condemnation, who yet abominates Him as Lord, and will take His products, indeed man's own self, and make them serve folly, vanity and emptiness, as if it were a fit of madness that does not rest.
Nor does this generation rest from its labours of war, without law, of hatred, without love, of revenge without cease, of dominion without reason, and confirm itself as the fool who has said in his heart, There is no God! Of course, this is 'only' a trend ? But naturally; but such a trend as if the Titanic were left with 20 minutes to sink. A trend not yet pervasive ? Entirely so, but wait for it, the trend proceeds!
HOSEA AND THE DISCHARGE OF REBELLION
Look at Hosea in parallel, then, and take this in conjunction with the preceding and what now follows in Isaiah 29:9-12. The charge in Hosea ? This:
"My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.
Because you have rejected knowledge,
I also will reject you from being priest for Me,
Because you have forgotten the law of your God,
I also will forget your children.
"The more they increased,
The more they sinned against Me:
"I will change their glory in to shame.
They eat up the sin of My people;
"They set their heart on their iniquity:
And it shall be like people, like priest.
"So I will punish hem for their ways,
And reward them for their deeds."
Ponder the path of the recent Anglican and Uniting Church folly in the role of sexual perversion in priests, or bishops, or pastors! Is it not just such an unknowledgeable, law-forgetting, moral dictating way, such a dilation of disunity, a desperation of dereliction from His word, that mirrors as if one held a glass to a lady's very face, the exact expression of our times in such matters: ours and those of ancient Israel as it prepared to fall!
But did it repent ? a little here or there, till it fell headlong into exile.
Yet let us return to Isaiah. In this case, we see the charge, that one should "pause and wonder" ... why ? what great scene is to be witnessed ? It is this: "They are drunk, but not with wine. They stagger, but not with intoxicating drink. For the LORD has poured out on you the spirit of deep sleep, and has closed your eyes, namely the prophets, and He has covered your heads, namely the seers."
The pantomime continues. It is as if the prophet goes to some learned priest, prelate, bishop or other high official (just or unjust), and asks, Can you read for me, show me the word of the Lord please ? And the man, filled with his inventive theologies and uncertain sound, as now, declares but no, it is sealed. He does not take it as it comes; he talks about it as it goes, as now, in the welter of philosophical inventions which masquerade as theology. The word of God is hidden from his unseeing eyes.
Well then, the prophet will go to the unlearned. We follow him as he goes, reporter-like, to confront someone such and find his thought.
Perhaps in some corner, there is one who without being specifically trained, yet has the spirituality, the talent and the wit to open up the scriptures of truth. But no! The unlearned man, so approached, declares, in effect, No, I am afraid I cannot help you; for you see I am unlearned. It is all beyond me.
Learning is but insulation in such cases, from truth; and ignorance, its support!
So do they move, in one direction; and as with an aircraft pilot, it may be that you are high, but in a while, really quite a little while, you fall from the skies, and the earth does not forever delay its coming, or its dread meeting. You laugh ? so did they mock Jeremiah, and for that matter, the Lord Himself, and that with the most intense scorn; but the ground was still there. You cannot with impunity remove the ground of faith and the force of reality, or and far less, the word of the Lord (cf. Amos 4:13, 3:7ff.), however high you fly in the sky of illusion.
The LORD then, in Isaiah 29:13ff., in words quoted by Jesus Christ, declares that since the people draw near to Him, in mouth, yet are far from Him in their hearts, and "their fear toward Me is taught by the commandment of men" (cf. Christ's denunciation of putting tradition with His word in the place of His covenantal gatherings): He will act. This action has two phases.
It is first of all WONDERFUL (as in 28:21, following 28:16, the announcement of the Messiah as the foundation for life, in that day, then still to come, now long come as per Daniel 9's forecast of the death date - SMR pp. 886ff.). It will bring wisdom (John 3:16, I Corinthians 1, Romans 1:16) that is indeed wonderful; but this by its very nature shows by contrast the folly of fools who masquerade as possessing it, while being bereft of it.Thus, secondly, it has judgment in it (as in John 3:36,19) and it will bring ruin (as to Jerusalem in A.D. 70, when long had they continued their rejection of their own Christ), but it will also bring light.
This matter of judgment (Isaiah 28:28), it is not intemperate, rather the irrevocable outcome, where what is wonderful is ignored, what is unusual is despised, what is comfort is neglected.
In Isaiah 29:14ff., we see that the wisdom of the wise will perish, while God does His wonderful work: what He had called in Isaiah 28, His strange or unusual action, His direct involvement in piercing through the protective smog of man's heart with the purity of irresistible light, showing the folly of all contest with the Lord. It is that same foundation for man of 28:16, so that he who believes in Him will not make haste! His way will be rest, peace.
His outrage at the pathologically normal, that is the epidemic, almost pandemic of naturalism is again shown in 29:16.
"Surely you have turned things around!
Shall the potter be esteemed as the clay:
For shall the thing made say of him who made it,
'He did not make me'?
Or shall the thing formed say of him who formed it,
'He has no understanding.' "
It is then, after this, that the Lord revisits His good word of Isaiah 28:16, and continues in the company of Messianic presentation, that all-competent, that all-exposing, that all-comforting beauty of the Lord who is to come, and has come and will come again (as in Zechariah 14), in judgment. Thus, in Isaiah 29:17ff., it is with blessing as in Isaiah 35 that He comes, that He exposes the coming time of His salvation plan. In this day of divine action, this unusual act, this action indeed of being the destruction of death by redemption (Hosea 13:14, Isaiah 52-53), this bounty of the Lord by suffering that is not only patient, but hi-performance resulting in triumph for faith and freedom for those coming to Him, since the payment is His and the result is adoption into His very own family (Isaiah 53:9ff., Ephesians 1:1-11): and there will be joy.
Then ? "The humble shall increase their joy in the Lord" - 29:19. "The deaf shall hear the words of the book, and the yes of the blind shall see out of obscurity and out of darkness."
It is clear that in this blessed phase the Lord is not scorning, but blessing, not condemning but adding joy. It is the real blind who, despite their affliction will receive such a welter of blessing that not only will the book be there for them to read (and of course the delicious new covenant within it, as in Isaiah 28:16, Jeremiah 31:31, 3:16), but sight will be restored to their blind eyes for the purpose. Not only will the deaf hear, who like the meek will increase with blessing, but there will be something wonderful to hear! It is as in Isaiah 35 where the lame will leap like a deer (and they DO leap when surprised, with a lithe strength, as did the man healed in Acts 3, in the name of the Lord - Acts 3:7ff.).
Yes in this miraculous way, with this "unusual" act, this wonderful performance, this banishment of death, this enduement with healing power, this bringing of those who are not arrogant but contrite, to a deep inner joy, there is to be a gift from God beyond all comprehension, until you see it. For who would dream that the deity whose justice does not depart, and whose condemnation does not allay itself with pretence, should so love that He would Himself endure the result of His own standards of purity, and die for sinners (as in Isaiah 52-53), and so as man become Saviour, a role ONLY GOD can have (Isaiah 43:10-11), so that it is indeed the LORD HIMSELF (as in Hosea 13:14) who personally makes the payment.
So does this prophet of evangelical beauty, provide as he has done, more or less directly, in Isaiah 2, 4, 7, 9, 11, 22, 24, 25, 28, 29, 30, 32, 35, 40, 42, 49, 50-55, 60-61, 65-66 the vision of the Messiah, of His time, coming, judgment, pardon and grace, His miraculous wonder. Here too he shows the love of the Lord, that surpasses miracle, but does not cease to possess it, in that it is the Supernatural Saviour Himself who comes in Person, the very unmeasured wonder of God as man (cf. John 3:34, 5:19ff., 8:58).
Man as so often, tends to be distressed at this wonder, disturbed at this peace, uneasy at this pardon, and to continue until his dereliction before wonder becomes his destiny in depravity of spirit, and judgment itself (Romans 1-3). Yet it need not be so; and this difference is enough to have warranted the coming of the Lord! He has done it. His judgment is not merely in awarding destiny, but in opening the way of pardon at cost to Himself alone.
SIGNAL FROM THE CYNIC is not NEW!
The Lord's WONDERFUL ACT is ALWAYS NEW
Recently, one saw a contemporary style of joke. It went like this. This life is a test; it must be, for the instructions could not be so inadequate if it were the real thing!
That is very much in the spirit of Malachi 2:17. It is a charge that God has NOT said. God makes the charge that HE HAS NOT ONLY SAID, but DONE, and that what He has done is not only wonderful, but unusual, for whoever heard of a King laying down His life for His people, or a Lawgiver INSISTING on taking the lashes upon Himself. Not adequate instruction ? Is this said by one who has even opened the covers of the divine law, or bothers to consider the possibility of keeping it; far less, found the remedy for delinquency, and the antidote to rebellion!
Such is this generation in its trend: it is towards an unbridled licence, as if having reins in its mouth were too much to ask, or being of service to the maligned and grossly slandered Creator, who is the Saviour, were something unthinkable; for behold the mouth is full of curses, and convenience rules for survival, so that the heresies of Moslem and sect, are compounded with the follies of the Cultural Divine, which lords it over the people with the latest dreams of the moment, founded literally on nothing, and all are to be one in one wonderful vitamised fashion, as if all the work of all the dunces in the class were to be compounded into a NEW MATHS., where the teacher could not figure, nor draw out any word. (Cf. News 100, 121, 122, Acme, Alpha and Omega Ch. 9, Spiritual Refeshings Chs. 3, 13.)
There is an end to all this. This always is and has been. It is coming. But in the interval before the final sunset reveals a sulking, skulking earth, this is still the light of life in the Creator, Redeemer and Speaker whose word has governed history, whose grace has made of sinners, arrows of the Lord, brought kindness to corruption and peace to anxiety, comfort to bewilderment and contrition to the arrogant. It is still open, this book, this neglected book which still sells by the tens of millions, adorns polluted pulpits where folly rants and rebellion uses the name of God for its pleasure. The time has not past, nor has the opportunity been yet annulled.
If error must be shown, it is that health may be found. If folly is exposed, it is that wisdom may be grasped. Grasp it then and live; and living, avoid the evil, seek the good, and follow on to know the Lord, whose proceeding is like the dawn, and whose blessing like the showers that water the earth, from above, not below, in His unusual act, His deep blessing for the field and life of man. It is by FAITH only, for it is not a natural but a supernatural thing. It is not naturalism but deity, that rules. He is to be found where He has always been, by the humbled and contrite heart, by the trusting and receiving soul which returns to the Lord, who gives pardon so abundantly that it is as if sin had never entered, and He dwells in the life as the sun on the clouds (Hosea 6:1ff.).
It is to one, it is to all. It is to Israel, on its return:
“I will strengthen the house of Judah,
the house of Joseph I will save;
I will bring them back, because I have mercy on them,
they shall be as though I had never cast them off,
for I am the LORD, their God, and I will hear them.”
It is to each on his, on her
return to the Lord, to His word, to His ways, to His pardon and His love.
For, says Isaiah 55:6-7,
“Seek the Lord while He may be found,”
Call upon Him while He is near.
Let the wicked forsake his way,
And the unrighteous man his thoughts,
Let him return to the LORD,
And He will have mercy on him;
And to our God,
For He will abundantly pardon.”
It is not only his erring ways, but his THOUGHTS, autonomous, caviling, self-affirming, indifferent, which must be abandoned: not reason which requires the truth (SMR), but irrationality which by will clings to the till that is empty, man as measure of all things, himself unmeasured, his chair set on nothing, his will on his own wonder, who ignores the word of Him who giving him mind, expects him to mind the Mind of God, and to hear His word and to find in Him, his salvation. Then does the power of God move the mountains of life that obstruct the light, and then does the life have the light of life (John 8:12).