How Long, Lord?

Tuesday, February 11, 2014, 9:40 a.m. – When I got up this morning, the song “Wait!” was playing in my mind. Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Isaiah 6 (NIV).

Unclean Lips

In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another:

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty;
the whole earth is full of his glory.”
At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.

“Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.”

Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.”

The Bible says that no one is righteous in his or her own flesh. We have all sinned, and we all come up short, of our own merit, of attaining God’s acceptance, approval and salvation. We have all gone astray and have gone our own way – the way of our own fleshly appetites and sinful human desires. Not one of us deserves God’s grace or to be able to stand in his holy presence. So, we should all be able to identify with Isaiah’s humble sentiments here when he realized his own sinfulness in comparison to God’s awesome divine holiness.

Yet, Praise God, our Father God provided a way for us to be made holy and righteous in his sight! He sent his Son Jesus Christ (God in human likeness – see Ro. 8:3) to earth to take on human flesh, to suffer as we suffer, and to be tempted in like manner as we are also tempted, yet without sin. He sent him to die for our sins; and to be our sacrificial Lamb offering for the sins of the entire world. And, he invites us to accept his free gift of grace - his great salvation from our sin - via faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior of our lives.

This faith in Christ, and in what he did for us in dying for our sins, submits itself to the cross of Christ; to death to sin and to life lived in the Spirit of Christ; and to the working of the Spirit of God in turning us from the darkness of slavery to sin to the light of Christ, and to walking in his Spirit. And such faith – a gift of God’s grace - begins with much humility of spirit as is demonstrated to us here by Isaiah when he acknowledged his own sinfulness to God and his own inability, in his own human flesh, to have the right to be in the presence of Almighty God, because of God’s perfect holiness. Isaiah knew what it was to fear God.

Who Will Go?

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!”

Before Jesus left this earth to return to heaven he told his disciples that they were to “GO” out into all the world for the express purpose of making disciples (followers of Christ) of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit (our triune God), and teaching them to obey everything that Christ commanded them. He also told them that after he left he would send his Holy Spirit to indwell them, and to empower them, and that they would then be his witnesses to all the earth. I believe these words of our Lord are to be applied to all followers of Christ (his disciples), and that we have all been instructed to be his witnesses, and that we are to “GO,” and that we are to take his great and awesome message of salvation by God’s grace, through faith, out to the world around us.

Yet, should we even have to be told to “GO”? We should be so grateful for God’s awesome grace to us, and so thankful for his great salvation, and so appreciative of his deliverance from sin and of his righteousness, which he credited to our accounts, and which can now be lived in and out through us; and we should be so humbled by our own recognition of our own unworthiness, and of his awesome love and compassion and mercy toward us, that we should be moved to compassion to want to share that great salvation with everyone.

How many times in our lives do we experience something we feel is exciting, awesome, wonderful, fun, new, beneficial, or praise worthy, etc. and we can’t wait to tell others about it (now days to post it on social media sites or internet discussion groups)? And, yet we are reluctant oftentimes to share the greatest message of all, and the only true hope, victory, joy, peace and assurance of salvation that we can offer others for now and for eternity. Our excitement and joy over what Christ did for us should just naturally (in the Spirit) flow out from us to those we love and to the people of this world. The gospel of salvation is the greatest news there is to share!! And, it should be our greatest joy to share it, too!!

This People

He said, “Go and tell this people:

“‘Be ever hearing, but never understanding;
be ever seeing, but never perceiving.’
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.”

Yet, although we “GO” with the message of salvation, not everyone will be saved. Jesus quoted this passage from Isaiah in his parable of the sower. I believe that parable gives us a picture of three types of response to the message of the gospel of salvation, even today, fitting to the quoted passage above. The first response is to not accept Christ at all. The second is to accept the message with joy, and perhaps even to believe they have been genuinely saved, but the “faith,” being superficial (surface only), never truly takes root, and the person quickly goes back to the lifestyle lived before the “decision” made, especially when faced with persecution for their “faith.” This person is not genuinely saved, either. The third response is unclear to me. I believe it can be taken either as another “surface only” decision to receive Christ, or it can be speaking of someone who did genuinely believe in Jesus Christ, but who allowed the distractions of this life and the hunger for the things of this world to eventually choke out the truth which was planted, and thus the word bears no result in the person’s lifestyle. This person is in great need of revival or of salvation.

What stands out to me here is that Isaiah spoke to God’s chosen people. He was not speaking to those who did not know or who had not heard. These were God’s covenant people. They knew God, and they had been taught about God and of his requirements for them for holy living. They were not lacking in knowledge, but in willing obedience. In New Testament times, though, as a whole they rejected Jesus Christ and his gospel message of salvation, though some believed. As well, the parable of the sower appears to describe those who refused to believe, those with only superficial belief, and those who had allowed their faith to stagnate due to the distractions of this world, as well as those living fruit-bearing godly lives. So, I believe this message of Isaiah is for those without faith, those with only superficial faith, and for those whose faith has stagnated. God is saying that these people have closed their minds, hearts, eyes and ears to the truth of the gospel, and that they need to turn from their sin and experience God’s saving or reviving (renewal) grace.

How Long?

Then I said, “For how long, Lord?”

And he answered:

“Until the cities lie ruined
and without inhabitant,
until the houses are left deserted
and the fields ruined and ravaged,
until the Lord has sent everyone far away
and the land is utterly forsaken.
And though a tenth remains in the land,
it will again be laid waste.
But as the terebinth and oak
leave stumps when they are cut down,
so the holy seed will be the stump in the land.”

Isaiah wanted to know how long the people would remain like that – hard-hearted and stubborn, refusing to follow Christ and his will for their lives. And, he inquired as to how long it would be before the people would turn from their sins and would choose to walk in faithful obedience to their God. God’s response to him is that the people would not have a change of heart about God until after God brought divine judgment upon them (see Rev. 2-3). Sadly enough, I believe that is the case with God’s people, the church, especially here in America today, though not all. I see in the institutional church many who have never believed, though they have heard, and many with only superficial faith, and others who have had genuine faith, but who have allowed it to stagnate (like the church in Laodicea). And, I believe God is calling out to these three groups of people to turn from their sins and to follow Jesus Christ with their lives, but many of them are not willing. And, so they will remain like that until God does bring his divine dose of discipline upon them.

The good news is that via God’s divine discipline, the church will be revived, the gospel of salvation will go forth, and many will be saved. I believe the prophecies of scripture teach this. And, this has always been God’s goal in disciplining his people – to bring them back to him (and to bring the unsaved world to faith in him). God doesn’t punish just to be mean. He does so out of mercy to move people to repentance when they won’t be moved in any other way, due to the hardening of their hearts. And, the servants of the Lord who must bring forth these messages also do not do so because they are mean and negative people. They do so because they love the people and they lament and grieve over the people’s spiritual condition, longing for the day when they will turn or return to their Lord.

Wait! / An Original Work / February 8, 2014

Wait for your Lord. Be of courage.
Be strong, and take heart today.
God is always watching o’er you.
Trust Him with your life always.

Sing of your Lord. Praise His blessings.
Believe in His sovereignty.
He delivered you from your sin;
Gave you life eternally.

Rest in your Lord. Know His promise.
Beneath His wings rest secure.
Your God has a plan and purpose.
Let your faith in Him endure.

Trust in your Lord. He’ll not leave you,
Because He is faithfulness.
He will lead and guide; protect you.
In His love you can find rest.