Daily Reflections June 16, 2017
In chapter 47, Isaiah meditates upon the fall of Babylon. Now, in this chapter, he considers the departure of Israel back home. God’s people have some sense of joy and release but the prophet provides a very insightful context that every Christian should consider. There are two things in the first half that is very relevant to all of us.
Isaiah reveals the inauthenticity of the Israelite people. They were called Israel, they came from a great land, they swore by the name of the Lord, and confessed that the true God was their God. But they were truly a rebellious, hard-hearted, covenant-breaking, and idolatrous nation. In like manner, many churches today who are filled with people who call themselves Christians, proudly announce their church affiliation, sign commitment cards to God, and claim that God is their Lord. Yet, in truth, they willingly and persistently dismiss God’s commands, they boast in their own efforts, and hoard impotent idols. The claim to be one of God’s chosen people should be taken very seriously. We ought not to utter that claim without much reflection nor should we so easily accept it from others who live their lives otherwise.
Isaiah also reveals the reason God put Israel in Babylonian exile. In verse 11 he says, “For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it, for how should my name be profaned? My glory I will not give to another.” (Isaiah 48:11). God is a jealous God. He will not allow anything to take from his glory. So, he declared things that would come to pass so that they would not be able to attribute the acts to idols. He discloses new things so that they would not be able to claim they already knew it. And he puts his people in the refining fire of affliction so that all other idols are powerless to save them. God works to display his glory. He did this with the people of Israel and he does so with Christians today. He will do whatever it takes to wean us of our idols and show that he is unfathomably more worthy of praise than they could ever be. It may be that he allows us to experience the false promise of an idol so that he can show us that his promises never fail. It may be that he permits us to fail to see some truths for quite some time in rebellion in order to show us that we can never attain revelation without him. He may also place us in times of affliction so that we learn the inability of anything else to save us besides his mighty right hand.
When we understand these two things as true Christians, then our struggles in life take on a whole new meaning.
Yours in Christ,
Associate Pastor Evan Webster
Chapter 18 of Revelation continues the proclamation of judgement begun in the previous chapter. An angel announces that Babylon has fallen, and God’s people rejoice at this news. The original readers of this text would have known that these words were not written about the Babylon long since destroyed, but would have understood Babylon as a reference to the Roman empire (see also 1 Pet 5:13). These words, however, are directed not only to historic Rome, but extend into the future and announce the fate of this world at the hands of our holy and just God. We must, therefore, ask ourselves how this text instructs the church today.
Thankfully this task is made easier by noticing the direct address made towards God’s people in verse 4. We read here:
“Then I heard another voice from heaven saying, ‘Come out of her, my people, lest you take part in her sins, lest you share in her plagues.’” Revelation 18:4
This, of course, is not the first time in the NT that we hear such a command. In another letter written by the Apostle John we read the following:
“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world- the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions- is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.” 1 John 2:15-17
The message is overwhelmingly clear. If you walk in the ways of the world, you will be judged with the world. There is no room in God’s kingdom for those who revel in darkness. What is striking, however, is how this darkness is depicted. In this chapter we specifically see condemnation for two things: sexual immorality and luxurious living. As people living in 21st century North America, this should give us pause. Turning on the television for a few minutes will reveal that these things are at the core of our society.
What, then, are we to do? Let us remember the words of Jesus when he prayed to the Father:
“I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so have I sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.” John 17:14-19
Let us live as Jesus prayed. Let us be people characterized by the Word of God, sanctified in truth, and active in the mission of Christ. Let’s open our eyes to the injustices of this world and seek to bring Gospel light into these situations. If we do otherwise, we are at risk of sharing in the judgement of Babylon.