Daily Reflections May 12, 2017
Isaiah has spoken about the Assyrian invasions event in chapter 7-8, and now he poetically reveals the deeper reality of the occasion. The commentator Alec Motyer gives a very helpful summary:
“…this passage asserts a philosophy of history, how the historical facts arise from hidden supernatural causes, and how the human actors who are the hinges on which history outwardly turns are themselves personal and responsible agents within a sovereignly ordered and exactly tuned moral system.”1
Although the Assyrians thought that they were a self-made super-power that autonomously conquered their foes, they were actually a tool of God to chastise Israel. But just because God would use them as his instrument does not mean that they were exempt from their own sin. Eventually they would be judged for their arrogance and idolatry.
This gives us a very stark reminder that God is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. The leaders of this world only have power insofar as God has given it to them. Jesus makes this clear in John 19:11 when he was confronted by Pilate. This means that believers ought to have a profoundly different way of speaking about and responding to politics.
This passage also reminds us that God treats people as responsible agents even when they bring about his divine decree. The Assyrians were not excused from their evil purpose even though God used them to fulfil his holy purpose. His wrath would be redirected toward them at the proper time. So, while we should heed the chastisement that God may bring through leaders and authorities, we ought not to think that God approves or defends their evil lives.
It is difficult for us to understand how God can be completely sovereign over all things and mankind is morally responsible. However, even though how these two aspects work together may be a mystery to us, the truth of both is clearly seen here as well as other places in Scripture. And in all this God will forever be righteous. So, although it may be hard for us in our flesh to understand, let us read and glorify God that,
“Destruction is decreed, overflowing with righteousness.” (Isaiah 10:22)
Yours in Christ,
Associate Pastor Evan Webster
1 Motyer, Alec. Isaiah. Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries. InterVarsity Press. Downers Grove, Illinois 1999. Pg. 108.
This chapter can be divided into two fairly distinct parts. The first part flows out of the last chapter and is found in verses 1-12, and the second starts in verse 13 and goes to the end of the chapter.
Let’s start with the first. It is no coincidence that James heads into this chapter just after he had talked about godly and earthly wisdom. James talked about earthly wisdom, and here he shows its' outcome: fights and quarrels, pleasure seeking, and evil desires. We are adulterers, straying from God’s goodness to be enslaved by our own carnal thinking. Luckily there is a remedy stated in this passage. We are to humble ourselves; this is step one in the process of sanctification. What flows out of a humble heart is submission to God - we do that by obeying His word, and we then have the ability to resist the Devil’s schemes against us. I think that the main point of this chapter is humility, but James says something interesting in verse 8: we are called to draw near to God. Many of us think that once we are saved, everything will come naturally - but this phrase speaks of action. We need to abandon our old ways and draw near to God. This will take work. God also calls us to be broken over our sin and humble before Him.
The second part of the chapter talks to us about our penchant for looking to the future. I gleaned three things from this part of James 4.
1. Don’t leave God out of your planning. We are all guilty of thinking about the future without factoring what God wants from us. We focus on how much we can make in the next job, or where our next vacation is going to be. Instead, like James says:
Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” (James 4:15 ESV)
2. Life is short, don’t waste it.
John Piper wrote a book called “Don’t Waste Your Life”; in the preface, he writes this:
“If you are a Christian, you are not your own. Christ has bought you at the price of His own death. You now belong doubly to God: He made you, and He bought you. That means your life is not your own. It is God’s. Therefore, the Bible says, “Glorify God in your body.” God made you for this. He bought you for this. This is the meaning of your life.
Like in the last point, we often get focused too much on the here and now. We forget that the life of a Christian is eternal. This temporal life is to be used for the gospel and the furtherance of the kingdom of God. Yes, we have to feed our families and live in the culture that God has placed us, but let’s not lose sight of our real purpose. That leads us to the last point:
3. Don’t miss opportunities for gospel witness now.
James puts it this way:
So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin. (James 4:17 ESV)
As Christians, we know that God has called us to preach the gospel to anyone who will listen. For many of us, the thought of sharing our faith with someone is terrifying. I know that, I have felt that. However, the more you do it the easier it becomes.
So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 10:32-33 ESV)
For God’s glory and our good!
Associate Pastor Jonathan Welch