Monday, February 6, 2012

The Love of Our God

Does it ever strike you how God's Word sometimes just jumps off the page? I'm not sure if you've ever experienced this, but sometimes, when I read the Bible, it's like these millenia-old words were written just for my hears to hear. I can read passages from 1 Samuel and Proverbs and John and Romans and James and no matter how much time has passed between then and now, I still feel like they were written for me.

One excellent example of this phenomena is Isaiah 59. If you have never read it, it wouldn't surprise me. I didn't come across it until sometime last year. This is one of those chapters that it never fails to speak to me. Every time I read it, the same emotion always comes up inside me. I love this chapter because it is a timeless example of the wickedness of man and the beauty of our God. I have actually tried many times to blog about Isaiah 59, but my posts have never done justice to the eloquence of the chapter. It isn't an easy chapter to read, or to write about, because it is such a humbling passage. It rips of the mask of the evil human heart and exposes our sins for what they are. It shines light in the darkness and shows the truth in the shadows. It parades about the guilt of man and shows us what we truly deserve: Hell. With a capital H. But it also shows the great love of God. It shows the bright and abounding beauty of Jesus Christ. It shows how merciful and graceful and righteous He is. It reveals how despicable of a people we are, and how forgiving and loving of a Father He is.

But you cannot appreciate this Word until you read it for yourself. And so, without further adieu, here is Isaiah 59:

"But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear. For your hands are stained with blood, your fingers with guilt. Your lips have spoken lies, and your tongue mutters wicked things. No one calls for justice; no one pleads his case with integrity. They rely on empty arguments and speak lies; they conceive trouble and give birth to evil... Their deeds are evil deeds, and acts of violence are in their hands. Their feet rush into sin; they are swift to shed innocent blood. Their thoughts are evil thoughts; ruin and destruction mark their ways. The way of peace they do not know; there is no justice in their paths. They have turned them into crooked roads; no one who walks in them will know peace.

So justice is far from us, and righteousness does not reach us. We look for light, but all is darkness; for brightness, but we walk in deep shadows. Like the blind we grope along the wall, feeling our way like men without eyes. At midday we stumble as if it were twilight; among the strong, we are like the dead. We all growl like bears; we moan mournfully like doves. We look for justice, but find none; for deliverance, but it is far away. For our offenses are many in your sight, and our sins testify against us. Our offenses are ever with us, and we acknowledge our iniquities: rebellion and treachery against the Lord, turning our backs on our God, fomenting oppression and revolt, uttering lies our hearts have conceived.

So justice is driven back, and righteousness stands at a distance; truth has stumbled in the streets,
honesty cannot enter. Truth is nowhere to be found, and whoever shuns evil becomes a prey.

The Lord looked and was displeased that there was no justice. He saw that there was no one, he was appalled that there was no one to intervene; so his own arm worked salvation for him, and his own righteousness sustained him. He put on righteousness as his breastplate, and the helmet of salvation on his head; he put on the garments of vengeance and wrapped himself in zeal as in a cloak. According to what they have done, so will he repay wrath to his enemies and retribution to his foes; he will repay the islands their due. From the west, men will fear the name of the Lord, and from the rising of the sun, they will revere his glory. For he will come like a pent-up flood that the breath of the Lord drives along. 'The Redeemer will come to Zion, to those in Jacob who repent of their sins,' declares the Lord.'

'As for me, this is my covenant with them,' says the Lord. 'My Spirit, who is on you, and my words that I have put in your mouth will not depart from your mouth, or from the mouths of your children, or from the mouths of their descendants from this time on and forever,” says the Lord.'"

Why? Why does such a perfect and holy God choose to be patient with us? Why does He bless us? Why does He give us His Spirit when He should give us Hell? Why, when we don't deserve it, does He love us so?

How? How can He be so good? How can His love be so great that we are found holy, blameless, and perfect in His eyes? How is it that He blesses us and calls us His children when we deserve His endless wrath? How can anyone love such a wretched people as us? How is it that we will spend eternity dancing with the King when we deserve Hell?

What? What causes the change in verse 20? What compels God to shift from the wrathful and vengeful God in verses 18 and 19 to a loving and redeeming God in verses 20 through 22? What did we ever do to deserve the Redeemer that He sent? What logic does God follow that He should unconditionally love a people as desperately wicked as us? What could He have thought when He died on that cross for you, for me, for us?

"Woe is me! 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!" I do not deserve this. I do not deserve this King, this Redeemer that God has sent me. I am a wicked, wretched man, and I live among a wicked and wretched people. I am completely unworthy! I am unworthy of the love and redemption He offers me! Why did God die for me? How is that even possible? What love He must have! What passionate and unconditional love He must have to die for a man as lowly and awful as me!

I am utterly ruined by Isaiah 59. The love my Father has for me is simply too great for me to comprehend. My mind is too small and feeble to grasp the severity and finality of His redeeming love. I do not deserve Him. I do not deserve His love or His redemption. And even more, I certainly am unworthy of His relationship. For to be on a first name basis with the Creator of the galaxies? The Breather of stars? The Former of worlds? It is too great for me. I am too lowly and unworthy to bear it. He is the Potter, and I am the clay. I don't deserve all that He has blessed me with. I don't deserve the relationship He and I have. I don't deserve all of the gifts He has blessed me with. I don't deserve His material blessings, nor his spiritual ones. I don't deserve the amount of care and love and guidance He gives me every minute of every hour of every day. I don't deserve to even know His Name.

And yet that's what He offers us. He offers us forgiveness. Redemption. Love. Mercy. Grace. He offers us a hope and a future. He offers to rescue us from hell, yes, but more so He offers a personal, intimate, one-of-a-kind relationship! He offers to be our Everything. He offers to be our All in all. Our King of kings. Our Lord of lords. Our Father of fathers. Our Friend of friends. Our Lover of lovers. Our Redeemer of redeemers.

Above all else, He offered Himself on a cross. For our sins. He took the blow that was meant for me. He stepped in to save me from the Hell that I deserved. He offers us an eternity in His home with Him. He offers us true life, a life where there will be no more tears. No more pain. No more sin. No more imperfection.

He offers us all this and there is but one cost, and that cost is this: We have to live our lives to bring Him glory, to bring Him honor and praise, and to bring attention to Him in all that we do. We have to follow the example He left for us while He was here on earth. Yes, the cost is high. Yes, He demands all that we have, even our very lives and livelihood. But look at what He offers in place of what we have now. Someone once said, "He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot loose." So yes, the cost is high. But look at what He offers us instead. Look what what we'd be gaining.

How could we ever think of saying no?

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