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Monday, March 14, 2011

A Rejected and Upset God - Lessons from Isaiah

A Rejected and Upset God - Lessons in Isaiah

A favorite Bible verse, John 3:16 says that “God so loved the world (we humans) that He gave His only Son,---” We really matter to God. The way we live our lives can be a great pleasure to Him or a great sorrow. God is emotionally involved with us just as we are emotionally involved with our children. In the book of Isaiah, God cries and complains and fumes and argues about His lost relationship with Israel.

I have known several unfortunate parents whose grown children have broken off all relationships with them. These parents love their children and had been good caring parents. These mothers and fathers now feel betrayed and can’t understand why their beloved children have cut them off. If you listen very long to these rejected souls you will hear expressions of loss and love and anger and desperation all mixed together. And that is what you hear when you listen to God as He cries and rails about His lost relationship with Israel and with all of humanity. How did it come to this? It’s all written down in the book of Isaiah as well as the other prophetic books.

Listen as God cries out: “I have reared children and brought them up; but they have rebelled against Me. The ox knows his master, the donkey his owner’s manger, but Israel does not know Me, my people do not understand. Ah, sinful nation, a people loaded with guilt, a brood of evildoers, children given to corruption. They have forsaken the Lord; they have spurned the Holy One of Israel and turned their backs on Him.” (Isaiah 1:2-4)

And again in the book of Isaiah a distraught God compares His wayward child, Israel, to a vineyard. “My loved one had a vineyard on a fertile hillside. He dug it up and cleared it of stones and planted it with the choicest vines. He built a watchtower in it and cut out a winepress as well. Then he looked for a crop of good grapes, but it yielded only bad fruit. …Now judge between me and my vineyard. What more could have been done for my vineyard than I have done? When I looked for good grapes, why did it yield only bad? Now I will tell you what I am going to do to my vineyard; I will take away its hedge, and it will be destroyed; I will break down its wall, and it will be trampled. I will make it a wasteland, neither pruned nor cultivated, and briers and thorns will grow there. I will command the clouds not to rain on it.. The vineyard of the Lord Almighty is the house of Israel and the people of Judah are the garden of His delight. And He looked for justice, but saw bloodshed: for righteousness, but heard cries of distress.” (Isaiah 5:1a-7)

Throughout the book of Isaiah God lists the sins that bother Him so much – and begs Israel and the other nations to turn from them. He judges the political and religious leaders with this complaint. “The Lord enters into judgment against the elders and leaders of his people: ‘It is you who have ruined my vineyard: the plunder from the poor is in your houses. What do you mean by crushing my people and grinding the faces of the poor?’” (Isaiah 3:14-15) All through Isaiah and throughout all of Scripture God holds up this standard for His people to live by. God’s people are to take care of the poor. The ancient Jewish people ignored this standard back then and many Christians are ignoring it today. We find God’s command to help the poor everywhere in Scripture. So how did they miss it? How can we miss it?

But there are many more complaints God makes against His children throughout the book of Isaiah. There was little justice in the corrupt judicial system of ancient Israel. Judges were taking bribes and violence was rampant throughout the land. Many of the Israelites had forgotten their covenant with God and were worshipping idols. God hated to see His people rejecting Him and worshipping idols. God took this personally and was jealous of their misplaced worship. He asks His people: “Aren’t you bowing down to a block of wood? Your idols don’t see or hear or think. Can’t you see that this image you carved yourself is a lie?” (This is a loose translation of Isaiah 44:19-20)

How many human parents are out there who have had their hearts broken because of their rebellious children? The child means everything to the parent. The parent lovingly raises the child with fond hopes and dreams that their child will grow up to become a good person as an adult? But then drugs or sexual perversion or greed comes along and carries the adult child away and the desperate parent is left with a broken heart and shattered dreams. They desperately want a relationship with their child but their child doesn’t want to be bothered. Where did they go wrong as parents, they ask themselves? These sad parents often go round and round blaming themselves for the messes their adult children are in, and wondering why their children have cut them off. But they almost never give up on their children.

When we read Isaiah we see God sadly circling round and round His lost children the way human parents often do! We read in Isaiah where Israel and the surrounding countries reject God and chose an evil lifestyle. The first forty chapters of Isaiah tell of the punishments God reluctantly sends on Israel and on the other nations. But all through these chapters a disillusioned God continues to cry out about how bad He feels and about how upset He is. He has planned only good things for His human children but they are more attracted to the immoral and the criminal. He desperately wants a relationship with His children but they don’t want to be bothered.

God remains a dutiful parent through it all. Along with the His cries of sorrow, He plans and plots to bring His children back. Earthly parents can’t always bring their children back from bad choices, but God can. He does it partly for His own peace of mind it seems. “I even I, am He who blots out your transgressions, for My own sake, and remembers your sins no more.” (Isaiah 43:25) “Oh Israel, I will not forget you. I have swept away your offenses like a cloud, your sins like the morning mist. Return to Me, for I have redeemed you.” (Isaiah 44:21b-22) The nation of Israel was carried away by the Assyrians seven hundred years before Christ because of their rebellious ways, but God never gave up on them. “But you, O Israel, my servant, Jacob, whom I have chosen, you descendants of Abraham my friend, I took you from the ends of the earth, from its farthest corners I called you. I have chosen you and have not rejected you. (Isaiah 41:8-9) They will be back.

And God hasn’t given up on us either. If we trust in Him He will be our righteousness. “But those who trust in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles: they will run and not be weary, they will walk and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:31) All through the book of Isaiah God keeps calling His children back to Him, showing them glimpses of heaven and promising to save them if they will believe Him. “Do not fear, for I am with you, be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you, with the right hand of My righteousness.” (Isaiah 41:10)

Even though God has had to play the part of a rejected and brokenhearted parent in the past, in the end He will have faithful children. He has saved a remnant for Himself. “You heavens above, rain down righteousness: let the clouds shower it down. Let the earth open wide, let salvation spring up, let righteousness grow with it: I, the Lord, have created it.” (Isaiah 45:8) He has done it all for us. It doesn’t get any better than that.

1 comment:

  1. The fewer the words the better the prayer.