Friday, September 9, 2011

Friday, September 9 ~ tammi

Today's reading from the Chronological OT/NT Reading Plan is Isaiah 5-6; 2 Corinthians 13.

I want to focus on the first 8 verses of Isaiah Chapter 6 today.

I don't know about you, but one of my more recent pet peeves with Christianity these days is the wide-spead irreverence for God and His holiness. I don't know that I thought about it much until I read "The Shack" a few years ago.  There are SO many problems with the theology in that book, but the thing that struck me most noticeably was the main character's behavior in the presence of God ~ and God's behavior, HERself.  I can't help but compare the one scene that sticks out in my mind ~ where Mack cusses under his breath in the kitchen with the Aunt Jemima-like God ~ to Isaiah's response to his vision of the pre-incarnate Christ here.

They could not be more opposite.

Where Mack has the ability to completely forget he's supposedly in the presence of the Almighty God, there is NO mistaking whose presence Isaiah is in and he can't forget.  There is no idyllic pastoral scene in Isaiah's vision, where the air is clean, the water clear, and the hills alive with flowers and butterflies.  No, when the angels announce the glory of God in Isaiah's vision, the entire earth begins to tremble and shake.  There is nothing calm and peaceful about sinners entering the presence of a holy God!

And where Mack is fine just the way he is as far as Aunt Jemima-God is concerned, Isaiah instantly recognizes his complete and utter unworthiness to stand in the presence of God.  He pronounces a curse on himself!  He, the most highly regarded statesman and prophet in Jewish history, curses himself for his foul mouth.  He knows he deserves to die for his sinfulness; that God would be perfectly justified in killing him on the spot because of his sin.

But in recognizing his unworthiness, it is possible for God to do an amazing thing:  instead of taking his life, wiping the imperfect human vessel off the face of the earth, God purifies Isaiah's lips and proclaims him guilt-free.  Isaiah's sins have been paid for.  Since Christ hadn't come to die yet, can you imagine Isaiah's confusion and the overwhelming sense of gratitude he must have felt??  No wonder he then had the courage to say, "Here am I.  Send me!" when God asked whom He could send to speak to Israel for Him.  He understood how big a debt had been paid on his behalf.

Isaiah had been transformed by the purifying work of Christ on the cross long before that work had been accomplished.

"No one can stand in the presence of God without becoming profoundly and devastatingly aware of his own wretchedness, sinfulness," our blog's favourite pastor, John MacArthur, points out in an excellent sermon on this passage. "If we don't understand the holiness of God, we don't understand our sinfulness. And we don't understand how heinous it is and we don't understand the consequences of it. To see even the smallest glimpse of God's holiness is to be devastated.

No one ever comes before the holiness of God without devastation."

We need to have a right attitude and understanding about God and His character, especially His all-encompassing holiness.  We need to better understand how incomprehensible the distance is that sin puts between us and God.  We need to better understand how truly mind-blowing it is that He's taken all the blame for our sin away from us, put it on Someone Else instead, and poured out His fury for our sin on His own Son.  We need the ecstatic, overwhelming gratitude that comes with the realization that though we are not worthy to stand in God's presence, Christ's death made it possible anyway.  That humble understanding is what will make us effective in our ministries, whether that's on a foreign mission field or in our own homes, whether teaching Sunday school or at our place of work.

We simply cannot be effective tools in His service if we don't reverence Him the way we ought to.

Tomorrow's passages: 2 Chronicles 27-28; Acts 19:1-20


Pamela said...

I have not read The Shack but I have heard rave reviews of it.

I think that we do not realize the extent of our sin and therefore we don't understand God's holiness either. I think society's attitude that nothing is essentially wrong if you feel it is right has created this indifference to sin. Our pastor had a message today that talked about the repayment of debt and God'd generosity in spite of our unworthiness through the parable of the vineyard workers all paid the same amount for unequal work. It fit nicely with your thoughts on this passage

TammyIsBlessed said...

Pam, see here for a thorough review that points out some of the many theological problems with the book.

TammyIsBlessed said...

Great post Tammi.

We often want to focus on God's love while downplaying His holiness. And yet, it's His holiness that makes His love, grave and mercy so incredibly extravagant!