Here I am! Send Me.

woe

If God is the same today as he was yesterday then he is constant never changing. If God changed something from wrong to right then he would not be God and he would not be perfect. God can’t change and God will not change.

God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it? Numbers 23:19 ESV

The consistency of God is a blessing because the rules are set. The goal posts are not moving. The anger of sports fans when the officials are inconsistent is real and justified. Much of political discourse boils down to pointing out the person on the other side that did the same immoral behavior without consequence. Everyone wants consistent rules to play by and God is the perfect law giver and sustainer of those rules in life.

There are people who want to bend the rules to benefit themselves. This raw selfishness is the stuff of life and it takes ugly form in injustice. Those in power pull the ladder up after themselves. They pass rules that prevent others from the benefits of wealth they themselves enjoy. Politicians rig the system in favor of certain elites. Dictators take from the innocent to give to those with blood on their hands. In Israel before exile Isaiah warned the leaders that God would not tolerate breaking the rules.

21 Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and shrewd in their own sight! 22 Woe to those who are heroes at drinking wine, and valiant men in mixing strong drink, 23 who acquit the guilty for a bribe, and deprive the innocent of his right! Isaiah 5:21-23 ESV

Justice is a hot topic today. Supporting a business because of their social justice cause is popular and makes one feel good about themselves. Asking people to affirm the life styles of others is a fashionable way to root out bigotry and a wonderful way to make sure everyone knows what side of humanity one lives. The most current craze in this trend are teens and pre-teens who are telling the world they are not male or female, straight or gay, in their gender and sexual orientation (see Miley Cyrus being “pansexual”).

 In his book, the Benedict Option, Rod Dreher quotes from a poster to his blog “There’s nothing like having your twelve-year-old come home from school and start ticking off which of her classmates are bi, the reader said, “I told my daughter it was statistically impossible for there to be that many bisexual students in her class, and that for most girls – and they were all girls – seventh grade was entirely too early to make pronouncements on their sexuality. In return, I got a lot of babble about gender being fluid and nonbinary.” This is what children are being taught is true and they are aware of the shaming of anyone who does not celebrate the new norms.

Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! Isaiah 5:20 ESV

When I was younger the argument was “I was born this way”. Today such limiting options are not sustainable because everyone wants to be included in the celebration of the movement. Now born this way is irrelevant. Gender and sexual preference are “fluid” moving in whatever direction society wants it to move. God however has set boundaries and rules. Isaiah warned the people of his time “Woe to those” who break and bend the set rules of God the creator. Life lived contrary to God’s perfect law is not sustainable.

What is the “Woe” that Isaiah was warning about? What are the ramifications of ignoring God’s perfect plan? In Isaiah’s day, the woe was an incoming army that would destroy society. Israel as a nation was destroyed ending the rules they had set for themselves. It is hard to sustain rebellion against God when life becomes only about survival and death.

24 Therefore, as the tongue of fire devours the stubble, and as dry grass sinks down in the flame, so their root will be as rottenness, and their blossom go up like dust; for they have rejected the law of the Lord of hosts, and have despised the word of the Holy One of Israel. 25 Therefore the anger of the Lord was kindled against his people, and he stretched out his hand against them and struck them, and the mountains quaked; and their corpses were as refuse in the midst of the streets. For all this his anger has not turned away, and his hand is stretched out still. 26 He will raise a signal for nations far away, and whistle for them from the ends of the earth; and behold, quickly, speedily they come! Isaiah 5:24-26 ESV

While that fate was pronounced on the nation of Israel in those generations what does such a “Woe” mean to the contemporary reader? First read into this a “Woe” on all the nations vs trying to tie it back to America. While God certainly could have America ruled by some other nation let the reader take a larger view of God’s intentions toward human kind of today. Second how does this Woe stand in relation to the revelation of Jesus Christ? In verse 24 above it states they have “rejected the law of the Lord of hosts, and have despised the word of the Holy One”. If the people and the society reject God and his Holy One, Christ, then what more can be done? Shall the game be continued to be played by these rules? Shall the creation say to the Creator “No more of you”? Christ has come to give life but if the people only want death then maybe his return is imminent.

36 “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. 37 For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 38 For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, 39 and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. Matthew 24:36-39 ESV

No more armies from a faraway land will be needed to restore a lawless society. Christ himself will come like a flood sweeping away the disorder and the sin that has overcome societies. Third and finally in this “Woe” is the commission of those who are saved by Christ.

5 And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” 6 Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. 7 And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.” 8 And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.” Isaiah 6:5-8 ESV

Reader know that you can have the guilt and the rebellion atoned for in Christ. God himself will restore people who are currently breaking every rule. Real life and relationship with the Creator is possible, real, and wonderful. God is calling “Whom shall I send” who will live truth over lies, right over wrong, and sweet over bitter? I pray the answer be “Here I am! Send me.”

John 5: Relationship not Religion

L0030441 The works of William Hogarth: The Pool of Bethesda.

Jesus continues his ministry performing miracles and his visits are the equivalent of health care for those that are broken and sick. But his purpose is not simply to heal people. The healings are used to give authority to his words. John 5 highlights this at the pool of Bethesda. This location was known to be a healing oasis for those that stepped into the water under certain circumstances. The man at the center of the narrative was not able to carry himself to the pool so for years he watched as others stepped into the pool seeking its restorative power.

5 One man was there who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. 6 When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?” 7 The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me.” 8 Jesus said to him, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.” 9 And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked. John 5:5-9 ESV

Healing this man should have been a cause for celebration but Jesus broke the rules by asking the man to pick up his bed on the Sabbath.

Now that day was the Sabbath. 10 So the Jews said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath, and it is not lawful for you to take up your bed.” 11 But he answered them, “The man who healed me, that man said to me, ‘Take up your bed, and walk.’” John 5:10-11 ESV

Seems crazy to say that taking up your bed on the Sabbath day would be wrong. What did the law of Moses command?

2 Six days work shall be done, but on the seventh day you shall have a Sabbath of solemn rest, holy to the Lord. Whoever does any work on it shall be put to death. Exodus 35:2 ESV

Would picking up a bed be considered “work”? Who wants to take that chance if a death penalty is on the line? How does one define work? Notice how we are not talking about the sign and wonder of healing a man but of the nuance of the laws. Jesus knew he would cause issues by asking the man to pick up his bed. Jesus could have healed the man and told him to leave the bed but that is not his plan. It is here that that Jesus and the Jews begin a dialog on authority and by what authority that Jesus could break the religious rules of the day.

37 And the Father who sent me has himself borne witness about me. His voice you have never heard, his form you have never seen, 38 and you do not have his word abiding in you, for you do not believe the one whom he has sent. John 5:37-38 ESV

Jesus healed the man to prove the he had the authority from God to do the things that he is doing. Jesus was proving that he had the authority to tear down the rules the Jews has created to make sure they were not breaking the laws.

44 How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God? John 5:44 ESV

The Jews cared only about their rules and their laws even more than people. They provided power and accolades to themselves based on how well the carried out the laws and rules that they made as they went along. Jesus is God made man. Jesus is God’s solution to the problem of religion. The religious Jews took out of context the laws for Israel that God created to keep Israel inside of his perfect parameters for life. Religion is oppressive and controlling. It then is ultimately fails to save because no one can perfectly keep the rules of a religion. Jesus however is God coming to men in a relationship. God interacting with his creation is so powerful and meaningful. God is not unknown and we can know where we stand with him outside of the oppressive religious life that so many chase after.

Jesus came to fulfill the law by living it perfectly so that through him we would have life and not death and failure in the law. Have you established a relationship with Jesus who is God?

24 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life. John 5:24 ESV