Tuesday, 29 March 2011

ohhh... sinful nation

Isaiah’s description of the people of God now continues into the next verses…
Alas, sinful nation, A people laden with iniquity, A brood of evildoers, Children who are corrupters! They have forsaken the LORD, They have provoked to anger The Holy One of Israel, They have turned away backward. Is 1:4 NKJV

They certainly ‘told it like it is’, these Old Testament prophets. From the description of its spiritual promiscuity Isaiah now turns to some of the consequences of the nation’s rebellious ways. Do remember that we are not pointing the finger here but simply seeing, in the description, a portrait of all men and women from God’s perspective. The man under whom I spent the earliest years of my pilgrimage would always say “you have to tell the bad news before you can tell the good news.” He was right, of course. The good news is good news because it brings the news of the remedy to what we have become. We are sometimes so eager to get to the good news that we merely scan verses like these and want to hurry on the ‘for God so loved the world’ verses, but it is often a blessing in disguise to let some of the bad news sink in before we move on.

The contrast could hardly be greater. This nation’s beginnings began with a conditional promise in which God promised them that…
…if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine. And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ Ex 19:5–6 NKJV
But to those destined to be a ‘holy nation’ God now brings the accusation that, in his sight, they are a ‘sinful nation’. They have gone in the opposite direction to their God declared destiny. What a tragedy. But it is not only ancient Israel that bears this tragedy. Here is God’s description and declared destiny for the whole race…
Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; Gen 1:26 NKJV

Can we recognise the human race today from this ancient description? Neither does God… and yet God never gave up. Recently it was reported that Prince William had quoted his grandmother when he visited the site of the earthquake in Christchurch, NZ. “Grief is the price we pay for love”. They are profound words. When we love someone we put a terrible weapon into their hands; the more we love them, the more they have the power to hurt us, intentionally or unintentionally. At one level that is what Calvary is all about. There is a deep grief in God’s description of the nation of Israel and of us. The word translated 'alas' here is not really a word at all; it is a single letter groan. 'Alas' is the kind of word you might use if you spill your coffee down your shirt; the Hebrew is a groan from a broken-hearted God. God’s hurt at our rebellion has gone off the scale.

How greatly did he love us and grieve over our sin? Calvary is the measure of that love.

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