Monday, January 27, 2014

Harshness mixed with hope

God's plan for purification. Isaiah 1:21-31 is a short 10 verse passage that clearly states the problem of God's people at this point in history. The verses also reveal in glimpses what God's going to do about it.

See how Jerusalem, once so faithful, has become a prostitute. Once the home of justice and righteousness, she is now filled with murderers. Once like pure silver, you have become like worthless slag. Once so pure, you are now like watered-down wine. Your leaders are rebels, the companions of thieves. All of them love bribes and demand payoffs, but they refuse to defend the cause of orphans or fight for the rights of widows. Well, it's pretty clear. God's people are committing spiritual adultery. They are cheating on God with their pagan idols. Righteous living has been replaced with wickedness, their value has been tarnished. God's chosen people have become stagnant and stale; their flavor has been compromised.  The leaders are not honest and have become greedy and unjust men. They no longer seek to promote right relationships between the people, but instead look to better their own personal and financial interests.

 Therefore, the Lord, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, the Mighty One of Israel, says, I will take revenge on my enemies and pay back my foes! I will raise my fist against you. I will melt you down and skim off your slag. I will remove all your impurities. Then I will give you good judges again and wise counselors like you used to have. Then Jerusalem will again be called the Home of Justice and the Faithful City.” Zion will be restored by justice; those who repent will be revived by righteousness. The people are living contrary to God, and are thus enemies of His kingdom. God's had enough, and He is going to take the time to do some cleaning up and some cleaning out.  This seems harsh at first glance; but in reality it is harshness mixed with hope! Here's the hope...God's not going to destroy, He is going to purify with fire. For those who turn from evil and turn to God, righteousness will be restored.

But rebels and sinners will be completely destroyed, and those who dessert the Lord with be consumed. You will be ashamed of your idol worship in groves of sacred oaks. You will blush because you worshiped in gardens dedicated to idols. You will be like a great tree with withered leaves, like a garden without water. The strongest among you will disappear like straw; their evil deeds will be the spark that sets it on fire. They and their evil works will burn up together, and no one will be able to put out the fire.  The unrepentant will be destroyed. Idols and pagan rituals have replaced worship and right relationship with God. Those who turned from God and stubbornly refuse to repent will be embarrassed by the revelation of their folly. The result will be isolation and complete destruction.

So these are my thoughts as I meditate on these scriptures this morning:
     - Does the Church of today run the risk of committing spiritual adultery? What about me personally?
     - Are there things in my personal life that I have let take priority over my relationship with God?
     - As a Christian leader, do I promote right relationships between people?
     - Are their impurities in my life that God needs to refine?
Refine me today God. Burn away all that tarnishes, diminishes and dishonors you. Purify me - that I may reflect you. Amen

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