It seems that you can’t turn on the news these days and not find yourself inundated with stories about the moral and ethical failures of public figures and just “ordinary” people having been caught doing horrific things. Nobody’s perfect, but come on! All of us at one time or another get caught up in circumstances we wish we had not been part of. Sometimes it just a failure in judgment, other times it’s a choice we made with full knowledge that was wrong. Still other times we just get caught up in lies and deceptions that aren’t necessarily our own, but we get wounded or blamed in the process.
We live in a sinful and rebellious world and like the generations before us, make terrible choices that are contrary to God’s design for our lives. As a member of the “older” generation I, like my peers, often say that things are a lot worse today than when we were young, but the truth is that sin is no more or less pervasive today than in generations past. We just hear more about it more because of the information age we live in and the fact that many people are more open about their immorality; because society is more accepting of it. The reason is morality and ethics are too often viewed in relative terms instead of as an absolute. The truth is that society may have become more tolerant as a result of relativism, but God still deals with mankind in absolute terms and His tolerance level has not changed since the creation of the world.
The New International Version of the Old Testament titles chapter thirty of Isaiah’s prophesy, “Woe to the Obstinate Nation” which is a reference to the Northern Kingdom of Israel, who was about to be annihilated by the Assyrians. Isaiah was trying to warn them, while at the same time inform them, as to why God had withdrawn His hand of protection. The message he presented to Israel is as applicable today for us, as a nation and individuals, as it was over 2,700 years ago. But, we will also see that although God chastises his “children”, He also never withdraws His love completely; following any punishment with the promise of hope and redemption.
Isaiah begins chapter thirty quoting God directly, “Woe to the obstinate children,” declares the Lord. What is meant by obstinate could also be translated from the Hebrew as being stubborn and rebellious, not unlike teenage children who have gone out in the world and become enamored by the appeal of its sinful ways. For Israel, she looked around at the ways of her neighbors and concluded, “If it’s alright for them, then it must be alright for me.” Just as a teenager may outright lie to a parent, they also will try to hide their intentions by planning some foolish and reckless deception. Just like a wayward teenager, Israel chose to ignore what they had been taught and betray the freedom of choice they had been entrusted with.
God made three indictments against Israel, the first was that she was about to “carry out plans that are not My (God’s) own.” Just as with Israel, God has specific plans for our individual lives. Although we may not know exactly what they are, we are to seek them out through prayer, looking into God’s word and then moving out in faith and obedience, trusting that God will lead us by the hand in the direction He would have us to go. Sure, we will lose our way for a time and become fearful and distracted, but if we remember God and continue to seek His plan for our life, He will get us back on track.
The second indictment was for “forming an alliance, but not by My (God’s) Spirit.” The Hebrew words translated as “forming an alliance” is literally to “pour out a drink offering.” “Drink offerings” or “pour offerings,” is pouring wine, oil or a precious liquid on the altar to God, signifying that God’s chosen people understood God’s promises of protection and prosperity and by doing so; they were showing their gratitude and eagerness to obey His commands. But, God’s children, Israel, had decided to go elsewhere for protection from their enemies, attempting to form an unholy alliance with Egypt, instead of turning to back to God and seeking refuge in Him. The same problem is faced by us when we are confronted with a moral or ethical failure, do we put our trust in the world or do we turn back to God? Your unholy alliance might be with a man or woman, engaging in sinful and adulterous behavior. It may be in your business; lying, cheating or stealing in order to prosper yourself or it may be a dependence on drugs or alcohol that distorts your judgment and interrupts your relationship with your family and with God… The list is long and the temptation to run after the ways of the world is in front of us daily, inviting us to take the path that leads to certain destruction, “heaping sin upon sin.” The only place to hide, is in the Lord, “Rescue me from my enemies, O Lord, for I hide myself in you. Teach me to do your will, for you are my God; may your good Spirit lead me on level ground (Psalm 143:10).”
The third indictment is that God’s children went down to Egypt to buy protection “without consulting me (God).” It didn’t even occur to them to ask God and seek His protection, that they should spend their wealth on those things that honor Him, instead of bringing shame and disgrace upon themselves. It is so typical for us to have no problem practicing our Christianity in public, but when we stumble along the way and it looks like it’s going to be an expensive mistake, emotionally, relational or financially, our first impulse is to seek refuge by the same means that got us into trouble in the first place, sin. We just keep “heaping sin upon sin.” This is why Jesus said, “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well (Matthew 6:33).” Jesus is not just the way out, but the way back to the Father.
This is the big picture that God, through Isaiah, has given us to apply to our daily lives. Tomorrow we will explore a few specific applications.
Tool #264 Who do go to first, form alliances with and consult when you have stumbled? The world will only lie to you and take from you what you can’t afford to give, your peace and satisfaction that came from God through Christ.