I live in Orlando. You may have heard a little bit about us in the news this week.
The whole head is sick,
and the whole heart faint.
From the sole of the foot even to the head,
there is no soundness in it,
but bruises and sores
and raw wounds;
they are not pressed out or bound up
or softened with oil.
Your country lies desolate;
your cities are burned with fire.
That about sums it up.
When the worst mass shooting in American history happens just down the street, the first chapter of Isaiah is very hard to read. It’s even harder to write about.
Righteousness once lodged in your city, but now murderers (Isaiah 1:21).
In your very presence, foreigners devour your land (Isaiah 1:7).
Your princes are rebels and companions of thieves (Isaiah 1:23).
It’s so easy to slip into warm and cozy anger at the foreigners and the murderers — and at the political princes who don’t do what we want in response. Those who perpetrate evil on all sides deserve wrath, and without repentance, it will be theirs (Romans 12:19).
Scripture condemns these kinds of treacherous people throughout its pages. The words here at the start of Isaiah, however, don’t really focus on them.
They speak to us instead.
God has stronger words for the rule-faker than the rule-breaker.
We — God’s people — are the children God has reared and brought up, he says, but who have rebelled against Him (Isaiah 1:2, 5). We have shut Him out and cracked open the door to evil, and it has come rushing in on our heads.
Our religion is fake, the Lord says in Isaiah 1:11-15.
We go through the motions at church but go home to secret sin.
We play by the rules, but live to protect ourselves — our strength, our time, our money, our choices.
We expect people to change their behavior but never let go of our agendas long enough to serve and fast and pray that God will change their hearts.
We put more faith in our government than our God.
Stop it, says the Lord. I am tired of your sin mixed with sanctity. I cannot endure iniquity and solemn assembly (Isaiah 1:13).
Come to me, know me, He says. Trust me, and I will take care of your sins and your enemies, too.
Live like I’ve already won. Choose your steps in faith instead of fear.
Friend, I hear that voice you have, fighting back, because I have it, too – the political speechwriter in the back of your head. I’m a planner – a thinker — a compulsive problem-solver. I can debate points all day and all night, and then feed on my logic and anger to keep arguing some more.
Is it the criminal or the gun? The religion or the hate? The liberal or conservative who will save us?
This is not the choice we have before us, Christians.
Will you trust Me with your life, or won’t you? Do you believe I have already saved you or not? (Isaiah 1:19-20).
I didn’t want to write this post. Most days, it’s not how I feel. But it is what is true. It’s no coincidence God called me to Isaiah for this time.
If we want a new world, we won’t try to change the evil. We won’t even try to change ourselves. We can’t. We’ll surrender our lives in awe of His grace and obedience to His will, and trust God to do both.
In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.
This is what the Lord says (Isaiah 30:15).
I challenge you to read Isaiah 1.