Friday, May 11, 2007


I think CS Lewis might have said something like 'the one who has everything and God has nothing more than the one who has nothing and God'. That really struck me reading Isaiah 21 and Psalm 73 this morning.

Isaiah 21 is taken up with oracles against Babylon, Dumah and Arabia. There's real fear and uncertainty that surrounds all three oracles, especially at the start. 'it comes in from the wilderness, from a terrible land' loins are seized with anguish...pangs have seized me'. For a while it's unclear who this terror is aimed at, so that even Isaiah is suffering from a 'staggering heart.' The tension fear and uncertainty grow, with watchmen and riders coming to and fro...and then suddenly, relief. Fallen is Babylon. Her idols are shattered to the ground. Isaiah hears from the Lord, and delivers this news. Dumah and Arabia are also targetted. Again there is uncertainty and tension (v12,15), again they will 'come to an end'. The Lord will do this.

This might seem like good new for Judah, especially since it turns out that it was not her to face the wrath of God (yet), but history gives us a slightly different story. Judah was always looking to make alliances with people to help her fight Assyria, and Babylon, who were in more or less constant rebellion against Assyria were top of their list at this time. The same was true of the more nomadic peoples of Dumah and Arabia. Judah would have been keen to enlist their help as well. So why was God going to wipe them out? Why does He give Isaiah this message?

Precisly because Judah, God's people to whom He had promised to be faithful, was looking to them for help, rather than to Him. They relied not on the Lord, but instead on some of His creation for help. They could have had real, spiritual help, but instead they went for temporal, physical help, which was to spell their disaster. Judah's end was to be Babylon's and vice versa.

Psalm 73 sees Asaph totally beaten down with woe. He sees his enemies, he sees those who disobey and don't know the Lord, and he envies them. They don't seem to be filled with care as he is, they seem to prosper. They make themselves look good by their arrogance. They lift themselves up, they out themselves down. Asaph despairs. But then...then he sees God in His sanctuary, the God for whom we have no categories, the God who was so holy that the Hebrew language had to be rewritten. Asaph sees Him, and that changes everthing (v17). He discerns the end of the proud and the arrogant and the wicked, and he envies them no more. If only Judah had done that years later. If only we'd do that more now.

It was easy for Judah to whore after Assyria, they were a bigger power, they could help them, give them freedom, surely there was nothing wrong with that. It would have been easy for Asaph to long for the apparent ease of life for those who were not involved in a struggle against sin, it's easy for us to look at people who aren't saved, and envy them. Envy the apparent care-free nature of their lives, envy their pride and their success. Only the Lord has the answer.

Only by constant, intentional time spent looking, thinking, considering Jesus in His glory will change our hearts towards Him and away from longing for the world. Away from the fear of self suffciency and toward the freedom of trusting Him for everything. We must seek and thirst for God in His sanctuary. We must pray for it, read the Bible and ask to see it, read good Christian books that will soften and warm our hearts. Thats the only remedy for the weakness and jealousy of our hearts to those who don't know the Lord, to have their end discerned, and to delight in God, and all that He is for us in Jesus Christ.

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