2018 Advent Series – Day 11
The book of Isaiah opens with lament. It is a list of charges, a compilation of personal affronts, and the list is given by God himself.
Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth;
for the Lord has spoken:
“Children have I reared and brought up,
but they have rebelled against me.
The ox knows its owner,
and the donkey its master’s crib,
but Israel does not know,
my people do not understand.” (1:2-3)
The chapter goes on to describe the relational situation between God and his people: “utterly estranged” (4), “the whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint” (5), the people have “raw wounds” which are “not pressed out or bound up or softened with oil” (6), and “your country lies desolate” (7). Then he asks, “who has required of you this trampling of my courts?” (12), for “your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hates; they have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them” (14). “When you spread out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you” (15).
He then reveals what he would rather see: “…remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good” (16, 17).
And then, at the end of the next chapter, this startling suggestion appears from the prophet’s pen: “Stop regarding man in whose nostrils is breath, for of what account is he?” (2:22).
Oh, no! I can’t help but think in response to this. Dear Lord, no! If you stop regarding us, then what?
We’re used to passages in Isaiah that foretell the coming of Christ–-how clear, and how beautiful, and how numerous they are! But in order to get to them, we must journey through many passages that are simply a sovereign howl of complaint, a statement of a problem. It’s the problem that sets us up for Christ himself.
Because the thought that immediately suggests itself, when you read something like “stop regarding man in whose nostrils is breath,” is this: God clearly ignored this suggestion. Jesus ignored this suggestion to “stop regarding man… for of what account is he?” to the extreme outer limit, when he became a man. He permanently rejected the idea that man is of no account by becoming one. We have our answer to the idea that the race with breath in their nostrils will be overlooked or eternally rejected by God.
Jesus is the eternal answer to this question of whether dust-people can be children of God. He has declared it so.
We also, in another way, have our answer to the laments of these passages in Isaiah. The heart of God, soft towards his people, ready to soften again, is revealed in his angry laments. Because no one talks like this–angrily, brokenheartedly–unless they love.
make us into the vineyards that yield grapes, and into the people who reject empty trampling of courts in favor of hearts that our soft to you. Reason with us, wash our sins and make them white as snow. Give us a deep and rooted love for you that overflows in learning to “do good, seek justice, correct oppression, bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.” And please, never stop regarding man in whose nostrils is breath!
[Note from Tilly: Finding myself pregnant at Christmas for the third time, I’ve committed to do a short advent devotional each weekday of December . They will all be labeled by date and can be found together under the “Advent” subject category.]