I've noticed a calming effect societal disorder is having on me...
Have you spent much time reading the Book of Isaiah?
I drop in now and then to revisit the many delightful passages within it. Christmastime highlights Isaiah’s prophecies of Jesus which are so stark and promising. But I decided about a month ago that I would embrace this big book. Before I even began reading it I dug into the ESV Study Bible's detailed introduction. This proved a study in and of itself!
I am not even 5 chapters in and I find myself re-reading previous passages, meditating on specific verses, and browsing back through Scripture for cross-references. A lackadaisical read won’t take one far in this daunting book. It’s like the ocean, the more you read, the more mysterious and perplexing it is. Not in a numbing way, but rather in a persuasive way.
This morning, I had a moment with Isaiah, a realization that brought me comfort and hope.
I found it fitting to share as we begin a new year.
The description of the people of Israel reflects the society we live in today. It’s been said by Solomon, “There is nothing new under the sun.” And it’s true. The baseline motivation of the flesh doesn’t change: we want control and we want wealth. Isaiah describes God’s people,
“Their land is filled with silver and gold,
and there is no end to their treasures;
their land is filled with horses,
and there is no end to their chariots.
Their land is filled with idols;
they bow down to the work of their hands,
to what their own fingers have made.”
It’s true, we feel limitless, don’t we? We teach our kids they can be and have whatever they want. “No one can thwart your dreams.” Not true, kids, not true. Plenty of things will wreck the path we try to make for ourselves.
The problem is, we are so committed to our plans, that God is dismissed. Isaiah goes on to describe the unraveling of society as a result of ignoring God and his good ways:
“And I will make boys their princes,
and infants shall rule over them.
And the people will oppress one another,
every one his fellow
and every one his neighbor;
the youth will be insolent to the elder,
and the despised to the honorable.”
Unwise and immature leadership? Now, that sounds familiar. Angry, fragile people? Yep. What a mess. We trust ourselves too much. We think too highly of our ideas. We reject the authority of God and wonder why things aren’t working. I see it in myself. There are times I am overwhelmed with how godless we are as a nation and how godless I am as one of his children. Not always blatant rebellion, but living a life where God shoved to the outskirts. Isaiah saw it in his time,
“For Jerusalem has stumbled,
and Judah has fallen,
because their speech and their deeds are against the
defying his glorious presence.”
The cause of the problems Isaiah addressed is the cause of our problems today: rejecting the God who designed us to live in his “glorious presence.”
Disorder always follows.
As a counselor who has worked with families for over 20 years, I have noticed how parental authority has shifted to child authority. Kids have control over parents instead of parents having control over the kids. This is not the case in every home, but there is a societal trend declared at the research level. To be honest, we don’t even need research to validate this problem, we just need to go out in public and take a minute to notice. Obviously, kids will never say they want the authority of their parents, but their lives are out of sorts when they don’t have it. They are insecure and fearful. They need a re-ordering. As children of God, we follow the pattern.
A lack of authority leads to chaos, selfishness, and anxiety. Unleashed impulse and indulgence. Jerusalem, in Isaiah’s day, rejected the authority of God,
“How the faithful city
has become a whore,
she who was full of justice!
Righteousness lodged in her,
but now murderers.
Your silver has become dross,
your best wine mixed with water.
Your princes are rebels
and companions of thieves.
Everyone loves a bribe
and runs after gifts.
They do not bring justice to the fatherless,
and the widow's cause does not come to them.”
He says, “The whole head is sick.” From the top down…we are off the rails.
But here is what I want to share with you as we move into the new year. Whether it be the rejection of God we witness as a nation, or our personal wayward desire for control, money, and comfort, Isaiah's words adjust us. He reminds us of what we need, and ultimately what we truly want.
The more I feel the effects of a nation that rejects God’s good ways, his wise authority, and his loving motivation, the more I long for HIM. The disorder makes me ache for order. The darker the world, the more I want his light. The more lost we are, the more “found” I want to be.
My heart begins to desire the right thing.
I am no different from the Israelites. I want my way. Comfort is a priority. Money is easy to trust. But as I read the pages of Isaiah, I can see the essential need for God to be God, and for us to remember that we are creatures, created beings who don’t run the show, who need limits. Our strength and intellect are not our answer. In the end, this is the best news.
Read these words from Isaiah 2, and let them sink in. I wonder if you will feel like I do when I read them. A mysterious comfort washes over me as I imagine a world in the right order:
“It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be lifted up above the hills, and
all the nations shall flow to it,
and many peoples shall come, and say: ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.’ For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
He shall judge between the nations, and shall decide disputes for many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.
O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord.”
"The house of the Lord shall be established as the highest of mountains..."
"...all nations shall flow to it."
"...and many people shall come and say, 'Come, let us go to the mountain of the Lord...that he may teach us HIS ways and that we may walk in HIS paths..."
Often we live in fear and discouragement. But let us turn to God and pray for HIS order and authority. Let us be the first ones to value his “glorious presence.” Let us direct our worship in the right place. May we be the people who don’t trust in ourselves, but rather seek the wisdom of God.
Oh, that 2023 would be the year of his return! For when he comes “all nations will shall flow” to his mountain, the highest of all mountains.
Finally, we will take our rightful place as citizens of a Kingdom, people who live under the authority of a wise and good King. The order will feel so good.
Oh my friends, “Come, let us walk in the light of the Lord.”