Monday, April 13, 2009

Faithful Fear, Flickering Firebrands, & Forever- Isaiah 50 part 2

"Who is among you that fears the LORD,
that obeys the voice of His servant,
that walks in darkness and has no light?
Let him trust in the name of the LORD
and rely on his God.

Behold, all you who kindle a fire,
who encircle yourselves with firebrands,
walk in the light of your fire
and among the brands you have set ablaze.
This you will have from My hand;
and you will lie down in torment."
(vs 10-11)

Here in these verses, God has laid out for us the difference between those who are His children and those who are children of wrath. The believer and the unbeliever are contrasted. The characteristics of the righteous and the wicked are spelled out. In these verses we find a portrait of the grand antithesis between the faithful fear of God and the foolish love of the world!

In verse 10, Isaiah speaks of the righteous man. First of all, that man fears the Lord. ("Who is among you that fears the LORD?") "A child of God is one that fears the LORD with a filial fear, that stands in awe of His majesty and is afraid of incurring His displeasure." (Matthew Henry). The Christian knows who his God is, knows what He is like and is filled with respect and reverance for his Creator and King. He loves his God and doesn't want to do anything that would disappoint his Daddy!

Secondly, this good and holy fear of the Lord causes the righteous man to obey the Lord. ("That obeys the voice of His servant.") He is one who is willing to have God's Word as his only rule of faith and practice. If the way of his life is found to be contrary to the Word's way, he will change his way - post haste! Christ is his Prophet, Priest, and King. He will be ruled by none other than King Jesus. He will heed the voice of the faithful ambassadors whom the King has sent and he will willingly be transformed by the renewing of his mind to the wonderful words of life.

Thirdly, let it be known that the one who fears and obeys the Lord is not guaranteed a bright and cheery path but a firm and faithful God. ("That walks in darkness and has no light.") God doesn't promise us pleasure but perseverance. There are times when the wicked seem to prosper and the righteous seem to falter. There are times when all seems sunny in the land of the lost and when violent storms seem to surround the land of the living. Be reminded that things are not always as they seem. God is more interested in our holiness than in our supposed happiness. He knows that which will bring true and lasting peace and joy and He loves us enough to see that we gain the real thing rather than the counterfeit. Darkness and storms have divine purposes in God's economy. The rain falls on the just and on the unjust. However, the rain will ultimately bring eternal and everlasting benefit to only the redeemed.

Finally, though dark may be his road, the righteous man has the Light of the world, the Sun of Righteousness as his guard, guide, and friend. ("Let him trust in the name of the LORD and rely on his God.") The dark path only makes him love and trust the Bright and Morning Star all the more. "He shall find God all-sufficient to him" (Henry). He shall learn that "even the darkness is not dark to You, and the night is as bright as the day." (Ps 139:12). Outward darkness shall always be scattered by heavenly light! Beloved, the Son is always shining even in our darkest nights.

In verse 11, Isaiah redirects his portrait and sketches out the marks of the wicked for us. The colors of the pallet change. These are dark and shadowy and the real light that previously pierced the darkness for the righteous man can not be found on this section of the canvas. The unrighteous man seeks to make his own light. "Behold, all you who kindle a fire, who encircle yourselves with firebrands, walk in the light of your fire and among the brands you have set ablaze. This you will have from My hand; and you will lie down in torment."

Mr. Henry sums up this section quite well. "Presuming sinners are warned not to trust in themselves. They kindle a fire, and walk in the light of that fire. They depend on their own righteousness, and burn their incense, with that fire (as Nadab and Abihu) and not with the fire from heaven.

"They compass themselves about with sparks of their own kindling. As they trust in their own righteousness, and not in the righteousness of Christ, so they place their happiness in their worldly possessions and enjoyments and not in the favor of God. Creature-comforts are as sparks, short-lived and soon gone. They are ironically told to walk in the light of their own fire. Those that make the world their comfort, and their own righteousness their confidence, will meet with bitterness in the end." The wicked will "lie down in torment" and "meet with bitterness in the end." It is not a pretty picture. It was once my picture and I am beyond finding words to express my gratitude at God's merciful intervention in redrawing the lines, colors and theme of my own personal portrait!

There you have it: faithful fear or flickering firebrands. Forever hangs in the balance of these scales. Here is the gospel laid before us. Are we seeking to live by our own mustered up light? A light that may momentarily snap, crackle and pop like the sparks of a campfire. It makes a loud noise but then is no more. Or are we seeking to live by the light of the One who is Light eternal and unchanging? The darkness is as light to Him and His flame never dies.

"A godly man's way may be melancholy, but his end shall be peace and everlasting light. A wicked man's way may be pleasant, but his end will be eternal darkness." (Matthew Henry)

Walking in Light,


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