Thursday, April 2, 2009

Proudly Playing God - Isaiah 47

"Now, then, hear this, you sensual one,
who dwells securely, who says in your heart,
'I am, and there is no one beside me.
I shall not sit as a widow,
nor shall I know loss of children.'
But these two things shall come on you
suddenly, in one day:
loss of children and widowhood.
They shall come on you in full measure
in spite of your many sorceries,
in spite of the great power of your spells.
And you felt secure in your wickedness and said,
'No one sees me,'
Your wisdom and your knowledge,
they have deluded you;
for you have said in your heart,
'I am, and there is no one besides me.'
But evil will come on you
which you will not know how to charm away;
and disaster will fall on you for which you cannot atone,
and destruction about which you do not know
will come on you suddenly."
(vs 8-11)

These words were piercing to me this morning. They are heavy on my heart and they have forced me to my knees on behalf of the many who still dwell in the captive land of self and sin which was once my own abode! I am thankful to be free from these chains, by God's grace. Sin and selfishness still REMAIN in me, but they no longer REIGN in me. Soli Deo Gloria!

Matthew Henry begins his commentary on this chapter with the following thought: "In these verses God by the prophet sends a messenger to Babylon, like that of Jonah to Ninevah: 'The time is at hand when Babylon shall be destroyed.' Fair warning is thus given her, that she may by repentance prevent the ruin." Fair warning is given, but Babylon does not listen. There is much to be heard and heeded in what follows.

Babylon has foolishly made God her enemy through idolatry and cruelty and therefore, the just and holy God will come in just and holy vengeance. Babylon has mercilessly held Israel captive and this God, whom they've gone to war with is "the Holy One of Israel." He is Israel's "Redeemer, the LORD of hosts is His name." He is the omnipotent One and Babylon is not strong enough to hold back the LORD of hosts. He is the just One and Babylon cannot bribe Him into letting them off the hook. Babylon is in "heap big trouble."

Apart from the imputation of Christ we are in "heap big trouble" too! Our sin has rightly made us enemies with the Holy One of Israel. We have gone to war with the Just and Righteous LORD of hosts. Because of the divine perfections of His character, He will not simply wink at our sin and let us off the hook either. He can't - for then He would cease to be who He is - Holy and Just and Righteous! Someone must pay the price for our treason and it will either be the sinner or the Savior. How thankful I am for the work of Christ in whom the Just became the justifier of the elect! Christ's redeeming work has paid the debt I could not pay and has freed me from the hell that I fully deserve. My sin - His righteousness! His righteousness - my sin! By grace, through faith in Christ I am no longer God's enemy but am now His child!

Babylon's enmity with God is the backdrop of what's happening in this chapter. As I was reading along this morning, my eyes froze at the words of verse 8. Babylon says, "I am, and there is no one besides me." Whoa! Wait a minute! Babylon says this about Babylon! What proud and arrogant people they are. Right here in Isaiah 47 Babylon says of herself the very words that God has declared to be true of Himself alone. "For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me." Remember, these were words that pointed to God's self-existence, absolute power, infinity, eternality. These are the words that make God God and Babylon is claiming them for herself. How cocky! How haughty! How blasphemous! How foolish!

Yet, it is not only ancient Babylon of whom this is true. This attitude is the undergirding structure of every unbeliever in the world. "I am, and there is no one besides me." By nature we are just as cocky, haughty,blasphemous, and foolish. Self is our God - self-gratification, self-service, self-preservation, self-seeking, self-worth, me, me, me. Apart from Christ, even our service to and for others is, at the heart, about us. "It makes ME feel good to do that for someone." "If I do good for them it'll come back around to ME at some other time." "Maybe someone will notice and give ME a pat on the back." Babylon cries out "I am, and there is no one beside me." How often in our actions and motives do we practically cry out the same thing? O how we all need Christ to free us from ourselves!

Take note of Babylon's irrational boasting in these verses and learn from it. "I shall not sit as a widow, nor shall I know loss of children." She considered herself above and beyond tragedy. Tomorrow and forever will be just as today is. Babylon thought she was safe and secure. She thought her sins were beyond finding out. "No one sees me." And if no one sees her then no one will call her on the carpet for her actions. O, but One does see and nothing can be hidden from Him. "If I say, 'Surely teh darkness will hide me, and the light around me will be night,' even the darkness is not dark to You, and the night is as bright as the day." (Ps 139)

God responds to her with "your wisdom and your knowledge, they have deluded you." None are so blind as those who look only to themselves as the fount of wisdom and knowledge. None are so eternally dehydrated as those who refuse to drink of the water of Life. Fair warning has been repeatedly offered to them. They would not look and listen. They would not take and drink. Now all their boasting is about to fall upon them in a ruinous heap of destruction. Look around, are we really any different? How many in our own ranks live as if they will never die, spend as though the money will never run out, and continually presume upon the mercy of God as if He were not there and as though He could not see?

Isaiah came. Isaiah called. Babylon would not listen and the very thing they said would not and could not happen is the very thing that is just about to happen. "But these two thing shall come on you suddenly in one day: loss of children and widowhood. They shall come on you in full measure in spite of your many sorceries, in spite of the great power of your spells." God will not be mocked. He particularly will not be mocked by those who through sorceries, astrologies, witchcrafts, and spells make a deal with the devil and seek counsel from the father of lies. They trusted in wickedness as their wisdom and it failed them. It always does. It always will. Let us gain understanding from their foolishness and let us heed Isaiah's words.

They thought they were so smart. They were in fact stupid! "Your wisdom and your knowledge, they have deluded you; for you have said in your heart, 'I am and there is no one besides me.'" David reminds us that "the fool has said in his heart, 'There is no God." His son, Solomon, acknowledges that "the fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom." They were not knowledgable wisemen as they proudly assumed, they were deluded fools and their foolishness would lead to their undoing.

"But evil will come on you which you will not know how to charm away; and disaster will fall on you for which you cannot atone, and destruction about which you do not know will come on you suddenly." This was the judgment of Babylon, a just judgment falling from a Just God- a God who had repeatedly warned them and a God who had been so very patient. It was a judgment for which they could not atone. Their pride brought about their fall and no magic spells, no magnetic personality, no magnanimous imaginations could spare them. No atonement would be found on the selfish, self-deluded path that they were traveling. Babylon fell and fell hard into utter ruin, exactly as God, through the prophet Isaiah said they would.

My heart aches as I meditate on these things. How many around me are deluded by their feigned wisdom and knowledge? How many are deceived by pride and self-seeking? How many are living as though no one sees and as if no day of reckoning will appear? How many, whom I love so dearly are living and thinking as though "I am, and there is no other besides me." How many are rushing headfirst into misery and self-destruction? We all need atoning. We all need a "fixer upping". But, none of us can "fix" or atone for ourselves, there is but One sure atoning sacrifice - the LORD Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Savior of sinners.

"But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in His blood. " (Rom 3:21-25)

They and we arrogantly proclaimed : "I am, and there is no one besides me." The truth of the matter is: I am NOT God and there are a multitude of people just, exactly, like me - specifically "ALL have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God." God alone is God and there is NO one like Him. Wisdom and knowledge do not dwell in me, but in Him. "In Christ are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge." (Col 2:3). I was once a foolish Babylonian, at times I still find myself momentarily wandering back to their ways. I am so humbled and thankful that Christ, the Atoner, knocked down the high towers of deluded arguments that I had built for myself and rescued me from my own Babylonian captivity.

LORD - in Your marvelous mercy would You do the same for the many whom I love so dearly that have built their lives on the shifting sand of self?! Would you grant them to know that You "are the LORD, and there is none else...there is no other God besides [You], a righteous God and a Savior; there is none except [You]."

Free at last,


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