Before Christ saved me, I spent a short but rather intense stint as an atheist. Part of that period was during my first year of college. In His merciful providence, God was pleased to put several Christians in my path. One in particular took me very much under her wing. I really liked this gal and noticed immediately that there was something different about her. But, I thought she was a fool to believe in God and did everything I could come up with to cause her faith to falter. (In my twisted mind I thought I'd be doing her a favor to get her to forsake such religious folly.)
For a year she was a faithful friend. She loved me despite my railings. She didn't turn her back on me nor judge or condemn me in my stubborn and rebellious condition. However, she didn't simply wink at my sin. She openly talked to me about it - very openly - incredibly openly. There was no doubting where she stood both in her love for God and His word and in her love for me. She faithfully pointed me to what God said about my sinful condition and pointed me to Christ who alone could take care of it.
We had many long talks and she consitently spoke to me and wrote to me of the character of God, the condition of fallen man, the person and work of Christ and the hope of the gospel. Honestly, there were days when I'd get a letter from her that contained entire chapters of the Bible in response to my obnoxious statements and scoffing questions. Quite often her "Bible speak" was a bit annoying, but God was pleased to use it as it was accompanied with her tenacious love for me to remove the scales from my blind eyes. Becky Haddon Wise cried loudly and didn't hold back. She raised her voice like a trumpet and declared to me my transgression and sin. Like the rain that brings life to a parched desert land, God took His Word as proclaimed from her lips and life and it did not return empty. I am eternally grateful.
As I read this opening verse of Isaiah 58, I think of Becky. I also think of many other saints who have stood against the tide of their times and have trumpted the truth of God to perishing people - John Knox, Richard Cameron, John Huss, Martin Luther, ad infinitum. Many have given their lives for crying loudly. Many have not held back, not even when death stared them in the face. Yet, how often do we - do I - bite my tongue for fear of having someone get upset with me?
Isaiah 58 is a chapter that will offer much comfort to those who will flee to God in faith and repentance. It is a chapter full of promise and hope. But prior to the giving of that hope we have these words: "Cry loudly, do not hold back; raise your voice like a trumpet, and declare to My people their trasgression, and to the house of Jacob their sins."
Throughout the next 6 verses Isaiah will do just that. He is about to point out the religious hypocrisy, selfishness, covetousness, lack of mercy, contention, pride and rebellion of these people. He is going to tell them just how sinful they really are. Isaiah is shooting straight. Becky shot straight and praise God she did, for I would have never seen the salvation of my God had I not heard of my need for it.
Matthew Henry says this: "Conviction must prepare the way for comfort. God had appointed His prophet to comfort His people (40:1); here He appoints him to convince them and show them their sins. He must tell them how bad they really were. He must deal faithfully and plainly with them. He was not to flatter them, but show them their transgressions, what sins are committed by them which they do not acknowledge to be sins.... He must cry aloud, and not spare, not spare them, though he get their ill-will by it and get himself an ill name, yet he must not spare."
Are we sparing? Why? Is not our very sparing a sobering reminder of the horrible hold that sin still has on us? We love ourselves more than we love God and our neighbor. May God have mercy on us and embolden our tongues while still granting us great humility. Did someone cry loudly to you? Did someone hold forth the water of life to you while you were perishing? Truth is the most loving thing we can offer to anyone. Go forth dear ones, go to those around you, go as one who was lost and perishing and has been plucked out of the muck and mire of sin's slough, go and "cry loudly, do not hold back; raise your voice like a trumpet, and declare to My people their transgression, and to the house of Jacob their sins." As we go, may His Spirit go with us and may there be much rejoicing in heaven and on earth for each sinner that repents.
Thanks Isaiah. Thanks Becky. Thanks be to God who sends servants to point the way of salvation to sinners. Soli Deo Gloria!