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Isaiah Chapter One: The Price of Doing What You Want

Isaiah_(Bible_Card)

Isaiah was a prophet to four kings in Judah. His book is, in our modern version, 66 chapters long, the same as the number of the books in our Bible. Some have called it a microcosm of the whole Bible. Indeed, we can find many of the elements throughout the Bible in this one book, so studying it gives a chance to hit many of the highlights God wants us to discover throughout His Word.

Heavens and earth are called to witness the declaration. Creation has been an innocent witness to and victim of man’s rebellion from the time of the fall. Romans 8:18-25 details the correct attitude of believers, that of understanding that suffering is part of true service to God, because sin is not good and pleasant and enjoyable, but produces misery and anguish. Creation has longed for purging from the effects of sin ever since it entered the natural world.

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body. For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it. (Romans 8:18-25, NASB)

This should have been the attitude of the Children of Israel in Isaiah’s time, but the truth was that they, instead of acting like sons raised up to love and serve their father, God, they revolted. They weren’t just indifferent or apathetic, they actively rebelled.
Trained domestic animals know better than these people about who to serve and obey. How can these people be ignorant? Sinful as a whole nation, burdened by all of that wickedness, generational guilt and corruption. Abandoning, despising, and turning away from God.

This has to be true because if the traditions were maintained, Jewish children were educated in the Law from an early age. They knew better, from the three methods God has always used:
1. the witness of creation,
2. the witness of His Word, and the message of the prophets. By this time they had numerous books of the Bible
3. plus teachers and prophets like Isaiah.

“There is no room for another mark.” Tars Tarkas said in the John Carter movie, speaking to his daughter Sola. Sola was punished for disobedience against her green Martian tribe by being branded each time she was caught. She had been punished so many times there was no space left on her body for the signs of her rebellion.

Whether this punishment in this movie was just or not isn’t the point. It illustrates the condition of the people of God. He had disciplined them for their true and unquestionable rebellion until there was no space that did not bear “bruises, welts, and raw wounds.” (Isaiah 1:6, NASB)

Put aside your socially-conditioned shock over corporal punishment, please. Even in our permissive society we reach a point where we have laws to try to correct wrongdoing. These were God’s attempts to lawfully correct His people’s wrongdoings. He just didn’t have any place left to administer correction.

From head to toe these people bore the marks of stubbornness and rebellion. The fact that they were untreated (raw) and “not pressed out or bandaged, nor softened with oil” means that they were like sheep who wouldn’t even let a shepherd take care of the injuries sustained as part of the sheep’s natural tendency to wander and get itself injured or corrected with the rod. They’ve run from the tender aftermath where the father who had to discipline would love to take the rebel into His arms and administer comfort and display love.

The man-curated portion of creation also bears witness to rebellion. His structures created from God-supplied building materials are burned. His crops are stolen by invaders, as happened often throughout the book of Judges. These marauders devoured this food right in front of the Israelites. Desolation by strangers. A terrible fate.
This makes it clear that it wasn’t God who wanted to rob them of safety and sustenance. Enemies took the opportunity to swarm in because the people had trampled on God’s walls of protection. They smashed through those loving arms reaching out to defend them and embraced instead false gods and practices. In doing so they also invited in pain, misery, and loss.

All that was left was a little shack in an empty field, the place where someone was supposed to look after the crops as they grew. But there was nothing left to tend or protect. A besieged city will eventually run out of supplies and come to the end of its food and water. Israel had allowed itself to be surrounded and cut off from God’s help. Only a few survivors would remain because of God’s enduring mercy. They could have been wiped out, as Sodom and Gomorrah were, but God did not desire that.

How do we know that they were probably still following the traditions of teaching their children? Because they were following others, the sacrifices, the attendance at the Temple. We know this because God said they were sacrificing, but instead of enjoying the “sweet aroma,” as He has described it elsewhere, God said “I take no pleasure” calls them “worthless” and says “incense is an abomination.” He says “I cannot endure iniquity and the solemn assembly.” It’s as if you invited and important guest to dinner and served the garbage disposal scraps along with the real food. What were the Israelites thinking?

Just as the people were burdened with their sins in verse 4, God was burdened by their hypocritical sacrifices and growing weary of having patience, seeking true repentance in verse 14. That’s what sacrifices were supposed to be for, to show evidence of being sorry, turning away, and seeking forgiveness.

That’s not what these sacrifices were, though. When the Israelites prayed, they couldn’t even see that they were raising up bloody hands, stained by the innocent blood God says elsewhere that people were guilty of shedding. From evil kings all the way down to mothers who killed their own children, God recounts over and over again the horrors His own people were capable of committing. God will not, cannot, listen to the prayers of polluted people when they never give a thought to confessing and forsaking their sin but just feel like they have to carry out a ritual.

“Tradition!” shouts the cast of Fiddler on the Roof in the famous production number of the same name, but these traditions were empty of truth and meaning to those people in Isaiah’s time.

God begged and pleaded that they would see their sin, acknowledge it, and be cleansed from it. They needed to learn what the traditional education was supposed to be impressing on them, the basics of right human behavior.

These were such simple precepts. Stop doing evil. Learn how to do right. You don’t have to have superpowers to become a champion of justice. Tell bad people they are wrong. Stand up for children with no parents. Defend women left without husbands.
Did you think God was only interested in emotion, in mysticism? Then why does He invite us in verse 18 to reason together with Him? Because true belief isn’t weird. It isn’t mysterious and impossible to think through and understand.

God gives an object lesson. If you spill blood on something, it will stain. Just so, the people had stained themselves by killing the innocent. But blood can be washed out, even out of something pure white, like wool, and then it will be bright, clean, and shining pure again.

But of course He isn’t talking about literal blood or wool here. He’s talking about sin and its remedy. Sin is the destruction of innocence. People do murder innocents when they abort babies or leave newborns in a toilet or leave children in a cardboard box someplace because they didn’t want to protect them. The same goes for women who are attacked, molested, raped, or murdered because they are deemed easy prey.

In the days of Isaiah there were human sacrifices, usually children, but women were also victimized, used and discarded as temple prostitutes or subject to other monstrous mistreatment. Anytime we fail to value and protect life we are guilty of innocent blood.
Again, God appeals to simple reason in verse 19. Consent to obey, and you will have the best. Refuse and rebel, and the sword is coming to kill you. You have been warned, just as you are warned about the consequences of misbehavior when you accept a job.
If you keep abusing your position, stealing from your employer (so many ways to do that and no one can pretend they don’t know many ways to betray an employer’s trust) vandalizing his property, mistreating fellow employees, you could end up worse than fired. You could go to prison, at least. This is what the people were doing to God.

How does a person go from faithful to unfaithful? Just to unjust? Righteous to murderer? How does this happen in the heart of a man or woman today? A bride and groom do still sometimes exchange vows, including a pledge of fidelity. Believe it or not, this is still a thing in many marriage ceremonies, even nowadays.

Yet married couples betray each other by adultery, mistreat each other by hiding or misspending income, abuse each other with physical violence, and even murder a spouse, sometimes with the added horror of committing suicide afterwards. This can happen in other areas of life as well, following a pattern of initial faithfulness devolving into downward steps that end in some kind of terribly unnatural death.

Instead of maintaining valuable currency we have, like ancient Sparta, become satisfied with coinage worthless outside our own tiny circle. We can’t get anything but watered-down beverages because we don’t protect the value of things. We are led by the rebellious and form friendships with people who think stealing is just getting what you’re owed or the only way to get ahead. You can pay people to make you falsely successful. Nobody listens to the cries of the real needy, the orphans and the widows. They’re too busy chasing false success for themselves.

These people are adversaries of God. They oppose Him, and He will treat them like enemies in battle. He won’t put up with impurities like the dross in silver. Get ready for the lye soap, you dirty sinner. You will become pure by God’s washing and it won’t be comfortable or make you feel loved, since you didn’t want to be loved when you had the chance.

How do we get back to righteousness? Let God restore it. Stop rebelling. Give in to His wisdom in the choice of judges and counselors. He chose them in the time of the Judges, just to name one example. Wow! Would we have chosen Samson or Jephtha? God’s ways are not our ways, but He asks us to trust Him and to be obedient, not understand or know everything. “Trust and Obey” is far more than a song for children in Sunday school. It’s a life principle.

Only in that way can faithfulness be restored. God does it. We don’t do it. Our efforts fail and so do our sinful hearts. “Redeemed, how I love to proclaim it.” But how do we get redeemed? By sacrifices? By struggling with our own version of righteousness? Nope. Once again, God does it. Verse 27 doesn’t say Zion redeems herself. It says she “will be redeemed.” How? By repentance.

What’s repentance? Simple. It’s when I’m walking that way, the way of sin, doing that thing that is opposed to God, and suddenly I say, “No. I’m going to walk the opposite way, and do the opposite thing!” You say and think the same thing about sin that God says. “No more! I oppose it! I turn my back on it.”

After all, transgressors, that is, people who turn off God’s path, ignore His signs so they can do things ‘way worse than walking on the grass, end up in the trash compactor. Hear that awful din when the garbage man comes with his big truck and those claws grab your can and hoist it into the air, emptying it into the maw of the crusher? Hear the roar and squeal and the grinding of the compactor mashing your trash into … yeah. That’s the fate of the sinner. You don’t want to be in God’s compactor. You don’t want to know what it means when God says these people will “come to an end.” (v. 28)

Why would you be ashamed of trees? Embarrassed by gardens? (v. 29) Maybe you don’t understand the Bible because you don’t see how the cultural applications are relevant today. Ever hear of a Zen Garden? Japanese and other Buddhists create these as a place where they can meditate. It’s a form of worship. False worship.

These trees, these gardens, mentioned in Isaiah, are places to worship false gods. You should be embarrassed if you are worshiping idols. Oh, you don’t worship any false gods? People throw around terms from other religions today, like feng shui, yoga, even mindfulness, claiming they are ways to get healthy, get focused, be more successful. They don’t see the idolatry. Or they don’t want to. These are obsessions with physical things that cross over into supposed spiritual benefits.

God uses parallels to visualize the fate of idolaters. Love to worship at that sacred tree? Watch the leaves wither and fall. Sitting and meditating in that mystical garden? It dries up without water. Who puts life into a tree or gives water to a garden? Look to the Source of life, God, and stop worshiping the mere life itself.

Not only are the tree and the garden temporary, not only do they die off, they dry up and so do the people who worship them. A man might seem strong and successful as he practices techniques of eastern mysticism, but if the focus is on the mere physical, something so temporary, when it dries up it could become just something to spark a fire. It could burn up. In fact, God says the idolater will burn up, no matter how strong he appears. No one can put out a fire that God starts, and He will start one, to do away with the idol and the idolater.

Questions for Further Study, Discussion, or Thought
1. Why is Creation a good witness for God to call upon?
2. How do we know that Israel should have known better than to rebel?
3. How should children respond to their father’s discipline? Why would they not respond correctly?
4. Why did God hate their sacrifices? What is the real purpose of sacrifice?
5. List some ways married couples can be unfaithful, and how this is a picture of man’s relationship to God.
6. Explain the meaning of repentance.
7. Share some cultural examples of idolatry that people may not realize they practice. What is their justification for doing these things?

Image Credit: Isaiah Bible Card from the Providence Lithograph Company, 1904. thebiblerevival.com Wikimedia Commons

 

 

 

 

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I am a Trucker’s Wife

We travel all over the forty-eight states, so we see a lot of life. This does not make us experts, but we want to attempt to show how our culture is on a downhill slide, mostly because of sin and secular humanism. There are people who don’t speak English and don’t intend to learn, people who want space for their religion but don’t want us to have any for ours, people who are infected with the deadly diseases of damnation-directed thinking, don’t know it, and won’t be convinced of it. They think they’re ok, and we’d be ok too if we could just shut up about that Bible stuff. Sorry, no can do. It’s the only thing that matters.

I say “we” when I talk about my husband and I and what our future holds because I consider our lives to be united and our goals and plans to be intertwined. Charles Dickens, in David Copperfield, has a young female character who married a much older man. When asked about the state of their marriage by a person who tried to make her worry about potential gossip and speculation, she said simply, “We have a unity of mind and purpose.” Women who talk about being truckers’ wives usually point out the separation, the loneliness and the need for them to be apart yet to trust and wait. These women are simply enduring, and it sounds like their lives together are on hold, stagnant. I think that’s a bit selfish, with all due respect for the truth of these points. The two of you are one. Isn’t he lonely, too? Doesn’t he need to trust you? Men have been leaving their wives alone for necessary careers for centuries: Military, diplomatic, evangelistic missions and pioneering are just a few. And for centuries women have been guilty of betraying trust and deciding they couldn’t handle the loneliness as well as men.

The first thing you must do is stop being selfish. Don’t think you aren’t. Don’t believe you’re sacrificing so much just by agreeing to be a trucker’s wife in the first place. Think again. You agreed to get married, and that took you out of the category where you get to say, “I” very often. You have a husband. You may have children. Responsibilities keep expanding, such as a house, a car, and other things you own or have and have to pay for. If you own the truck he drives there can be a whole new set of responsibilities. These things are the responsibility of both members of the marriage, yet women pour out their resentment, saying, “He went away and left me to handle all this.” The problem is magnified exponentially in a bad economy where you may not be making enough money to handle anything except collection calls.

Here comes my “I” paragraph. I said a wife doesn’t get to say “I” much but here are the things that are just “me” things, the stuff I do that I have to do myself or to keep the crazies away and that he doesn’t really take part in. While I was living at home and he was on the road, I found many things to occupy my time. I always worked, at least part time, usually full time with overtime, as a book editor, childcare and eldercare giver, teacher, factory worker, office assistant, receptionist, clerk, and other occupations. I write, obviously, producing puppet scripts, short stories and novels. I have written scripts for Cable TV commercials, a local museum video tour and an in-store infomercial as well as church programs. I draw, and create craft items, and serve in churches, making puppets, putting on plays, designing bulletin boards and decoration for programs as well as writing and test-teaching original church teaching materials and creating the crafts to accompany them. I also polish and convert my husband’s writing to book format or video scripts. Our dream is still alive, of course, to make the video work a reality in the future.

Let me return to the reality of the near-present. My husband was on the road. I had a 3rd shift temp job which I took after two years of “stable” but health-wrecking 12 hr shift factory work. My changing jobs helped our older children out with transportation since we would all be working at the same place. Our youngest had just gone into the military. It became clear that I was not going to be hired on permanently at the place I worked. Our elder two children, while still living at home, had jobs and our daughter’s car as backup to get to work.

My husband and I decided to go on the road together, especially since attending our son’s graduation from boot camp required a trip to Fort Leonardwood, MO and it was the only way I was going to get there. I elected not to get my CDL but to support him by helping with all the paperwork I was legally allowed to do and assisting in trip planning, handling phone use and load finding. I have talked to many husband and wife team drivers and the women always agreed with my decision not to drive. We have met many teams who cannot get enough work to support both of them. Besides, I freely admit to being a basket case when it comes to backing up and that’s pretty much the bulk of a trucker’s job, with a giant rectangle tagging along behind.

This also gave us the opportunity to work on writing and researching the books and videos we want to produce, to be together to brainstorm and polish ideas, and to restore the unity of mind and purpose that flags when you’re apart. We read Scriptures, comment on what we’ve read, deal with the bill collectors together, and it is in all ways better. The economy is still bad, and may be getting worse. Our house is in danger of forclosure, our daughter wrecked her car trying to travel on icy roads and ended up with our car, and both our older children were laid off and had to move to find other jobs and housing. It looks like soon the truck will be our only home. That simplifies life, in some ways. No utility bills, except the cell phones and computer to look for loads and do research for our projects. We are newly returned to being owner operators, which makes for a much less simple life, but we hope it will soon begin to pay off. Our last truck blew the engine with one payment left but once again company driver was not for us.

Life in the truck is not easy. The bed is small and so are the cabinets. Eating on the road is expensive but so is an electrical system that supports a microwave and a refrigerator, as well as making the space to install them. Chances to get to a regular store, even a Walmart, are scarce. We shower and do laundry at truckstops.

Several women have bitten their tongues as they asked me how I like living in the truck because they want so badly to tell me what my opinion should be.

My opinion is that I am better with him than without him, whatever the hardships might be. And he keeps saying he is better with me than without me. I get cranky and resent all the stuff that I have to do and he puts up with that. He gets so focused on the job and the mileage and the performance of the truck and I have to put up with that. He talks to everybody he meets, mechanics, other truckers, any people who can add to that staggering store of knowledge he’s got in that head of his. I hate to talk to people but I realize how much this habit of his has helped us. We see a lot of countryside, even if we do spend a lot of time walking through oil and smelling diesel and listening to idling trucks and whining reefers. We’ve been to places in Canada and back and forth across this country. We’ve listened to volunteers in truckstop churches doing their best to minister to some hard cases. We’ve been in churches where people praised God for truckers.

So, to truckers’ wives who need to vent, I say it works both ways. Except your husband’s too busy driving, so instead of venting, take every chance you get to run him up, not run him down. Love him, instead of resenting him. Dwell on what makes him great, not what makes you miserable. Sure, I’m with mine and you’re not with yours, and it may not be possible for you to go, because your children are still young. I was there, too, but I still had to stop people and my own mind from making me resent the way things were and are. Help him and help yourself by refusing to rise to the temptation of complaining or of sounding like a martyr. Focus on what you are together, what good married couples have always been, stronger together than apart. Unified in mind and purpose. Together, always, whatever, forever.

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