It seems that so much of what we hear on the news, internet and social media sites is that the world is spinning out of control. We see it in the big picture like stories about Egypt and Iran or Syria; and we see it in the small picture as we watch people live their lives on social media for all the world to see. Either way it is easy for us to question and wonder how God could let this all continue. People hurting other people, nations destroying other nations, governments oppressing their own people and the list could go on. Frankly it can get kind of depressing if we would allow it to. But from today's reading I want to pull out one verse that should give us a sense of hope in a time of upheaval. As you know, in what we have been reading these last several months, we have seen the nations of Israel and Judah continually rebel against God followed by momentary periods of following God and as a result these nations have been on a yo yo of ups and downs on their historical timeline.
As we continue in the book of Isaiah, speaking for God, he says something quite wonderful. In chapter 48:6-11 he is sharing the reason for prophecies.
6 You have heard these things; look at them all. Will you not admit them?
“From now on I will tell you of new things, of hidden things unknown to you. 7 They are created now, and not long ago; you have not heard of them before today. So you cannot say, ‘Yes, I knew of them.’ 8 You have neither heard nor understood; from of old your ears have not been open. Well do I know how treacherous you are; you were called a rebel from birth. 9 For my own name’s sake I delay my wrath; for the sake of my praise I hold it back from you, so as not to destroy you completely. 10 See, I have refined you, though not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction. 11 For my own sake, for my own sake, I do this. How can I let myself be defamed? I will not yield my glory to another.
The first thing to notice is that we don't have the whole picture sometimes. God at this point in history is telling Israel about some of the hidden things that were unknown to them through the prophesies of Isaiah. Likewise there are things that we are simply unaware of that God is completely aware of.
The second thing is this: God points out that he not only knows us well but he knows us so well that despite our best efforts he understands that we have a treacherous heart and that we are all rebels from birth. This is restated earlier in the Old Testament when we read the story of Noah. When God told Noah that he was going to destroy the earth because of the wickedness of humanity he also made this statement after he had brought Noah and his family through.
Genesis 8:21 - The Lord smelled the pleasing aroma and said in his heart: “Never again will I curse the ground because of humans, even though every inclination of the human heart is evil from childhood. And never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done. (underlined for emphesis)
If we are running from God and choosing to follow our own devises we will find that we are not friends of God, as may assume, but instead we will find that we have put our selves against Him making us his enemy.
Finally from this passage I want to look at verses 9-11. God dely's sending his wrath for his own names sake. Not because he delights in the rebellion of humanity on earth but because of the praise from his people he holds it back. Sometimes the storms in life are simply giving us greater opportunities to praise Him through it all. We are all in the process of being refined. There are things in all of our lives that we simply choose to put there that separate us from God and his will for out lives. The more that we are refined the more that we chip, scrap, and melt off the rough edges in our life. The things that keep us from God's best.
And as we begin to chip off those rough edges, even though it may be painful or uncomfortable in the moment, we begin to see that we are becoming more and more like our savior Jesus Christ. And THAT is a reason to praise, and THAT is a reason for us to be grateful that God has delayed his wrath for one more day. Because it gives us one more day to live as the city on hill that he has called us to be. It is one more day for us to BE a light in what is often such a dark world. It is one more day to praise the Lord when we lead one more person who has an eternal destiny away from God's wrath and into his loving arms by accepting Jesus Christ his son.