At the close of the Old Testament age there was increasing appeals for repentance and submission to God’s standards. I wonder, is there the same call for radical obedience today?
I was reading through some of the OT prophets recently—which is never easy reading. There’s a lot of confusing imagery and that persistent appeal to return to the Lord’s ways (and demonstrations of the penalties of not doing so).
This passage stuck out to me from Isaiah:
And now, go, write it before them on a tablet and inscribe it in a book, that it may be for the time to come as a witness forever. For they are a rebellious people, lying children, children unwilling to hear the instruction of the Lord; who say to the seers, “Do not see,” and to the prophets, “Do not prophesy to us what is right; speak to us smooth things, prophesy illusions, leave the way, turn aside from the path, let us hear no more about the Holy One of Israel.” (Isaiah 30:8–11 ESV)
To me this was another harsh picture of the rampant rebellion of the day. Firstly, Isaiah is saying that that are a rebellious people and lying children.
I have a few kids and while they are so sweet, they are beyond perfect. Sometimes they are rebellious to what their mom and I want for them to do. This is hard when one of them chooses not to do what we ask—but it’s even more challenging when all five kids ignore my commands.
For example: Dinner time is over, and I say, “Time to clean up! Please do your jobs.” Each one has a task to help clean up the dinner mess. One will have to collect the dirty plates and bring them to the dishwasher, another will have to put back the refrigerator items, plus there is the sweeping and wiping down of floors and the table.
They don’t respond, so I say with a little more urgency,”Come on kids! Get your work done. Hey guys (insert Michigan accent), come on!!!”
It’s hard when one or a few don’t listen to me, but when all five choose not to focus doing what I asked them to do, it’s very trying to my patience! I imagine this kind of stress as God looked upon the mass of His children not obeying or caring about what He said to do when He said through Isaiah, “You are a rebellious people…”
But the word says that they were also lying like children. Once again, my not perfect, but oh-so-loved kids serve as an example. See, when I lie, I think I’m pretty good at it and that no one can tell. But when my kids lie, as their dad, I can totally tell.
“Did you brush your teeth before you got into bed,” I might ask on a typical night, I might hear from one of them, “Uh… yeah.” The people Isaiah was being called to speak to where rebellious to God’s words and they were not very good at lying about it. It was obvious that they weren’t living as God commands dictated.
Lying might have made them feel like they were getting away with something, but God totally knew that they were not living in step with His laws.
To make it even worse, they didn’t want to hear any more about God’s ways. Their ears were closed to the truth. Their hearts hardened to His instructions. They only wanted to hear what affirmed the ways that they were choosing to live.
(They) say to the seers, “Do not see,” and to the prophets, “Do not prophesy to us what is right; speak to us smooth things,
As shocked and uncomfortable these passages are to read, I was reminded this week of the setting; it was the close of the Old Testament story. God was ready to turn the page. The kingdom of heaven was being prepared to draw near and they needed to prepare the way and make their paths straight… But they weren’t listening. They only wanted to hear what affirmed their own ways.
If that’s how it was at the end of the OT age, I started to imagine where we are in the Story. Would you agree that we may be near the end of the age?
I’m not one who tries too hard to read the signs of the day and make big declarations about when I think Jesus is going to return. I have thoughts but I’ll leave a lot of that to the guys in nice suits who knock on doors (who have been wrong about their dates and several occasions) and the late night TV preachers.
What I would say with confidence is that we’re near to the end. I can say that because Jesus said that. He essentially instructed us to live as if He could return any second… because literally He could return any second.
So at the end of the New Testament story, I think it’s completely appropriate to be hearing a renewed call to repentance and a radical obedience to God’s ways, not the means of our salvation (that would be salvation by works, which is what the other guys in white shirts are selling at your door), but in response to the grace and love poured out in Christ.
God’s gift of salvation ought to change our hearts completely. We would obey His commands out of gratitude for the immeasurable gift of His love.
And God is always near to receive us when we would turn from our ways and choose to follow His ways. Look at this passage that I read just south of the warning of rebelliousness I read earlier:
Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you, and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you. For the Lord is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him. (Isaiah 30:18 ESV)
He’s waiting for us. He wants so badly to be gracious to us. To forgive us of not walking out what we say we believe and to show us mercy.
Again, I think about my kids not always wanting to follow my commands and help clean up dinner. This act of rebellion pales compared with how many people who say they love Jesus ignore His ways, but it’s a helpful illustration…
Honestly, I’m the one doing most of the work but what I am doing is inviting them to help me because it continues the joy we experienced as we ate together as a family.
The other night one of my daughters (who honestly has been one of the most notorious for her strong will) was showing such great response. Totally “first time listening” and doing her jobs with joy. I was so thankful that I picked her up and hugged her.
Conformity to God’s ways encourages our nearness with Him as our Father.
So today, as you would hear His call to repent of your own ways and by grace begin to have your life conformed to His ways, know that He is right there… with you, until the end of the age… wanting to love you and show you grace.