Today: [Isaiah 12] Excused from the Law, Licensed to Sin? In Isaiah 12 we find the anger of God extinguished and the clemency of heaven extended to a disobedient people. Chapter 12 of Isaiah is very brief yet many songs and hymns of grace have sprung from its few verses. Even though the southern kingdom has turned away from God we find the comfort of God and the grace of God emphasized and offered even though the people are not looking to God as their salvation. Many times we read the Old Testament and even portions of the New Testament and tacitly exempt ourselves from the character of the claims of the law. It is important for us to remember that the purpose of the law is not to establish an excuse by which we may choose any alternative lifestyle. The purpose of the law is to bring us to Christ, not just once but daily as a walk of discipleship before the Father.
[Isa 12:1-6 KJV] 1 And in that day thou shalt say, O LORD, I will praise thee: though thou wast angry with me, thine anger is turned away, and thou comfortedst me. 2 Behold, God [is] my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid: for the LORD JEHOVAH [is] my strength and [my] song; he also is become my salvation. 3 Therefore with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation. 4 And in that day shall ye say, Praise the LORD, call upon his name, declare his doings among the people, make mention that his name is exalted. 5 Sing unto the LORD; for he hath done excellent things: this [is] known in all the earth. 6 Cry out and shout, thou inhabitant of Zion: for great [is] the Holy One of Israel in the midst of thee.
Chapter 6 of Isaiah is only 6 verses but I can recollect at least 5 hymns and songs that have been written from these few verses of the years. The chapter is a continuation from chapter 5 describing the coming of the Messiah and the character of the Messianic reign and kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ. Verse one declares that “in that day” the anger of the Lord will be turned away and that He will comfort the people of God. What is the anger of God referring to?
The prophesying of Isaiah was prompted by the Father to address idolatry and injustice in the city of Jerusalem and the southern kingdom. The reigning king, Ahaz had also made an unholy alliance with the Assyrians to prevent invasion from their brother nation to the north comprised of the remnants of the 10 tribes and the nation of Syria. This was a time of great insecurity and and upheaval in the land of Judea. There were oppressive laws taking unfair advantage of the poor. The rule of the king was encroaching on the rights of the priesthood. This began with king Ahaz’ grandfather Uzziah who presumed on the priest’s office and was stricken with leprosy as a result. Uzziah had simply attempted to offer incense before the Lord without priestly authority. Ahaz his grandson has now removed the doors of the temple and openly installed images of idols and pagan altars alongside the brazen alter and the golden lampstand. To Ahaz this was done as an act of conciliatory tolerance toward those who worshipped other gods. He was attempting to show the cosmopolitan nature of his administration and in the attempt blasphemed God Himself and brought wrath down upon the nation.
In reading this we have to ask ourselves where is the application for our own lives? These chapters are not passed down to us from antiquity just to give us sacred history. Paul spoke of the purpose of the Old Testament record in 1 Corinthians:
[1Co 10:11 KJV] 11 Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.
The people in Isaiah’s day presumed upon their heritage as the people of God that they would be given leniency for the lifestyle choices they were making. They understood that their idolatrous practices were prohibited in Moses’ law but for various reasons assumed that these statutes did not apply to them and that in spite of their deviation from the mandates of scripture they would still be blessed and protected. Is that not a common thought in Christianity today? We assume because we read something in the Old Testament that there is nothing there to which we may be held accountable. While it is true we are not bound by or held under the Law let us remember the admonition of Paul whose teachings reveal how Christ emancipates us from the Law:
[Gal 3:24 KJV] 24 Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster [to bring us] unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.
When we read the Old Testament our proper response should be “how does this bring me to Christ?” Too often the unspoken question we interrogate ourselves with in reading the Old Testament is “how does this not apply to me?” Make no mistake: if the reading of the Old Testament and the consideration of the Old Covenant example does not bring us to Christ then it brings us to justified condemnation:
[Gal 5:1-3 KJV] 1 Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage. 2 Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing. 3 For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law.
The point of the law and the Old Testament histories is to cause you and I to become acutely aware of our need of a savior. The perverse handling of modern day thinking toward the law is to see it as the stepping off point establishing a pretext for why the law does not apply to us. We must be careful not to think that the sacrifice of Christ is there simply to give a rubber stamp indemnification of fault for any lifestyle choice that we make. Even in the New Testament there are many difficult passages that scholars and leaders read and dismiss saying “well, that was a 1st century issue, and the people were not educated as we are now – therefore that doesn’t apply to us today ….” That is very unstable ground upon which to walk in relationship to the living God. The word of God not only defines for us the basis of our justification through the shed blood of Christ, it also defines for us the nature of sin and the reality of transgression:
[1Co 15:17 NKJV] 17 And if Christ is not risen, your faith [is] futile; you are still in your sins!
Outside of Christ is not merely an alternative lifestyle. Outside of Christ is the sin condition that condemns every man, woman and child to an eternal hell. Martin Luther in his teachings on justification by faith declared that only in coming to Christ and personally yielding to His Lordship do we find salvation from the consequences of the fall. Ask yourself is that yielding a once in a lifetime choice or an ongoing discipleship? The answer is that it is both. If having once given your life to Christ we then turn in our hearts toward a lifestyle that is incompatible with the character of Christ then we place ourselves unnecessarily in jeopardy.
[2Pe 2:19-21 NKJV] 19 While they promise them liberty, they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by whom a person is overcome, by him also he is brought into bondage. 20 For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning. 21 For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known [it], to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them.
In this chapter Isaiah is crying out to a people securely ensconced in the covenant of Abraham who have now turned to what Paul called in Gal. 4:9 the weak and beggarly elements of the world. Never forget who you are. Never let a moment go by regardless of the pressure you may be under that you do not as a child of God hold yourself to a deeper accountability to exemplify Christ at all times regardless of our continuous and often ongoing failure to do so. This is the heart of comfort that Isaiah is holding out to those he prophesies to by the Spirit of the Lord in chapter 12 of Isaiah. The anger of the Lord is a reality. It has not ceased to exist, neither have the occasions of sin in the earth that provoke His anger ceased to exist. What has happened is that the Father through Christ Jesus has chosen to offer us clemency as Isaiah offers to the corrupt and wicked culture of Jerusalem and the southern kingdom. The heart of God is not to be angry but that does not mean there is no anger in God. Today the teaching of grace has been contaminated by the suggestion that the sacrifice of the cross has inaugurated us into the leniency of God. Luke in the book of Acts declares just the opposite:
[Act 17:30 KJV] 30 And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent:
Repentance is not something we do one time and there is the end of it. Many Christians seem so opposed and averse to repent. They repent one time to receive Jesus as savior and then treat the clemency of Christ in the New Birth as a hall pass to any lifestyle choice they may choose to make. This cheapens the cross. It contaminates the truth of the gospel. Isaiah does not ignore the reality of the sanctity and holiness of God. Yet in the midst of that we see the anger of God turned away and the comfort of Christ extended to us in a truly unconditional overture of love that could only be fully expressed in the death of the Cross. These are themes that are overlooked and left to lie neglected in the seeker sensitivity climate of the church today. Yet these tones of reverence and repentance lead us to the wells of salvation that verse 3 promise us we may draw from as those who walk daily in repentance and humility before God.
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