суббота, 14 декабря 2019 г.

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Isaiah 41: Easter and the World

Isaiah 41: Easter and the World

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As Easter approaches, it makes me consider the way people think about Jesus in the world I live in. I live in Cork, Ireland. Ireland is a modern western society, embracing all things liberal and running full tilt away from its religious heritage. In Ireland these days, it seems you can be anything you want, but if you decide to follow Jesus with your life and put your trust in Him, there is an air of mocking and eye-rolling that is inevitably encountered. Jesus is the butt of many jokes. He is a meme, a parody, powerless and, if at all possible, He is completely avoided.

The modern western societies that many of us live in often tell us that it is ridiculous to believe in God, to put our trust in Him is a mere delusion.

These voices are loud, seemingly infallibly rational, and there have been times when they have shaken my faith. However, as time goes by and I look at the world around me, I become more convinced daily that, in fact, it is a place that needs Jesus more than ever, no matter how loudly it shouts to the contrary.

In Isaiah 41, the chapter opens with God calling the nations to come before Him in a sort of courtroom setting, to make their arguments as to why they serve other “gods” than Him. He says:

“Let the nations come forward and speak; let us meet together at the place of Judgement… The metalworker encourages the goldsmith, and the one who smooths with the hammer encourages the one who strikes with the anvil. One says of the welding, 'it is good' and the other nails down the idol so it will not topple.”

The nations come before God and encourage each other about the idols they are building with their own hands.

In our world, these idols are everywhere, depending on our bent, we pick our idol: “self,” power, recognition, fame, money, reputation, beauty… you name it. But these idols cannot stand in front of the one true God, as it says in verse seven, they “nail down the idol so it will not topple.” The voices of the world must be fortified with elaborate justifications so that they do not topple, but ultimately, they are powerless to save. The world we live in is a broken place; it is time we recognized that and stopped being so intimidated by it.

In verses 2-3 of Isaiah 41, we remain in the courtroom as God takes His turn to speak. He speaks of the coming deliverance of Israel out of their Babylonian captivity in 150 years, through a Medo-Persian emperor named Cyrus. This is a beautiful moment of Bible prophecy, declaring events that would not happen for more than a century. God goes on to declare in verse four:

“Who has done this and carried it through, calling forth the generations from the beginning? I, the Lord with the first of them and with the last, I am He.”

Here, God is declaring how great He is, how He has no beginning and no end; He created time, the universe, all of history is in His hand and only in Him is truth and wisdom found. For the short time we have here on this earth, it is wise to submit our lives to the God who knows all of eternity in its infinity; it is the only option that makes sense.

Proverb 9:10 tells us, “The knowledge of God is the beginning of wisdom.” The world shouts the opposite of this at us very loudly, but only God is all-knowing, eternal, omniscient, only in putting our trust in Him can we know the truth. The Oxford English dictionary’s word of the year for 2016 was “post-truth.”

Apparently, we now live in a post-truth world.

There is no truth anymore; there is only your truth and my truth, but there is no absolute truth anymore. However, without truth, how do you know where to place your foot, where to take your next step? Without absolute truth, we are walking perpetually on shifting sands. I think we can agree with Isaiah when in said in Isaiah 59:14, “truth has fallen in the public square.” In a world like this, it is such a privilege to know “The Truth,” Jesus Christ, “The way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). When we build our lives on this truth, we have the word and the spirit to guide us; we are never alone. What a great honor and joy it is to know the truth, to know Jesus.

We have seen how, in Isaiah 41, God calls the nations to present their case to Him. The question is: Is the world in a good position to make their argument against God?

Has the world got it all figured out on its own? Let’s have a look at what some prominent social commentators have to say about the world we live in to see if it is ready to stand up against God. Henry Allen, a famous journalist for the Wall Street Journal recently wrote:

“For the first time in my 72 years, I have no idea what is going on. The most important thing in our culture is not change but the fact that reality itself is dwindling, fading like sun-struck wallpaper. Facebook enshrines banality, we have individualism but no privacy, we are all outsiders with no inside to be outside of. There is no arc, no through line, no destiny. As the British Tommies sang in WWI, ‘We are here because we’re here, because we’re here.’ Like many people, I used to think the world would go on as it would go on – with the arrival of better medicines, an Ipad and the occasional earthquake, but that was when I thought I knew what was going on. Now I fear reality is fading like the Cheshire Cat, leaving behind only a smile that grows ever more alarming.”

This is an insightful observation of the world we live in. I could analyze it all day, but the prominent point I think in this quote is that the world is lost. Allen says, “There is no arc, no through line, no destiny.” When we remove God from the picture, we lose our purpose. The enlightenment promised so much, but the world we live in is still dark and needs the light of Christ to shine for people to see their lives as God does, filled with purpose and intention.

The sociologist George Weigel says:

“We live in a world that has lost its story…a world in which the progress promised by the humanities of the past three centuries is now gravely threatened by understandings of the human person that reduce our humanity to a congeries of cosmic chemical accidents. We are a humanity with no intentional origin, no noble destiny, and thus no path to take through history.”

Without God, it is impossible to know our purpose.

We are lost. Remember, the world is loud, but it is in great need. It needs to turn from idols and know its creator, the God who made it, the God who loves it.

This year has been declared the year of the self. “Self-help” is more popular than ever. We are to look to ourselves for everything we need. If we are mindful and self-aware and in-tune, all will be well. But all will not be well, while these things are profitable to some degree, they cannot save your eternal soul. When we look only to ourselves for help, we are totally limited, but if we “lift our eyes up to the mountains, where does my help come from, my help comes from the maker of heaven and earth” (Psalm 121:1-2 ). We have access to the God of the universe through Jesus Christ. We have limitless help, and God is desiring to give it to us.

In Isaiah 41 God promises us, that if we put our trust in Him, He will “take you by the right hand and say to you, do not fear I will help you. Do not be afraid you worm Jacob, little Israel, do not fear, for I myself will help you” (Isaiah 41:13-14). Without God, we are like a little worm, trying to figure out the world, but it is impossible without Him. That is why the world is so lost; its perspective is simply too small. But with God, we can understand our purpose and why we are on this earth. We can let Him take us by the hand and lead us through our lives. He knows the way. He wants to lead us, and He loves us. He will lead us with love.

The current views of the world we live in are becoming more and more confusing to me. There seems to be absurdity at every turn. The notions that are being put forward to help us are simply “wind and confusion” as it says in Isaiah 41:29. When we think about the power that is available to us when we put our trust in God, all other options pale in comparison. Their absurdity becomes clear. A Welsh comedian named David Walliams expresses absurdity beautifully in the following quote:

“A cup of tea is the answer to every problem. Fallen off your bicycle? Nice cup of tea. Your house has been destroyed by a meteorite? Nice cup of tea and a biscuit. Your entire family has been eaten by a Tyrannosaurus Rex that has travelled through a space/time portal? Nice cup of tea and a piece of cake. Possibly a savoury option would be welcome here too, for example a Scotch egg or a sausage roll.”

I love this quote, obviously it’s funny, obviously it's absurd, but honestly, anything other than putting our trust in the God of the universe to guide us through our life is the equivalent to looking for salvation in a cup of tea.

There is a God. His name is Jesus.

He created this universe. He knew you before you were born. He has a purpose for you. You did not slip through His net. He knows you. He loves you. He wants to take your hand and lead you through your life.

This Easter, for those of us who are believers, let us not be quieted by the noise and nonsense of the world we live.

Let us remember the world is lost. We must love it. We must love the lost. We must tell them about Jesus. If it were not for Jesus, we too would be hopelessly lost. Jesus is the only answer; this has always been the case, and this will never change. I am so grateful to know Him. I am so grateful to know the truth. Lord, help us to spread the good news of Jesus Christ to this world.