Sunday, October 5, 2014

A Life Out of Alignment

"Just listen to me," I sighed audibly and moved forward to snag him by the shoulder and draw his eyes to mine as I spoke.

Obviously, the "arguing with everything mommy says" phase was rearing its ugly head again, making communication between adult and child, male and female, that much more difficult.

Three times before, I had tried to give instructions while I worked to clean off the gathering table in the kitchen, but each time, my son failed to hear me.  As his mouth opened to argue with my statement before it was even complete, his ears ceased to function, causing him to miss the full import of what I was trying to say.

"Listen," I said again as he squirmed under my hand.  This time, I looked at him as I spoke.  This time, he heard me.  "Oh," he sheepishly uttered before wordlessly shuffling off to complete the task I required of him.

All it took was listening for him to understand what I required of him.

In the book of Isaiah, the Lord asks the peoples of the world to do the same--listen to Him.

Chapter 55 begins with an invitation from the Lord: "Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; And you who have no money come, buy and eat. Come, buy wine and milk Without money and without cost...Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, And delight yourself in abundance.  Incline your ear and come to Me. Listen, that you may live; And I will make an everlasting covenant with you..." (v. 1-3).

The invitation is clear--Come to the Lord.  Everyone--Jew and Gentile--come and enter into the everlasting covenant of salvation, free for all men and in such abundance that there is no limit.

In these verses, the word "come" is repeated three times along with the word "listen."  Thus, although salvation is a free gift from God (and one which God, Himself, initiates in these verses), it requires us to listen to determine what God seeks from those He offers this free gift.

A few verses later, Isaiah says, "Seek the Lord while He may be found; Call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way And the unrighteous man his thoughts; And let him return to the Lord, And He will have compassion on him, And to our God, For He will abundantly pardon. ' For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,' declares the Lord. 'For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways And My thoughts than your thoughts'" (Is. 55:6-9).

Clearly, the offer of salvation is not for the wicked or the unrighteous, but these are the ones addressed here since they are in most need of God's offer.

While I have often heard this Scripture passage used to explain how the mysteries of God are beyond human comprehension, that's not exactly what Isaiah is saying.  Reading the verses in context shows that these verses are, instead, seeking to explain how the wicked man can "forsake his way" and how the unrighteous man can forsake "his thoughts" so that he may enter into God's covenant of salvation.

A true "return to the Lord" requires wicked, unrighteous men and women to listen to the Lord and forsake their old thoughts, forsake their old ways, and take up God's thoughts and God's ways. In essence, they are choosing to give up their own self and align their values and agenda with God's values and agenda. 

Verses 7 and 8-9 are even parallel in structure to emphasize this comparison, verse 7 mentioning the wicked man's "his way" and "his thoughts" before verse 8 and 9 mentioning the "My thoughts" and "My ways" phrases twice in reference to God.

This passage should remind us of the New Testament verses wherein Jesus says, "No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth," reminding us we cannot live with one foot in the world and one foot in heaven (Matt. 6:24). We must choose a side--God or ourselves.

The apostle Paul took up this idea as well, saying, "But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please" (Gal. 5:16-17).

The spirit and flesh in Galatians are in opposition just as man's natural thoughts and God's thoughts in Isaiah 55.  One must reject those values and thoughts of the flesh in order to take up, to put on, the values of God.  In essence, the offer of salvation is the offer of a total transformation from flesh to spirit, as Paul describes in Galatians.  

One cannot have a mind filled with both unrighteous thoughts of man and the righteous thoughts of God.  There must be a divine exchange of ways and thoughts if we are to seek God's compassion and pardon.  
This should be a reminder to all of us as we go about our daily lives that we can't use this verse as a get-out-of-jail-free card and say, "Well, God is such a mystery and His ways are so beyond mine that I don't have a shot of understanding in order to align my ways and thoughts with His!" 

On the contrary--our thoughts and our ways must align with God's thoughts and God's ways.

The very next verse explains how we can do this, saying, "So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; It will not return to Me empty, Without accomplishing what I desire, And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it" (Is. 55:11).

The Word of God--The Bible--it is the answer, teaching us God's thoughts and God's ways, helping us align our thoughts with His thoughts and our ways with His ways.

Granted, that divine alignment may not be complete until we reach the other side of eternity.

But it begins here on earth.  It begins each time we truly listen to God's Word and choose to line up our lives with the words found in its pages.

No comments:

Post a Comment