God's Analysis of Current News
I have been under increasing conviction of my need to wean myself away from a generational addiction to listening to the news so much. Over the past few years my addiction to reading the Word of God has been increasing so much that I have less and less appetite for worldly news. At the same time I also am becoming more aware of the effect that exposure to much of the news has on my imagination with the parallel negative effect of hijacking my imagination from being usable for meditation in God's presence. Given this noticeable deleterious effect, I feel less and less inclined to indulge in exposure to mainstream media to the extent that I did for much of my life.
However, that does not mean I have been completely cut off from what is taking place in the world around me. Yesterday as I perused the headlines and looked into a few stories in the news from an internet source, I noticed the enormous controversy swirling around a man who has grabbed the whole world's attention recently by exposing the deep corruption of the spying going on by our government against not only foreign governments but its own people illegally. What is most disturbing is the pattern of diversion that the government is constantly engaging in through desperate attempts to keep anyone from paying any attention to the information this many has revealed. Rather than admitting guilt, the consistent response is to attack the messenger with clear intent to silence him at any cost.
This pattern of deception and deflection is strikingly similar to that used by both despotic governments that we have long condemned as well as the church empire that ruled much of the world ruthlessly for hundreds of years during the Dark Ages. Whenever such powers were exposed to be corrupt in any way, they relied almost totally on condemning, denouncing and silencing the messenger in order to keep all attention away from any truth the messenger might be trying to reveal for the purpose of reforming and improving that government.
After having this information lodged in my imagination last night, it was no surprise that I ended up dreaming about it this morning. In my dream I found myself caught up in the ongoing saga of this man's plight as I observed government agents about to secretly take his life. Upon waking up I began wondering if there was any spiritual significance God might want to apply to me in this dream and a text that had previously kept coming up in my mind again reappeared. I decided to go look it up in my personal time with God this morning and see if He wanted to show me more.
What I discovered was not only a very impressive and frighteningly precise description of the condition of our government today in this whole chapter from Isaiah, but I also found strong reinforcement for the wonderful revelations that God has been sharing with many of us about where our real problem is in our relationship with Him. Like the pattern of all too familiar deception and diversion so common among corrupt politicians, we as sinners tend to assume that much of our problem with connecting to God is in His unwillingness to do what we want Him to do or to listen to our petitions and demands. But as I have been learning more and more recently, this chapter makes it explicitly clear that the entire problem with sin and sinners is our unwillingness to turn from our deceptive lies about Him in order to come into a trust relationship with Him where we could receive the life we so desperately need.
I spent the morning perusing through a variety of good translations to compile a version of this chapter that might most accurately reflect a clear view of the truth about God's relationship to our situation in His plan to save us. Throughout I will note a few of the tangent passages that have come to my attention as I read through this chapter. But first I want to share today's devotional from Oswald Chambers that amazingly highlighted this same theme of injustice in our world that is becoming so clear in this current controversy in the news.
I am with thee to deliver thee, saith the Lord. Jeremiah 1:8.
God promised Jeremiah that He would deliver him personally—“Thy life will I give unto thee for a prey.” That is all God promises His children. Wherever God sends us, He will guard our lives. Our personal property and possessions are a matter of indifference, we have to sit loosely to all these things; if we do not, there will be panic and heartbreak and distress. That is the inwardness of the overshadowing of personal deliverance.
The Sermon on the Mount indicates that when we are on Jesus Christ’s errands, there is no time to stand up for ourselves. Jesus says, in effect, ‘Do not be bothered with whether you are being justly dealt with or not.’ To look for justice is a sign of deflection from devotion to Him. Never look for justice in this world, but never cease to give it. If we look for justice, we will begin to grouse and to indulge in the discontent of self-pity—‘Why should I be treated like this?’ If we are devoted to Jesus Christ we have nothing to do with what we meet, whether it is just or unjust. Jesus says—‘Go steadily on with what I have told you to do and I will guard your life. If you try to guard it yourself, you remove yourself from My deliverance.’ The most devout among us become atheistic in this connection; we do not believe God, we enthrone common sense and tack the name of God on to it. We do lean to our own understanding, instead of trusting God with all our hearts.
(My Utmost June 27 emphasis mine)
The best version that I found so far to convey the truth about God's character in chapter 59 of Isaiah was the Easy-to-Read Version or the ERV. Where it brought in some confusing elements or where I found clearer examples from other versions I supplemented a number of verses from other sources. All highlights are of course from my own perspective. I also have included a few thoughts of my own interspersed throughout the passage noted in non-italics.
Look, the LORD'S power is enough to save you. He can hear you when you ask him for help.
It is your sins that separate you from your God. He turns away from you when he sees them. (1-2 ERV)
But your sins have come between you and your God, and by your evil doings his face has been veiled from you, so that he will give you no answer. (2 BBE)
Your sins are the roadblock between you and your God. That's why he doesn't answer your prayers or let you see his face. (2 CEV)
This reminds me of the story of Moses wanting to see God's glory but only allowed to see His backside because of the enormous danger from seeing His face.
That's because your hands are covered with blood from the people you murdered. You tell lies and say evil things. (3 ERV)
For your hands are unclean with blood, and your fingers with sin; your lips have said false things, and your tongue gives out deceit. (3 BBE)
We may think this doesn't apply so much to us because we have not personally murdered anyone. But it is important to remember that Jesus was not kidding but was dead serious when He said that if we are angry with anyone in our heart it is the same as if we murdered them. See Matthew 5:21-22; also Matthew 15:17-20; 1 John 3:11-19.
You can't be trusted, even in court. You lie about each other and depend on false arguments to win your cases. (Does this sound all too familiar in our world today?) You create pain and produce wickedness. You hatch evil, like eggs from a poisonous snake. Anyone who eats the eggs will die. And if you break one of them open, a poisonous snake will come out. Your lies are like spider webs. They cannot be used for clothes, and you cannot cover yourself with them. Your hands are always busy sinning and hurting others. Your feet run toward evil. You are always ready to kill innocent people. You think of nothing but evil. Everywhere you go you cause trouble and ruin. (4-7 ERV)
Their feet go quickly to evil, and they take delight in the death of the upright; their thoughts are thoughts of sin; wasting and destruction are in their ways. (7 BBE)
You hurry off to do wrong or murder innocent victims. All you think about is sin; you leave ruin and destruction wherever you go. (7 CEV)
This reminds me of the description of what the world was like just before the great flood. Jesus said that in the last days the world would become like this again. We are seeing that description quickly becoming a vivid reality today.
I am also reminded of one of our major blind spots in this part of the chapter, that is, our compromising attitudes when it comes to exposing ourselves to the media with all its reports or portrayals of crime, bloodshed and immorality, even in the news. We may not think we are personally responsible for the the deaths or the immorality of those we see in these venues, but when we get emotionally involved in movies (that's their primary purpose) or get caught up with aroused passions while watching scenes of bloodshed or vice from various sources, I am reminded of the serious words recorded earlier in Isaiah 33 where we are clearly told who alone can thrive in the fiery presence of God. See verses 10-17.
You don't know how to live in peace. You don't do what is right and fair. You are crooked, and anyone who lives like that will never know true peace. (8 ERV)
The ways of peace they don't know, and in their ways there's no justice, because they walk twisted roads, and they do not know ways of peace. (8 2001)
They have no knowledge of the way of peace, and there is no sense of what is right in their behavior: they have made for themselves ways which are not straight; whoever goes in them has no knowledge of peace. (8 BBE)
You don't know how to live in peace or to be fair with others. The roads you make are crooked; your followers cannot find peace. (8 CEV)
It is very easy to misunderstand references to justice in the Bible unless we have learned the true definition of justice from heaven's perspective. In short, God's kind of justice is totally focused on restoring people and situations to their pristine, original condition. It is not about inflicting punishment, revenge or anything of that sort like what we have become so familiar with in our so-called systems of justice. So when God's Word says there is no justice, it is talking about this replacement of true restorative justice with the counterfeit systems or any other situation that keeps people under oppression. The following verse notes what is missing that would bring true justice.
All fairness and goodness is gone. There is only darkness around us, so we must wait for the light. We hope for a bright light, but all we have is darkness. We are like people without eyes. We walk into walls like blind people. We stumble and fall as if it was night. Even in the daylight, we cannot see. At noontime, we fall like dead men. (9-10 ERV)
We grope for the wall like the blind; we grope like those who have no eyes; we stumble at noon as in the twilight, among those in full vigor we are like dead men. (10 ESV)
I find this last phrase quite interesting. Who are the ones 'full of vigor' mentioned here? Is it the unfallen worlds? God's loyal angels who are all about us? Those who are listening to God and being led by His Spirit? Whoever they may be or all of the above, in contrast we are very different than how we perceive ourselves. This reminds me of the warning we have yet to take very seriously from Jesus' words to us in Revelation.
Because you say, "I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing," and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked, I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see. Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent. (Revelation 3:17-19)
We are always complaining; we growl like bears and moan like doves. We are waiting for justice, but there is none. We are waiting to be saved, but salvation is still far away. That's because we committed crimes against our God. Our own sins speak out against us. We know we are guilty. We know we have sinned. (11-12 ERV)
Our lawlessness before You is great, and our sins are remaining within us. For, our lawless deeds are still in us, and we're aware of all our offenses. (12 2001)
For our evil doings are increased before you, and our sins give witness against us: for our evil doings are with us, and we have knowledge of our sins. (12 BBE)
We rebelled against the LORD and lied to him. We turned away from our God and left him. We planned to hurt others and to rebel against God. From hearts filled with lies, we talked about it and made our plans. We pushed Justice away. Fairness stands off in the distance. Truth has fallen in the streets. Goodness is not allowed in the city. Loyalty is gone, and people who try to do good are robbed.
The LORD looked and saw there was no justice. He did not like what he saw. He did not see anyone speak up for the people. He was shocked to see that no one stood up for them. So with his own power he saved them. His desire to do what is right gave him strength. He put on the armor of goodness, the helmet of salvation, the uniform of punishment, and the coat of strong love. He will give his enemies the punishment they deserve. They will feel his anger. He will punish all his enemies. People along the coast will get the punishment they deserve. (13-18 ERV)
He put on righteousness as a breastplate, and a helmet of salvation on his head; he put on garments of vengeance for clothing, and wrapped himself in zeal as a cloak. According to their deeds, so will he repay, wrath to his adversaries, repayment to his enemies; to the coastlands he will render repayment.
Most versions portray God as severe and bent on harshly punishing in this passage. But I believe that is largely due to the preconceptions of the translators themselves and our natural bias against the truth about God's character due to our fallen nature. But it is also true that this describes the perceptions that those who embrace such views will have when they do experience the intense presence of God's true justice and purity, for they will intently believe that He really is very angry at them and is bent on 'getting even' in His wrath.
To understand wrath and punishment more accurately it is vital that we take into account and give highest priority to the life and teachings of Jesus. And Jesus did speak of the principle of receiving with the same measure that you choose to use toward others. See Luke 6:35-38. In effect, we choose the type of judgment we will inevitably experience by how we treat others.
People from the west to the east will fear the LORD and respect his Glory. He will come quickly, like a fast-flowing river driven by a wind from the LORD. (19 ERV)
So shall they fear the name of the LORD from the west, and His glory from the rising of the sun; when the enemy comes in like a flood, the Spirit of the LORD will lift up a standard against him.
So they shall fear Jehovah's name from the west, and His glory from the rising of the sun. When the foe comes like a flood, the Spirit of Jehovah shall cause him to flee. (19 LITV)
From east to west everyone will fear him and his great power. He will come like a rushing river, like a strong wind. (19 GNB)
Notice the considerable discrepancy between these different versions. I was shocked when I first came across this years ago. But now I have no problem accepting both interpretations of the original language. It can equally apply both ways without contradiction.
Interestingly this last version reminds me of the record of the day of Pentecost when the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the praying disciples was described as a rushing mighty wind with tongues of fire (Acts 2:1-4). I think there is significant linkage between these two passages, maybe more than we have noticed previously.
Then a redeemer will come to Zion to save the people of Jacob who have turned away from sin. The LORD says, "As for me, this is the agreement that I will make with these people. I promise my Spirit that I put on you and my words that I put in your mouth will never leave you. They will be with you and your children and your children's children, for now and forever. (20-21 ERV)
The LORD says: "My people, I promise to give you my Spirit and my message. These will be my gifts to you and your families forever. I, the LORD, have spoken." (21 CEV)
And I make a covenant with you: I have given you my power and my teachings to be yours forever, and from now on you are to obey me and teach your children and your descendants to obey me for all time to come." (21 GNB)
"This is my promise to them," says the LORD. "My Spirit, who is on you, and my words that I put in your mouth will not leave you. They will be with your children and your grandchildren permanently," says the LORD. (21 GW)