"Send out Your light and Your truth, that they may lead me, and bring me to Your holy hill and to Your dwelling." Psalm 43:3

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Reflections on Isaiah Chapter One

Therefore, the Lord GOD of hosts,
The Mighty One of Israel declares, 
"Ah, I will be relieved of my adversaries,
And avenge myself on my foes.
I will also turn my hand against you, 
And will smelt away your dross as with lye,
And will remove all your alloy.
Then I will restore your judges as at the first,
And your counselors as at the beginning;
After that you will be called the city of righteousness,
A faithful city."
~Isaiah 1:24-26

A couple of things in this passage grabbed my attention during Evening Prayer yesterday.  First, God fights His own battles.  Second, He purifies His unfaithful people (a painful process) in order to bring them again to a place of faithfulness.

Regarding the first observation, I'm reminded of Archbishop Michael Ramsey's words: "Whenever exponents of the Christian faith treat it as something which we have to 'defend' like a beleagured fortress or a fragile structure they are making God to be smaller than he is."  These words resonate with me, as I observe the incessant "culture wars" into which many Christians continue to insert themselves.  I presume that they do so with the best of intentions, but I have felt for some time now that this does more harm than good.  I don't hear many people these days saying, "See, how these Christians love one another!", but rather wondering what piece of controversial legislation we will support or oppose next.

In times such as these, I tend to gravitate toward the words of wise Gamaliel in Acts chapter 5.  When the Sanhedrin is considering how to respond to the "threat" of the preaching of Peter and the apostles, Gamaliel counsels, "Stay away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or action should be of men, it will be overthrown; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them; or else you may even be found fighting against God."  Sounds like good advice to me, given the disrepute which we have brought upon the Church in the eyes of so many by now openly aligning ourselves with this political messiah, now taking our stand on this issue upon which the very existence of our civilization depends, now railing in the name of God against this cultural shift.  Unfortunately, no sooner do I settle comfortably into Gamaliel's advice, confident that I have chosen the better way, than I am reminded of the oft-quoted words of Edmund Burke: "All that is needed for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing."  Well, shoot.  Those words resonate with me as well, though in a way that weighs uncomfortably on the shoulders of my timid, be-at-peace-with-all-men soul.  I think of men like William Wilberforce, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Martin Luther King, Jr., Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and many others.  I think of the prophet Amos, who cried out, "Hate evil, love good, and establish justice in the gate!"  So, how to remedy this conflict between simply trusting in the ultimate triumph of God's truth and the duty of publicly aligning myself with that truth?  How do I quietly and peacefully "leave room for the wrath of God" while also faithfully proclaiming God's truth in the face of sin and injustice?  Well, the answer is ... ha! yeah, I don't know.  But I'm trying to find that place.

Something I can say with confidence, though, is that the Christian life is a life of hope.  Even in suffering and hardship, when the walls are crumbling, when it seems that we have been abandoned, the Christian lives in hope.  It may be that this time of pain and uncertainty is "the smelting away of (our) dross."  For myself, I think of the on-going struggles within Anglicanism.  I don't know how the shape of the Church will change in the years to come, and things certainly can look bleak at times, but I am convinced of the never-failing love and faithfulness of God, who is ever purifying and renewing His people, that we may be "a faithful city".



  1. I just happened to click this tonight, and it (esp the end) was encouraging to me...

    1. Glad to hear it. Love you guys, and have been praying for you.