Pastor Phil Rigdon reflects on the blessing of hearing the truth about ourselves, both from others and from God’s Word.
Dear Lord, thank You for not prophesying illusions.
I keep telling myself I am never going to see my doctor again. It’s not because he is unprofessional, neglectful, or possesses a substandard bedside manner. It is quite the opposite. He’s everything one could ask for in a general practitioner. My challenge is that it seems like he has found a new problem during my annual physical over the last few years. I guess that’s middle age. So in reaction to each new problem, there is a subsequent blood test, procedure, or new medication. That’s not much of an incentive to schedule next year’s visit.
Rather than bemoan these annoying medical revelations, I should praise and thank the Lord for providing such a thorough doctor. What is more, I should encourage my doctor to administer every test appropriate for my age. Then I should have him give me the results, even if I might not like them. Receiving daunting medical news is a blessing, especially when having such information facilitates early treatment of the problem.
Israel Struggled to Face Its Problems
The people of Israel had a similar experience. For decades, the Israelites were under the vicious rule of the Assyrian empire, which brought violence, theft, destruction, deportation, and oppression. Worst of all, the Assyrians pressed the people of Israel into worshiping false gods. God warned them about this, admonishing them to turn from their sin and worship the one true God. They did not repent. So the hearts of the Israelites became wicked, and the people resented and rejected Isaiah’s prophetic warnings.
For they are a rebellious people, lying children, children unwilling to hear the instruction of the LORD; who say to the seers, “Do not see,” and to the prophets, “Do not prophesy to us what is right; speak to us smooth things, prophesy illusions, leave the way, turn aside from the path, let us hear no more about the Holy One of Israel.” Therefore thus says the Holy One of Israel, “Because you despise this word and trust in oppression and perverseness and rely on them, therefore this iniquity shall be to you like a breach in a high wall, bulging out and about to collapse, whose breaking comes suddenly, in an instant.
- Read the passage above. Imagine offering a similar message to your doctor. Don’t tell me the truth regarding my cholesterol, A1C, and liver function. Assure me that I am in perfect health, even if I am not. The people of Israel were so far gone. Not only did they experience sorrow over Isaiah’s warnings, but they also craved lies. God was holding them accountable for their behavior for their good. Repentance and fidelity to God could have not only prevented further calamity from Assyria but was also spiritually healthy. They came to love falsehood.
- This wasn’t always the case. In the Garden of Eden, before Adam and Eve fell into sin, God had expectations regarding the fidelity and behavior of the first two human beings. The difference was that Adam and Eve, without sin, were inclined to obey their Creator and were happy to do so. In their nature, there was no thought of doing anything else. Adam and Eve loved to hear God’s expectations and agreed with them fully. Sin brought not only shame and death but also a new desire to disobey God, the worship of self, and the inclination to resent and reject God’s expectations. We have been dealing with this problem in ourselves ever since.
- No one likes to be corrected. But with sin, it is more than that. The people of Israel told the seers not to see and asked the prophets to stop prophesying because they represented accountability. Accountability to God’s law brings shame. I recognize that I have failed and feel bad about it. Instead of repenting and asking for forgiveness, I cast off God’s law and anyone who expresses it. Therefore, so many are disinclined to embrace God’s Word. Reading the Bible brings me face-to-face with God’s expectations. Worshiping in God’s house includes admitting my guilt and confessing my sins to a righteous God.
- We see manifestations of this resentment and rejection in the world. The appeal of atheism is that a world without any god elevates humankind to the highest authority. It frees him to decide for himself what is good and bad and right and wrong. To declare that all religions are valid and lead to heaven leaves things up to the individual. A further popular step is to assert that there are no such things as good and bad and right and wrong.
We are thankful to God for two things: First, God loves us enough to use parents, teachers, pastors, and others to teach us the truth of our need for forgiveness. Second, He sent the Holy One into the world to set things right. Jesus Christ is the Second Adam. He loved His Father’s expectations and fulfilled them perfectly. He took our sins to the cross, including those of resenting and rejecting God’s expectations, and suffered and died in our place. Having risen from the dead, the Holy One stands as the eternal Good News of God, setting things right for us at His own expense.
Use God’s Law and Gospel in the Enduring Faith Religion Curriculum to teach students God’s truth.