Sunday, October 3, 2010

Monday Morning Devotions

Is. 1:18- " 'Come now, and let us reason together,' says the Lord, 'Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool.' "

This is a much quoted verse in imploring lost souls to repent and be saved.  Some take the first portion of it, "Come now, and let us reason together," interpreting it to mean that God and sinners work out a contract between each other. But, of course, God is the one who alone who sets the terms of salvation: "...For the mouth of the Lord has spoken." Is. 1:20.  Man is to be willing and obedient if he is to be blessed.  Is. 1:18-20 can be seen as a warning against individual inward impurity, the evil desires harbored secretly until acted out before all to see.

 Yet what are the sins Isaiah is refering to here?  Isaiah is speaking for the Lord in rebuking the oppression of the defenseless, the poor, the fatherless, the widow in the land of Israel.  Isaiah charges that though worship of the Lord in Israel still takes place, the worshippers' hands are full of blood. (Is. 1:15) Isaiah commands that Israelites cleanse themselves of impurity.  This cleansing is to have certain specified salutory effects on their behavior to society's weakest: " Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; put away the evil of your doings from before my eyes.  Cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, rebuke the oppressor; defend the fatherless, plead for the widow." (Is. 1:16-17) God, speaking through Isaiah, told the Israelites that these sins rendered their worship false and detestable in God's eyes. (Is. 10-15)  And God, speaking through Isaiah, warned Israel that without repentance, destruction would surely come. (Is. 1:20)

Today, this warning can legitimately be applied by individual believers to their lives.  Not to be involved in ministry to the vulnerable indicates a heart not fully in tune with a holy God.  One of the meanings of the word "charity" in Greek is "to suffer along side of."  Giving money to needs is not adequate; we must be involved in individual's lives, seeking not only the releif of immediate needs, but the transformation of individuals into disciples of Christ.

The Church can also employ the standard spoken of by Isaiah to call society into account.  The Church, at least part of it in America, campaigned against slavery.  The Church, at least part of it, struggled to make the indigent able to care for themselves.  The Church, at least part of it, fought against the abuses of industry.  Today the Church, at least part of it, defends the unborn and the disabled.  Recently, the Church has pioneered the fight against sex-trafficing and forced prostitution in the U.S. and around the world.  And the Church, at least part of it, continues to show God's love to the poor.  We need to examine ourselves individually to see if our hearts are aligned with God on these issues.  We must train disciples to engage in what Wesley called "Social holiness."  Wesley's ministry in England prevented that country from experiencing a revolution like France's.  Even secular historians acknowledge this.  In this day, we have let the government take over the Church's role of helping the weak, with the result that the weak become further ensnared in what brought about their weak state to begin with.  This has resulted in the Church losing much of its prophetic voice in the 20th century.  This is a major reason the Church appears impotent and irrelevant today.  And it up to today's disciples of Christ to recover this prophetic voice.  Not to do so is sin indeed.    

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