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Isaiah 2: 6-22 (NIV)
6 You have abandoned your people, the house of Jacob.
They are full of superstitions from the East;
they practise divination like the Philistines and clasp hands with pagans.
7 Their land is full of silver and gold; there is no end to their treasures.
Their land is full of horses; there is no end to the chariots.
8 Their land is full of idols; they bow down to the work of their hands,
to what their fingers have made.
9 So man will be brought low and mankind humbled –
do not forgive them.
Although in this short passage Isaiah was addressing the LORD and acknowledging that God had abandoned his people, Isaiah held out no sympathy towards them. Isaiah could see the faults that the LORD identified regarding attitudes and behaviours of the children of Israel. Isaiah took God’s side; he shared God’s point of view.
Let us consider the critique against the children of Israel, “the house of Jacob”.
- They are full of superstitions; they practise divination;
- they shake hands on deals and have cosy arrangements with pagans;
- their land is full of silver and gold; there is no end to their treasures;
- their land is full of horses and chariots: equipment for war;
- Their land is full of idols; they bow down to the work of their hands.
I shudder as I read this critique of the prevailing culture in what should have been a community, a nation, that reflected on earth the person and the values of the Lord God Almighty. I shudder because I see direct parallels between those characteristics of the children of Israel then and those of our own culture in Australia (and in many other Western nations) today.
- Have we grasped the false religions of secular humanism, of materialism, of “new-age” self-saving beliefs?
- Have we popularised astrology and psychic reading practices to try to look into the future?
- Do we celebrate people who through slick deals and cunning use of the law accumulate excessive wealth?
- Do we rely on the benefits of our affluent society without sharing them with those in other parts of the world whose lot was to be born into poverty?
- Do we endorse excessive spending on military power to exercise that power over other nations? Do we gorge ourselves on the earth’s resources without considering the welfare of future generations?
- What do we idolise? Is it wealth? Is it glamour? Is it long life or body image? Are our idols the champions on the sports field, the entertainers who demand excessive appearance fees?
- What do we “worship”? Do we put above all else our status, our families, our popularity, our political or other convictions, our reputations? Do we prize what we create ahead of valuing a relationship with the one who created us and who owns each one of us?
If the answer is “yes” to even one of these questions (I really think it is “yes” to many or most of them), then the prophet Isaiah gives us the inevitable consequences. The LORD has shown to Isaiah that humans will be brought low and humankind humbled (verse 9). Isaiah’s plea to God was not for forgiveness for Israel; instead he exclaimed, “do not forgive them”!
Despite our many errors, we have forgiveness. We have a Saviour, Jesus Christ, who has won forgiveness for us even though we do not deserve it. Forgiveness is available to all who come to God through Jesus. Praise him!