How close do you feel you are to the Lord right now?
Are you as close to God as you would like to be?
Do you feel like you would like to be closer to the Lord?
There is so much in life that seems to offer fulfillment and a sense of soul satisfaction—relationships, pleasures, career, success, possessions …. But the more you and I invest ourselves in those things, the easier it is to drift away from that sense of closeness with God.
So, what happens when everything is stripped away?
Either way, all that will be left is the majesty and glory of God.
The Day of the Lord
After prophesying concerning eleven different nations, Isaiah now broadened his scope to include the whole world. The prophet had made some near-term predictions concerning the Northern Kingdom of Israel being destroyed by the Assyrians, and the Southern Kingdom of Judah being hauled off into exile by the Babylonians.
But this was nothing compared to the catastrophe that would destroy the whole world one day.
All the prophets – in both the Hebrew and Greek scriptures – called this terrible judgement “The Day of the Lord,” and even Jesus Himself described in detail what would come on that day.
Isaiah wanted his audience to really see this.
Now the Lord is about to lay waste the earth and make it desolate,
and he will twist its surface and scatter its inhabitants.
And it shall be, as with the people, so with the priest;
as with the male slave, so with his master;
as with the female slave, so with her mistress;
as with the buyer, so with the seller;
as with the lender, so with the borrower;
as with the creditor, so with the debtor.
The earth shall be utterly laid waste and utterly despoiled,Isaiah 24:1-3 (NRSV)
for the Lord has spoken this word.
In fact, the Day of the Lord would involve not simply the entire earth, but the entire cosmos.
The earth dries up and withers;Isaiah 24:4 (NRSV)
the world languishes and withers;
the heavens languish together with the earth.
Lesson of the Tower of Babel
Throughout this chapter, the prophet would make (sometimes oblique) references to other times when the Lord brought in God’s universal judgment against all wrong, and here is the first one: God had also scattered the builders of the Tower of Babel.
Isaiah reassured his readers that just as with the Tower of Babel, advantaged, and disadvantaged alike – all – will experience this same effect. Position, power, and prosperity are no protection against the wrath of God. All walks of life are subject to God’s judgement.
Then the prophet explained why God’s judgement would be so widespread and total.
The earth lies pollutedIsaiah 24:5 (NRSV)
under its inhabitants,
for they have transgressed laws,
violated the statutes,
broken the everlasting covenant.
Humankind magnifies itself above God, as the Tower of Babel people did, and as many do today as well. Many in power, many who are influencers, deny the existence, or preeminence of God and exalt creation instead—humankind and nature.
And the earth is groaning under the load of pollution and ills people have brought upon it.
Lesson of the Forbidden Fruit
Therefore a curse devours the earth,Isaiah 24:6 (NRSV)
and its inhabitants suffer for their guilt;
therefore the inhabitants of the earth dwindled,
and few people are left.
And what curse is it that Isaiah spoke of? The one laid upon the earth as a direct result of humankind’s rejection of God, God’s word, God’s will, and God’s way.
… cursed is the ground because of you …Genesis 3:17 (NRSV)
The apostle Paul echoed the prophet Isaiah’s words when he wrote,
For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God, for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its enslavement to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.
We know that the whole creation has been groaning together as it suffers together the pains of labor, and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies.Romans 8:18-23 (NRSV)
Sin, the Situation
The prophet named a number of ways humanity has brought such misery into the world, and onto the earth: “transgressed laws, violated the statutes, broken the everlasting covenant.” The word acting as an umbrella for these things, for every act and thought in variance with God’s mind, heart, Spirit, and word, is “sin.”
Looking at the whole picture, from the vantage point of the Hebrew and Greek scriptures taken together, we can learn a few things about this heavily overworked and emotionally loaded concept.
Sin has affected our wills
It is not as though people cannot choose God. People can. But sin has so affected people’s minds and motives that we find we do not want to choose God. We transgress God’s laws because we want to. We do not want to obey God, so we do not obey.
Sin has affected our intellectual ability
Sin warps our competency to discern right from wrong, light from darkness, or good from bad, by removing our ability to understand the truth. Instead of establishing good and bad on God’s principles, we end up talking about what works or does not work for us, or what works or does not work for the system we live in.
So people violate, ignore, minimize, or rationalize away God’s principles.
Sin has affected our moral capacity
Self-centered motives, not God-centered and other-centered motives, lead the way. Living for God, loving God with all our hearts, minds, souls, and strength, and loving others as ourselves requires such self-sacrifice, and copious amounts of compassion and grace, even believers often shy away. Our desire to protect ourselves, to avoid pain (or even discomfort), to control situations and people, to get our own way, override what we learn about God’s heart and desire.
Fearing exposure, we often do whatever we think we must to avoid the risk of vulnerability and transparency, So often, feeling right is what a person wants more than being right with God.
Everyone has the capability of understanding and knowing God’s moral law, everyone has a conscience. Yet we have all gone against our conscience.
Sin Kills Us
Just as Paul described,
If it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin.
I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.”
But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness.
For apart from the law sin lies dead.
I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died, and the very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. For sin, seizing an opportunity in the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me.Romans 7:7-11 (NRSV)
Earlier, when Paul had written a circular to all the assemblies, he had given much the same idea about killingness of sin.
You were dead through the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work among those who are disobedient.
All of us once lived among them in the passions of our flesh, doing the will of flesh and senses, and we were by nature children of wrath, like everyone else …Ephesians 2:1-3 (NRSV)
So what hope is there, then? The dead can do nothing for themselves because they are, well, dead.
But God …
but God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved.Ephesians 2:4-5 (NRSV)