Just the facts
Isaiah 36: Be reasonable. Face the facts.
There’s nothing theoretical about the threat Sennacherib of Assyria and his great army is to Jerusalem. They can crush that city as they have crushed many others. The king sends a spokesman with his terms of surrender and he minces no words in telling them what will come if they don’t give in. He offers them a choice: be starved and then destroyed, or surrender and be relocated to a distant land under the rule of Assyria. The king’s man, Rabshekah, isn’t much of a diplomat. He’s convinced that these pitiful people are in his hands and that either through defeat or surrender his army will win the day. He says to them, “Be reasonable…face the facts…” pointing out that they couldn’t mount an opposing army even if they were given horses and chariots with which to fight. Those words strike terror in the hearts of all who hear them. In that terror all of God’s promises are forgotten and they’re ready to do the “reasonable” thing and abandon their faith. I am, I think, a reasonable person and generally do a good job of learning the facts and acting on what I’ve learned. However, there’s a whole set of “facts” that can only be seen with the eyes of faith. Rabshekah’s facts ignore the fact that these are the people of God and that God has something to say about what happens to them. In the decisions I make I must remember that I’ve surrendered my life to the Lord and, even though some facts aren’t apparent to me, they’re clear to him. When I’ve done my spreadsheet of pluses and minuses, I must remember that there’s a dimension beyond my view and that dimension is every bit as real as the facts and figures I might collect. If I’m going to be truly reasonable, I must carefully listen to the Lord. That’s the only way I can really keep my facts straight.
Take Away: Even though some facts aren’t apparent to me, they’re clear to the Lord.
No reboot necessary
Isaiah 1: If your sins are blood-red, they’ll be snow-white.
If I have the idea that the prophets are all about denunciation and condemnation I need to spend some time with this passage. Yes, God is fed up with their religious charades; their going-through-the-motions spirituality; their under-the-table shady deals. The Lord says he’s going to put a stop to it. However, it doesn’t have to be with defeat, misery, and destruction. “Let’s be reasonable about this,” the Almighty says, “we can fix this, and when I’m finished things will be better than before.” All it takes is their being sensible and cooperating with God. This isn’t about having a sword hanging over their necks. It’s about grace and mercy, not justice. It’s still true today. If God wants to do away with us it’s his right and it’s just what we deserve. However, rather than hitting the “delete button” on humanity he offers restoration. This passage is filled with sunlight and hope. Plus that, it’s a genuine offer from Heaven’s Throne to each of us. Come on; let’s be reasonable about this…God can fix things, making them right between us and Him. It’s too good an offer to refuse.
Take Away: Rather than a re-start of humanity the Lord wants to restore us. That’s grace.