Friday, January 6, 2012

Isaiah - Just Starting Out

So I decided to start studying Isaiah. I know a weird book to choose to study on my own but it kept coming to mind ever since I ran through it while reading the Bible in 2010. And when things keep coming to mind, I have a sneaking suspicion that is God at work.

So this week, I opened a group study Bible I have and started with Isaiah 1.

Here's the thing - when I show up, God shows up. Every single time. Not always in warm gooeyness. Sometimes just a phrase that won't leave me or a Bible verse that keeps popping up. Sometimes a song. But He always shows up when I do.

The book begins by describing the rebellious nation of Israel,
"ah, a sinful nation, a people loaded with guilt." (Is. 1:4a) 
A nation loaded with guilt. A soul weighed down by guilt. A guilt not reflective of our God but of our rebellion. My mind turned these words over and over. How many people do I know weighed down by guilt? Too many are lost in that desperate place.

And then I keep reading. And the Lord says through Isaiah,
"I have no pleasure in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats," (Is 1:11b)
and then,
"Stop bringing meaningless offerings! Your incense is detestable to me." (Is 1:13a)
These passages sound harsh when read independently. God was the one that established the blood sacrifices of animals. How can he say their sacrifice is meaningless. But then I read back through the cross references. The stories of the kings. Of Uzziah who began obedient to God but after he became powerful, "his pride led to his downfall." (2 Chron. 26:16) Uzziah became so out of touch with his place as God's servant that he dared to enter the temple to burn incense. A job reserved only for the priests. I read how Ahaz took up idols and continued acts of worship to God. He spilled the blood of animals not just in the temple but everywhere. Taking the sacred and making a mockery of it.

No wonder God took no pleasure in these sacrifices. No wonder these acts of worship became detestable to God. His people were acting out traditions with no basis in faith, no understanding of God, no heart's desire to honor and please their Father.

And somewhere in reading this and flipping to other passages to understand, I feel alive. Not necessarily because of the content but because of the process, the studying - the desire to know and understand my God.

I loved what Kathy Escobar wrote about loving God in different ways. She lists different ways people love God. I am an intellectual (not to be confused with intelligent).  I experience God in the process of studying His word.

So while I may not find some life changing wisdom in the passages I read, the act of reading and processing and decoding, changes me.

But that is just me. How do you experience God? How do you find your way when you are lost?

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