For the Love of God, Volume 2/May 29
From Gospel Translations
Deuteronomy 2; Psalms 83—84; Isaiah 30; Jude
ISAIAH 30—31 STAND TOGETHER AS A stern denunciation of all who pursue an alliance with Egypt. Both chapters open with formidable opposition to this alliance (30:1-5; 31:1-3). But Isaiah 30 concludes with the grace of God, while Isaiah 31 ends in a mighty call to repentance. Striking parallels emerge between Isaiah 30 and today’s second highlighted reading, Jude.
The first half of Isaiah 30 denounces the leaders in Judah who are aggressively pursuing the help of Egypt. Already their envoys have reached cities in Egypt’s Nile delta (30:4). Donkeys and camels, burdened with wealth to buy Egypt’s support, are crossing the Negev on their way south. From God’s perspective this proves that they are covenantally unfaithful. They are “obstinate children,” “deceitful children” (30:1, 9), literally “rebellious sons”—instead of being the faithful son God expected (Ex. 4:22-23). They are more like the proverbial “rebellious son” of Deuteronomy 21:18-21, utterly unteachable and finally to be condemned. And the reason is disheartening: they do not want to listen to revelation— whether the ancient covenantal stipulations that forbade any return to Egypt (Ex. 13:17; Deut. 17:16) or the visions of their contemporary prophets and seers (30:10). Their criterion for acceptable sermons is painfully simple: “Tell us pleasant things, prophesy illusions. Leave this way, get off this path, and stop confronting us with the Holy One of Israel” (30:10-11). That sounds desperately reminiscent of much of the quest for “spirituality” in our day, inside and outside the church, and for much of “therapeutic Christianity,” for much of ecumenical Christianity, for much of the health and wealth gospel. There are huge differences among these movements, of course, but what is characteristically missing in them is the powerful theme of impending judgment wherever there is no unqualified submission to God’s gracious revelation.
Our hope is the grace of God (30:17-33). He longs to be gracious to his people (30:18)—whether as their Teacher (30:18-22), the One who heals their land (30:23-26), or the Warrior who defends them (30:27-33). Here are the fundamental alternatives: grace (30:18) or Topheth (30:33), the fire pit that anticipates hell itself. Jude understands this. In his own day false teachers leading the people astray are “godless men . . . who suffer the punishment of eternal fire” (Jude 4, 7). By contrast, “To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy—to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore!” (24-25).