Isaiah 1:19-20 “If you are willing and obedient,
you will eat the best from the land;
but if you resist and rebel,
you will be devoured by the sword.”
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.
Verse 18 of this chapter is dearly loved, but people like to ignore the rest of the chapter. We like to think about God talking with us and erasing our sins, but we don’t like to think about those sins themselves, much less the consequences of failing to repent. One clear memory of my seminary studies was my final assignment in Preaching class. To give the school credit, it was graded by a doctoral student rather than by the professor, but I got a poor grade because I wrote the message on this chapter and titled it, “There’s Blood on Your Hands.” That doctoral student didn’t like my using Biblical terms to address Biblical issues! Isaiah was very far from politically correct, and he shared that characteristic with just about every true prophet of God in the Bible. We don’t hear much preaching like that today! Far too many preachers are like the false prophets mentioned many places who spoke what their audience wanted to hear, instead of what the Lord was saying. We aren’t to offend needlessly, and we are always to speak the truth in love, (Ephesians 4:15) but we must not draw back from what the Lord is saying in an effort to protect our popularity.
This is of course of vital importance to me. I have never been a fan of “hellfire and brimstone” preaching, because much of it that I have heard has seemed on the ignorant side. (That may be what that doctoral student thought of me!) I went to college in East Tennessee, and heard some street preachers there who reinforced every bad stereotype of ignorant Southern religion. However, I judged them for their delivery, not really for their words and certainly not for their hearts. Thinking back, at that point in my life I’m sure they were far closer to the Lord than I was! Today I tend to be disgusted by slick preachers who never step on toes, but even they can be used by God in spite of themselves. Thinking about it, even I can be used by God in spite of myself! I am not to be focused on how others might or might not be true to their commission, but rather on my Lord and how I may be true to Him. I am not to preach at people, but neither am I to fear their responses to whatever the Lord would have me say. I must be careful that I not focus on the sawdust instead of the log, (Matthew 7:3-5) but neither am I to fail to call people to repentance as the Lord directs.
Father, this is a difficult thing. Thank You for Jesus’ example of not failing to speak Your truth even when it made people leave in droves. (John 6:60-66) May I be fully obedient to You and get my affirmation from You, so that all of Your purposes for me may be fulfilled, on Your schedule and for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!