Daily Lectionary: A Reflection—26 July 2017

6 Seek Yahweh when he can still be found;
   call him while he’s near.
7 Let the wicked abandon their ways
   and the sinful their schemes.
Let them return to Yahweh so that he may have mercy on them,
   to our God, because he’s generous with forgiveness.
8 My plans aren’t your plans,
nor are your ways my ways, says Yahweh.
9 Just as the heavens are higher than the earth,
   so are my ways higher than your ways,
   and my plans than your plans.
10 Just as the rain and the snow come down from the sky
       and don’t return there without watering the earth,
       making it conceive and yield plants
       and providing seed to the sower and food to the eater,
11 so is my word that comes from my mouth;
       it doesn’t return to me empty.
       Instead, it does what I want,
       and accomplishes what I intend.

I can’t remember for certain, but I think it was Lorraine Boettner’s book, The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination, where I first came across this passage. Well, a portion of it actually.

The passage generally starts around verse 8, “My plans aren’t your plans, nor are my ways your ways, says Yahweh.” This passages is used as a prooftext to support predestination, i.e., the view that God chooses who will be “saved” and who will be “condemned” to “hell” to be tortured alive for all eternity. It’s usually coupled with verses from Romans 9 where Paul states:

10Not only that, but also Rebecca conceived children with one man, our ancestor Isaac. 11When they hadn’t been born yet and when they hadn’t yet done anything good or bad, it was shown that God’s purpose would continue because it was based on his choice. 12It wasn’t because of what was done but because of God’s call. This was said to her: The older child will be a slave to the younger one. 13As it is written, I loved Jacob, but I hated Esau.

14So what are we going to say? Isn’t this unfair on God’s part? Absolutely not! 15He says to Moses, I’ll have mercy on whomever I choose to have mercy, and I’ll show compassion to whomever I choose to show compassion. 16So then, it doesn’t depend on a person’s desire or effort. It depends entirely on God, who shows mercy. 17Scripture says to Pharaoh, I have put you in this position for this very thing: so I can show my power in you and so that my name can be spread through the entire earth. 18So then, God has mercy on whomever he wants to, but he makes resistant whomever he wants to (Romans 9.10-18).

This view, that God predestines some to be saved and others to be condemned, is then stressed to be true because of Isaiah 55.11, “So is my word that comes from my mouth; it doesn’t return to me empty. Instead, it does what I want, and accomplishes what I intend.”

The logic is then put like this, “Since we know that God’s word does what He wants and accomplishes what He intends” (in this scenario, God’s almost certainly a male), the reason some people die without believing in Christ is because that’s what God wanted; what God intended.”

If we would just step back for a moment and look at all of the ones believed to be condemned, we’d see rather quickly that they’re usually the people others have condemned in this life! You know—people of other faiths (especially Muslims), homosexuals, possibly even black people and mexican people, and people who disagree with us either politically or religiously.

And yet, when it comes to people in our own family, we always give them the benefit of doubt. We quickly turn to this passage for comfort:

If a Christian woman has a husband who’s not a believer, and he’s happy to live with her, she must not divorce him. 14The husband who’s not a believer is made holy through his believing wife. And the wife who isn’t a believer is made holy through her believing husband. If this were not true, your children wouldn’t be clean, but now your children are holy (1 Corinthians 7.13-14; NCV;1 cf. Acts 16.31).

Of course, this, too, brings up the question of the eternal destination of babies and children who’ve died. Some contended, following Augustine, that they go to “Hell” and suffer for eternity. Others have changed their view (but this is usually limited to people like themselves—the same rules apply as above).

But in all of this, I want to say…

Bollocks!

Do you see how far afield we have gone from the original text? The Isaiah passage is talking about God’s mercy and compassion! Look again at verse 7, “Let the wicked abandon their ways and the sinful their schemes. Let them return to Yahweh so that he may have mercy on them, to our God, because he is generous with forgiveness” (emphasis added). It right after this that Isaiah says God’s plans and ways aren’t the same as ours! Indeed! They’re higher than ours! We’ve embraced this horrible doctrine and haven’t stopped for a moment to consider what Isaiah is really saying. He’s telling us that God’s mercy and compassion are beyond our comprehension!

It’s right after Isaiah tells us of God’s mercy and compassion that he then tells us God’s word doesn’t return empty, that it accomplishes what God wants and intends. And what word was that?

Mercy

Compassion

Of course humanity would create a doctrine of eternal conscious torment for people we don’t like. Our mercy only extends to our loved ones and people who are “like us.” But God’s mercy and compassion is “above” ours. It’s beyond our comprehension.

The Bible tells us God’s intention:

“Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1.29).

“We...know that this one is truly the savior of the world” (John 4.42).

“When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to me” (John 12.32).

“In other words, God was reconciling the world to himself through Christ, by not counting people’s sins against them” (2 Corinthians 5.19).

“God our savior…wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2.3-4).

“Our hope is set on the living God, who’s the savior of all people, especially those who believe” (1 Timothy 4.10).

That, my friends, is the word that went out from God and won’t return empty. It will accomplish what God wants and intends it to accomplish—nothing less that the reconciliation of all creation.



~~~
In the Love of the Three in One,

Br. Jack+, LC


~~~

1. Scripture quotations marked (NCV) are taken from the New Century Version®, copyright © 2005 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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