In my current read through the Bible, I've been camped out for some time in the major prophets. Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel...should be starting Daniel early next week.
Seems like no matter how many times I read a particular passage, there is always something new about it - either a new insight, or a fresh revelation of an old and familiar truth. This Book really is living, and it never grows old!
One thing that has struck me afresh as I've been reading is the significance God places on keeping the Sabbath. God pronounces and executes His terrible judgment on His people, and the #1 charge brought against them is their failure to keep His Sabbaths and to worship Him in purity and holiness. Yes, the prophets mention that Israel has oppressed the poor, distorted justice, murdered the innocent, robbed their brothers. But the charge brought against them the most - it comes up over and over and over - is that they have forgotten the Sabbath. This is The Biggie. They have gone too far. God will tolerate their sin no longer. Consequently, they must suffer His wrath, poured out through famine, plague, the sword, and exile.
A second thing that jumped out at me this time through the prophets is the value God places on sexual purity. The charge of sexual impurity ranks as the #2 offense Israel commits against their holy God, if you look at the number of times this sin is mentioned. You have forsaken the wife of your youth...You have violated your neighbor's wife...You have uncovered the nakedness of another man's wife...You have violated your daughter-in-law...You have allowed your lust to run unbridled...You have looked lustfully at another...The prophets hammer this over and over.
Honestly, I don't know if my natural tendency would be to rank sexual immorality and licentiousness as greater offenses than stealing, abusing the poor, or legal corruption. I mean, what I do with my own body is my private business. If I'm entertaining lustful thoughts, or if I'm having sex with someone who is not my spouse, or if I'm excusing improper attitudes and behaviors in society, that's nowhere near as bad as stealing property from a destitute widow, or enslaving my neighbor, right? Wrong.
I think these two particular things - reverence for the Sabbath and commitment to sexual purity - have impressed me rather strongly as I've read through the prophets because of the lackadaisical attitude toward them which I see among so many Christians today. How many professing Christians do you know - decent people, people who would never steal from their employers, people who pack gift boxes for orphans in Asia, people who devote time and money to mission work, people who volunteer at the homeless shelter, people who post Bible verses as their Facebook statuses - How many of these professing Christians do you know who think it's really no big deal whether or not they are faithful in participating in corporate worship with the body of Christ? How many of these people are sleeping with their boyfriend or girlfriend, or cheating on their spouses, or cruising the internet for porn, or indulging in the "softer" porn of romantic comedies or "Christian" romance fiction, and who boldly defend their sin - to themselves and to others - by saying that what they do in their private lives isn't anybody else's business, or that times have changed, or that it is really just not that big of a deal anymore?
How many of my Christian friends - people I know more intimately than just the general public - have a low regard for the Sabbath or demonstrate a lack of commitment to sexual purity? I ran out of fingers to count on, in a matter of seconds, and gave up this foolish exercise with a sad heart. And in case you think I'm pointing a holier-than-thou finger at these weak sisters and brothers, No, I have stood among their number, and even today am not above stumbling.
God did not overlook the blatant sin of His people Israel. The prophets describe a judgment that is difficult to read about, that turns your stomach, that makes a reader recoil in horror and disgust. Wouldn't even make the cut for an R-rated movie because of the violence. And yet, today, God's people stand in almost the very same dangerous, precarious place, flagrantly disregarding what is precious to God, while living lives that are a pretense of holiness.
Why do we, the Church, presume that we are above God's judgment in these matters, flippantly presuming upon God's grace and dishonoring the life and sacrifice of Jesus?
Reading the major prophets makes me tremble.
2 days ago