Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A Zealous God

He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.

                        Isaiah 9.7

Coup d’Etat

An interesting aspect of Isaiah’s Messianic prophecies is how they approach “government.” In Isaiah 9.6, we hear “the government will be on his shoulders,” and verse 7 begins with: “Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end.” Thinking of this during an Advent that coincides with America’s quadrennial “lame duck” period is especially compelling. Usually, the transition goes uneventfully, the former government lacking a mandate to implement new policies and the incoming one lacking authority to act. But hard times have generated intense interest in the President-elect’s plans and for the first time in memory, the US has two Presidents.

Isaiah describes the transition from earthly rule to Christ’s reign as more abrupt and final. What is will be no longer—not that there’s much to begin with. In verse 10, Israel’s enemies see “the bricks have fallen down… the fig trees have been felled.” When Christ takes the throne, Isaiah says, He will establish and uphold His kingdom with justice and righteousness. Americans look at shambles piled high by eight years of incompetence and greed, hoping against hope the new President can sort things out. Isaiah tells Israel Christ isn’t coming to clean up their mess; He’s clearing house—kicking everything to the curb—to begin all over again. It’s not new leadership, but a coup d’etat driven by a zealous God.

Constant Surprises

We model our relationship with God on those with one another. Human relationships, though, thrive on anticipating needs and responses. They place high value on stability, often at the expense of personal growth. Once we reach equilibrium, we resist rocking the boat. Yet avoiding change also destroys relationships, as one outgrows the other and moves on. The shift from stability to stasis, from expectation to assumption is so subtle it stuns the abandoned partner to hear the other feels bored or boxed in.

While seeking predictability adds risk in human affairs, it dooms our relationship with God. As Creativity Incarnate, nothing delights Him more than change. The Bible inevitably finds Him approaching age-old problems from innovative angles. Life with God is full of constant surprises and its stability rests in expecting the unexpected, predicting the unpredictable. That’s the crux of Isaiah’s message to us. When Christ comes, He overthrows the pride and prejudices governing our lives to set new standards for justice and righteousness. 2 Corinthians 5.17 says we’re new creatures—“the old has gone, the new has come!”

Perception Is Everything

 “See, I am doing a new thing!” God exclaims in Isaiah 43.19. “Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?” Perception, not predictability, is everything in terms of nurturing a stable experience with God. Recognition of what’s happening now prepares us for what’s ahead. If we concentrate on predicting His next steps—or, worse yet, His final say—we endanger the relationship. We expose our arrogance in presuming to speak for God. We expose our ignorance in thinking God will ever allow us to box Him in. And we expose ourselves to future grief by not mastering lessons He presently teaches us. Prediction implies controlling interests we clearly don’t have. Government rests on His shoulders. He’ll accomplish all He wants done and He’ll do it with zeal. Meanwhile, new things spring up all around us, all the time. They’re not to be missed.

Instead of predicting what God will do, we recognize what He's doing now.

(Tomorrow: Incomprehensible)


Annette said...


It's interesting how we balk at "trials", changes...and think we are doing something wrong to get those "results". If we really look closely (as you so aptly note), they are opportunities for growth, not some punishment from an angry God. He wants us to grow, reach our potential and have joy. We really do know when we stop and look at things, that we are never truly happy in a stagnant life. Thank you for the daily bread. I love coming here!

Tim said...

Hey there, Annette!

I think we suffer from a ready-made culture--having everything done and ready for us when we want it. God is in the making, not the having, and when we find we're in trials, we obsess with when they'll end, rather than what we're supposed to be finding out about our lives and us. We're being governed by our impatience, instead of our God. And when the problem ends, we've missed what He wanted us to see!

Thanks, as always, for the comment. It's a joy to break bread with you and everyone else who drops by!

JohnMichael said...

This is a great post. It taught me that some of the unexpected things that happen in my life, are the kicking to the curb of the old mess.

Tim said...

Hey, John! Sorry for the delay in posting your comment and responding.

It's so true when Christ assumes reign in our lives, He eliminates a lot of attitudes, habits, possessions, and even people that conflict with His leadership. Things that once were so essential become superfluous--sometimes even detrimental--to His peace and righteousness. The trick, I think, is allowing Him to take the mess entirely without holding on to bits and pieces that require removal. We'll often be surprised by what has to go, but we'll also be the better, richer for it in the end.

Thanks for commenting. It's always a treat to hear from you.