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May 18: Isaiah 17-18 & 1 Peter 5
Numbers 27; Psalms 70–71; Isaiah 17–18; 1 Peter 5
Two of our readings today overlap. Isaiah prophecies judgment for Syria and Ephraim (Israel), as well as Cush in the south. And even the country God employs for this will be judged (Assyria). Do not fear, Judah: they will instead bring offerings to Jerusalem (18:7). To which D.A. Carson remarks, “Why fawn over pagan nations (and thinkers!) when the Lord himself will judge them, and when they one day will bow to him?”
Hundreds of years later, Peter in 1 Peter 5 charges the early church’s elders to shepherd the flock willingly (2) and exemplary (3), as undershepherds of the Chief Shepherd (4). Then he charges the younger men to be subject to the elders.
Just as God chooses little Israel, and exalts humble Jerusalem as the capitol of the nations, so God raises up ordinary men, transformed by His grace, to be his vice-shepherds, to carry out His yet-unfinished work. That preacher on TV? He won’t come by your bedside in the hospital to pray, or know your grandkids’ names, or live with a holy anxiety for your spiritual well-being. But these men will. These ordinary men.
Jesus upends all our categories, and employs humble means to accomplish His most glorious ends. No wonder Peter says next:
“Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’” (1 Peter 5:5)
All mankind will come to see that the idols we trust in are worthless (Isaiah 17:7-8). Everyone will, one way or another. If we do not come to this conclusion now, we will in the end. On that day, when we face our God, and His Anointed One (7), we will grab for our idols - for our iPhones, or our 401k’s, or whatever we have valued like a god - and we will find them to be utterly useless. And thus we will - all of us - under the wrath of God, repent of those idols.
It’s not a question of IF we will, but WHETHER - whether we will come to this realization and repentance by our own choice, beforehand, or by the wrath of God. Not IF we will repent, but whether we do so by the Spirit of God, in revival, before we face God, or by the wrath of God, at the end, in destruction.
Our need is to look around, and see our world with the eyes of God and His Scripture. He says that the “strong” idols that we trust in - be they a political personality, or the military might of your nation, or the economy, or your own work ethic - they are all as flimsy as thin balsa wood, when compared to the might of this God. Believe that truth, and then act accordingly, now, in repentance.