May 28: Psalm 81 & Isaiah 29
Deuteronomy 1; Psalms 81–82; Isaiah 29; 3 John
As you read the two chapters below, ask yourself: what do they have in common?
This Psalm breaks down neatly into three sections:
1-3 Sing to Yahweh
4-10 Because only Yahweh saved you, to bless you
11-16 So listen and walk in His ways, in hope of His blessing
This Psalm reveals the engine of Christian living: we are meant to live and repent by faith in what John Piper coined God’s “future grace.” Note how the command to listen to Yahweh (13) is followed by the promise of His blessing through subduing our enemies (14-16). We conquer by hope in the promise of His ever-arriving gifts to those who submit themselves to Him, rather than the false gods of their age. And the proof of that promise is the cross - see Rev. 12:11.
This world is a battleground, the sides being set in the Garden - the seed of the woman, and the captives of the dragon. It is a battleground of conquest: either the false gods of this world will conquer us, to our own demise, or God conquers the world, for the sake of His own glory, and the blessing of those who submit to Him. Yahweh conquers to bless; all the other gods conquer only to steal, kill and destroy.
Yet we are prone to worship the gifts from the Giver, rather than the Giver Himself. The Puritan pastor Cotton Mather once wrote, “Religion begat prosperity and the daughter devoured the mother.” America has experienced tremendous blessings since D-Day and the Miracle at Midway. But we have not seen those blessings also as temptations, as occasions to defect from the Giver of those blessings.
We must repent, not to having nothing, but to enjoying everything in thanks to its Giver. Because June is upon us - “Pride Month” - thick with evidence that God is once again handing His people over to their own devices (12; see Romans 1). When you see a corporation, church or home with a pride flag, that flag is telling you, “This is conquered territory.” But it need not stay that way. We overcome the dragon by standing on the blood, and living by hope in His blessing. This begins at home. But once it takes root at home, the gospel has the power (Rom. 1:16) to conquer the whole world.
The king of Israel will be tempted to trust in an alliance with Egypt, instead of God, writes Isaiah. Here in chapter 29 he focuses particularly on Jerusalem, referred as “Ariel” (1). It’s a play on words: it can mean either “lion of God” or “altar hearth” - the place where the sacrifice was burned up. Thus Jerusalem could be the glorious walled refuge of David, or a place that God will encircle, besiege and threaten (3). Behold the kindness and severity of God, Paul will later say (Rom. 11:22).
God promises to save them, not Egypt (5-8). But the people cannot believe this - they are blinded (11-12). But this is because God made them blind (9-10). So why would God do this?
The problem is not with their intellects, but that their hearts bend away from God (13). So God blinds them, and then shames the “wisdom” of the wise (14-15). Should someone ask, why would God choose Israel, only to do this to them? That’s upside-down; He is the potter (16; see Rom. 9:21).
And one day soon, God will open their eyes; the blind shall see (18). There will soon come a day when “Jacob” shall bear many children (see Isaiah 53:10), and they will glory in the “holy one of Israel” (23). The vision is fulfilled beyond Isaiah’s horizon: to do all this, it will take a gory cross, and an empty tomb.