Wednesday, March 16, 2011

God and True Humanity

[This entry follows a sermon titled "Go Rest High On That Mountain". Click on the title to listen to the audio.]

First...let me give a quick recap of what is happening in Isaiah 2-4. These chapters display a glorious future, a sinful present, and a gracious way forward. God will bring all His purposes to fulfillment, and this will mean that His people will live in perfect peace with Him and with one another (Is. 2:1-4). However, the present picture is filled with people who are rejected by God because they worship false idols, they trust in wealth and power, and they put all their chips on human leadership rather than trusting God (Is. 2:6-4:1).

The way forward is marked by a branch...called the "branch of the Lord" (4:2). This branch will bring blessing back to the people of God, including the removal of sin's stain and the bringing of God's presence. This branch is God's Messiah...Jesus Christ. It is through Jesus, the Branch, that these things will happen. (For more on the idea of "branch" as Messiah, see Is. 11:1; Jer. 23:5; 33:15; Zec. 3:8; 6:12.)

God will bring about the future glory of which He speaks, and only those who "stop regarding man" (2:22) and "walk in the light of the Lord" (2:5) will enjoy that future. As long as the people refuse and rebel against Him, the only future they will face is to be consumed by the sword of God's judgment (1:20).

These three chapters were originally a sermon delivered to the southern kingdom of Judah in the 8th century BC. However, Isaiah's message needs to be heard by every generation. (1) Mankind continues in the same kind of false worship. Oh, we may not have statues we worship, but there are an abundance of idols of the heart (Ez. 14:3). (2) Mankind continues in the same kind of trust in wealth and power. This sin abides in both rich and poor, believing that just a little more money or a little more influence is the key to a fulfilled life.

(3) Mankind continues in the same kind of total reliance on human leadership. Don't misunderstand...I am not advocating anarchy. God has ordained leadership in the home, in the church, in our workplaces, and in society. However, trusting in its government as the ultimate source of provision and protection (no matter how good the gov't is) sinfully denies the superiority of God and His care for us. A church believing that its growth and well-being lie primarily in the undershepherd (i.e.- the pastor) rather than the Chief Shepherd (i.e.- Jesus Christ) has lost its way. And so on.

You see, when God created man, he said that man was "very good" (Gen. 1:31). Man was meant experience God's blessing in being fruitful, multiplying, having dominion over the earth, and enjoying perfect fellowship with God. Man would be the righteous race that God intended as he lived in submission to the word of his benevolent Creator. This is what humanity was meant to be as God created them...male and female. However, our fall into sin messed up all of this. Because of our sin, we are not what God intended humanity to be.

Whether it's in Isaiah 2-4, in the newspaper, on the news, or in our bathroom mirror, the evidence that we are not the humanity first intended by God is clear. We are "prone to wander" from the God who made and cares for us. As I studied for this past Sunday's sermon, I read these compelling words from Alec Motyer (pronounced muh-TEE-yuh): "When human beings depart from the Lord - no matter where they depart to - they progressively lose their true humanity. Their dignity, the image of God, is humiliated...Only in the Lord does humankind remain human."

If we are all utterly sinful, then is there any hope? Is there any way that true humanity can be restored? Yes! God the Father sent God the Son to make that way. Jesus Christ is God the Son, and He is the only man who has ever fully lived as a true human. He was untouched by sin...His thoughts, words, deeds, and motives were all in perfect submission to the Word of God. Jesus' death on the cross brought about the forgiveness of sin, which mars true humanity. All who will turn away from sin and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ will experience the forgiveness of sin and be declared righteous in God's sight. In other words, we will share in the true humanity of Jesus. God will look on us, as He originally looked on His creation, and say, "It is very good."