Peace and Righteousness: Preference and Prescription

PeaceLikeaRiver0777

Isaiah 48:17-18, This is what the Lord says— your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: “I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go. If only you had paid attention to my commands, your peace would have been like a river, your well-being like the waves of the sea.”

This passage, and scores akin to it, affirm (at least) these two great ideas: peace is heaven’s preference, and righteousness is heaven’s prescription.

First, note that The Lord claims that He is the One who teaches us what is best for us (best for us, best for us – as in “this is the most preferred state for us, the ideal). If “we” (they, in the text – but “we” as the reader) would pay attention to His commands (listen, honor, put into practice what He teaches) then we would have peace like a river and well-being like waves of the sea. Let’s not overlook the significance of peace and well-being. These words likely carried the ideas of “peace and prosperity” in their lives and “deliverance and safety” from their enemies. There’s no way not to see this as “best,” as “preferred” – highly coveted even. And the good news is that it is God’s idea. It comes from His heart and mind. Peace and righteousness are His design and desire for you. This is His preference.

Therefore, (among many other considerations) it would be illogical to embrace the idea that, for our own formation and edification, God will send trauma or pain or suffering into our lives. This is not to say that these things don’t come into our lives. Neither do we agree that if something is going wrong, the causal link is direct disobedience and God is punishing you. Rather, it is knowing what is heaven’s preferred state for us that gives us hope in hard times, confidence in adversity, and resolve to overcome trial and hardship. We need not ever resign ourselves to accept as “the new normal” what is less than that which God has prepared for those who love Him. Your heart doesn’t have to remain broken. Your soul doesn’t have to stay in turmoil. Grief and anxiety don’t have to be your roommates. Hope should be your companion, and joy your strength. Heaven has not assigned you to a desert of malaise; it has prepared for you a river of peace.

The OT never, not ever, presents the narrative from heaven as “when you’re obeying and walking in relationship with Me, from time to time I’ll surprise you with catastrophe and disaster just to keep you on your feet.” No. His preferred state is blessing; peace and righteousness are His plan. Think of it, when God dreams about you, He dreams (envisions, desires, designs) your best, your peace, your righteousness. He wants what is best for us.

Secondly, (again, among other significant truths) this passage affirms that the commands of God are the best prescription for relief from pain and suffering, and the best means to prevent those things in our lives. This is not a recruitment for more of Job’s counselors. But it makes no sense to grieve and mourn and be vexed over the pain and discord and LACK of peace and righteousness around us – and then wonder what (if anything) can really be done about it. The preaching and practice of truth are not just words and wasted breath. They are the only real hope of healing, change, and restoration. Think of it: what good is it if we treat the symptoms of decay (hunger, crime, violence, sickness, divorce, abuse, sexually transmitted disease, “unwanted” pregnancy, etc. – and make no mistake we can, should, must do our best and most to alleviate suffering in any form) but do not prescribe the path to peace? I am saying that the preaching, teaching, practice and priority of sound doctrine, ethics, and obedience are the only real, lasting hope for our society – no less so than it was for Isaiah’s audience.

Our redeemer STILL knows and desires what is best for us. He is still teaching us the way we should go. More than ever, I am resolved to “study, practice, and teach” (Ezra 7:10) His ways. I want what He wants – what is best.

Worldly Blessings?

health and wealth

 

Worldly Blessings? Is that a thing?

I am enjoying reading an author. He’s sailing along, stirring me up while informing me. What a great little book (on the importance of church history). Then he uses a tired, worn-out phrase: “worldly blessings like health and wealth…” In one way, seeing a phrase like that in a contemporary text is like seeing an old, faded bumper sticker with a formerly-trendy-slogan clinging in a wrinkled shrivel to the back of an otherwise handsome automobile. It’s just sad. In another way, reading it stimulates my irritance to where I must close the text and murmur exasperated complaints to no one listening.

Worldly blessings? Like health and wealth? I don’t know where to begin complaining. Health and wealth are blessings, but they do not originate from this world.

There are wealthy people in the world. The devil promised “wealth” (sort of) to Jesus, in the desert, in exchange for Jesus bowing down to him. But that wasn’t a blessing, it was a bribe. And the desire for wealth – the love of money – is carnal, worldly. It is so because it is the natural expression of an orphan mind-set that fears not having enough, that has no internal mechanism or well-spring for joy, and has no center of gravity in order to be content. Greed is worldly. Wealth is not. Greed is a curse, not a blessing. Greed is no respecter of person or status. In fact, most of the world struggles under the weight and pain of poverty. The world doesn’t give wealth; it steals it. It hordes it. It hides it. Wealth is not a worldly blessing: the world is not predisposed to bless anyone.

And health? Health is a worldly blessing? As if, somehow, in a way that is so upside down that it can only come from someone whose blood has rushed into their brain and can no longer think, being sick is something to be desired above being healthy? Is it worldly to be well? Is it worldly to want to be healthy? Let us be clear;  the world is sick. It cannot bless anyone with health. People around the world are sick and find new ways of being sick, along with rediscovering old ways. Disease swaggers about like an embittered bully picking on anyone who gets in its way. Health is not a worldly blessing any more than wealth, because the world cannot bless us with either.

On the other hand, there is One who blesses. The Blessed One who delights to bless, who invites us to seek His blessing. Heaven, not the world, is the source and supply of blessing. The blessing of the Lord brings wealth, and He adds no trouble to it (Prov. 10:22).  Jesus blessed people with more, not lack:  more wine at the wedding, more fish in the nets, more fish and loaves for lunch. There is much bible that celebrates the blessing of the Lord, the abundance that He provides (and is delighted to do so). There is no bible for lack or poverty (except for how to rise up from beneath it without being overcome by greed).

And health? Is there any reasonable, sane question that Jesus preferred anyone within in his reach to be well? Jesus left no one, not one person, who came to him sick or tormented unaided. The word on the street was that, “God anointed Jesus Christ of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power and He went about doing good and healing everyone under the tyranny of the devil” (Heb. 10:28). He never once “blessed” anyone by leaving them sick (let alone making them so). In fact, in more than one place, it seems He paid a significant price to bring aid and comfort to those who have suffered under sickness and torment (Isaiah 53, Matt. 8:16-17, I Peter 2:24).

The world does not bless. Health and wealth are not derived from the world, but from the Savior of the World. Heaven blesses. Blessing is Heaven’s idea and good pleasure. At least one feller even got singled out from all his siblings for having the hutzpah to ask God to bless him (1 Chron. 4:10). Health and wealth are not worldly blessings. Please, go to the store and get some Formula 409 (my dad swears by it) and a scrub brush, and clean that old, worn-out and worthless mindset from the back bumper of your mind.

God bless you,

‘Dav

 

 

Blessing is God’s Idea

Pot-of-Gold

God is not a leprechaun. As I understand the folklore, the little green-clad fellas are quite rich but would do anything rather than part with their shiny gold coins. If you manage to catch one, however, you can then negotiate for his pot of gold – if you’re lucky.

But our Heavenly father is not reluctant to bless. We do not have to catch Him at the right time or right mood and then negotiate with Him to open His hand to us. He is good, profoundly so, and more generous that many are often willing to consider.

As my eyes fell across Exodus 23:25 this morning, I was struck by how it reveals the nature of God. “You shall serve the Lord your God and I will bless your bread and your water, and I will take sickness away from the midst of you.” Here, God presents His design and desire to bless His people. Their bread and water will be blessed, and He will actively drive out sickness from their midst (the Hebrew syntax is not as mild as the English suggests). This promise is an expansion of Exodus 15:26, and is developed further in Deuteronomy 7:14-15.

What impresses me, happily, is that we observe in these passages that blessing is God’s idea and His ideal. Israel doesn’t initiate the concept of being blessed. They haven’t written out a list of requests or demands to be fulfilled by a reluctant deity. Blessing comes from the heart and mind of God. He thought of it. Blessing is God’s idea. Further, blessing is God’s ideal – it is His preferred state for His people. The best thing He can imagine for His people is them blessed: them not lacking supply, nourishment, offspring, or health. Blessing is not the exception to the rule (for the lucky); it is not elusive; it is not exclusive. Blessing is what God prefers for His people.

Now, one might counter with “Hey Dav, you know that blessing was only promised to the obedient, right?” Yes. I know. But that does not counter the concept, it affirms it. Obedience is God’s preferred state for His people: us following His wise, loving and altogether good leadership. And, just as preferred for us as obedience, is blessing. They are both God’s idea and ideal. Blessing was not God’s reluctant response to good behavior. Obedience facilitated the funnel through which God could bless.

So great is God’s commitment to bless, God sent His Son to fulfill all righteousness for us, to take away all our sin and shame, and to BLESS US (Acts 3:26, Galatians 3:14, Eph. 1:3, etc.)

I realize that the subject of blessing raises the ire of some. Too many folks are too eager to make sure no one tries to talk God out of His pot of gold. Others, to be fair, erroneously imagine that God IS the pot of gold. Neither of the former agendas are mine. I simply celebrate and give thanks that blessing is God’s idea and ideal for me and my family. I have no need for fear, no pressure to perform, and no reason not to believe for and embrace the blessing of the Lord.

God bless you; thanks for reading!
~ Dav