Who is our God? (Is. 33)

Publié le 16 mai 2020 dans Non classé

Nous proposons la traduction suivante du message du dimanche pour nos amis anglophones

Introduction
What is the key criteria for choosing a partner?
To answer this question, a researcher from a university in California interviewed 28,000 heterosexuals, aged between 18 and 75, asking what they looked for first.
Sad but the answer is rather cliché…
80% of men seek in priority thin women, 97% of women think that a stable income is
essential when they start a relationship with someone, while « only » 74% of men take this financial aspect into account.
This doesn’t make the cliché that men are obsessed with physical appearance, and women only look for a « sugar daddy » any better.
But does this really help you to know your partner? You know very well that every morning you wake up with your wife’s character not with your wallet or with your wife’s physical appeareance.
Do you know God’s character? and what does that imply? Here, God is revealed not only to the prophet Isaiah but to all the people.

Let’s read Isaiah 33
‘Woe to you, destroyer, you who have not been destroyed! Woe to you, betrayer, you who have not been betrayed! When you stop destroying, you will be destroyed; when you stop betraying, you will be betrayed. Lord, be gracious to us; we long for you. Be our strength every morning,
our salvation in time of distress. At the uproar of your army, the peoples flee; when you rise up, the nations scatter. Your plunder, O nations, is harvested as by young locusts; like a swarm of locusts people pounce on it. The Lord is exalted, for he dwells on high; he will fill Zion with
his justice and righteousness. He will be the sure foundation for your times, a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge; the fear of the Lord is the key to this treasure. Look, their brave men cry aloud in the streets; the envoys of peace weep bitterly. The highways are deserted, no travelers are on the roads. The treaty is broken, its witnesses are despised, no
one is respected. The land dries up and wastes away, Lebanon is ashamed and withers; Sharon is like the Arabah, and Bashan and Carmel drop their leaves. “Now will I arise,” says the Lord. “Now will I be exalted; now will I be lifted up. You conceive chaff, you give birth to straw; your breath is a fire that consumes you. The peoples will be burned to ashes; like cut thornbushes they will be set ablaze.” You who are far away, hear what I have done; you who are near, acknowledge my power! The sinners in Zion are terrified; trembling grips the godless: “Who of us can dwell with the consuming fire? Who of us can dwell with everlasting burning?” Those who walk righteously and speak what is right, who reject gain from extortion
and keep their hands from accepting bribes, who stop their ears against plots of murder and shut their eyes against contemplating evil— they are the ones who will dwell on the heights, whose refuge will be the mountain fortress. Their bread will be supplied, and water will not fail them. Your eyes will see the king in his beauty and view a land that stretches afar. In your
thoughts you will ponder the former terror: “Where is that chief officer? Where is the one who took the revenue? Where is the officer in charge of the towers?” You will see those arrogant people no more, people whose speech is obscure, whose language is strange and incomprehensible. Look on Zion, the city of our festivals; your eyes will see Jerusalem, a peaceful abode, a tent that will not be moved; its stakes will never be pulled up, nor any of its ropes broken. There the Lord will be our Mighty One. It will be like a place of broad rivers and streams. No galley with oars will ride them, no mighty ship will sail them. For the Lord is our judge, the Lord is our lawgiver, the Lord is our king; it is he who will save us. Your rigging hangs loose: The mast is not held secure, the sail is not spread. Then an abundance of spoils
will be divided and even the lame will carry off plunder. No one living in Zion will say, “I am ill”; and the sins of those who dwell there will be forgiven’.

The historical context
If you are a little lost in the book of Isaiah, despite this series, here’s a summary …
Faith in God is at the heart of the book of Isaiah… The entire book looks at the faith of two Kings of Judah. King Achaz and King Hezekiah. The first, Achaz (732-715 BC) is attacked by two little Kingdoms (the Kingdom of Aram, present-day Syria and the Kingdom of Israel). Instead of placing his trust in God (as Isaiah advised him to), he decides to buy protection from the Assyrian Empire. The consequences of this situation are dramatic, Israel will be exiled in 722 BC, and Samaria, the capital of Israel will be taken by Assyria …

The second King, Hezekiah (715-686 BC) who reigns after Achaz finds himself facing a period when the Assyrian Empire is somewhat weakened. Faced with this situation, Hezekiah decides, to revolt from Assyrian domination (in particular
to denounce the alliance contracted by his father), probably with Egypt, a great empire which sponsored this type of revolt and ensured the protection of the countries who rose up against Assyria. Hezekiah is therefore naturally tempted, rather than placing his trust in God, to turn to Egypt, and that’s the heart of chapters 28-35.

However Assyria won’t take any of it.
No doubt, Hezekiah has in mind the events of 701, the capture of the Northern Kingdom (Samaria) when Sennacherib, the emperor of Assyria plans to attack the cities of Judah.
The Egyptian ally could not pull this off and were of no help. Those responsible for Judah did everything to get by themselves, they sold the family jewels …. Hezekiah having exhausted all possibilities decides to turn to God.

However faced with this situation, Hezekiah changes his strategy, seeing the approached threat he decides on a last maneuver which we can read in 2 Kings 18.13-16 ‘In the fourteenth year of King Hezekiah’s reign, Sennacherib king of Assyria attacked all the fortified cities of Judah and captured them. So Hezekiah king of Judah sent this message to the
king of Assyria at Lachish :“I have done wrong. Withdraw from me, and I will pay whatever you demand of me.” The king of Assyria exacted from Hezekiah king of Judah three hundred talents of silver and thirty talents of gold. So Hezekiah gave him all the silver that was found in the temple of the Lord and in the treasuries of the royal palace. At this time Hezekiah king of
Judah stripped off the gold with which he had covered the doors and doorposts of the temple of the Lord, and gave it to the king of Assyria’.
Hezekiah sees that he has been had. What should he do? What can he do to obtain deliverance?
Isaiah gives God’s answer: God is going to intervene to destroy your worst enemy but you must trust him.

Isaiah 1-39
1-5 Opening
6 Call of Isaiah (Osias dies 740 BC)
7-12 King Achaz (732-715 BC) does not trust God « If you are not firm in faith, you will not stand » (7: 9b)
The future king and the perfect kingdom (9 and 11)
Israel is exiled to Assyria (722 BC)
13-23 Do not trust the nations!
24-27 Big screen view of the future
28-35 Do not trust the nations (especially Egypt)!
View of the future (35)
Reign of king Hezekiah (715-686 BC)
36-37 Assyria surrounds Jerusalem (701 BC).
Hezekiah trusts God where Achaz failed
38-39 Babylon is presented to Hezekiah as the next great threat Judah is exiled to Babylon (597-587 BC)

  1. God is Almighty to destroy your worst enemy, so trust him (v. 1-6)
    The prophecy of Isaiah begins with one word, woe …
    The previous four woes in the previous chapters didn’t concern Judah, but it’s principal
    enemy. But here Judah gave up confidence in itself, in its own capacity …
    God heard v. 2, the voices of the rest of the believers, who appealed to His grace… even if this call was late. God has always waited to deliver them.
    And it’s hard to judge the people of Judah too harshly, because the enemy was mighty, it was the greatest Empire of that time … and there were reasons to be afraid … especially since it was bloodthirsty … we all face situations, which seem insurmountable, often our friends are not of much help, because they don’t measure the intensity of the situation, everyone has their Assyrian Empire…
    V.1 shows us it’s capacity to destroy by the repetition of two verbs: to ravage and to betray.
    No qualms about breaking contracts but they crushed people who did the same.
    But God foresees an end to this. No need to doubt His power even towards the greatest Empire, just by the sound of His voice (v.3), nothing stands before Him.
    Even if the powerful have stolen the spoils of the weakest, God dispossesses them to give them back… (v.4)
    In front of such a power (v.5: which we find in height), it is He alone who deserves our honor, our respect.
    God is the only one who is truly high… (v.6)
    This great turning point occurs whenever God is not just ONE king among others, but the ONLY
    ONE! It ALWAYS follows a restoration and a deliverance … even if it does not always take the form that we thought. The person who « fears the Lord » can experience all of this because he is in contact with the source of life.

God is a fire that consumes evil, so do good (v. 7-16)
7-9
Sennacherib had accepted Hezekiah’s wealth (2 Kings 18: 13-16) and then immediately pursued the plans to destroy the city (2 Kings 18: 17). The ambassadors (v. 7 the heroes)
return empty-handed (v. 7) from the Sennacherib camp at Lachish, deploring the Assyrian betrayal. The roads are deserted, there is the risk of looting … (v.8) The rules of war are
fragile, because they give a semblance of order in a situation where all the seeds of chaos are
sown.
v.9 There is mourning! The earth suffers with the people … the whole earth becomes, so to speak, scorched earth, under the iron fist of Assyria (33: 9).
At this moment, no doubt, it’s the end, it’s the world that is collapsing … And yet paradoxically, it is the kind of moment that God awaits …
Do not believe that this day only concerns the Israelites. Many men will face this day …
When faced with this day, it leaves us with a terrible feeling. Life is hard, is it worth continuing? There are only two choices left, despair that turns either to death to finally find
rest, or to God, to experience his help. If we put our trust in God, we can be sure that there will always be a divine « Now » (v.10) it is repeated three times even.
It’s nice to wait… but it’s not enough, it is also necessary to be able to recognize the “Now” of God’s intervention.
Nor is it surprising that « God’s now » follows the desperate situation described in v.7-9

Human failure is a divine opportunity

I will always remember this man, who, after having sold a business and collected hundreds of thousands of euros, recreated another. He lost all of the gains, and even generated significant debts because of the liquidation of his company and constantly lamented about not having
benefited from his money. Yet he forgot one thing… he forgot, during that dark time that God had intervened for him, and deep down, he had experienced the true intervention of God, he had been kept from suicide, despite the debts, even despite all the money he lost, he has never lacked anything, even if he
isn’t particularly rich.
Still, it was necessary to experience « the now of God’s intervention » in his own life.
This is a reality that French christians have a hard time integrating … Failure often highlights the reality of human life, and its fragility …
It is in moments of failure that we feel this best, and yet we always want to try to avoid these moments. We want to avoid failure for our children, so we are ready to do anything for them, to put monumental pressure on them for the success of their studies, we try to prepare them for the future, by donating our goods, real estate that we have acquired, we want to avoid their shortages, to avoid them being in a critical situation… but is it really the best for them?
Aren’t we just avoiding the need for these critical moments where they can encounter God? Because it is precisely at this critical moment that God acts.
No, it’s never too late for God’s grace, God’s intervention. And turning to God, opens a light of hope in a world of darkness …
However when God intervenes (v.11-12) and deploys his power, it’s not the nice soft dad, with a big beard, but the God, who is a consuming fire (v.11 / 12) which destroys evil, personified
by the huge Assyrian machine.
v.11 Everything is burned, including the own destructive breath of the Assyrian machine. God’s justice always intervenes in our world, we consider that it often comes too slowly.
v.12 Despite the power and the glory of Empires, the fall sometimes appears so suddenly (an
example is the COVID 19 crisis).

Now, faced with such a vision of God, He calls us to become aware of it (v.13), to see what he does, his power, what he is, a God who is a devouring fire …
And this call concerns all men but in a surprising way, not only those who are far, but also and especially those who are close (v.13)
V.14 suggests it. When they see the power of God manifest against Assyria, there will be terror by the unbelieving Jews.
Unless we have come to recognize the absolute difference between God and ourselves at some point, we are likely to devalue the grace of God. Judah had taken God for granted. But they were sinners.
When fire comes to Assyria, they too will tremble, and that’s the beginning of hope.
And Judah must reflect, because there is going to be a fire in Zion, are these inhabitants ready to live there? (v.14)
God’s fire is not passing, it is its very essence. No hope that the flame will go out one day…
Faced with this, the question of v. 14 reasons, and should reason… « Who of us can dwell with the consuming fire? Who of us can dwell with everlasting burning? « 
What about us, does a certain familiarity with God (and Jesus) generate a certain complacency with evil? Does the frequency and passion of those who have just heard of Christ make us ashamed of ourselves, us who have known him for so many years? Do we have to rediscover the holiness of God to renew our commitment to follow Jesus Christ, not just in certain areas
but for all the decisions of our lives, from paying my taxes to my attitude with my family, even in my choice of work, spouse, house? even my time in front of TV shows?
Do we realize that with God, as Meak says, ‘it was all or nothing, with the Lord, it is all or nothing’.
When God is manifested in his glory, the concern to do good suddenly appears.
It was exactly the experience that Isaiah had. He knew that those who had lived this, his people had to live it the same way.
This terror before the holy God, Judah had to go through it and us also. Because the power of God and his character are inseparable. Those who have no deep concern for doing good have only a weak vision of God.
What kind of change does a human being have to go through to live with God? Not a change of essence (not becoming God) but a change of character. This is the discovery that the Hebrews made at Sinai, and which Isaiah also recognized in his personal Sinai. If we want to live with God as his guests, we have to share his character.
V.15 describes it wonderfully.
The manifestation in life and in the words of what is right and just. No small ruse, dubious arrangements …
God hates religion which suggests that we can limit it to acts of worship, to just meetings on Sundays … No, we must share the character of God, his concern for justice, the love of others.
Can we deserve union with God by leading a just life? No, because it would confuse the
product with the method, a confusion into which Judaism will fall …
(v.16): But He who makes the character of God the goal of his life dwells in God.
Circumstances no longer have a hold on him, now God has integrated his personality so that serenity is possible even under difficult circumstances. This person has a supply source for every need in God. (v.16)
God is the one who destroys our enemies.
God is the one who is a consuming fire.
And God is also the only safe shelter

  1. God is the only safe shelter, so rely on Him (v. 17-24)
    In the face of our powerlessness to save ourselves, when we turn to God, we discover a God who is the only true safe Shelter, and we can rest on him…
    To realize our inability to manage everything is to realize that we are not God. It’s very hard to experience this reality, yet it’s the place of salvation. v.17: Describes the King in his beauty, he does not refer to any particular human monarch… v.18-19: God’s people on that day will
    meditate on the terror they had known, and (v.20-22) instead of seeing the Assyrian kings, the Judeans will see Jerusalem safe and protected, because of their relationship with their true King. Jerusalem will be the city of our meetings, It doesn’t matter whether Jerusalem is the royal city or the temple city, what matters is that it’s a place where God meets humans.
    During the peoples’ wandering, God moved continuously with them, now God won’t move anymore, we will experience permanent rest (v.20 the tent will no longer be dismantled).
    Here, the traveler has really come home…
    In this life, we are all in tents and the person who realizes this is happy. But one day, the tents will be stowed forever … (v.20)
    v.21 Where God is, there is security. v.22 And this trust in God draws its reason for being in God’s identity, in his divine character.
    Because God is judge (chief), he will be his champion and his defender.
    Because God is his legislator, he will be more than fair in his dealings.
    Because he is his King by alliance, he will deliver him.
    One of the main points of chapters 7-35 is to know whether the Hebrew people will allow God to be their king or whether they will deny this kingship by trusting the surrounding nations for their safety. Can we trust God to save us? Here, the prophet answers the people: « Yes, he is
    our king and he alone will save us ». His promises for the future do not stem from a denial of the current serious conditions … (v.23). « Make no mistake, » he said. « our glorious future, our triumph over our enemies, does not come from the fact that we are a mighty ship (v.21). We
    are a drifting carcass. Our hope is in a king who heals sickness and forgives sin (v.24).
    The final emphasis on the forgiveness of sin, of the evil which is not only committed before men but especially committed before God is of considerable importance. The need for Judah, deeper than a need to be free from oppression. Ultimately, says Isaiah, our problem is a broken relationship with God because of sin. Thus, the simple defeat of the enemies and the restitution of the land will not be enough. The end goal is a forgiven people living a life
    according to the character of God.
    Many seek security on this earth by any means, fleeting security that will evaporate when we die. But who is seeking true eternal security, that which comes from the Holy God? This
    security should deserve our deepest attention. Perhaps in the midst of your greatest distress today, the Lord wants to grant you the NOW of his deliverance?
    It is up to you to cry out to him for his forgiveness, his grace and his justice to be able to live a life in his likeness. This responsibility is yours alone.
    Your eternal security depends on it.