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Monday, December 10, 2012

Watching with Isaiah: Do You See What I See? Pt. 3: Reflecting on Isaiah 35.1-10

Isaiah 35.1-10: “1-The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad; the desert shall rejoice and blossom like the crocus; 2-it shall blossom abundantly and rejoice with joy and singing. The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it, the majesty of Carmel and Sharon. They shall see the glory of the LORD, the majesty of our God. 3-Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees. 4-Say to those who have an anxious heart, "Be strong; fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you." 5-Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; 6-then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy. For waters break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert; 7-the burning sand shall become a pool, and the thirsty ground springs of water; in the haunt of jackals, where they lie down, the grass shall become reeds and rushes. 8-And a highway shall be there, and it shall be called the Way of Holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it. It shall belong to those who walk on the way; even if they are fools, they shall not go astray. 9-No lion shall be there, nor shall any ravenous beast come up on it; they shall not be found there, but the redeemed shall walk there. 10-And the ransomed of the LORD shall return and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.”
 There are three dangers in looking at a passage like this. There are those who see these promises and think, “Utopia! We can advance the kingdom of God and bring about this passage in fullness.” Most Utopian movements—Whether Marxist-Leninism, or Christian America-ism—have this sense behind them. But history has taught us (& God through history) that every attempt at Utopia only ends in Dystopia! Then there are those who go to the other extreme and say, “Well, this is all beautiful. And it will only come about after Christ returns. Therefore it is safely at a distance! The here and now is disconnected from the there and then.” This, so it seems to me, breeds the “No need to polish brass on a sinking ship” syndrome. The other dangerous outlook is the Empty-Metaphor-Muddle. That’s the one that says, “Well, it’s all metaphorical and thus it’s just a pretty picture. So we’re safe! None of this vengeance stuff; none of this unsettling “New Creation” stuff.” This is often seen in more liberal contexts which have gutted the Scriptures of their magnificent power. But I hope to show you that what God has promised here has already begun—though it is not yet brought to maturity or full-flower—But will explosively fill out and come to completion at a certain time. And I hope to keep together both the continuity and the discontinuity. But just in case I get lost in the way, remember the theme: “For anyone united to Christ, there is a new creation: the old order has gone; a new order has already begun” (2 Cor. 5.17 REB).

New World: 35.1-7. The picture is simple, the story profound! In Genesis 3, what came about as a result of Adam’s fall and Eve’s defection? The creation was cursed; weeds, dust, sweat, and death. Adam and Eve are exiled outside of Eden, into a wilderness. Not a land flowing with milk and honey, but ragweed and poison ivy! But then here (5-6a), The Curse is Reversed! This beautiful description of a new heavens and earth revolve around human renovation. The shocker is that Jesus claims to have inaugurated this moment!
“And Jesus answered them, "Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me" (Matt. 11.4-5!).
Ø  1-2 reversed in 6b-7. And then here, surrounding humanities’ renovation is Cosmos Transformation! Romans 8.18-25.

You are probably sitting there saying inside your head, “Well, nice. But I don’t see any of this! I don’t see with my own eyes any empirical evidence that this new world and new wellness has begun! So, maybe, Mike’s flipped his lid.” Well, yes, you’re right. The “empirical evidence” is a bit scanty, isn’t it? But isn’t that why the writer of Hebrews said what he said in 2.8-9 [“Now in putting everything in subjection to him, he left nothing outside his control. At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him. But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.”]? We don’t yet see all of this, but we see Jesus! And that’s the point! Christ Jesus IS the New Creation Man. God’s new creation is initiated in Christ; it is through Jesus, by His conception in holy Mary’s womb, His embryonic growth there, His birth, holy life, teaching, death, resurrection and enthronement, that God has already inaugurated the reversal of the old, settled, long-established, inhospitable situations of the old creation order into a new thing: New life, New wholeness, New hospitality, New Creation! This is why, as Christians, we care about families, nations, tribes being at peace. This is why we care so deeply about divorce, adultery, and pornography which only continue to breed the old order of bestial darkness. This is why we care about poverty, racism, sickness, dying people, foreigners (both legal and otherwise) and the creation, because God has come in that little human embryo that developed and grew and was born a little baby boy And in coming he has put the old savage order on notice, “Time’s up. Your day is at an end! Sickness, death, racism, and brutal injustice are being done away because of My incarnation, life, death and resurrection! And when I return, I will judge both the living and the dead, to see if you have been part of My new creation remedy, or continued the old order disease! [***The 1st coming of our Lord and His final coming are like the early rains and planting of seed, and then the later rains and reaping of the same harvest season: continuity and discontinuity.***]

And this pregnant scenario gives birth to renewed courage (v.3-4), restoring vigor, strength, life where once there was only limping lameness. This renewed courage flows from the promise that God will come, and He will come to set all wrongs to right (v.4b)! And He brings full deliverance and salvation (v.4c).
“Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery” (Hebrews 2.14-15).“The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3.8b).“The Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father” (Galatians 1.4).But also, “so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him” (Hebrews 9.28).
Therefore, if Jesus Himself is the inauguration, the launching of God’s New Creation Program, then where should YOU want to be? United to Christ, right! “For anyone united to Christ, there is a new creation: the old order has gone; a new order has already begun.”

New Way: 35.8-10. And this New Creation must mean a re-formation of life-style from the heart outward! Therefore it’s no surprise that the way upward to the city, to Zion, is the Holy Way. The way devoid of the “unclean” who desire to remain in their uncleanness. It is the way devoid of ravenous beasts (the manipulative, devouring, vicious consumption) and the way that will be full of those going further on and further up! [Even the foolish can’t lose their way! Hallelujah! There’s even hope for the likes of me!].
“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever” (1 John 2.15-17).
The observable result is an inside-out change of habits, reactions, etc; such as children sharing books, treating your sister or brother differently. Teens freed to respect their parents and liberated to follow a different path from your fellow football players, or volleyball team members. Young adults and older learning to be honest; casting off self-righteous impatience and putting on godly longsuffering.

Now, you might be asking, “Why is there a highway going in this City-of-God direction?” That’s a good question. It’s because it is the highway back from exile. And God has initiated the way of return to His own joyous, peace-enriched, love-lavished City. And our Lord Jesus the Messiah is that Way, the truth & the life. No one can come to the Father, nor into this new creation life, but by Him. And if we’re walking this Highway of holiness, then we are no longer part of the devious, devouring, manipulative beasts, but rejoicing, liberated, ransomed pilgrims on the way home and calling others to come and join with us, and obtain “joy and gladness” & watch sorrow & sighing flee away! “For anyone united to Christ, there is a new creation: the old order has gone; a new order has already begun.”

Therefore, when you look at those representations of the baby in the manger, surrounded by His Mother, and Joseph, along with farm animals in a barn; instead of bowing down before those images, smile and laugh remembering that God’s New Creation has begun; and shout: “Joy to the World! The Lord has come! Let earth receive her king!” And say to all: For anyone united to Christ, there is a new creation: the old order has gone; a new order has already begun!

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