Hear this, O house of Jacob, who are called by the name of Israel,and who came from the waters of Judah, who swear by the name of the Lord and confess the God of Israel, but not in truth or right.
For they call themselves after the holy city, and stay themselves on the God of Israel; the Lord of hosts is his name.
“The former things I declared of old; they went out from my mouth, and I announced them;then suddenly I did them, and they came to pass.
Because I know that you are obstinate, and your neck is an iron sinew and your forehead brass,I declared them to you from of old, before they came to pass I announced them to you, lest you should say, ‘My idol did them, my carved image and my metal image commanded them.’
“You have heard; now see all this; and will you not declare it? From this time forth I announce to you new things, hidden things that you have not known.
They are created now, not long ago; before today you have never heard of them, lest you should say, ‘Behold, I knew them.’
You have never heard, you have never known, from of old your ear has not been opened.
For I knew that you would surely deal treacherously, and that from before birth you were called a rebel.
“For my name’s sake I defer my anger; for the sake of my praise I restrain it for you, that I may not cut you off.
Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tried you in the furnace of affliction.For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it, for how should my name be profaned?
My glory I will not give to another. Isaiah 48:1-11 (ESV)
When God sent the Old Testament prophets, He did so because His people were getting off track. God never sent prophets to tell people how fantastic they were, or to have a nice day. God sent prophets to warn people of the consequences of continuing to break His Law.
It’s human nature for us to take credit for things that aren’t necessarily due to our own merit or effort. A beautiful child is a gift from God rather than an achievement of her parents. Even our efforts to pass a class or earn a living are gifts from God. It is only in and through Him that we can accomplish anything at all. (Acts 17:28)
Isaiah tells the people of Israel that their redeemer was coming- God Himself was coming to redeem them, so they couldn’t take credit for it or attribute salvation to themselves or to their idols.
We break God’s Law just as the people of Israel did. We may call ourselves Christian, but how often do we call ourselves God’s people without acting like God’s people?
The truth is that behavior modification is not sanctification. To a degree we can control what we say or do, but we cannot control the condition of our own minds and hearts. The Holy Spirit must transform our hearts and minds to conform to God’s will, even as we are continually subject to the temptation of Satan, the world, and our own sinful natures.
But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.
For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.
It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. Romans 3:21-28 (ESV)
The apostle Paul expands upon the teaching of Isaiah. Paul is talking to the greater Kingdom of God – Jews and Gentiles- and he reminds us that regardless of our heritage we are justified by faith in Jesus alone.
We are continually faced with trials and suffering and the process of being refined. Some may say that the reason we suffer is so we learn to trust God more fully. Perhaps it is only God’s prerogative to decide what sort of training and refining we need to prepare us for our roles in His kingdom.
Paul reminds us boasting is excluded- that we cannot take credit for the gifts of God. Rather we thank Him for His grace, His mercy, His kindness toward us, that He would grant us the gift of faith and that by His wounds, we are healed.
Lord, help us to trust You, to thank You, and to love You.