Tag Archives: righteousness

You Can’t Go Back

I haven’t written for a while. I haven’t known how to proceed. Watching all that has been going on in our society has made me take some time to think things over. The problem I have is that events have been so dumbfounding that anything I have to say certainly cannot help. However, what God has to say does help, but only if someone is willing and able to listen.

Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or his ear dull, that it cannot hear; but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear. For your hands are defiled with blood and your fingers with iniquity; your lips have spoken lies; your tongue mutters wickedness. No one enters suit justly; no one goes to law honestly; they rely on empty pleas, they speak lies, they conceive mischief and give birth to iniquity. They hatch adders’ eggs; they weave the spider’s web; he who eats their eggs dies, and from one that is crushed a viper is hatched. Their webs will not serve as clothing; men will not cover themselves with what they make. Their works are works of iniquity, and deeds of violence are in their hands. Their feet run to evil, and they are swift to shed innocent blood; their thoughts are thoughts of iniquity; desolation and destruction are in their highways. The way of peace they do not know, and there is no justice in their paths; they have made their roads crooked; no one who treads on them knows peace. Therefore justice is far from us, and righteousness does not overtake us; we hope for light, and behold, darkness, and for brightness, but we walk in gloom. We grope for the wall like the blind; we grope like those who have no eyes; we stumble at noon as in the twilight, among those in full vigor we are like dead men. We all growl like bears; we moan and moan like doves; we hope for justice, but there is none; for salvation, but it is far from us. For our transgressions are multiplied before you, and our sins testify against us; for our transgressions are with us, and we know our iniquities: transgressing, and denying the Lord, and turning back from following our God, speaking oppression and revolt, conceiving and uttering from the heart lying words. Justice is turned back, and righteousness stands far away; for truth has stumbled in the public squares, and uprightness cannot enter. Truth is lacking, and he who departs from evil makes himself a prey. The Lord saw it, and it displeased him that there was no justice. He saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no one to intercede; then his own arm brought him salvation, and his righteousness upheld him. He put on righteousness as a breastplate, and a helmet of salvation on his head; he put on garments of vengeance for clothing, and wrapped himself in zeal as a cloak. According to their deeds, so will he repay, wrath to his adversaries, repayment to his enemies; to the coastlands he will render repayment. So they shall fear the name of the Lord from the west, and his glory from the rising of the sun; for he will come like a rushing stream, which the wind of the Lord drives. “And a Redeemer will come to Zion, to those in Jacob who turn from transgression,” declares the Lord. “And as for me, this is my covenant with them,” says the Lord: “My Spirit that is upon you, and my words that I have put in your mouth, shall not depart out of your mouth, or out of the mouth of your offspring, or out of the mouth of your children’s offspring,” says the Lord, “from this time forth and forevermore.”” (Isaiah 59, ESV)

The Lord gave these words to Isaiah for the nation Israel. They do a pretty good job of describing things in America today. As I watch and listen, I hear cries for justice. But they are cries for justice for some and not for others. They are cries for justice while using injustice to gain an ear. They are the cries of the unrighteous demanding righteousness when true righteousness has already been rejected.

How can an individual today be held accountable for the sins of someone two, three, or four hundred years ago? What can be done to repair the damage, the hurt, the wrong? The most recent answer to these questions is the strangest ever: go back and erase the wrong. But you cannot go back. You cannot rewrite history and you cannot blame someone today for a history you don’t like. tear down all the statues you want. Deface all the buildings you can. Get everyone who has ever said something you don’t like fired. Nothing will be changed.

Is it not interesting that those who cry out for justice today are among the most unjust? A policeman commits an heinous act so all policemen are bad. Horrible things were done to those enslaved in times long past so let us enslave others today. You cannot go back and change the past. If you could, why not go back to the Garden and change the sin of our first parents?

But wait! We don’t have to rewrite the past. Every sin must receive justice. Not man’s justice because human justice is no justice at all. Those who demand justice for the sins of those in the past can never get what they want. EVERY HUMAN BEING IS A SLAVE TO SIN. How does a riot gain justice for the past?

There is only one justice. That is the payment for the sin committed by the sinner. Could this be what Jesus was talking about when he said, “Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” (Matthew 7:3–5, ESV)

Isaiah promised a Redeemer from Zion who will come for those who turn from transgression. The word translated “turn” is one of the most frequent Hebrew words in the Old Testament. In its uses, it means to turn away from something and return to something else. I believe Isaiah is saying that we are called to turn from our sin to the Redeemer. Jesus appears to explain why: our transgression is the log blinding us.

There is only one way to deal with the past, and that is to pay for the sins of the past. However, the only ones who must pay are the ones who committed those sins. We must pay for our own sins, and we definitely have much to pay. So much that we cannot come close to paying what we owe. I owe those whom I have sinned against. “I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight…” (Psalm 51:3–4, ESV).

This is a pretty depressing conclusion. I know my transgressions. David is remembering his transgressions seducing Bathsheba, committing adultery, and murdering Bathsheba’s husband to cover up his evil. How could David turn from his murderous sin and bring justice to Uriah? He could not go back and change the past. He could only pray for the grace and mercy of God who demands the purity of righteous justice. “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin!” (Psalm 51:1–2, ESV)

“I, I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins.” (Isaiah 43:25, ESV)

I have blotted out your transgressions like a cloud and your sins like mist; return to me, for I have redeemed you.” (Isaiah 44:22, ESV)

And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.” (Colossians 2:13–14, ESV)

There is a solution to all of our ills and it is not forcing others to speak, behave, or suffer like we want them to. It is by giving ourselves over to Christ Jesus who has paid the penalty for our sins. This is God’s satisfaction for transgression. Isaiah speaks of blindness because of those who are blinded by their own rage, by their own sin, by their hatred. God offers sight to the blind. Turn away from your sin and turn to the healer of the nations.

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Clean Hands

For your hands are defiled with blood and your fingers with iniquity; your lips have spoken lies; your tongue mutters wickedness. No one enters suit justly; no one goes to law honestly; they rely on empty pleas, they speak lies, they conceive mischief and give birth to iniquity.” (Isaiah 59:3–4, ESV)

The death of George Floyd was not a tragedy. It was the result of evil. Not an impersonal evil, but one that was endemic of human hatred toward one another. As a people, one nation, so to speak, we cry out for justice, and we weep for the loss of a man’s life. When Mr. Floyd was killed, we all were killed a little bit.

We live in a country that for over five centuries has been unable to manifest basic respect for our neighbors. I believe that one reason we have failed to deal with systemic racism is that we don’t really know the history of it. We have been taught what the people in power want us to know. However, omitting truth is the same as lying. And we all have been lied to so much, that we can’t even believe those who know better.

To this end, I suggest a hard look at ourselves, especially the Church which has been complicit in the lie. One way to do that is to read a book written by Joel McDurmon titled, “The Problem of Slavery in Christian America.” The Church is one place that we should find righteousness, justice, love, and peace, because the Church is an institution of faith in God, who is the source of these things. That’s why we as the Church bear the greatest burden for Mr. Floyd’s death and the injustice in our land.

If we have not all been disturbed by the events across America in the past week, we have lost sight of God’s purpose in our creation. Israel had lost sight of God’s calling as well. Isaiah does not hold back a thing. Isaiah is speaking for God. And where ever this passage rings true, it bears the weight of God’s judgment. We should not be deceived. George Floyd was murdered because we have lived materialistic lives of competitiveness where the golden rule is, “Do unto others before they do unto you.”

The desire to protest such injustice is a Constitutional privilege that has been used to express the fear of the Black community and the fear that they are all targets of injustice. However, there are two issues I struggle with relating to protests.

First, protesting is showing support for a cause and making that support impressed upon the hearts and minds of those who have the power to change things. However, if those who can change things have dead hearts and closed minds, protesting does little more than making the protester feel good for having taken a stand. This feeling soon dissipates and changes into thinking I have done all I can do. Discouragement sets in because nothing appears to change. Eventually discouragement morphs into despair and the believe that nothing I do will ever matter.

Second, there are always a few unscrupulous individuals who take protesting as a cover for rioting and destruction of property. No one wins in this case, everyone loses. This is what has been occurring throughout the States too much this week.

There is an answer, though. I did not include the first two verses of Isaiah’s prophecy before, but read them now.

Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or his ear dull, that it cannot hear; but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear.” (Isaiah 59:1–2, ESV)

The Lord God is not altered by our human failures. We are the ones who become separated from the only one who can resolve the issue and bring peace. Its not that he can’t hear. Its that he doesn’t listen because of our iniquity. The answer is that we must make more than a stand for justice, we must demand it. But we cannot demand justice using injustice. It doesn’t work to fight fire with fire. If Jesus taught us anything by his life, it is that evil does not stop evil. Jesus stopped the evil by absorbing in in himself. He gave himself over to it and for over two thousand years, his act has not been forgotten.

Jesus did not fight back. He stopped Peter from his attempt at defense. He told us all to turn the other cheek, to walk another mile, to give our coat too. I have been told that in the legal system in America, you must come to court with “clean hands.” I believe that should be true if it is not, because I know it is true with God. We can’t wash our hands so Christ has done it for us.

So, evil cannot be stopped with evil. Wars don’t stop when there is a victor because the loss on both sides is too much to bear. Wars stop when parties refuse to go to war. It is the job of the State to bear justice. Its just that our State has not listened to the God that rules over it. God can change it. He makes his changes by waking us up to righteousness by allowing us to taste our own unrighteousness. Then he calls his righteous ones forward to change the very system of human life in this world into the system of his Kingdom.

As C. S. Lewis wrote in the Last Battle, let us all move higher up and farther in.

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