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Forbearance does not equal tolerance

“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

Last week Dr. Ware shared this text in a morning devotion and it was poignant and I shared it again this morning with our Theological Life group. In this text God is confronting his people and the hardness of heart toward him. Wrath is still stored up against their sin and disobedience but for some reason, for his glory he defers his anger. For those of us in Christ, this forbearance of wrath is permanent in relationship to salvation. We are made right before God and refined, in Christ. But we are still responsible for our obedience and the consequence of sin. The question of this text is; are we hypocrites or is God our consuming passion?

When it comes to sin in our lives today we too often interpret the forbearance of discipline (think wrath) as the tolerance of God. We figure if we sin and there are no repercussions that things are “good.” Unfortunately as we continue to sin we assume  that our disobedience is ‘okay’ because we are ‘getting away with it.’ But God tells us that he will not share his glory with another, he desires our obedience. In Christ we are motivated toward obedience because of what has been done for us. We live lives of confession and battle against sin because we desire for God to be our only passion and we have found that the life of obedience is the only true freedom. Duty and delight are wedded for us in Christ.

What are the things in our lives that we have assumed tolerance of because discipline is being held back? What afflictions are being used to refine us? Let us be people who pursue holiness and obedience empowered by the Holy Spirit for God’s glory alone.

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