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.

Sufficiency of Christ

Over the past three months I have been studying Numbers 11 and the implications of the story of the quail and the plague. When a class assigned an in-depth study of a singular story in scripture I at first chose this one because I had a grudge against a pastor that used the story in a way that I could not think possible after an honest reading of the complete text.

I still hold fast to the proper treatment of scripture but through this study I have realized my own pride as a reflection of Israel’s in the story. I demanded more of God. I wanted to be proved right. And in the midst of this all I have learned to embrace the sufficiency of Christ. I have learned to recognize places in my life where I have rejected the provision of God and refused to accept his sufficiency. I have been caught red-handed by my own study as I attempt life and ministry un my own self-sufficiency alone and by doing so denying Jesus. “The spirituality of self-sufficiency, the attitude of “everything depends on me” bears no resemblance to the gospel of Jesus Christ” (Brennan Manning).

I do not want to seek Christ because he has provided me a meal (loaves and fishes) but because his work and the empowerment of the Holy Spirit has covered me in grace and ransomed me in spite of my sin.

In Numbers the people denied God and ask for more than His provision. In response he gave them what they asked for and then they died “while the meat was still between their teeth.” Might we be satisfied by God’s provision of Christ and dwell in that sufficiency and new life.