O that you would tear open the heavens and come down,
so that the mountains would quake at your presence—
We have all become like one who is unclean,
and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy cloth.
We all fade like a leaf,
and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.
7 There is no one who calls on your name,
or attempts to take hold of you;
for you have hidden your face from us,
and have delivered us into the hand of our iniquity. Isaiah 64:1, 6-7
The late M. Scott Peck’s opening sentence in his landmark book, The Road Less Traveled is relevant for our times, “Life is difficult.” If Mr. Peck had lived to see our day of vitriol outside the church and inside the church, I believe he would have put the font of that sentence in all caps. What are we to do when life is difficult? We have some help from the pen of the prophet Isaiah.
Isaiah is convinced that the only way to invoke the presence of God is for the people to be honest about their tepid and lukewarm approach to Yahweh. The times in which this prophecy was written were not a happy time. They were oppressed and being brutalized by a vicious regime.
Those times are not that much different from our times. If you watch the news today, with what is happening in Portland, Kenosha Wisconsin, and Washington D.C.—-it is not a happy time.
The forces of hate are pitting us against each other and trying to force us into a binary choice between fascism and socialism. Two words that carry so much freight they need separate engines to pull them up the political train tracks.
We fought a war to rid the world of fascism. (WW2) We fought a cold war to rid the world of Communism/Socialism. So, if one side of the political divide can successfully get folks to believe that Joe Biden is a socialist, they will motivate people, who remember the cold war, to get out and vote for Trump. But if the left can successfully describe Trump as a fascist, they can motivate their group to vote for Biden.
So, I guess those are our choices this November:
Biden the Socialist.
Trump the Fascist.
Really? The implication is that if you vote for Trump YOU are a fascist. Or if you vote for Biden YOU are a socialist. The world system and the Devil is counting on this simplistic choice to put us at each other’s throats. That kind of fear sets us up for mass manipulation by a political propaganda machine. (Historically, those ARE favorite tactics of socialist and fascist)
Their strategy is working and in too many instances Christians are playing into the manipulation of fear and loathing. Christians must be wise to that manipulation.
This week I ran across a quote by C.S. Lewis that put all of this into perspective for me:
The devil always sends errors into the world in pairs–pairs of opposites. And he always encourages us to spend a lot of time thinking which is the worse. You see why, of course? He relies on your extra dislike of the one error to draw you gradually into the opposite one.
It is possible that a person can hate what they perceive as the evil of socialism to such a degree that they back their way into fascism. And the same might be possible for those who hate fascism.
Isaiah is unflinching about the mess that exists in the world, and in the depth brokenness of a human soul. This is why I have begged family and friends to step out of the conservative echo chamber where everyone espouses the fear of chaos of Black Lives Matter and socialism.
Certainly, I have irritated some in my family and group of friends to step outside of the liberal echo chamber where everyone espouses that a revolution needs to occur in order to bring about the needed social change. I’m afraid all I’ve succeeded in doing is irritate my conservative and liberal family and friends. And yet, it seems, that no one wants to come out from behind the security of their political and social prejudices.
There is much fear manifesting itself as anger in our culture these days.
Psychologists distinguish between primary emotions and secondary emotions. Primary emotions are fear, despair, shame, guilt, anxiety, etc.
A secondary emotion is anger. It is the “display” emotion. Like a peacock displaying its tail feathers, anger is what we show.
I believe that there is a lot of fear on display as anger these days. I see it everywhere. I wonder if that is true about your heart as well. On the off chance that it might be true, let these words bring you some comfort from Dallas Willard.
“The gospel of the kingdom steadies us against believing anything bad about God. This world is a perfectly safe place to be as long as you’re in the Kingdom of God.”
Be a Kingdom person, not a conservative, progressive, libertarian, or even an American. Be an apprentice of Jesus Christ and you might get some sleep tonight.
We need some hope that God is going to do something about this. Isaiah gives us some hope,
Yet, O Lord, you are our Father;
we are the clay, and you are our potter;
we are all the work of your hand. Isaiah 64:8
Trusting in God teaches us to hope even in the moments when the world seems uncertain and we don’t have a whole lot of confidence in ourselves.
Over twenty years ago Lynette and I were rebuilding our marriage. It was summertime and I had sent her and the boys to spend three or four weeks in Colorado with her parents and family. I stayed in the Seattle area to work.
We made plans to meet in Idaho, just outside of Yellowstone, and I would take them back to the Northwest. We had turned the corner in our relationship and the anticipation of seeing each other was beyond words.
As I drove through the winding roads of the mountains of Idaho towards the campground, my heart began to beat faster, and my foot got heavier on the gas pedal. A song came on the radio that reminded me of my love for her and I had to pull over to the side of the road because I couldn’t see through the tears in my eyes.
Finally, I pulled up in their rented space in the KOA and there was the Motorhome that held my family. I got out of the car and knocked on the door. Someone looked out the window and yelled, “It’s dad!” I opened the outside door and could hear my young boys squealing with excitement. Then Lynette appeared in the door opening. The only thing separating me from the bride of my youth was a screen door, but it was locked. Lynette struggled to unlock it…her urgency to get to me was so intense I thought one of two things were about to happen:
One, she was going to start cussing.
Second, she was going to tear through that screen door.
Finally, the screen door released and out she came, threw her arms around my neck, kissed my face, bawled so much that tears were smearing on my cheeks.
What does trustful waiting do to you? It increases the intensity of desire for the one you are waiting for. It enlarges our hearts. It deepens our capacity to love. It widens our souls and what our souls were designed for: Love for God and love for one another. It opens up caverns of space in our soul for the good Father and Divine Potter to come and abide inside us.
And that is a perfectly safe place to be.
So, hear our prayer, Lord. Go ahead and tear the heavens open and come down. Any time before November 4th would be great.