Photo Credit: Artist Ragen Gee, @ Rae’sWorks, used by permission. Her work is amazing and available here: https://www.facebook.com/raeworks2017/
This morning I was reading in Isaiah 33, where it talks about sinners being afraid. Interestingly, you could surmise that they weren’t afraid of the fact that they were sinning. This text, written nearly three thousand years ago, was both factual for the day and prophetic for the future. As I read on, I could see what they were afraid of. They recognized God as an everlasting devouring fire. So sad that these fearful sinners gave no thought to changing their ways.
I was like that in my life at one time. With no immediate consequences and no one to call me out on my sins, I went on about enjoying them in fearless fashion. But the Hounds of Heaven pursue us all and hem us in to a point of decision about our lives. If it hasn’t happened to you yet, reassess what has come in and out of your life, especially what you’ve blown off, or at the very least, start looking over your shoulder.
These sinners in Isaiah 33 asked instead; “Who can dwell with that devouring fire?” and “Who among us can dwell with those everlasting burnings?” In other words, God isn’t going away. He will not withdraw and dwell doesn’t mean to live with, it means to “live in.” Anyone want to live in a burning house? Isaiah had the answer, though. Those who:
Walk righteously (always doing the right things, just because those things are, well… right).
Speak uprightly (truth without condemnation, even when its hard on the hearer).
Despise gain from fraud and oppression. (we could spend months on this).
Do not take bribes (think politicians and the lobbyists who pursue them, for starters).
Stop your ears from hearing of bloodshed (turn off the news).
Shut your eyes from looking upon evil (again, turn off the news and restrict social media).
Do these things, consistently and across all aspects of your being and you can “live in” the fire. Yes the same fire that consumes others and their sinful works. When I read this today, I immediately thought of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, the three Hebrew slaves, who through the very integrity outlined in Isaiah’s conditions above, were recognized and gained favor and closeness with King Nebuchadnezzar, who was their captor and held their nation in slavery. The pagan king liked these guys for those very qualities. However, when they didn’t bow down to his hand-made golden god, he threw them in a fire so hot, it killed the men who bound and threw them into it.
In that fire Jesus came to them, and the four of them walked around in it. I’m sure Jesus wasn’t saying, “okay thirty seconds, we’ve got thirty seconds here.” No. They could have stayed as long as they wanted. They met the conditions ahead of time, so they could live in it.
Our culture thrusts sin upon us in ways so subtle that we scarcely recognize them. If I purpose to look at the gal in the grocery store, who is wearing sleek shiny yoga pants, for more than an instant, then I’m guilty of having committed adultery. I’m tired sometimes for just trying to keep track of recognizing those “little things” and have to judge myself constantly. But elsewhere in scripture, I’m told that “it’s the little foxes” (sins), which spoil all of me. (Song of Solomon 2:15). Here’s the thing though; judging myself is an activity which that very fire I want to live in, will burn up. I will get scorched when it does too, so where does that leave me? Right back where I started. I’ll just pay attention to the principles which God Himself has laid out for this. If I feel the heat, I’ll adjust until I don’t. That’s the sweet spot where people recognize that I have something they want, and I’ll know then, that I have the earned authority, to help them get it for themselves.