Tuesday, Dec. 3 – Banzen Warren

3 Dec

Tuesday, Dec. 3 – Hope

Today’s Scripture:
Isaiah 40:1-11; Romans 8:9-11

The old man in the hospital bed, after yet another brush with death, was visited by the hospital chaplain – standard procedure when one is thought likely to pass before morning. “I don’t need a chaplain; I need a good doctor.” His children, who had gathered in the room in this desperate hour, could only look away, embarrassed by his dismissive remark to the kind, patient stranger with caring eyes and a warm smile. The chaplain, apparently unfazed, offered to come back later.

And so it was with Israel, a stiff-necked and prideful people, who had, time and again, put their faith – their hope – in their own strength, the might of their military, or the “wisdom” of their kings. And, like the old man in the hospital bed, they were defeated, weak, dying. They had invited judgement and they had suffered and they deserved their miserable plight.

And it is in this context that arguably the most powerful, and to this day perhaps the most familiar, messianic prophesy was given in the days of the prophet Isaiah.

Comfort, comfort my people,
says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
and proclaim to her
that her hard service has been completed,
that her sin has been paid for,
that she has received from the Lord’s hand
double for all her sins.
A voice of one calling:
“In the desert prepare
the way for the Lord;
make straight in the wilderness
a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be raised up,
every mountain and hill made low;
the rough ground shall be made level,
the rugged places a plain.
And the glory of the Lord will be revealed,
and all mankind together will see it.
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”
A voice says, “Cry out.”
And I said, “What shall I cry?”
“All men are like grass,
and all their glory is like the flowers of the field.
The grass withers and the flowers fall,
because the breath of the Lord blows on them.
Surely the people are grass.
The grass withers and the flowers fall,
but the word of our God stands forever.”
You who bring good tidings to Zion,
go up on a high mountain.
You who bring good tidings to Jerusalem,
lift your voice up with a shout,
lift it up, do not be afraid;
say to the towns of Judah,
“Here is your God!”
See, the Sovereign Lord comes with power,
and his arm rules for him.
See, his reward is with him,
and his recompense accompanies him.
He tends his flock like a shepherd:
He gathers the lambs in his arms
and carries them close to his heart;
he gently leads those that have young.
– Isaiah 40: 1-11

I’m no theologian, so I would be hard-pressed to dissect this passage verse by verse so that one might fully appreciate the incredible richness and depth of these 11 verses. But I would contend that this gem summarizes the gospel in it’s entirety. The book of Isaiah provides a painfully honest account of the repeated failings of Israel, the people of God. It is certainly reflective of our own struggles to faithfully follow God.

The early chapters of the book of Isaiah leave the legalist drowning in hopelessness. Written by “a man of unclean lips” who lives “among a people of unclean lips”, it seems unlikely that these misfits will ever be able to appease a righteous and holy God. But, just as we have all experienced in our own lives, hope arises with the revelation of God’s character. And He demonstrates that He is long-suffering – patient beyond our imagination. He is merciful and quick to forgive and He is abundant in love. He is the father who runs to greet the prodigal son and He gives us good gifts that are invariably more than we deserve.

So, what of the old man in the hospital bed. As a young man, he was a steadfast follower of Christ who was well-versed in the scriptures. Over the years, disappointed by what he experienced in church, he drifted away and he increasingly put his trust in people, the “good doctors” if you will, rather than God. His once encyclopedic knowledge of the Bible, was recited less, and some who did not know him well would think that this old codger had never darkened the door of a church in his whole life.

He died a few months back after a long illness. And when I went to my dad’s funeral, I was amazed at the peace I felt. The God of Isaiah 40 was with me that day. My dad, like the nation of Israel, had stumbled and fallen time and again and he never did “get it right.” But I believe his sin debt was paid. And the hope that has carried me through good times and bad was made still stronger as I plumbed the depths of His love and forgiveness.

-Banzen Warren

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2 Responses to “Tuesday, Dec. 3 – Banzen Warren”

  1. Tara December 3, 2013 at 10:27 am #

    What a powerful post. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Charmane December 3, 2013 at 10:37 am #

    Thanks Banzen. You are so right, “Hope arises with the revelation of God’s character”…good word this morning… Love you Brother.

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