Friday, January 15, 2016

the two-edged sword of the LORD

The Word for today:
Isaiah 49:1-50:3
mark this: Isaiah 49:2--
He made my mouth like a sharpened sword,
in the shadow of his hand he hid me;
he made me into a polished arrow
and concealed me in his quiver.
Be careful how you hold that Bible. That thing is designed to cut!
Isaiah prophesied that the mouth (the message) of the Servant of the LORD would be like a sharp sword. (1)
Ephesians tells us that the sword of the Spirit is the Word of God. (2)
The Bible must often hurt before it heals. It lays a life bare, revealing the unseemly innards:
For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12)
Many people are uncomfortable around the Bible and Jesus, because as the Word and the Word made flesh, they are an indictment of our deepest secrets and motives.
We often try to deny what the Bible says about sin, especially our own sin. By erecting a facade, or clothing ourselves in camouflage, we can fool our friends and our families. We can even fool ourselves. I know, because I raised 'fooling myself' to an art form.
But we can't hide from the Bible's penetrating analysis. It cuts through all of our rationalizing, all of our moral equivocation, and all of the flat-out b.s. we hide behind.
The first function--the first cut--of the Bible is to show that we fall short (1), that we are sinners. That is the purpose of what the Bible calls "the law." The law is a diagnosis of our condition. The diagnosis is not pretty.
Many who don't want to forsake their sin shut the Bible right there. They never proceed past the law. So they never reach the remedy that God has provided.
They might insist that they have "intellectual reservations" about scripture. They might raise "philosophical objections." They will begin to talk about anything other than the problem--their sin; about anything other than the remedy--Jesus. Some will actively belittle the Bible. Instead of attacking their sin, they will attack the sword which revealed it:
"It's irrelevant," we hear some say.
Oh, really? Billions today believe in the Bible. Millions upon millions build their lives around it. It remains the central force of history.
But maybe by the standards of your dinky little neighborhood in 'Frisco or Wichita or Kalamazoo, amongst your insulated little coterie of friends, all of you with the same one-sided education; maybe by the standards of your dinky little life in rich, spoiled, TV-and-gadget-addled, 21st century America, where self is King; maybe there, judged by those standards, scripture's not "relevant."
But in the bigger picture of space and time, against the backdrop of the infinite cosmos--which shows you and I, this time and this place to be just drops in the bucket, just dust on the scales (4)--it will be seen that we don't define the Bible's relevance. The Bible defines ours.
[If those remarks were cutting, it might be the sword of the LORD trying to get through.]
"It doesn't correspond to science," we hear some say.
Thank God it sometimes doesn't. Because wait a month, a year, a decade, and science will deny what it formerly proclaimed. "Science" (by their shallow definition of that term) will turn on itself or make excuses for itself on a regular basis--while the Bible stands unmoved and unmovable. No one has been able to take it down a single peg. Lord knows they try.
The real cause of their opposition towards the Bible is that the truth hurts. The real cause of their enmity towards the Bible is that the sword of the LORD is a threat to the domain of darkness. The real cause of their hatred towards the Bible is their love of sin:
Their judgment is based on this fact: The light from heaven came into the world, but they loved the darkness more than the light, for their actions were evil. (John 3:19)
At the very pit of their hearts, many do not want to turn away from sin. For them, sin isn't a snare. Sin is actually the love of their lives. The Word of God and Jesus--the Word made flesh--are the only real threats to their Beloved, sin.
But if a person means business about forsaking his sin, he will continue on in the Bible. And he will discover God's amazing grace--that God turned the sword on himself in order to heal the disease the sword had revealed.
Whenever any person considers the whole of scripture--the problem and the solution, the law and the grace, the condemnation and the cross--all of his so-called intellectual reservations will begin to evaporate.
There are two sides to the sword of God. One side functions as a lance or scalpel, cutting just deeply enough to expose my sin, and yours. That's the cut meant to heal.
The other edge of the sword has never been aimed at anyone but Jesus. With that edge God cuts to kill; for it is by His stripes that we are healed. (Isaiah 53:5)
One edge is meant to expose sin. Jesus never felt that edge, because he had no sin to reveal. The other edge is meant to punish sin. That's the edge I'll never know, because Jesus took it for me.
(1) Isaiah 49:2; (2) Ephesians 6:17; Romans 3:23; (4) Isaiah 40:15

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