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God’s Word for You

Isaiah 33:10-16

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Wednesday, April 9, 2008

10 “Now will I arise,” says the LORD.
     “Now will I be exalted;
     now will I be lifted up.
11 You conceive chaff,
     you give birth to straw;
     your breath is a fire that consumes you.
12 The peoples will be burned as if to lime;
      like cut thornbushes they will be set ablaze.”

Those who stick their toes into the useless schemes of the devil—and they are all useless—will reap what comes out the other end. “You conceive chaff, you give birth to straw.” But God isn’t warning people that their sins will amount to nothing. He is warning people that their sins brings on death, fire, and hell.

When God rises up, makind either cowers or cheers. God is the judge. Either a person already knows the verdict, or else he is terrified and with good cause: “they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life” (Matthew 25:46).

13 You who are far away, hear what I have done;
     you who are near, acknowledge my power!

I can’t help but think of king Herod, who was praised after a pretty good speech. Some of the people shouted out, “This is the voice of a god, not of a man!” (Acts 12:22). When Herod chose not to correct them, God struck him with a terrible wasting disease. He was eaten by worms from within and he died. God commands: Acknowledge my power! When mankind dares to take credit for what God has done, do we expect God to be silent? When mankind gives random chance or evolution the credit for what God has done, do we expect God to sit idly by and smirk and think to himself, “Those crazy folks and their modern newfangled 19th-Century Darwin…”

God tells us to expect something a little different. Jeremiah warned, “Give glory to the Lord your God before he brings the darkness, before your feet stumble” (Jeremiah 13:16).

14 The sinners in Zion are terrified;
     trembling grips the godless:
“Who of us can dwell with the consuming fire?
     Who of us can dwell with everlasting burning?”
15 He who walks righteously
     and speaks what is right,
who rejects gain from extortion
     and keeps his hand from accepting bribes,
who stops his ears against plots of murder
     and shuts his eyes against contemplating evil—
16 this is the man who will dwell on the heights,
     whose refuge will be the mountain fortress.
His bread will be supplied,
     and water will not fail him. (NIV)

In the Talmud, a Rabbi named Rava imagined a heavenly tribunal in which people are asked whether they did the sorts of things mentioned in these verses: “Did you conduct your business with integrity? Did you set aside time for the study of the Torah? Did you raise a family? Did you persist in the hope for redemption? Did you search after wisdom? Were you able to tell one truth from another?” He implies that most people would not be able to say “yes” to these things, but that if we remembered that our treasure is “the fear of the Lord,” (Isaiah 33:6), we would have nothing to be afraid of. (Tractate Shabbat: Patience and the Fear of God). But he misunderstands the point of this chapter. The fear of the Lord itself is not the treasure. It is the key to the treasure. The treasure is the forgiveness we have through Jesus, that brings us into a right relationship with God. That’s what enables us to “walk righteously,” and “speak what is right.”

Jesus will never fail us. Jesus supplies what we need. Certainly Isaiah was just talking about food when he mentioned “bread” and “water,” but how can we forget that the Lord has offered us his forgiveness in the bread of the Lord’s Supper, and that he has washed away all of our sins in the water of baptism?

In his forgiveness, we walk and live our lives and share the message of salvation. “I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life” (John 5:24). He will never fail us.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim SmithAbout Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. His wife, Kathryn, attended the Chapel from 1987-1990 while studying Secondary Education (Theater and Math) at UW-Madison. Kathryn’s father, John Meyer, was also the first man to serve as a Vicar at Chapel.

To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.