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THOUGHTS FROM ISAIAH

THE SINFULNESS OF SIN

It is impossible for us to realize just how offensive sin is to God. This is true even for those of us who believe in God, and who know God by knowing his Son, Jesus Christ. Even for those of us who have begun to understand sin through the perspective of the cross. So great is the difference between God and us that we struggle to see sin as God sees it.

Here in Isaiah we find sin described in many different ways as God tries to get Israel to realize what they have done, and what they are doing, in rejecting him.

Sin is not knowing or acknowledging our Master [1:3].
Sin is not knowing our true home [1:3].
Sin is turning our backs on God [1:4; 59:13].
Sin is like putrid, open sores [1:6].
Sin is spiritual fornication and harlotry [1:9,10,21; 57:6-8].
Sin is like having hands full of blood [1:15].
Sin is being filled with impurities [1:22,25].
Sin is like diluted wine [1:22].
Sin is arrogance and self-exaltation [2:11-17; 4:9; 5:21].
Sin is trusting in man [2:22; 31:1].
Sin is the inversion of values and priorities [5:20].
Sin is like a raging bushfire [9:18].
Sin is having a covenant with death [28:18].
Sin is believing God is ignorant [29:15,16].
Sin is choosing to live apart from God’s instruction [30:1,2,9; 42:24].
Sin is rejecting the word of God [30:10,11].
Sin is basing one’s life on worthless deception [30:12-14; 59:13-15].
Sin is not calling upon God [43:22; 64:7].
Sin is an expression of spiritual ignorance and foolishness [44:9-20; 45:20].
Sin is quarrelling with one’s Maker [45:9].
Sin is being stubborn-hearted, stiff-necked and hard-headed [46:12; 48:4].
Sin is walking in the dark, with no light [50:10; 60:2].
Sin is having chains around one’s neck [52:2].
Sin is living in fear of idols [57:11].
Sin is not listening and not answering when God calls [65:12; 66:4].

Most of these definitions focus on the one sin from which all ‘sins’ arise: our rejection of God. Whether that rejection of God is expressed in self-reliance or in idolatry or in despising the word of God, it is rejection of God that is the key sin and the root of all individual sins. This rejection of God involves the absence of faith in God. This rejection of God involves a corrupt and distorted concept of God. The true God is not known.

Israel had a heritage of knowing about God – they knew about him as the Creator, they knew about him as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, they knew about him as the Redeemer, they knew about him as the ‘I AM’ – the eternal, self-existing One, they knew about him as the Lord Almighty, they knew about him as the Holy One. But they cast all of this aside. Like Adam and Eve in the garden, they discarded the truth about God and believed a lie. Hence we read Paul’s indictment against this sin which is foundational to all sins:

‘For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God, nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles … They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator … they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God …’ [Romans 1:21-23,25,28].

Hosea, bringing God’s word to a situation similar to Isaiah's, said:

‘… my people are destroyed from lack of knowledge …
a people without understanding will come to ruin’ [Hosea 4:6,14].

And here we may begin to understand not only the sinfulness of sin, but also the foolishness of sin: that when we reject God –

We are rejecting the most powerful Being in the universe.
We are rejecting the most glorious Being in the universe.
We are rejecting the most loving Being in the universe.

We are rejecting the Absolute – the One who transcends all else, the One who created all else, the One who sustains all else.

We are rejecting the One on whom we are totally dependent for our existence.
We are rejecting the One on whom our identity and our purpose depends.
We are rejecting the One who clothed us with dignity and honour.

In rejecting God we are also rejecting ourselves. In despising God we are also despising ourselves. Because what we are, our true humanness, is totally dependent on our connection with God.

God exists apart from us: but severed from him, we die.
God exists apart from us: but severed from him we are nothing.
God is the Lord of Glory regardless of what we do: but severed from him we are naked, poor, wretched, blind.

God does not need our praise and our obedience: but we need him.

Salvation is, therefore, sometimes defined in terms of knowing God:

‘… the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea’ [Isaiah 11:9].

‘ … so that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he’ [43:10].

‘… this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent’ [John 17:3].

Sin – rejection of God and all that flows from it - is totally out of order, totally inappropriate. Arising from the lie, not from the truth, it deceives us into believing that it is to our advantage to reject God and to despise his Word. However, the opposite is true: no matter how hard we try we will never destroy or dispose of God. He will survive our sin – but we do not. This foolish attempt of man to get rid of God results in our destruction, not God’s.

© Rosemary Bardsley 2014