Trembling at the Word

This spring I have immersed myself in the Book. I have understood that the welfare of my family is somehow tied to how faithfully I adhere to the dictates of this Book. Admittedly there were some confusing parts, some passages that I didn’t understand but which applied to me and my family. I can’t say that I always applied those passages exactly in the right way, but I asked people that I trusted that did understand those passages and was able to correct the things that I had originally had mis-applied. The interpretations of those people I trusted – all professionals – didn’t always agree. There was some difference of opinion, but I had to finally interpret those passages as my conscience allowed me to, and if I am called to account for my interpretation, I won’t have to fumble around and point to someone else with the disclaimer, “It was their opinion…” I know my reasons for understanding and applying them as I did.

Every part of the Book had something for me, though not everything in every part. I admit to ignoring some parts that I didn’t understand but which didn’t apply to my situation anyway, but I at least skimmed over those sections to be sure nothing was pertinent to my life. Some parts I read multiple times and even found some of the same ideas in more than one place. I assumed that when that happened the authors did that to be sure I didn’t miss something important. I also noticed that the authors used different types of literary conventions in the Book, because it seemed that those different literary devices could more easily be understood.

In the end, I tried to be extremely careful that I did everything that the Book required of me, because I took seriously the warnings concerning penalties if I didn’t comply.

Oh, was I unclear? I was referring the IRS Instructions for the 1040 Tax Form. Did you think I was referring to a different Book?

This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word (Is 66:2).

I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven (Matt 5:18-19).

Unwise Men from the East

You have abandoned your people, the house of Jacob. They are full of superstitions from the East; they practice divination like the Philistines and clasp hands with pagans (Is. 2:6).

As if God needed anything else to bring judgment, Isaiah identifies Eastern mysticism as one of the reasons for it. Since the 1960s America also has been filled with the influences of Eastern religions, some of which have come through the use of illegal drugs.  The series of movies known as “Star Wars” have introduced us here in the West to the Eastern idea that there are two equal “forces” at work in this world – one for good and one for evil. Yoga has become so common an exercise that many churches today sponsor classes, not to mention the Young Men’s CHRISTIAN Association (YMCA). This, despite the fact that it originated from and is an integral part of Hinduism. Some view the martial arts as merely a form of exercise, but it is clear that many others see a relationship between them and Eastern thought.

But these ideas stand opposed to the worship of the Triune God. People who practice the various Eastern religions in most cases set up shrines in their homes with gods of wood and stone, directly violating the commands to make no graven image and to have no other god but the Lord. The forces of good and evil are not equal in Christian thought – the Triune God is supreme and sovereign while the devil must seek His permission to afflict us (see Job 1:6). In addition, it is clear that the “Force” of Star Wars is just something to be used or manipulated while Christians are called to serve their God, not manipulate Him for their own ends.

Just as Eastern superstitions contributed to the judgment that God brought upon His people in ancient times, so it will contribute to judgment in our day as well. We in the West have drifted from the worship of the Triune God as revealed in our Scriptures and have set every other religious system on an equal footing. It is no wonder that the Lord who declared, “I am, and there is no other” (Is. 45:5) would be offended that we have entertained, and even set as equal, what is beneath Him. Truly we are worshiping “the creature rather than the Creator” (Rom. 1:25).

The call that Isaiah issued is the same for us – repentance. Nothing else will save us. The one He esteems is the one who is “humble, contrite and trembles at His Word” (66:2).

Weighed In the Scales

You have been weighed on the scales and found wanting (Dan 5:27).

I consider this to be one of the most tragic verses in all of the Scripture.

Belshazzar the grandson of Nebuchadnezzar was the co-regent of Babylon when this event took place. His father, Nabonidus ruled with him and was away from Babylon when Belshazzar decided to throw a party. At this party he thought it would be great fun to mock the Jews in his kingdom by using the fancy goblets that had been brought from the Temple before it had been destroyed. With these he toasted the wooden and stone gods of Babylon, elevating them to a position above the God of the Jews. After all, since the Jews were subservient to the Babylonians, their God must be as well.

What Belshazzar forgot – but the text makes clear that he knew about – was that his grandfather had been banished to the open field for a period of time – likely 7 years – until he acknowledged that the God of the Jews was the true God. Maybe it would be better to say that Belshazzar “chose not to remember” this incident, because despite his knowledge he flaunted his gods and his power in the face of his Creator.

His feeling of invincibility was understandable. The Babylonian Empire was at its zenith. The city was impregnable, with a major river running through it to keep the people supplied with fresh water even if someone tried to lay siege to it. But what Belshazzar didn’t know was that while he and his friends were partying, the Medes had dammed up the river enough to allow their soldiers to wade into the city without the Babylonian guard becoming aware of it. Daniel’s prophecy that Belshazzar would be killed that night came true.

Sadly – on a smaller, less dramatic scale – the judgment pronounced against Belshazzar is continually being leveled against men in this generation every day. Despite all the evidences of His existence, His power and His sovereignty men flaunt the gods of their own making before Him, declaring them to be greater than He is. The same declaration of judgment is theirs: “You have been weighed in the scales and found wanting.”

But it doesn’t have to be. This same God that Daniel and his people worshiped has revealed Himself in Jesus, proving countless times that He was and is God in flesh who went to the cross for us and for our salvation. Because He has clothed us in His righteousness, when we are weighed in the scales, they are tipped in our favor. We are no longer “wanting.”

But there is no “in between.” Either a man is found “righteous” or found “wanting.” I hope you have made the right choice.