Isaiah 64 – Filth and Mammoths

Isaiah 64 Bible with Justins Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups on zebra plate

Today’s ChocolateJustin’s Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups

Today’s PassageIsaiah 64

I read an article this morning about the Social Survival Mammoth, which keeps you from doing stuff that will make people kick you out of your tribe and leave you to fend for yourself in the wild where you will probably starve or be eaten by a saber-toothed tiger. It’s largely useless to listen to your Social Survival Mammoth these days, as there is lots of food and the saber-toothed tiger is extinct, but we still do. And I am trying to write this post, wanting to write a good post that you will get something out of, and not wanting to write a bad post that you will ignore and not like and that will cause you to stop following my blog, and that’s my Social Survival Mammoth talking.

God does not have a Social Survival Mammoth.

God is powerful. Recalling his presence at Mount Sinai (Exodus 19:18-23), far back in Israel’s history, Isaiah writes, “When You did awesome things which we did not expect, You came down, the mountains quaked at Your presence” (64:3). What human being can shake a mountain all by himself? Isaiah adds, “Nor has the eye seen a God besides You” (64:4), highlighting God’s uniqueness in contrast to all other deities, recalling previous chapters. Isaiah’s so confident in God’s power–power unrestrained by fear of caring if human beings think he’s dumb or weird or useless–that he begins the chapter here by inviting God to tear a hole in the sky and come down to his people.

And then, after extolling God’s power, he drops this bomb: “And shall we be saved?” (64:5).

There’s no question God is powerful enough to save his people. But Isaiah asks: should he? Isaiah knows he and his fellow human beings, even the children of Israel, don’t deserve to be saved. “For all of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment” (64:6), he states, throwing in his lot with mankind and acknowledging our collective inadequacy. Even when Israel follows the law, Isaiah admits their “righteous deeds” are motivated by the filth in their hearts, desire for acceptance or desire to feel like a good person, not a desire to do what is good and to show their love for God.

So Isaiah is left with nothing but to appeal to God’s mercy. “Do not be angry beyond measure, O Lord, nor remember iniquity forever” (64:9). Because what could be worse for a being with a Social Survival Mammoth than to come before the perfect Judge, who judges perfectly, and then to be judged and found wanting?

 

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