When I went into full time ministry I thought most of my time would be spent encouraging and being encouraged by God’s people as we discovered what God’s word was saying together and as we put it into practice. I thought the remainder of my time would be spent speaking to people who did not follow God about why it would be a good and rational step for them to start to follow him.
Now these two wonderful things ARE a significant part of my ministry BUT I had no idea how much of my time would be spent encouraging those who professed to follow God to keep following him.
I wonder if Isaiah realised that would also be a significant part of his ministry. Sadly, the people of God seemed pretty set on following everything else other than God. But Isaiah points out there are massive consequences for rejecting God. Unfaithfulness to God and their covenant obligations will produce two divine responses.
The first response is seen in Isaiah 1:25-26 where God says he will bring upon them his divine judgement. But he also says why he will do this, so remove their impurities to make them in to a faithful city (that is a faithful people who follow God). This is God’s second response – restoration.
Incredibly the rest of the bible actually goes on to show exactly how God will make his unfaithful people his faithful people. There are many sign posts in Isaiah pointing this out and we look back on God’s great rescue plan for his people and the miraculous intervention of God’s compassionate grace for us his unfaithful people.
So as we read Isaiah together we must see that despite God’s great rescue of us in Jesus, he always takes our unfaithfulness to heart. God earnestly desires that we, his unfaithful people whom he has redeemed, actually live out the life he has won for us. That is what we read in passages like Gal 5:25 (one of our memory verses) – “since we live by the Spirit let us keep in step with the Spirit” – live out what God has redeemed us for.
Knowing how disastrous unfaithfulness is (and I do not think we need to go far to see how unfaithfulness towards God is destroying the lives of people today) we should therefore work hard at faithfulness…. at keeping in step with the Spirit.
Look at Gal 5:22 to see what someone who is ‘keeping in step with the Spirit’ looks like – they love, are patient, are kind, are filled with joy and peace, goodness, gentleness, self control and faithfulness. I reckon faithfulness towards the God of the Bible would make better news stories each night so why do we not work hard at putting into practice faithfulness – to the glory and honour of God’s name, not to earn our salvation.