Thursday, June 16, 2011

What If We Just Did What It Says?

When things are complicated, they are almost always confusing. Priorities become mere nagging urgencies. Mission becomes a collection of programs. Busyness crowds out reflection. Details take over prayer time. Deadlines erase God-given lifelines.
I would like to suggest that Isaiah 12:3,4 serves as an identity statement and a mission statement for God's rescued people. There have been hard, chastening times (chs 7-10), but God's comfort has returned (12:1). In this flush of relief, salvation and favor, there is a promise (the identity statement), and then instructions (the mission statement).
The promise reads: "With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation" (12:3). This phrase embodies my main illustrations for the NT phrase, "out of the faith of Jesus Christ" (e.g., Galatians 3:22, "so that the promise flowing out of the faith of Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe."). Rather than seeking to draw the water-for-the-day from the well of the works of the Law, perpetually refreshing life is freely available from the well of faith in the faithful Christ. So long as we seek to gain favor with God by drawing water from the well of the Law, we can enjoy neither joy nor life, just pulling and straining and sweating and lugging that dead weight time and time again. But the divine and perfect Jesus brings a fountain of living waters to us. He is my "well of salvation." "With joy you will draw water" from Christ.
So the promise directs us to Jesus. It is all about knowing him, trusting him, following him. There really is nothing else. This should be neither complicated nor confusing.
So if you know Jesus, what do you do with others who know Jesus (the local church)? There are four phrases in Isaiah 12:4 
  1. Give thanks to the Lord
  2. Call upon his name
  3. make known his deeds among the peoples
  4. proclaim that his name is exalted 

Each of these implies some kind of verbalization (though "make known" can be done through deeds). Numbers 2 and 4 point to the Lord's (number 1) name, while number 3 refers to his deeds. 
Numbers 1 and 2 are things that believers do together. Number 3 is our service and witness. Number 4 is announcing or heralding the greatness of God that must take place in assemblies, in homes, and in the marketplace.
So what if we just did what it says? First, live the promise. Be your identity. Live life with Jesus as the fountain of life. Defer to him; depend on him.
Then, with other believers, obey and fulfill the mission. Spend time giving thanks (1) for the dramatic reversal of God's rescue in our lives. And pray (2). Confess sins; seek God's will and ways; pray for fresh expressions of the life of God in our lives and in the lives of others. Pray for mighty manifestations of His presence and power.
Next, make known his deeds (3) among the nations. The assembly of believers needs to learn together and from each other how to demonstrate the character of God in daily life, in front of neighbors and associates. Our commitments to truth and mercy and forgiveness must reflect God's truth, mercy and forgiveness.
But don't stop there. Our Scripture instruction includes "proclaim that his name is exalted." Boldly state your reason for living, and that for which you would die. Talk about someone instead of yourself, someone more interesting than your kids, and someone more worthy than your lastest purchase or vacation. He should be preached "in" church, and "as" church. This will begin to make sense as we obey the other instructions, and will make little sense if we neglect them.
The Book of Isaiah is called "the gospel of the Old Testament." This verse could be a version of "the Great Commission" of the Old Testament. Or maybe it is just a brief instruction to believers, directing them to just do what it says.

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