Fire or Fire?
Pray that God’s Word to you today will inspire, instruct and purify you as you read and meditate on it.
Read Isaiah 1:21-31
 See how the faithful city has become a prostitute! She once was full of justice; righteousness used to dwell in her- but now murderers!  Your silver has become dross, your choice wine is diluted with water.  Your rulers are rebels, partners with thieves; they all love bribes and chase after gifts. They do not defend the cause of the fatherless; the widow’s case does not come before them.  Therefore the Lord, the LORD Almighty, the Mighty One of Israel, declares: “Ah! I will vent my wrath on my foes and avenge myself on my enemies.  I will turn my hand against you; I will thoroughly purge away your dross and remove all your impurities.  I will restore your leaders as in days of old, your rulers as at the beginning. Afterward you will be called the City of Righteousness, the Faithful City.”  Zion will be delivered with justice, her penitent ones with righteousness.  But rebels and sinners will both be broken, and those who forsake the LORD will perish.  “You will be ashamed because of the sacred oaks in which you have delighted; you will be disgraced because of the gardens that you have chosen.  You will be like an oak with fading leaves, like a garden without water.  The mighty man will become tinder and his work a spark; both will burn together, with no one to quench the fire.” Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. All rights reserved throughout the world. Used by permission of International Bible Society.
ReflectWhat ray of hope does Isaiah give the people?
The second half of Isaiah 1 begins with a lament over the moral and social degeneracy of Judah: righteousness and justice had been replaced by murder and bribery, and the weakest suffered most. No one looked after orphans and widows. Everything was compromised, and the prophet was beside himself with anger and grief. But he knew that God would act to purify the nation through the coming disaster. Where the social and moral capital was totally debased (22), God would purify (25) and smell out injustice and sin. There could be only one response to ensure deliverance from the coming fire of God’s judgment: repentance (27). The alternative was too awful to contemplate: utter destruction (28), and shame in the conflagration to come (31). It is not a vision of God we find pleasant today but Isaiah understands that God’s love for his people is matched by his hatred of injustice, and that he will demonstrate both. T.S. Eliot says this in his Four Quartets: “We only live, only suspire, consumed by either fire or fire.” It’s either the fire of the Spirit’s purification or the fire of his destruction: pure gold or nothing.
In what areas do you, your church and your nation need the Spirit’s “purification”? Pray about it.
Merciful Lord, You know well where the sin is in my life. Purify my heart, that I might serve You wholly.
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