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Passage: Isaiah 1-4

On Friday, August 5, 2016 (Last Updated on 8/5/2019), Yujin wrote,

I have nourished and brought up children,
And they have rebelled against Me (Isaiah 1:2).

Is God a bad parent? Oftentimes, we judge parents by the character and aptitude of their kids. If God were judged by the character of Israel, we might conclude that God is a bad parent. Most of Israel's history is characterized by rebellion and disobedience. Yet, God is always good, always holy, and perfect in character. How can One who is good, holy and perfect be a bad parent? 

I've been wrestling with this question. The best I can come up with is that being a "good" parent is not God's priority. I believe He could lead His people in such a way that they would not be rebellious and disobedient, but it would not bring Him the highest glory, and this is a higher priority for God than good parenting. 

Here is an analogy that helps illustrates what I mean. Is a parent a good friend to her child? When looking at how a parent disciplines, demands respect, commands obedience, and limits allowances, one may conclude that such a parent is not a good friend to her child. Yet, the parent is faithful, consistent and loving. How can a parent, who is faithful, consistent, and loving be a bad friend?

Perhaps you get my drift. A parent is a parent first, not a friend, and there are times when these roles collide. A parent can be a good parent but a bad friend, and that is perfectly okay. It would not be okay if the parent became a good friend yet failed to be a good parent. 

Likewise, God is God first and not a parent. He is a good God, even if one might conclude He is not a good parent, at least as we understand parents to be. He does not intervene at every point to correct every mistake before these mistakes lead to severe and irreversible consequences. He does not constantly encourage His children at every turn and defend them against every attack, whether they be justified or not. He will sacrifice His children before He sacrifices His good Name. No, I cannot see that God is a "good" parent, but He is a perfect, holy and good God. 

We are called "children of God," but our hope is not secure on the basis of God's good parenting but on the basis of God's good promises. We are not saved because God makes us good by being a good parent to us. We are saved because He is good and so He alone can provide a perfect sacrifice to purify us from our sins. 

Friends, we are called to love God supremely, above our wife, above our children, above our very life. Before our familial relationships and responsibilities, we are His by virtue of creation and eternal redemption (cf. Psalm 100:3; Acts 17:28; Luke 14:26; 1 Corinthians 6:19-20; 2 Corinthians 5:15). Therefore, just as God's first responsibilty and ultimate loyalty is to Himself as God, so our first responsibility and ulitmate loyalty is to God, our Creator and Redeemer. Let us not forget this, thinking, "God is my Father, and so He'll patiently bear with me and come alongside and help me, even though sometimes I'm proud, selfish, immoral, and rebellious." He may, but not because He's a good parent, but because He is a good God, who keeps His promises. For I tell you, if you were not a recipient of His good promises in Jesus Christ, He would just as surely condemn you to an eternal hell filled with perpetual torment. No good parent would do this, but a good God surely could and would. 

Passage: Isaiah 1-4

On Tuesday, August 6, 2013 (Last Updated on 8/5/2019), Yujin wrote,

   Sons I have reared and brought up,
But they have revolted against Me...

ons who act corruptly!

They have abandoned the Lord

... transgressors and sinners will be crushed together,
And those who forsake the Lord will come to an end.

(Isaiah 1:2, 4, 27-28).

God says that the children He raised have revolted against Him and abandoned Him. And God declares that He would destroy them for their transgressions and sins by which they forsook Him.

Now, I want to speak to those that preach the Fatherhood of God or teach the Fatherly love of God or even the Fatherly discipline of God. Do you understand what you are saying? It is true that the Bible calls us to be like God, even to be perfect in love like God and holy as God is holy; however, have you fully and faithfully considered the implications of being like God.

Yes, the fatherhood of God does suggest forgiveness where there is sincere repentance. God does discipline some of His children so that they might become better. But isn't that only part of the picture? What about the discipline wherein He ruthlessly destroys His children with famine, plague and sword because of their sins and idolatry? And does He ever forgive where there is no repentance? Does He not instead reject and destroy forever those that continue to rebel against Him?

As we speak about the fatherhood of God, will we teach that although God reared the people of Israel, only the smallest remnant of them were saved? The rest often met horrible ends. If the children reflect the father, does this mean that God was a bad father since so many of His children became rebellious? Do we encourage fathers today to kill their own kids as God killed His children for their sins? 

No, no one teaches these things about God, even though this aspect of God is far more often found in the pages of Scripture than the romanticized picture of God that preachers often preach. We cherry pick what we like about God's "fatherhood" and simply ignore the rest. 

Friends, this is not preaching the whole counsel of Scripture. Alongside the parable of the prodigal son, which pictures the father waiting for his son to return to him, we must also preach the command of God to fathers to stone the child that curses his parents (cf. Leviticus 20:9; Deuteronomy 21:18-21). Why would you not preach the latter with the former? (Unless you have some kind of agenda) Now, there is good reason for not teaching parents to stone their incorrigible kids, but it does not stem from some heart-tugging notion of the fatherhood of God, unless you are willing to argue that God was a different father in the Old Testament than He was in the New Testament. 

Some say, "Now that I'm a father, I finally understand the love of the heavenly Father." No, I don't think so. You may have a deeper appreciation for your parents, particularly what they had to put up with when they had you, but I don't think having children gives you some special undestanding of the fatherhood of God. If you think that the attachment you feel to your children is God's attachment to His children, again you are mistaken. While God loves and forgives greatly, He also judges and condemns mercilessly. Not only strangers does He treat this way but even those He calls His own children. In some ways, I think our understanding of God gets skewed when we become fathers, because we tend to project our experience and understanding of fatherhood on God rather than listening to what God has said about the responsibilities we have as fathers.

Friends, while there is much in the Old Testament that we ought not to apply directly because we are no longer under the Old Covenant regulations, there are commands that are reiterated in the New Testament, as well as universal parenting principles, like those found in the Book of Proverbs, that we ought to rightly consider and apply. Often these have to do with teaching our chidren God's Word, telling them about God's works, and exercising a consistent discipline so that they learn to trust and obey God.

In the New Testament, there is very little regarding how parents should raise their children, but there are principles regarding the older mentoring the younger and commands for parents and grandparents to teach their children the Scriptures. But the one command that is clearly highlighted and repeated in the New Testament to fathers (even parents, as "fathers" was an expression that often included "mothers" as well) is the command for parents to instruct their children in the way of the Lord:

Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4). 

Fathers, do not exasperate your children, so that they will not lose heart. (Colossians 3:21).

It is somewhat interesting that Paul does not repeat the command to "bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord" in the parallel in Colossians. Yet, he explains the reason for fathers not to "exasperate" their children. "Exasperating" or "making embittered" or "provoking to anger" or "making resentful" are various translations that try to make sense of a word that is used only twice in the New Testament. But whatever is exactly meant, from Colossians we are led to understand that the goals is to keep them fom getting discouraged. So also, in a sense, the command to "bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord" stands on the opposite side of what might discourage them.

Perhaps the positive command to train them in the instruction of the Lord is excluded from Colossians because this instruction is carried over from Colossians 3:16, which has application to every believer. Also, since all these letters (i.e. the Prison Epistles: Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon) were carried together, they were likely also read by all the churches in the various regions, so that the believers in Colossae also read the letter to the Ephesians and vice versa. Putting the messages of the two letters together, the believers in both groups would have gotten a fuller understanding of the instruction regarding parents.

Friends, two things I would counsel. First, take messages regarding the "fatherhood of God" with a grain of salt, particularly when they only give a truncated version of God's nature or tend to cherry pick verses or take passages out of context to support the latest pschybabble about what acceptable parenting is all about. 

Second, take clear commands from Scripture, like what is given in Ephesians 6:4, seriously, and begin to apply these to your parenting.

Do not try to discover applications from obscure passages, like the parable of the prodigal son, which Jesus' Himself did not even explain, just because it paints a pretty picture of a father's love. The emphasis of that parable is not the father's love but rejoicing over a sinner's repentance. The three parables are in parallel, one about the lost sheep (cf. Luke 15:1-7), another about the lost coin (cf. Luke 15:8-10), and finally the last about the lost son (cf. Luke 15:11-31). The other two are explained as rejoicing in heaven over repentance, and it follows that the parable of the prodigal (i.e. the lost son) was meant to carry the same meaning. Jesus' parables generally teach one central truth. To try to find a main application from a side scenario in a parable is poor hermeneutics. It could lead to the dangerous practice of reading one's own views into the Scriptures. Therefore, focus on what is clear and resist the temptation to draw any major truth from what is obscure.

Passage: Isaiah 1-4

On Monday, August 6, 2012, Fernando wrote,
Isaiah 2
v1-4, the future with Jesus and the peace that'll envelop the world.

Transition: 5, O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord. (Be with God)

V6-21, the current sin and its coming terror for these sins

Transition: 22,Stop regarding man in whose nostrils is breath, for of what account is he? (Don't regard men)

Chapter 3
V1-9, things will be bad, your great men will be no more, none will be found.

V10, the righteous will be fine.
V11-ch 4:1,to the wicked, God will take his seat and judge, removing the nation's glory.

Chapter 4:2-6, those righteous who remain will be the glory of God, a place cleaned and blessed.

Passage: Isaiah 1-4

On Monday, August 6, 2012 (Last Updated on 8/6/2013), Yujin wrote,

Friends, there is much in the prophets, not only about the events contemporary to them but also to events even future to our day. For example, Isaiah speaks of the New Jerusalem:

In the last days, the mountain of the Lord’s house
    will be the highest of all—
    the most important place on earth.
It will be raised above the other hills,
    and people from all over the world will stream there to worship.
People from many nations will come and say,
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
    to the house of Jacob’s God.
There he will teach us his ways,
    and we will walk in his paths.”
For the Lord’s teaching will go out from Zion;
    his word will go out from Jerusalem.
The Lord will mediate between nations
    and will settle international disputes.
They will hammer their swords into plowshares
    and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation will no longer fight against nation,
    nor train for war anymore (Isaiah 2:2-4).

Compare this with what John writes in the Book of Revelation nearly 900 years later:

I saw no temple in the city, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. And the city has no need of sun or moon, for the glory of God illuminates the city, and the Lamb is its light. The nations will walk in its light, and the kings of the world will enter the city in all their glory. Its gates will never be closed at the end of day because there is no night there. And all the nations will bring their glory and honor into the city. Nothing evil will be allowed to enter, nor anyone who practices shameful idolatry and dishonesty—but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life (Revelation 21:22-27).

Both these passages speak of the exaltation of the Temple of God in the New Jerusalem in the last time. It speaks of a time when nations will stream into the glorious city in righteousness and to worship, and where the Lord will mediate all disputes, giving perfect justice to everyone. 

In Isaiah this predictive prophecy of the future is a stark contrast to the present injustices, idolatry and corruption. So, how can sinful Judah ensure their participation in that future glory? Simply, by repentance (Isaiah 1:27). What does this mean? It means an acknowledgement of sin, a trusting in God to cleanse, and a returning to the LORD in obedience:

“Come now, let’s settle this,”
    says the Lord.
“Though your sins are like scarlet,
    I will make them as white as snow.
Though they are red like crimson,
    I will make them as white as wool.
If you will only obey me,
    you will have plenty to eat.
But if you turn away and refuse to listen,
    you will be devoured by the sword of your enemies.
    I, the Lord, have spoken!” (Isaiah 1:18-20).

While this is an Old Testament charge, Isaiah writes of the "ways" and "paths" of the LORD in a way that seems to reach beyond the ordinances of the Mosaic Law with its conditional blessings and cursings. Even the language of God wiping out their sins ("as white as snow") is foreign to the Mosaic Covenant. This sounds more like the New Covenant (Jeremiah 31:31-34):

“The days are coming,” declares the Lord,
    “when I will make a new covenant 
with the people of Israel
    and with the people of Judah.
It will not be like the covenant 
    I made with their ancestors 
when I took them by the hand
    to lead them out of Egypt, 
because they broke my covenant,
    though I was a husband to them,”
declares the Lord.
“This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel
    after that time,” declares the Lord.
“I will put my law in their minds 
    and write it on their hearts. 
I will be their God,
    and they will be my people. 
No longer will they teach their neighbor,
    or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’
because they will all know me,
    from the least of them to the greatest,”
declares the Lord.
For I will forgive their wickedness
    and will remember their sins no more.

At the same time, Isaiah reinforces the conditional commands of the Mosaic Law in his call to obey God. If they obey, they "will have plenty to eat." If they disobey, they "will be devoured by the sword." So in Isaiah's day, there were two laws at work, the Promise of the New Covenant and the existing Old Covenant.

Today, the Old Covenant has been completely replaced by the New Covenant, so that there is no carrot of blessings for obedience and spectre of punishment for disobedience. We have only the great and wonderful promise of God fulfilled in Christ, such that our sins are wiped out and His righteousness has been imputed to us. With this, there is not so much a command to obey, as those had who were once slaves to sin, as much as the expectation of obedience from those now who are the adopted sons of God.

Friends, if you know Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord, you are born again into the family of God. You need not fear the curses associated with the Mosaic Law, nor should you try to make claims from any acts of obedience to the Mosaic Law. God has made your sins as white as snow. He has written His Law upon your hearts. No one needs to teach you to know the LORD because You do know Him. Your life experience is simply to work out what God has already and continues to work in you (Philippians 2:12-13).

Passage: Isaiah 1-4

On Saturday, August 6, 2011, Matt wrote,
The uniqueness of man from any other living thing on Earth is his ability to reason. Isaiah contrasts this with an ox & a donkey's simple obedience in Isaiah 1:3. It's this choice that one might say ironically is man's greatest weakness as well. When we choose to turn away from God we do so freely. Maybe it's because we don't know our master like the ox & donkey. How simple their life is but how much more are we to God? This verse in its simplicity shares God's basic desire for us to love him & want us to know him.

Passage: Isaiah 1-4

On Friday, August 6, 2010 (Last Updated on 8/6/2012), Fernando wrote,

1:13 Stop bringing me your meaningless gifts;
        the incense of your offerings disgusts me!

I like these kinds of comments.  I like them because it shows that faith is first. If the heart is not on God then the works are disgusting, to God.

1:17 Learn to do good.
        Seek justice.

Sanctification is something I have a hard time accepting.  In so much, that when I do the things I don't want to do, I feel let down (want to, not that I do, blame God - for not 'fixing me') or a hypocrite (false - as in not a true believer).  But it bothers me, and a resolve to try harder and try smarter. This "Learn to do good. Seek justice" calls us to move ourselves from where we are to what is more pleasing to God, 'try harder, try smarter.'