Monday, February 24, 2014

Isaiah 48:18 -- On Giving Peace a Chance

"O that thou hadst hearkened to my commandments! then had thy peace been as a river, and thy righteousness as the waves of the sea:"
Isaiah 48:18

Peace is something that I think we all seek.  Maybe not in every moment... we like some excitement now and then, but overall, we need to be able to rest, to not always feel uncertain or troubled.  And peace in general, between people, would be nice so that we didn't have so much contention and war.  And I think that the peace that God offers goes well beyond this, to that inner peace that allows personal stillness and a feeling of being okay, even when the whole world is turmoil around us.

How do we get that peace?  This verse clearly tells us that it is available through obedience to the commandments.  And just so that we don't get the wrong idea... it isn't a reward for obedience, like you do what I say and I'll give you an ice cream cone.  If it was just that, we could walk away and get our own ice cream.  Peace is a natural result of obedience.  God's laws are designed to help us find peace, by their very nature.  And if we obey them, we will find peace waiting for us as something that is a result of those obedient actions.  Peace doesn't come any other way. 

Verse 22 of this same chapter tells us that there is no peace to the wicked.  This isn't because the wicked got put on the naughty list, so God turned off their access.  This is because we turn off our own access when we do wicked things.  Wicked things are not conducive to peace.  Righteous and obedient things are.

I think we get the wrong idea about God sometimes, thinking that because he loves us so much that surely he will understand our personal circumstances, and allow us to be exceptions... he will grant us happiness and peace even when we stray, or even when we break commandments, because surely we can't be blamed, or punished, for whatever it is.   And we don't realize that it is more like learning to play the piano.  We're asking God to grant us the talent to play at Carnegie Hall when we have refused, over and over and over again to practice, or even learn the notes.  He's told us how to get there, and he's offered to help... to sit with us, to help us remember, to work with us one on one as an expert teacher so that we can master the piece.  ... And even though we refuse his help, we expect that we'll be able to walk up on that stage and play perfectly because God will magically grant us what we have refused to learn.  He does love us, incredibly, but learning doesn't work that way.

It isn't exactly the same as learning the piano, of course, but I do think that similar to love, the highest forms of happiness and peace are skills that we learn over time, not just the emotions we feel in a moment.  Today, let's practice those skills through obedience and righteousness.  God is trying to teach us something that will make our lives much better... happier, and more contented.  Let's give obedience a chance to work in our lives.

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