Have you ever had a friend tell you that you had something on your face or a piece of food stuck between your teeth? If so, you know how embarrassing it can be when you are oblivious to a personal flaw everyone else can see. But, after our embarrassment has subsided, most of us are grateful that someone would care enough to let us know about something we needed to change rather than allowing us to walk around looking silly.
The people of Isaiah’s day did not want to hear about their sin and their need to repent. Instead, they wanted to continue going their own way rather than being challenged to conform their lives to God’s will. So, they encouraged the prophets to deliver messages they wanted to hear rather than being faithful to God’s word. This approach to God’s word would make them more comfortable in the short run, but would ultimately lead to their destruction.
I think we can all relate to this tendency to avoid the more difficult, convicting portions of God’s word. We like to hear messages that make us feel better about ourselves, but have a tendency to avoid messages that point out our sin and need for repentance. However, if we reflect on this tendency, we know that it will ultimately take us down a path in life that will lead to our harm. God’s reveals our sin and calls us to repentance because He knows that we can only experience the abundant life He would have us to know if we conform our lives to His will.
How do we avoid the error of avoiding the difficult parts of God’s word? First, we must commit ourselves to reading all of Scripture. Rather than focusing only on our favorite passages, we would do well to follow a Bible reading plan that takes us through all of Scripture so that we might hear all the messages God wants to speak to us. Second, we must be discerning when we read Christian books or listen to the messages of popular preachers. If we are never convicted of our sin through the books we read or the sermons we hear, it may be that we are only exposing ourselves to people who are composing messages we want to hear rather than confronting us with the truth we need to hear.
Isaiah 30:8-17 (ESV):
And now, go, write it before them on a tablet
and inscribe it in a book,
that it may be for the time to come
as a witness forever.
9 For they are a rebellious people,
children unwilling to hear
the instruction of the Lord;
10 who say to the seers, “Do not see,”
and to the prophets, “Do not prophesy to us what is right;
speak to us smooth things,
11 leave the way, turn aside from the path,
let us hear no more about the Holy One of Israel.”
12 Therefore thus says the Holy One of Israel,
“Because you despise this word
and trust in oppression and perverseness
and rely on them,
13 therefore this iniquity shall be to you
like a breach in a high wall, bulging out and about to collapse,
whose breaking comes suddenly, in an instant;
14 and its breaking is like that of a potter's vessel
that is smashed so ruthlessly
that among its fragments not a shard is found
with which to take fire from the hearth,
or to dip up water out of the cistern.”
15 For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel,
“In returning and rest you shall be saved;
in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.”
But you were unwilling, 16 and you said,
“No! We will flee upon horses”;
therefore you shall flee away;
and, “We will ride upon swift steeds”;
therefore your pursuers shall be swift.
17 A thousand shall flee at the threat of one;
at the threat of five you shall flee,
till you are left
like a flagstaff on the top of a mountain,
like a signal on a hill.