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How would you answer Jesus’ question, “For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life?” (Matthew 16.26).
I expect readers of my blog know the proper answer. A life devoted to Jesus and his plan for the world is more valuable than any possession anyone could acquire.
Unfortunately, the world around us does not share that view. The world has fully embraced the issues that Isaiah addressed in chapter 5.
Gathering and Squandering
If social media is any indicator, Americans are enamored with how big and beautiful are the houses of the stars. Pictures of yachts, private islands, penthouse apartments, and plush estates populate news stories of the rich and famous.
700 B.C. had its equivalent to American excess.
Ah, you who join house to house,
who add field to field,
until there is room for no one but you,
and you are left to live alone
in the midst of the land! (Isaiah 5.8)
What humans should do with the land has been a problem for God’s people since God told his people that the land belonged to him.
According to God, he only loaned land and possessions to us. They belong to him and we don’t own them.
If Jeremiah were to have a social media account, he would emphasize the importance of justice and righteousness instead of homes, property, and possessions.
13 Woe to him who builds his house by unrighteousness,
and his upper rooms by injustice;
who makes his neighbors work for nothing,
and does not give them their wages;
15 Are you a king
because you compete in cedar?
Did not your father eat and drink
and do justice and righteousness?
Then it was well with him.
16 He judged the cause of the poor and needy;
then it was well.
Is not this to know me?
says the Lord.
17 But your eyes and heart
are only on your dishonest gain,
for shedding innocent blood,
and for practicing oppression and violence. (Jeremiah 22:13, 15-17)
With frequent regularity, God states his concern. His people should be devoted to justice and righteousness and the care of the poor and needy.
The best approach toward material possessions is to have an open hand with them. When our hand is open, God can put in it anything he desires. He also can remove anything from our hands to use for the poor and needy.
As we think of material possessions, Paul’s message to the Colossians is instructive.
“Put to death, therefore, whatever in you is earthly: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed (which is idolatry)” (Colossians 3.5).
How many weight loss commercials do you see in a day on TV? How many encouragements to attend Alcoholics Anonymous or another sobriety program do you find on social media each day?
America is a society that is losing its life and soul because of pleasure-seeking activity. The same was true of Israel in Isaiah’s day.
11 Ah, you who rise early in the morning
in pursuit of strong drink,
who linger in the evening
to be inflamed by wine,
12 whose feasts consist of lyre and harp,
tambourine and flute and wine,
but who do not regard the deeds of the Lord,
or see the work of his hands! (Isaiah 5.11-12)
Isaiah points out the obvious. Our passion for pleasure pushes passion for God and his truth out of the way.
Pleasure-seeking activity can be so all-absorbing that spiritual sensitivity becomes dimmed.
The result is that we no longer have any interest in or ability to recognize how God is at work in the world.
Let’s not miss the fact that Isaiah’s Israel was very religious. However, they attempted to blend religion with materialism and pleasure-seeking.
They knew about God, but they didn’t understand what he was doing in the world.
They could recite the stories of God’s work, but they didn’t know God by experience.
Isaiah prophesied exile for the nation because they refused to see his activity in their world and chose pleasure over a relationship with him.
13 Therefore my people go into exile without knowledge;
their nobles are dying of hunger,
and their multitude is parched with thirst. (Isaiah 5.13)
Living a Jesus-Kind-of-Life
I frequently use Dallas Willard’s phrase, “Jesus-kind-of-life,” because it is so descriptive of the best life possible.
Jesus had the best personality of anyone who ever graced the face of the earth. He was the wisest, most joyful, most loving, and the most of every other good trait that we can imagine.
There is no doubt that God wants his beloved children to experience a life like the one Jesus lived on earth.
Isaiah knew two characteristics of living like Jesus. He wrote,
16 But the Lord of hosts is exalted by justice,
and the Holy God shows himself holy by righteousness. (Isaiah 5.16)
What makes God truly God is that he is essentially just and righteous. Jesus was a walking, living picture of how to live a just and righteous life.
Jesus traveled with male and female followers for three years without a single reported sex scandal. His righteousness was so powerful that it became the nature of his followers, too.
He lived a just life and taught his followers to do the same. His words about the “least of these” have challenged humanity for centuries.
“Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me” (Matthew 25.40).
I am sure we want to end up on the right end of Jesus’ question, “For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life?”
To do so, God counsels us to demonstrate practical expressions of righteousness and justice.
About This Blog
Rudy Ross is an excellent student of Isaiah. Rudy and I have a video you can see on the Bob Spradling YouTube Chanel.
Rudy will bring a different dimension to Isaiah than what is in my blog. I hope you will check out and enjoy my interviews with him.
I am indebted to a book by Dr. John Oswalt on Isaiah for his insights into this powerful book.
If you have a prayer request, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or private message me on Facebook. The Maywood Baptist prayer team will pray for you.