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Jeremiah’s evaluation of the human inside condition is quite revealing.
The heart is devious above all else;
it is perverse—
who can understand it? (Jeremiah 17.9)
Like Jeremiah, Isaiah revealed the inner workings of the mind of his audience. They believed that they trusted God, but did they have faith or did they deceive themselves?
To Hear and to Obey
When God speaks, all humanity should be listening. The proper process is like this: God speaks, we listen, and we follow his directions.
In Isaiah 48, God spoke to remove self-deception and to bring clarity to what amounts to true faith.
Hear this, O house of Jacob,
who are called by the name of Israel,
and who came forth from the loins of Judah;
who swear by the name of the Lord,
and invoke the God of Israel,
but not in truth or right.
For they call themselves after the holy city,
and lean on the God of Israel;
the Lord of hosts is his name. (Isaiah 48.1-2)
The common belief of the Hebrew people was:
— They were God’s people.
— They were people of prayer.
— They trusted God, the Lord of hosts.
God’s message to them was that they had deceived themselves and their thinking was neither true nor right.
James, the brother of Jesus, addressed the church with a similar message. He wrote:
“What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you?
“So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.
“But someone will say, ‘You have faith and I have works.’
“Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith.
“You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe — and shudder.
“Do you want to be shown, you senseless person, that faith apart from works is barren?” (James 2.14, 17-20).
One of our Maywood Baptist sayings summarizes Isaiah and James. We say, “Don’t talk about it, be about it.”
Genuine faith is more than talk. People of faith hear what God has to say and respond with active obedience.
The Obedience of Faith
We demonstrate our faith when we submit our attitudes and actions to God’s direction.
Paul believed that God had called him to be an apostle to bring about “the obedience of faith” (Romans 1.5).
Isaiah revealed a kind of human deception that claims to have faith, but one that is absent of obedience.
The former things I declared long ago,
they went out from my mouth and I made them known;
then suddenly I did them and they came to pass.
Because I know that you are obstinate,
and your neck is an iron sinew
and your forehead brass,
I declared them to you from long ago,
before they came to pass I announced them to you,
so that you would not say, “My idol did them,
my carved image and my cast image commanded them.” (Isaiah 48.3-5)
A common issue faced the Hebrew people. Did they believe that the One True God would be active on their behalf, or did they need to rely on something else?
James described this kind of thinking as “double-minded.” He wrote, “But ask in faith, never doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind;
“For the doubter, being double-minded and unstable in every way, must not expect to receive anything from the Lord” (James 1.6-8).
A double-minded person has a Plan A, which may include prayer and reliance upon God. However, the person also has a Plan B that relies on something or someone other than God.
The same people who claimed to be God’s people had stiff necks and brass foreheads. They trusted God but also had a Plan B at the ready.
God puts our inside condition under a microscope and wants us to see the kind of self-deception that claims to follow him while we trust our own devices.
A Message of Trust
If you are familiar with the Book of Isaiah, it will not surprise you that faith is one of the most important themes of the book.
Isaiah’s word to King Ahaz summarizes the necessity of faith.
If you do not stand firm in faith,
you shall not stand at all. (Isaiah 7.9)
We will stand when we make God the foundation of our lives.
Faith is best expressed with the kind of obedience that submits our will to God’s guidance.
If you are willing and obedient,
you shall eat the good of the land;
But if you refuse and rebel,
you shall be devoured by the sword;
for the mouth of the Lord has spoken. (Isaiah 1.19-20)
About This Blog
Rudy Ross and I produce a daily video of these blog articles on the Bob Spradling YouTube channel. Rudy is Jewish, a Christian, and an excellent Bible student. The videos present insights from a dialogue with the two of us.
I am indebted to Dr. John Oswalt, who has written an excellent two-volume commentary on Isaiah for insights into the Book of Isaiah.
Please email your prayer requests to me at email@example.com or private message me on Facebook. The Maywood Baptist Church prayer team will pray for you.