First, Last and in the Middle

money

All of the running around and avoiding the depth of our calling is really something far deeper than that. Our diversions of work, money, toys, arguments, winning and losing come down to where we place our own interests. We are either feeding our narcissism or humbling ourselves.

Isaiah 47:8 addresses the “lover of pleasures” whose hearts are saying, “I am, and there is no one besides me.” The conversation is in the middle of a lengthy discourse on the frailty of false gods. The lover of pleasures is a popular character in the American drama. In fact, it may be the star of the show.

If we stop to consider many of the problems we face in our culture today, we may find that much of our trouble is based in our increasing idolatry of self. Our freedoms born of individual rights have become secondary to our appetites of individual rewards. We have come to believe that respect and reward is due to us based simply on our existence.

The idols springing from a selfish heart are contrasted in Isaiah 48:12 as God declares “I am he; I am the first and I am the last.” He goes on in verses 17-19 to promise profit, direction, peace, righteousness, legacy and protection. All the things we strive for to begin with, but in His name and for His glory. His name, His glory, but still our benefit and without all of the anxiety that comes with the creation and preservation of our own little kingdom. His kingdom; our peace.

Isaiah 48 concludes with, “there is no peace . . . for the wicked.” The temptation is to consider “the wicked” as the criminals, homosexuals, addicts, poor people, those that don’t go to church or some other group that we can distinguish from ourselves. Remember, though, the discussion leading up to this statement was based in the idolatry of a heart that pursued its own pleasures. The contrast is not one of degrees within the idea of selflessness; it is one in which God is ” the first and . . . the last.”

This is a word for church-going suburbanite, not “those others” who are allegedly worse off in their sin. The compromise of materialism is not compatible with the totality of submission for His glory. His glory is the goal, not our achievement. For those that submit to His glory, the reward is covered in peace while those that chase from their appetites cannot outrun the anxiety of limitations.

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