Sunday, November 22, 2015

Moral Disparity and the Great Healer

Picutre By: Guillaume Paumier, CC-BY, from wiki commons

In the year king Uzziah died, Isaiah saw a vision of the Lord sitting on his throne (Isaiah 6:1-8). This glorious image brought Isaiah to his knees and he proclaimed, “Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among unclean people.” How is it that a man of God has to call out and proclaim that he is unclean as if he were a spiritual leper before God?

The distance between the individual human and the divine Creator is vast. But for a finite being distance from the omnipresent God is not spatial it is spiritual. As A.W. Tozer puts it, “That God is equally near to all parts of His universe is plainly taught in Scriptures, yet some beings experience His nearness and others do not, depending upon their moral likeness to him. It is dissimilarity that creates the sense of remoteness between creatures and between men and God.”  (Wiersbe W.W. (compiled by)(1989), The best of A.W. Tozer, p. 53)

Understanding Tozer’s concept of moral likeness, Isaiah at the beginning of the encounter was truly far from God. He was a man from a people who were so unclean, so morally dissimilar from God, that even though he saw God face to face he was far from God. And so he confessed his uncleanness before God. If God’s perfection is the standard for our moral life (Matthew 5:48) then can we ever approach God without crying “Unclean!” as Isaiah did?

I often wish contemporary American people would think about encounters like Isaiah’s when they seek to approach God in worship. I suspect that many who claim, “Better is one day in you courts than thousands elsewhere,” would cry out in holy terror and try to flee if by some miracle they were granted the words of this song.

These words are true. It is better to be one day in God’s courts than a thousand anywhere else. However it is better to be in God’s courts because He is the great physician. The moral dissimilarity between God and me will force me to fall to my face and cry out, “Woe to me for I am unclean!”

Isaiah was not left alone. After his proclamation of his uncleanness a seraph, an “attendant” of God, selected a burning coal. Placing the burning coal on Isaiah’s lips the angle declared him clean. I wonder what level of pain Isaiah felt when the coal touched his lips? He does not say.

It is interesting, though, that fire was used to clean the unclean lips. Clearly not comfortable, but it was a loving deed, for after the fire touched his mouth, and the angle declared him clean, the Lord was able to speak to Isaiah; Isaiah spoke back.

I often fear coming before God. For whenever I honestly approach God my sin is exposed. My moral failing condemns me and my moral distance from God is exposed. It is not God who condemns, but my own unclean heart that reveals my moral failing. Every time I seek to worship, my unclean eyes, lust, or pride is revealed so that I have to declare to God, “Woe is me! I am lost, for I am an unclean man from an unclean people.”

Is this not the love of God that he reveals to us our moral faults? The doctor, holding an X-ray riddled with cancer, can tell the patient about the disease within him. The doctor is loving when he tells the patient that he is dying. The doctor can now give hope for healing. Similarly when God comes near he shows us our moral cancer, not out of some sick pleasure at condemnation, but in hope that we will take His medicine.

My prayer is that as people sing about being in God’s courts they will long to be healed. My prayer is that they will stop singing idolatrous melodies and realize the truth of this song, “Better is one day Your courts, because You will diagnose me with fatal sin and heal me so I can respond to Your calling!” 

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