The Great and Terrible DayFr. Barnabas Powell
“You’re the meanest daddy in the world!” With that declaration, my daughter informed me that I was both unfair and unreasonable to expect her to clean up the mess she had made with the play dough. By the way, I’m convinced play dough was invented by demons for the tormenting and temptation of parents!
From my daughter’s immature perspective, she saw no problem between her freedom to leave the living room a mess and her enjoyment of the play dough. She was perfectly content to avoid any consequence and responsibility for her actions. And, the fact that I, as her father, had insisted she accept responsibility and then clean up her mess, meant I was mean and cruel and horrible.
But that’s the way we feel about our relationship with God at times. Haven’t we interpreted the sad consequences of our actions at times as “God is angry with me and He’s punishing me.” When the reality is much more akin to my chickens coming home to roost! I am having to accept and deal with the natural consequences of my own actions.
In our Scripture Lesson today we read from the Prophet Isaiah. This is one of my most favorite First Testament books in the Bible because Isaiah was a well born man with all the right connections in society. He was probably from a wealthy family and had all the advantages in education and connections with “the powers that be.” He put all that at risk to follow his calling as a prophet of God to say some pretty tough kings to the people of Israel to wake them up from the spiritual lethargy that threatened not only their physical well being but their very souls.
In Isaiah 13:2-13, the prophet warns Israel in no uncertain terms that God isn’t going to ignore their spiritual apathy, their prideful actions and attitudes, and their mistreatment of each other forever. He tells them in no uncertain terms that there is coming a reckoning and if you ignore this warning, you do so at your own peril! Here’s just a taste of how Isaiah put this to his own people: “Behold, the day of the LORD comes, cruel, with wrath and fierce anger, to make the earth a desolation and to destroy its sinners from it.” Seriously? That sounds pretty bad!
Some have concluded that this reveals the God of the First Testament and the Father revealed by our Lord Jesus were two different deities. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth.
Let’s face it, gripped by self-centered pride makes a man both stubborn and hard of hearing! Sometimes a person’s life has become so cluttered with their own selfishness that they have to have a pretty loud siren in the ear to wake them up. And, to those self-centered people, any suggestion that they better start choosing differently in their lives is treated as a threat to their “freedom.” “You can’t tell me what to do!” And “you’re not the boss of me.” And “I was born this way. You have no right to tell me I’m wrong!” Sound familiar? Hey, the truth is I’ve said these words myself. We’ve all been teenagers after all!
So, God loved the nation of Israel so much that He used His loudest siren to. Warn them that the consequences of their choices were going to be pretty harsh. They were going to reap what they had sown, and, in their selfishness, they were going to attribute all those consequences to God being angry with them. If that fear of God’s anger would wake them up, then so be it! Isaiah told them the great and terrible day of The Lord is not going to be something you enjoy if you don’t have an internal change.
Today, as we pass through the wisdom and spiritual reorientation of Great Lent, let’s not forget that we are all called to grow up in our spiritual lives. We really are called to mature past the stubbornness of attempts at doing anything we want and avoiding the consequences of our choices. We really are called to mature past those childish days of “Your the meanest daddy in the world” temper tantrums when we are confronted by our own lives. This is the season when we learn to repent, look to our own sins, and refrain from judging others. We accept the wise and loving direction of a God Who is far from angry with us, but Who loves us too much to simply pat us on the head as a dotting grandfather in light of our foolish choices. He calls us to maturity, because only a spiritually mature person can actually ever hope to be in real and deep communion with God. These days are so precious, dear one. Don’t miss them grumbling about the easy disciplines taught us to wake us up to reward spiritual maturity.
Haven’t we interpreted the sad consequences of our actions at times as “God is angry with me and He’s punishing me.” When the reality is much more akin to my chickens coming home to roost! I am having to accept and deal with the natural consequences of my own actions.