The Power of Perspective.
Isaiah 9-10, 1 Peter 4
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. – 1 Peter 4:7-11 ESV
God’s judgment was coming against the nation of Israel. He made it perfectly clear that He was going to use the nation of Assyria to punish people of God, referring to this foreign power as “the rod of my anger; the staff in their hands is my fury!” (Isaiah 10:5 ESV). God calls His own people “a godless nation” and “the people of my wrath” (Isaiah 10:6 ESV). He even painstakingly described the coming invasion by the Assyrians, chronicling their march across the land all the way up to the walls of Jerusalem. But God also made it crystal clear that all of this was His doing. Assyria was simply a tool in His hands, accomplishing His divine will against the nation of Israel. So God also told His people to trust Him. In spite of all that was about to happen, they needed to understand that He had their best interests in mind. God had a long-term perspective that included both judgment and redemption. He said, “O my people, who dwell in Zion, be not afraid of the Assyrians when they strike with the rod and lift up their staff against you as the Egyptians did. For in a very little while my fury will come to an end, and my anger will be directed to their destruction” (Isaiah 10:24-25 ESV). While certain destruction was eminent, so was their rescue. God’s plan included retribution and their ultimate restoration. “In that day the Lord will end the bondage of his people. He will break the yoke of slavery and lift it from their shoulders” (Isaiah 10:27 NLT). God let them know that “the remnant left in Israel, the survivors in the house of Jacob, will no longer depend on allies who seek to destroy them. But they will faithfully trust the Lord, the Holy One of Israel. A remnant will return; yes, the remnant of Jacob will return to the Mighty God” (Isaiah 10:20-21 NLT).
What does this passage reveal about God?
God is always just and right in all that He does. While we may look at our circumstances and question the very love and mercy of God, we must always understand that God has a different perspective and outlook on our difficulties. The writer of Hebrews gives us a helpful reminder: “‘My child, don’t make light of the Lord’s discipline, and don’t give up when he corrects you. For the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes each one he accepts as his child.’ As you endure this divine discipline, remember that God is treating you as his own children” (Hebrews 12:5-7 NLT). God punished the people of Israel because they deserved it, but He also did it in order to teach them to rely on Him. Sometimes the very difficulties we detest are the tools God uses to drive us back to Him in dependence. God has a long-term perspective. He knows things we don’t know. Even in the midst of Isaiah’s prophecies regarding the coming destruction of Israel, God gave him a glimpse of a day yet to come. In that day, God would send a great light to shine in the darkness. He would penetrate the spiritual gloom with the light of His Son. The apostle John describes this future event. “The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him” (John 1:9-11 ESV). God knew something the people of Israel in Isaiah’s day could not have known. There was a day in which He would send His Son to the earth. He would be the “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6 ESV). But as John said, He would be rejected by His own. Jesus would come to the Jewish people, but they would reject Him. They would refuse to acknowledge Him as their King and Messiah. But Isaiah went on to prophesy, “Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this” (Isaiah 9:7 ESV). While Jesus’ first coming ended in death, His second coming will bring about the fulfillment and establishment of His Kingdom on earth.
What does this passage reveal about man?
One of the primary reasons we need to spend more time in God’s Word is so that we might gain a greater understanding of God’s ways. In the Scriptures, we are given a glimpse into the overall plan of God for mankind. His choosing of Abraham was just the beginning. His creation of the Hebrew nation was only a part of His plan. Yet they saw themselves as the central characters in God’s divine plan. Little did they know that God was going to use them to bless all the nations of the earth, just as He had promised to Abraham. But the way in which God would accomplish this would be through the birth of His Son into the lineage of David. Jesus would be born a Jew, but would prove to be the Savior of all mankind. God’s plan was so far greater than the Jews of Isaiah’s day or even the Jews of Jesus’ day could have ever grasped. They, like us, suffered from a limited perspective. They tended to be myopic and self-absorbed, unable to see very much beyond the borders of their current circumstances. But we must always remember that God’s plan is far greater than what we can see at any given moment. Peter would remind us, “The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers. Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever” (1 Peter 4:7-11 ESV). We are to live with the end in mind. We are to constantly remind ourselves that this is not all there is. God has something far greater in store for us than what we can see, feel, and experience in this world. And that divine perspective should change the way we live in this world. It should have practical implications in the way we conduct our lives in the here and how.
How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?
This life can have its fair share of difficulties. But I must constantly remind myself that the trials and troubles of this life are temporary. They are also great reminders that I must lean on God and rely on His promises of future restoration and redemption. Peter tells me, “You won’t spend the rest of your lives chasing your own desires, but you will be anxious to do the will of God” (1 Peter 4:2 NLT). Sometimes the will of God includes suffering. It will require me to refrain from sin and to reject the desires of my own sinful nature. I must develop an eternal perspective. Again, Peter would remind me, “don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you. Instead, be very glad—for these trials make you partners with Christ in his suffering, so that you will have the wonderful joy of seeing his glory when it is revealed to all the world” (1 Peter 4:12-13 NLT). Jesus suffered while on this earth. In fact, He died a painful, humiliating death on a cruel Roman cross. But He did so willingly because He understood that it was all part of God’s divine plan of redemption. He suffered because He knew that He would be glorified. And that is what Peter is telling us. There is a day coming when we too will be glorified. There is a day coming when Jesus will return again and restore all things. In the meantime, this earthly experience will have its fair share of troubles. But God has a purpose and a plan. “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:17-18 ESV).
Father, I want to learn to live with eternity in mind. I know I can’t see into the future, but I can know and understand that You have the future fully in Your divine control. You have a plan and You are working that plan to perfection. And while I may not always enjoy or appreciate the difficulties that come with this life, I can rest assured that You have a purpose for all things. Any momentary light affliction I may experience in this life is nothing compared to the glory that is to come. Help me keep my eyes on “the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14 ESV). Amen
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men