Isaiah 9:8-10:34

God hates pride and arrogance of heart.

“Ephraim and the inhabitants of Samaria, who say in pride and in arrogance of heart: “The bricks have fallen, but we will build with dressed stones; the sycamores have been cut down, but we will put cedars in their place.” But the LORD raises the adversaries of Rezin against him, and stirs up his enemies. The Syrians on the east and the Philistines on the west devour Israel with open mouth.” (Isa. 9:9b-12a)

People of Samaria thought they could restore what was ruined themselves, but God raises another adversaries to judge the arrogance of the people. The degree to which the people of God rejected him was so great, God’s anger didn’t subside easily. “For all this his anger has not turned away, and his hand is stretched out still” (Isa. 9:12b). God’s feelings for his people are so very real and personal. He cannot simply overlook rejection from his lover and pretend that nothing happened.

“For all this his anger has not turned away, and his hand is stretched out still.” (Isa. 9:12b, 17b, 21b, 10:4b)

This exact statement appears four┬átimes in this passage: first because of Israel’s pride and arrogance, second they did not turn to God who struck them and everyone is godless and an evildoer (Isa. 9:13, 17), third due to their wickedness and insatiable cruelty against each other (Isa. 9:18, 20), and lastly they forsake the needy and rob the poor of their right. Basically, they abandoned God and justice and turned to wickedness and cruelty.

God does not overlook such evil. God is a holy and righteous God. It matters to him that we love him and we take him seriously. It matters to him that we love each other and maintain peace and harmony and justice within ourselves.

God uses Assyria as “the rod of [his] anger” (Isa. 10:5). It may seem by purely humanly perspective that it is simply a political conquest by a more powerful nation, but behind it all God has his grand plan, and Assyria also will be punished later. “When the Lord has finished all his work on Mount Zion and on Jerusalem, he will punish the speech of the arrogant heart of the king of Assyria and the boastful look in his eyes” (Isa. 10:12).

So Israel will be destroyed. And Assyria will also be destroyed. What a tragic end… Well, not really.

“In that day the remnant of Israel and the survivors of the house of Jacob will no more lean on him who struck them, but will lean on the LORD, the Holy One of Israel, in truth. A remnant will return, the remnant of Jacob, to the mighty God.” (Isa. 10:20-21)

A remnant of Israel will return. They will no more lean on human powers and idols, but will lean on God. They’ll truly love God. They’ll respond in love to God with their genuine heart because God has spared them from their well-deserved judgment. God is both just and gracious, righteous and loving.

“Therefore thus says the Lord God of hosts: “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.” (Isa. 10:24-25)

God’s fury will come to an end. His anger will be directed to their destruction. God promises redemption of his people. His deepest motive was never destruction of his people. His motive was to win them back, restore them as true children of God who genuinely desire and love God, to transform their hearts and not just behaviors.

There was another time when God’s justice and loving grace met. There was another time when his anger was directed to another’s destruction. It was on the cross two thousand years ago when Jesus took the wrath of God on behalf of humanity. The godlessness and wickedness and lack of peace and love and harmony on earth caused by humanity necessitated the consequence of God’s righteous judgment. Yet, God loves us too much to rid us completely. So he sent his Son, and allowed his anger to be directed to him instead. His fury has ended on the cross.

God’s judgment on Israel and on Assyria was absolutely righteous. But his grace surprisingly spared a remnant of Israel to survive and turn back to God. God’s grace demonstrated on the cross was infinitely more radical because unlike Assyria the One to whom God’s anger was directed was sinless. God’s wrath on Jesus was completely unfair, infinitely more unfair than his dealings with Israel and Assyria. Yet, innocent Jesus died on the cross. It cannot be explained apart from God’s love. It is the proof that God loves us. His love made everything that Jesus went through happen.

God’s motive is to win us back. He fiercely loves and desires us. He goes through the cosmic trouble in order to prove his love for us and transform our hearts. The sad reality is that not everyone will believe in this wonderful news, the gospel. But those who believe, God will redeem. They will turn back to God, and God has completely destroyed the ultimate enemy of humanity, Death, the result of our sin.

God loves us. He showed his love through the cross. He defeated our worst enemy. The remnant will return, the remnant of Jacob, to the mighty God.

2 Corinthians 5:11-6:10

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This entire passage is absolutely beautiful. I feel like I should memorize the whole thing! Second Corinthians I think is becoming my favorite book of the Bible.

Paul constantly appeals to their conscience. But he makes sure that he is not commending himself. People look at outside appearance and judge according to the worldly standard of power and influence and whatever value that is lifted high as the ultimate. But Paul is different. He boasts about not the outside but about “what is in the heart” (2 Cor. 5:12b).

To many, he seems weird. Some people even think he is crazy. But he doesn’t care so much. “For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you” (2 Cor. 5:13). He doesn’t care about what others think of him as much. It is not the opinions of others that control him, but God’s love!

“For the love of Christ controls us,” (2 Cor. 5:14a)

What a beautiful thing to say! I wanna be controlled by God’s love. Too many times, I’m rather controlled by other things that I temporarily put my trust on. My selfish desire, comfort, people, career, studies, whatever. I am often controlled by those things rather than by God’s love. I want to be controlled by his love. What a beautiful thing it would be! I want to be touched by God’s love so deeply that I wouldn’t even think about following other idols of my heart. I want to be firm in his love that I stand strong in the face of oppositions and temptations unswerving without being led toward either right or left.

“For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this; that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.” (2 Cor. 5: 14-15)

Jesus died for me. “For our sake [God] made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21). He sacrificed for me. This life that I am living right now is not mine but God’s. It is a gift. And I did absolutely nothing to deserve such gift. Only the opposite. But “in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation” (2 Cor. 5:18b-19) God does not count my trespasses against me. I’ve been reconciled with God by the work of Christ. And now he sends me.

“Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” (2 Cor. 5:20)

Paul was not what some people thought he was. He was not endorsing himself. He wasn’t trying to be a great leader for his selfish ambition. His motivation was infinitely deeper and purer. He was simply moved by God’s love. God becoming sin for him so that he can be regarded perfectly righteous before God, that was more than enough of a motivation to put up with people misunderstanding him. He wasn’t controlled by public opinion, he was being led by the love of God.

“From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (2 Cor. 5:16-17)

Now, we are not to regard anyone according to a kind of perspective that is limited by this world only. We look ahead into the future kingdom of God, we look widely with our spiritual eyes. First we look at Jesus as whom he says he is, not just a mere human being regarded to be cursed by God just because of his apparent suffering and death on the cross. We consider his resurrection and his glory and the grand plan of God’s salvation of the entire humanity. We then look at ourselves as new creation. It doesn’t matter what country I was born, what kind of government I was born into, what kind of race I am, what kind of education and experiences I had, what kind of past I have. I am a new creation, accepted perfectly by God as fellow heir of Christ who will rule in the kingdom of God that is surely coming. And we regard others with eternal perspective as well. No matter their background, they are living souls, images of God, created by God, invited by God to be loved and accepted by him into his kingdom. Yes, there are complicated histories of the past in this world, and we should take them into consideration. But at the same time, we should always remind ourselves of the sure picture of the future kingdom, the reality that is to come. We are to anticipate God’s restored world and humanity and start living it here on earth in considerate and loving manner.

Paul’s ministry was indeed difficult one. He went through “great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger,” (2 Cor. 6:5b), yet he maintained and demonstrated “purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love, truthful speech, and the power of God, with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; through honor and dishonor, through slander and praise” (2 Cor. 6:6-8a). He did it because of God’s love. God’s love moved him. And when he was in God’s love, he had it all. He was invincible. He was undestroyable. He could go through every obstacle and suffering with faith.

“We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold, we live; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything.” (2 Cor. 6:8b-10)

God, may your love capture my heart completely so that I will be completely controlled by your love in all I do and all I am.