The pearls of truth in Scripture are as relevant today as they ever were. A lot of the things we read were written for a different people at a different time, but that in no way lessens the reflective clarity they contain in this day and age. Some might argue that the condemnation pronounced was only intended for the Jews, or other specific peoples of that time, because of their actions and could not be taken seriously as intended for us today; this in light of our advanced culture and exceedingly superior understanding. I would argue that if a people are found acting with the same careless disregard, then the same moral judgment by the unchanging God should, and would apply.
As I was reading through Isaiah I was struck by several verses in chapter 34. In verse 8 we find, “For God hath a day of vengeance, a year of recompense for the cause of Zion.” Clearly, God has a defense in mind for the cause of what He holds as correct, a debt to be paid for the sake of upholding His holiness. In verse 11, we find this; “But the pelican and the porcupine shall possess it; and the owl and the raven shall dwell therein: and He will stretch over it the line of confusion, and the plummet of emptiness.” When I read this I had to stop, I couldn’t go on and found myself re-reading it several times. As I sat and let it sink in, things seemed to connect across the centuries between the reality I find today and the age when these words were first written.
Rolling this around in my mind, I began to unpack the parallels. When one looks at our national morality, (or rather, what passes for national morality, which is really no morality at all), it is obvious that we are no more devoted to the God of creation than were the fallen-away contemporaries of Isaiah’s day. Sure, we claim to be upright and forward thinking but we are upholding principles that come from the minds of men, the things that a backward society promotes as right. Consider life as an example. Jeremiah 19:5 reads, “and have built the high places of Baal to burn their sons in the fire as burnt offerings to Baal, a thing which I never commanded or spoke of, nor did it ever enter my mind.” God, who created life, holds life, especially the life of a child, as sacred; a thing to be cherished above all.
The people of that day were killing their own children with impunity as a tribute to a false god; we are not far from those people. We place ourselves in the position of God and kill millions of our own unborn children every year. The God who never had the thought of killing one’s own children in his mind is still the God who hates the loss of innocent life today. We stand in line to receive the vengeance of God and are due the righteous recompense that God has reserved for those who keep a distorted moral compass. In short, if we are as errant as were those in the Old Testament times, doing the things that prove our depravity as surely as they did, are we to escape the vengeance that was promised to those in that day?
God promised that He would turn the glory of Israel to disgrace for His sake and I see it today in this world. “The pelican and the porcupine…” Have you ever seen a pelican fish? I know that God created it to be the way it is, but the pelican has to be one of the clumsiest looking creatures ever to find a fish. It bobs and weaves in the sky spotting its prey and then folding its wings back falls almost as if in resignation which says, “Maybe I’ll get it and maybe I won’t,” headlong into the water. It manages to find food but it seems as though the impact has to hurt and the result is anything but certain. It is the exact way we live today; we forage through in clumsy ways and strike at things which are wholly uncertain hoping for an outcome that is close enough to success to call acceptable.
Are we not living in a world full of porcupines? For every graceful soul we encounter, have we not endured a hundred prickly people? Walk down the street of any American city and ask yourself whether the people you see are potential sources of encouragement or are they risks of injury. Do we walk with our heads lifted to the brilliance of the glory around us or do we keep our heads down and avoid eye contact, afraid that we might have to interact with the threat they could be masking? But God isn’t finished yet, going beyond porcupines and pelicans He adds owls and ravens to the condemnation He is preparing to pour out.
The owl is the one who reserves his deeds for the dark cover of the night. John 3:19 explains, “… but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.” I hate to be the one to burst anyone’s bubble but we are living in an exceedingly evil world. Man has managed to make mistrust and defensiveness the order of the day. We all imagine how it might be to live in an equitable world; a land of justice where we love and trust each other, but no one pretends that we are living in it now. And what of the raven, what does that imagery suggest? The raven feeds on carrion, the rotting remains of destruction. In Leviticus, God lists any kind of raven as unclean. Our world is filled with those who feed and prosper on the destruction of the less fortunate.
Since we are among the porcupines, pelicans, owls and ravens what can we expect but the suspicion and emptiness that surrounds us? And don’t we spend our time confused? Why is life so hard? Why can’t I get ahead? Why isn’t life more fair? We want an escape from the calamity that God promised in Isaiah. We are empty and alone, scared and confused and even though we can recognize the falling away from the precepts of God we still turn away from the things we can find in Scripture to remedy the situation we find ourselves enduring. God has promised that He will never abandon nor forsake us if only we will turn back to Him. All He has ever wanted is our love and that is the one thing that even God cannot coerce. If we return to God he will return to us; but this a choice that is only ours to make.
God is timeless. God’s Word is timeless. The situation we find ourselves in is one which has been borne of our sinful pride and obstinate will; things which occur in time. Our errors are serious but finite, while God’s grace and mercy are infinite. There is nothing that we could ever do in our finite limitation that the infinite power of God could not correct for His sake. God’s infinite love is greater than our finite hard-heartedness; His infinite forgiveness exceeds our finite sinfulness; His infinite mercy outweighs our finite cruelty. Our refusal to listen to the instruction of God has wrought terrible consequences but repentance opens the door to reconciliation and while our willfulness tends toward our own short-sightedness, God moves us in ways to glorify His Son. We wander off to our own detriment, but when we return, it’s…
All for the Glory of Christ