Oh What Needless Pain We Bear!
by Joseph Franks
The Franks family has a black lab named Shadow. She is a fairly well disciplined dog with whom we delight to spend time. No longer does she chew on furniture or shoes; she does not relieve herself in the house; and she is learning not to jump on visitors as they walk in the door. Shadow seems content to stay downstairs where we allow her to dwell, and if we fall asleep without putting her in her pen, she does no damage to the house. Additionally, she seems to be best friends with our little kitten. The two of them play, wrestle, and rub noses together, and there is never the slightest bit of aggression shown toward the other.
However, while we wish we could do so, we can never take an unleashed Shadow down the street, to a community park, or even out in our front yard. She must have some Scottish blood in her background, for when she sees an open gate, we can almost hear her yell “Freedom” as she takes off on some great adventure. Therefore, despite our desire to grant her greater freedom, and depute our desire to enjoy more quality, unrestricted time with our dog, we cannot do so. At this point in her life, because of her dullness and rebellion, she is forgoing freedom and increased joy that her masters long to bestow upon her.
Perhaps one can see similar sentiment in the book of Isaiah. God has predestined people, his kingdom of priests, his chosen nation, his holy race, and his adopted children whom he has reared and brought up. However, despite his love and care, they are stubborn as oxen and dumb as donkeys. (1:3) And because they are incorrigibly rebellious, their Father has removed potential blessings and valuable freedoms. Needless pain they are bearing, and will bear, because they will not submit to the gentle instruction of their Master.
Yet, their Master is not satisfied with this living arrangement. Their painful discipline is not light thing to him, and so he mercifully calls out:
Why will you be struck down? Why will you continue to rebel? Hear the word of the Lord. Give ear to my teaching. Wash yourselves, and make yourselves clean. Remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes. Cease to do evil, and learn to do good. Come on now, let us be reasonable, though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow. If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land. (Adapted from Isaiah 1:5, 10, 16-19)
The mercy and grace of God is ever-abundant and readily available. Even in yesterday’s reading, we saw how God quickly forgave and blessed Nineveh. If he did so with the formerly pagan Ninevites, how much more quickly would he grant mercy and grace to his Chosen People. Consider God’s posture and pursuance of Adam and Eve. Look at how God forgave David and Simon Peter. Harlots such as Rahab and Gomer were granted fresh starts, and idolatrous communities such as Babylon and Corinthian were turned into assemblies of sacred worship.
But then, there are always those dogs, oxen, and donkeys who will not learn and submit. Such is seen in the response of the Jewish leaders in Jesus’ day, and in response to their asinine incorrigibility, Jesus weeps over their upcoming misfortune and doom.
Therefore friends, God is slow to anger and quick to forgive, and with great passion he longs to see us repent and be reconciled. So how much longer will be continue being donkey-like? How much longer will we continue stiffening our back and feeling the leash and rod of the Master? How much longer will we continue missing increased joy and greater freedom? How much more needless pain will we bear from our heavenly Friend?
Let us repent of our sins and submit to our loving Master. He loves us so much that he died on the cross for our transgressions. He longs to walk side-by-side with us; without leash; and without rod. Trust him and obey, for there is no other way to be happy and free than to walk in repent obedience before him all the days of our life.