Unconscionable Lightness

“Cry loudly, do not hold back; Raise your voice like a trumpet, and declare to My people their wrongdoing, and to the house of Jacob their sins.”  Isaiah 58:1 NASB

Wrongdoing – What do you really want?  What is so important that everything else pales by comparison?  What is the one thing you absolutely must have to survive?  Take a moment to examine your list.  As a suggestion, here’s what I discover.  I can survive even if:

I lose my work

I lose my health

I lose my wife

I lose my children

I lose my home

I lose my possessions

I lose my friends

I lose my confidence

I lose my trust

All of these, and probably more you could add to the list, all of these follow Job’s trial.  But then I see there’s one thing I cannot lose if I am going to survive.  In the end, the only real thing that makes my life even possible is this: God hears me.  If I lose my sense that God hears me, if somehow I conclude that God is indifferent to my life, then there is no reason at all for me to continue.  Hope . . . that’s what I can’t lose.  It doesn’t matter, really, if God is mad or glad.  It only matters that He interacts with me—or that I hope He will.  As long as I have hope, I can go on living.  I can actually embrace dying, but not in defeat, rather as a conclusion, a hope fulfilled.

That’s why this Hebrew word, pešaʿ, translated as “wrongdoing,” just isn’t strong enough.  God isn’t complaining about Israel’s “mistakes,” their “wrongdoing.”  He’s angry at their rebellion!  That’s the real meaning so let’s put it in the record.  Rebellion isn’t just doing things wrong.  It’s a deliberate and fundamental breach of relationships, a revolt against everything that makes communication possible.  It’s indifference to the other party.  There are severe consequences for both individuals and nations:

Israel is accused of engaging in rebellion “since your birth” (Isa 48:8). The acts of transgression, i.e. going beyond the limits of God’s laws, have impact on inner attitudes which create deceitfulness (Isa 59:13) or a distorted love for this “independence” from God (Amos 4:4). It may dull one’s knowledge of the right (Hos 8:1; Ps 51:13) and be a rigid refusal to accept correction (Jer 2:8, 29; Hos 7:13; Zeph 3:11; Amos 4:4).[1]

God accuses the people of relying on everything except Him.  That’s really what it means to be in rebellion.  Everything that could be lost, that could fail, becomes our god, rather than the One True God who cannot fail.  Why does this happen when it is so obviously misdirected?  The answer is simple: authority.  We want to be in charge, and in order for us to be completely in charge, we must push God out of His place of authority.  We must exile God from the place of control.  Now, of course, most of us don’t admit we deliberately do this.  We still claim we believe in God.  But the God we believe in doesn’t actually control us.  We do that.  We decide what’s right and wrong, what’s good or bad, how we should live, who we should trust, what we should do.  In other words, we run the show.  And that, my friend, is rebellion, pešaʿ, a punishable offense.  It is the end of hope in God.  It is the foundation of hope in myself.  And hopefully we have enough sense to know where that will take us.

I want to experience the unbearable lightness of being, but to do that I will have to give up my unconscionable effort to reduce pešaʿ to nothing more than small mistakes.  God doesn’t share authority with anyone else.  He might grant authority to His agents (like me), but that doesn’t mean it’s mine.  It’s always His even if it works through me.  To think otherwise is to discover hopelessness.

Topical Index: pešaʿ, rebellion, wrongdoing, Isaiah 58:1

[1] Livingston, G. H. (1999). 1846 פָּשַׁע. R. L. Harris, G. L. Archer Jr., & B. K. Waltke (Eds.), Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (electronic ed., p. 741). Chicago: Moody Press.

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Richard Bridgan

As one rescued from a nihilist hopelessness, I can confirm my experience of the truth of that you’ve shared today… and it is not only mankind’s to “work through.”

“And now, O Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is for you.” (Psalm 39:7)

“What more was there to do for my vineyard that I have not done in it? Why did I hope for it to yield grapes, and it yielded wild grapes? And now let me tell you what I myself am about to do to my vineyard. I will remove its hedge, and it shall become a devastation. I will break down its wall, and it shall become a trampling.” (Isaiah 5:4-5)