Liquid Wrath and Liquid Forgiveness

Scripture: Isaiah 51.22
See, I have taken out of your hand
the cup that made you stagger;
from that cup, the goblet of my wrath,
you will never drink again.

Scripture: Revelation 21.6
…To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life.

Reflection: Liquid Wrath and Liquid Forgiveness
By John Tillman

When it comes to divine wrath, scripture often portrays it as a liquid.

Noah’s deadly flood. Jeremiah’s boiling pot. John’s bowls of God’s wrath. The intoxicating cup of poison to be drunk that Job, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and John describe. Even the eternal destination of those under God’s wrath is a lake of fire.

God’s liquid wrath flows from his love for the victims of injustice. It is fueled not by simplistic destructive retribution, but redemptive restoration.

This is what separates the Christian concept of God from that of pagans. A pagan God is always angry, and is only benevolent when placated with bloody destruction.

The Christian God is always loving, and is only wrathful at the abuse of his creation. But our God goes further than that. The God of the Bible does not demand sacrifice from his followers. He provides it on their behalf.

The sacrifices in the Temple were only ever shadows and signs of the true sacrifice to come—the moment when Christ would drink the cup of God’s wrath. And even though it was planned from eternity past, when the moment comes, the cup of God’s wrath is so dreadful that Christ begs not to drink of it.

In the garden, Christ begins to shed his own blood as a sacrifice for us before he has ever been pierced by a spear or nail—before he has ever been struck by a whip or a cruel fist. His blood begins to drip to the ground for us at the simple dread of drinking the cup of wrath before him.

The forgiveness of our sins is accomplished by the sacrifice of Christ’s blood. A liquid sacrifice, flowing from love. The cup of God’s wrath is taken for us by Christ. He begs not to drink it, and yet he does. Leaving us not a drop to taste after him.

It is this sacrifice that makes it possible for Christ to say in Revelation 21, “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life.”

We exchange the cup of God’s wrath that we deserve for the cup of living water that Christ freely offers to us. That is liquid wrath and liquid forgiveness. That is heaven in two cups. That is the gospel. Drink up.

Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Those who are planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God. — Psalm 92.12

– Prayer from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Isaiah 51 (Listen – 4:35)
Revelation 21 (Listen – 4:34)

Additional Reading
Read More about Degrading Each Other
“You have done it unto me.”
Whether we help or harm others, Jesus steps into the interaction.

Read More about The Loving Wrath of God
God is not, by unleashing his wrath on sin, contradicting his love for humankind, but fulfilling it.

Face Like Flint :: A Guided Prayer

Scripture: Isaiah 50.7
Therefore have I set my face like flint,
and I know I will not be put to shame.

Reflection: Face Like Flint :: A Guided Prayer
By John Tillman

Jesus is the word who sustains us through suffering.

The Sovereign Lord has given me a well-instructed tongue,
to know the word that sustains the weary.

Reflect on Jesus as the word of God—the word we must speak to the world.

He wakens me morning by morning,
wakens my ear to listen like one being instructed.

Too often our prayers are dictating a list to God rather then taking down what he would dictate to us… Ask the Holy Spirit to waken your ears to listen.

The Sovereign Lord has opened my ears;
I have not been rebellious,
I have not turned away.

How often does inner rebellion cause us to turn away from the suffering Christ calls us to?

Therefore have I set my face like flint,
and I know I will not be put to shame.

When Jesus set his face like flint, determined to go to Jerusalem, the disciples expected a fight. Many of them seemed to expect to win.

James and John asked, “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?” Peter rebuked Christ’s prediction of death, saying, “This shall never happen.” They also cried in the garden, “Shall we strike with our swords?”

In what ways are we willing to accept victory with Christ but not suffering?

Where do we reach for our swords, when Christ calls out, “No more of this!”…and heals the one we would attack? Are we willing to heal our enemies?

I offered my back to those who beat me,
my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard;
I did not hide my face
from mocking and spitting…
…Therefore have I set my face like flint,
and I know I will not be put to shame.

Christ’s pulled out beard, his spit-upon face, his nakedness, and every other manner of his death was culturally shameful. Yet it was our shame he bore, not his own. Are we willing to be shamed with him?

Thomas recognized going to Jerusalem was a death sentence. “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” Are we willing to die with him?

May we, like Christ and like Thomas, set our face like flint in anticipation of suffering. May we listen, follow, and speak, and, if not for God’s intervention, suffer or die with Christ.

Prayer: The Call to Prayer
Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness; let the whole earth tremble before him. — Psalm 96.9

– Prayer from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Isaiah 50 (Listen – 2:09)
Revelation 20 (Listen – 2:49)

Additional Reading
Read More about The Crucible of Suffering
Unfortunately, many Christians run from suffering, instead of facing it head-on.

Read More about Suffering for Our True Identity
If we suffer for doing good, at least we are showing the world our true identity.

Forgiven in God’s Sight

Scripture: Isaiah 47.10
You have trusted in your wickedness
and have said, ‘No one sees me.’
Your wisdom and knowledge mislead you
when you say to yourself,
‘I am, and there is none besides me.’

Reflection: Forgiven in God’s Sight
The Park Forum

No one sees me—Adam as he hid in the garden of Eden.
No one sees me—David after he dominated Bathsheba and sent her away.
No one sees me—Peter as he cowered into the night after the crowds identified him as a follower of Christ.

The eyes of the Lord are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good. — Proverbs 15.3

“Where are you?” God’s voice called after Adam.
“You are that man!” the prophet cried to David.
“And Peter remembered the saying of Jesus, ‘Before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.’ And he went out and wept bitterly.”

Exposed.

Each had legitimate reasons—wisdom and knowledge—that explained what happened and could help self-justify so their lives could move forward. But, “I am and there is no one besides me”— the mantra of self-actualization—quickly turned to “I AM was beside me.” Each caught in their sin.

And, yet, none were left alone. None were crushed for moral failure. God saw not only their sin, but the path of restoration. Richard Rohr remarks,

Perhaps the most difficult forgiveness, the greatest letting go, is to forgive ourselves for doing it wrong. We need to realize that we are not perfect, and we are not innocent. If I want to maintain an image of myself as innocent, superior, or righteous, I can only do so at the cost of truth. We have for too long confused holiness with innocence, whereas holiness is actually mistakes overcome and transformed, not necessary mistakes avoided.

Letting go is different than denying or repressing. To let go of it, you have to admit it. You have to own it. You see it and you hand it over to God. You refuse to let the negative story line that you’ve wrapped yourself around define your life.

Letting go of our cherished images of ourselves is really the way to heaven, because when you fall down to the bottom, you fall on solid ground, the Great Foundation, the bedrock of God. It looks like an abyss, but it’s actually a foundation. On that foundation, you have nothing to prove, nothing to protect: “I am who I am who I am,” and for some unbelievable reason, that’s what God has chosen to love.

Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Mercy and truth have met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other. — Psalm 85.10

– Prayer from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Isaiah 47 (Listen – 2:52)
Revelation 17 (Listen – 3:19)

This Weekend’s Readings
Isaiah 48 (Listen – 3:39) Revelation 18 (Listen – 4:48)
Isaiah 49 (Listen – 4:55) Revelation 19 (Listen – 3:47)

Additional Reading
Read More from You Are The Man — Embracing Prophetic Responsibility
With Christians and political leaders, it’s a short journey from cozy to cozened. It’s easy to be like chapter seven Nathan, but few are willing to be chapter twelve Nathan.

Read More about taking Meals Together, Forgiveness to Go
Christ’s breakfast on the shore is a model for us of gathering those who have failed, reinstating each other through Christ’s redemption, and being sent out to feed others.

On Idolizing Man :: Throwback Thursday

Scripture: Isaiah 46.5
With whom will you compare me or count me equal?
To whom will you liken me that we may be compared?

Reflection: On Idolizing Man :: Throwback Thursday
By Richard Baxter (1615-1691)

This iniquity [idolizing man] consists not simply in the heart’s neglect of God, but in the preferring of some competitor, and prevalence of some object which stands up for an opposite interest. So obeying man before God and against him, and valuing the favor and approbation of man before or against the approbation of God, and fearing of man’s censure or displeasure more than God’s, is idolizing Man, or setting him up in the place of God.

It turns our chief observance, and care, and labor, and pleasure, and grief into this human, fleshly channel, and makes all that to be but human in our hearts and lives, which should be divine.

As all other creatures, so especially man, must be regarded and valued only in a due subordination and subserviency to God. If they be valued otherwise, they are made his enemies, and so are to be hated, and are made the principal engine of the ruin of such as overvalue them.

See what the scriptures say of this sin:

Cursed is the one who trusts in man,
who draws strength from mere flesh
and whose heart turns away from the Lord. — Jeremiah 17.5

The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid.
What can mere mortals do to me? — Psalm 118.6

It is better to take refuge in the Lord
than to trust in humans.
It is better to take refuge in the Lord
than to trust in princes. — Psalm 118.8-9

Understand well what the nature of this sin consists of, that you may not run into the contrary extreme, but may know which way to bend your opposition—how far we may and must please men, and how far not.

*Abridged and language updated from Directions against Idolizing Man.

Prayer: The Call to Prayer
Come, let us sing to the Lord;…for the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods. — Psalm 95.1, 3

– Prayer from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Isaiah 46 (Listen – 2:12)
Revelation 16 (Listen – 3:17)

Additional Reading
Read More about What Slavery We Choose
What a task have people-pleasers! They have as many masters as beholders! No wonder it takes them from the service of God.

Read More about Idolatry of Self-Confidence
Shall I tell you where the men are who believe most in themselves? The men who really believe in themselves are all in lunatic asylums.

Temporary Victory

Scripture: Isaiah 45.16-17
All of them are put to shame and confounded; the makers of idols go in confusion together. But Israel is saved by the Lord with everlasting salvation.

Reflection: Temporary Victory
The Park Forum

Because many of Scripture’s authors lived under political oppression it is easy to see how Christians today can faithfully respond to leaders with whom we do not agree. “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God,” wrote Paul. He would spend extended portions of his life —even penning the gospel—in chains.

Most Christians in the western world do not face this type of persecution. It is not uncommon for politicians to defend freedom of faith and work to serve causes which sit at the heart of the Christian Scriptures. Victories in these areas—like treatment of the fatherless, single mothers, and immigrants—are massive steps forward for humanity. But elevating political victory to supreme importance is to confess functional atheism.

In his book Onward: Engaging the Culture without Losing the Gospel, Southern Baptist ethicist Russell Moore highlights this tension in America:

Christian values were always more popular in American culture than the Christian gospel. That’s why one could speak of “God and country” with great reception in almost any era of the nation’s history but would create cultural distance as soon as one mentioned ‘Christ and him crucified.’

God was always welcome in American culture. He was, after all, the Deity whose job it was to bless America. The God who must be approached through the mediation of the blood of Christ, however, was much more difficult to set to patriotic music or to ‘Amen’ in a prayer at the Rotary Club.

Isaiah reminds his readers that all idols will crumble—yet that is not what brings joy to the faithful. Russell continues:

Our vote for President is less important than our vote to receive new members for baptism into our churches. A President is term-limited and, for that matter, so is the United States (and every other nation)…. Our church membership rolls say to the people on them, and to the outside world, ‘These are those we believe will inherit the universe, as joint-heirs with Christ.’

Christians should celebrate when truth breaks through in our culture’s institutions and politics—but our hope should, at the same time, be drawn beyond these temporary victories to the glory of the Kingdom. “It may be that America is not ‘post-Christian’ at all,” Russell reflects. “It may be that America is instead pre-Christian, a land that though often Christ-haunted has never known the power of the gospel, yet.”

Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Send forth your strength, O God; establish, O God, what you have wrought for us. — Psalm 68.28

– Prayer from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Isaiah 45 (Listen – 4:39)
Revelation 15 (Listen – 1:29)

Additional Reading
Read More about Victory In Loss
The idea that it is God’s plan to give believers victories in this world, through this world’s power, has little support in the New Testament.

Read More about The Seductive Idolatry of Politics
This religion of politics poses a greater threat to the gospel than any other religion.

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