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How Now Shall We Live?


Isaiah 33:14-16

The sinners in Zion are afraid; trembling has seized the godless:
“Who among us can dwell with the consuming fire?
Who among us can dwell with everlasting burnings?”
He who walks righteously and speaks uprightly, who despises the gain of oppressions,
who shakes his hands, lest they hold a bribe,
who stops his ears from hearing of bloodshed
and shuts his eyes from looking on evil,
he will dwell on the heights;
his place of defense will be the fortresses of rocks;
his bread will be given him; his water will be sure.

The Story: In light of God’s reign (32:1), sinners and the godless, that is, those who by their lives and actions had rejected God’s reign, would be terrified. If God is “the consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:18-19, 29), then fear and trembling are fully appropriate, as is the question of who can dwell anywhere near Him. David asked the same question in Psalm 15 and sang nearly the same answer as Isaiah did. To dwell with the holy God requires, David and Isaiah knew, personal holiness. That holiness included righteous living and upright (that is, truthful) speaking. It would impact how people did business: without oppressing others or benefitting from shady practices. The holy person, he said, guards the entrances to the mind and spirit. No only does he avoid bloodshed, he won’t even listen to tales of bloodshed. Not only will she avoid doing evil, she will not look at what is evil.

The Structure: Yes, we are saved by grace not works (Ephesians 2:8-9), but, no, that doesn’t mean that how we live our lives doesn’t matter (see Paul’s instructions in Ephesians 4-6). “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’” asked Jesus, “and not do what I tell you?” (Luke 6:46). He expects and requires that our lives change if we are to be His subjects. We too stand before “the consuming fire,” and, says the Scripture in the psalms, Isaiah, and elsewhere, that requires holiness. “Strive for peace with everyone,” wrote the author of Hebrews (12:14), “and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.” “Without which no one will see the Lord” is categorical. What we do and how we live in this life makes a difference in the next. Too often the Church has fed people’s cultural expectation that obeying our desires is an acceptable if not the preferred way to live. It’s not. The preferred way to live, the way that leads to joy and fulfillment, is the way of conforming to the holy God who bids us call Him Father. “But as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy’” (1 Peter 1:15-16).

How important to you is living a holy life? In what ways are you growing in holiness?

 

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