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The Style of Angst and the Way of Faith
Angst ? How does it relate to the Biblical presentation ?
In Chapter 3, we were looking at Isaiah 64 and the surging seeking which is to be found translated by Isaiah, and presented as scripture. It proceeds not to some interchange at the level of mere insurgency, spiritual insurgency, but to a discharge in divine disgust. Why was not the earnest entreaty of the prophet answered with comfort concerning the distressed nation for which he sought ? Empathising with their roaring, their engines of hope amidst the evidences of desolation, distress of spirit, he presents the petition.
It is good for us to look at this for there is in this world much angst, little faith, just as Christ said would be the case as the time for His coming (cf. SMR Ch. 8) would draw near (Matthew 18:8).
The style of angst can vary. It can be an anxious searching, a driving force to disembowel the universe and find its heart. It can represent the burning yearning of youth, addressing the universe, seeking or summoning its powers, expressing his hopes, to its imagined ears, as if its blank and dull culture in him, a living exponent, were apostrophising itself, seeking ‘beyond’, and toiling with spiritual dyspepsia, volcanic forces, burdened hope, flecks of idealism, unmeasured desire, grappling with cynicism, impelling itself into heavens without ears, sulking, soaring with flimsy wings …
It can readily become as in Leviticus 26:19 –“I will break the pride of your power. I will make your heavens like iron and your earth like bronze, and your strength shall be spent in vain.” Yet notice the preliminary causes of this, going before!
But WHY does not heaven hear ?
Why ? Do I hear when a dog
It is necessary to have the hook-up, so that the transmission flows in its right and prepared channel.
Is God then formalistic ? Read Isaiah 1 and see that the opposite is the case; read Isaiah 57 and see that it is to the humble and contrite heart that He looks; and in Isaiah 66:2, discover that it is the one who is of a poor and contrite spirit, not a soaring evocative prince of philosophy, misfit in fancy, AND the one who trembles at His word, to whom He listens. Why should one tremble at His word ?
Why should one concern
oneself, in heeding the bark of a dog in
But why, you might say, does not God heed the very EARNESTNESS of the plea found in Isaiah 64 ? See how, in this case, it speaks, even directly, to God ? See how it believes in His power, considers the majesty of His act in creation. Indeed, the speaker, the prophet transmitting the inspired codification of the thing from God, speaks with beautiful felicity, and obvious personal knowledge of God.
Look at Isaiah64:4-5. How beautiful! He is aware of the hope of the saints, the things God has prepared for those who WAIT FOR HIM! He knows that GOD ACTS for such people. He testifies that GOD MEETS with those who are enabled in righteous things, who remember His ways, who are joyful in His life. As Father, then He speaks with His children, for these, spiritually, are His children, and He, He is Spirit. He does not then abstract Himself, but is near, close at hand, even meets with you on your way.
Felicity indescribable is then present, only waiting for its consummation in due time! Such is Isaiah 64:4-5 (cf. I I Peter 1:8, John 14:21-23).
Why then is Isaiah not heard, who so presents a prayer for his people, and why does the prophet not prevail in his concerns, so placed before God, and this with such empathy, for his afflicted nation ? Indeed, does he not acknowledge that the righteousness of this people is like a filthy rag, in this, that the DIVINE RIGHTEOUSNESS is so far above our own, that is seems such in comparison, wholly disreputable ? and by that standard, why, it cannot even stand AT ALL! Is this not a humbling before God ? But you see what follows this Isaiah 64:6 confession, is 64:7. Since the people, the nation, is the core of the question, it is significant what then they are about. And it is not GOD!
What then does this tell us ?
It is that “there is no one who calls on Your name, who stirs himself up to take hold of You.” Indeed, God has hidden His face, so making such approaches difficult. Why ? Is not His existence freely acknowledged (64:8ff.) ? But it is by the prophet who seeks. It is the nation which is the intended beneficiary.
In short, in them there is a dispirited passion, a depraved indolence which, however thrust before God’s face with DESIRE, lacks both fire and reality. It is mere yearning. Faith is not its companion, but a surging seeking, without assurance, without concern for that narrow way in which is the intensity of joy and the immensity of His presence.
Why should it be in a way so narrow (Matthew ) ? It is because God is God, has His own standards, is what and who He is (John , Exodus ), is not seducible by mere passion, indeed responds to seeking but to where He is (Isaiah 55:6).
Do I respond to someone in
In Isaiah 65, we see it is just this. “You are those who forsake the Lord!” That is the divine analysis. The mouthings AT the telephone are not INTO it, or even if they are, it is not turned on at the battery. Here is a synthetic generation, letting its spirit rove into all manner of religious, spiritual and cultural exercises, as seems good, now in mere passion addressing God, not in terms of His covenant reverently approaching Him. He is to be a mere part of the texture of life, someone to listen when at times, one feels so moved, and who should attend! He is blasphemed (65:7) on the one hand, and then approached on the other (as in Ezekiel 14’s exposure).
What is it like ? Someone is proposing to some girl, while he has six others in hand, each with a history of flirtation or worse, while to none is he married, and he merely surges out his passionate protestations, not really interested in much more than expressing himself to any who will listen to his distempered and self-indulgent words or ways. Is this love ? Is this sincerity ? In parallel, is the mixture of religions acceptable by God ? Is spiritual monogamy to be despised ? If so, it is not so by God. There is the division.
Hence there is an entire disjunction (65:13-15) and the Lord ‘marries’ others, the Gentiles in this case. Jeremiah 29:12-13 still applies. “Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you, and you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.” It must be total, mixed with repentance, assured in its target, using the provisions for faith, even the express covenant (cf. Matthew 26:28), which He has provided, through sacrificial death, through discipline and righteousness, through humiliation and travail, through power (to work miracles) and scorning (by those who despised Him and simply refused to believe God would abase Himself in love or anything else for them in this way, since they would not themselves do so for anyone). It is not a question of some high standard of repentance.
If you run into someone else’s car (and sin runs into the creation of God, yourself AND others whom you affect), then a terse “Sorry!”, might not seem fitting to your victim. If, on the other hand, embarrassed and grieved at your own foolishness you seek to show a real conviction and desire to the one offended, this is different. You would start by giving your own name and address, and so on.
It has to be personal, realistic, with a sense of what you have done, and what is to be addressed, and it needs to be hearty, not sly or slinking, mere dressing of a selfish, grasping and manipulative spirit or plan. It is not different with God, except
Ø HE actively desires to pardon
Ø HE has paid already for what is involved, though NO payment ever reaches ANYONE who does not cash the cheque always available, and NO credit is EVER transferred without such acceptance, known to God beyond all time and indeed wrought by His own power (Romans 8:28ff.).
There is an all-important
Ø 3rd item. He loves. Without this, the mere provision of these title deeds available for transfer, to the soul would for some amount to farce, for others to a certain dread. With that is the
Ø 4th: He is the Creator.
It is not to some force or power or principle you come, but to your Maker*1. Now a loving Maker is just the thing. He KNOWS what we are, for each who he/she is, and in love has this provision. Is it then asking for too much that instead of an anxious angst, firing its dire dreadnoughts of aspiration at the heavens, there should be faith, receiving the massive missive of God’s own love and power, presented personally, achieved for transmission in the very marring of His own Son, His eternal word sent to express Himself definitively and to redeem personally ?
If it is, then that is why angst is so useless. Tremors are not intelligible talk. God is not a rock face to be invaded with the jack-hammers of passion. He is to be found in the crevice He has composed for us, in His Christ. It is HE who has made the way. It must be accepted. Angst and faith are not counterparts, but one is an orphan, the other the bloom on the face of a child of God.
THE PLEA OF THE PROPHET AND THE ANSWER OF THE LORD
Yet one may pursue even further. Is not the prophet Isaiah expressing in Isaiah 64, a prophetic plea, an intercessory drive, and is he at least not proceeding in covenantal faith, to seek the face of the Lord ? Is he then, himself, not to be heard ? Can he not secure FROM the Almighty, some solace, some answer to his faith ? You see it is he talking in Isaiah 64:4-5, where the saint and his solace and assurance are in clear focus. Why then is he not successful in his plea ?
For first answer, look with me at Ezekiel and , seen in context -23. The parts to be seen for this purpose in sequence are put in red font.
say to the house of
turn away from your idols, and turn your faces away from all your abominations.
For anyone of the house of Israel, or of the strangers who dwell in Israel, who
separates himself from Me and sets up his idols in his heart and puts before him what causes him to
stumble into iniquity, then comes to a prophet to inquire of him concerning Me,
I the Lord will answer him by
Myself. I will set My face
against that man and make him a sign and a proverb, and I will cut him off from the midst
of My people.
you shall know that I am the Lord. And if the prophet is induced to speak
anything, I the Lord have induced
that prophet, and I will stretch out My hand against him and destroy him from
among My people
word of the Lord came again to me,
man, when a land sins against Me by persistent unfaithfulness, I will stretch
out My hand against it; I will cut off its supply of bread, send famine on it,
and cut off man and beast from it. Even if these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it,
they would deliver only themselves by their righteousness,’ says the Lord God.
‘If I cause wild beasts to pass through the land, and they empty it, and make it so desolate that no man may pass through because of the beasts, even though these three men were in it, as I live,’ says the Lord God, ‘they would deliver neither sons nor daughters; only they would be delivered, and the land would be desolate.
I bring a sword on that land, and say, ‘Sword, go through the land,’ and I cut
off man and beast from it, even though these three men were in
it, as I live,’ says the Lord God,
‘they would deliver neither sons nor daughters, but only they themselves would
I send a pestilence into that land and pour out My fury on it in blood, and cut
off from it man and beast, even
though Noah, Daniel, and Job were in it, as I live,’ says
the Lord God, ‘they would deliver
neither son nor daughter; they would deliver only themselves by their
says the Lord God: ‘How much more
it shall be when I send My four severe judgments on
Here you see the limits of merely human intercession.
EVEN NOAH, JOB and DANIEL could not prevail when people put IDOLS IN THEIR HEARTS, and then come and seek, as if an extra, an additional avenue, to the Lord. This syncretism, this multiplication of interests does not accord with the simple fact that of gods there is ONE, and He has ONE WAY and ONE WORD in ONE BOOK and had as sacrifice ONE SON who is the ONE SAVIOUR (cf. Ephesians 4:4, Colossians 1:19ff.).
Is it so hard ? When you take a job is it in a diversity of loyalties ? Do not even men squabble about “conflict of interest” and in Australia at this very time, has there not been a protrusive Board Room quarrel about someone who has one sort of financial interest being supposed to help in the conduct of a firm with another sort of financial interest, with the perceived danger that he might follow the one to the detriment of the other ? If men can be so sensitive, cannot the Lord insist that if you want to deal WITH GOD, with HIM, then with Him only you will deal!
Yet see, the plea is not
only discountenanced. UNTIL (cf. Isaiah 32:15), until there is repentance and
real seeking, there is desolation; but WHEN they seek
with all their hearts (Jeremiah 29:12-13), when they seek in abasement
and hope, looking in faith to the ONLY SOURCE of their spirits and ONLY COURSE
for their dynamic involvement with the Almighty, THEN there is comfort (as
above in Ezekiel 14, noted in red font). So in Isaiah 64, though it moves with
a remorseless seeming vigour to the disenfranchisement of
Yet more, in Isaiah 66, just as in Micah 7:15ff., you see the Lord, with the same vigour and certainty as in Joel 3 and Habakkuk 3, coming to deliver His people. Indeed just as Moses said at the first, so is it to be at the last. Deuteronomy 32 has already traced for this people the depths and the heights, the repudiation and the accommodation, not however by barter or bargaining, whether with the passion of angst or any other way, but in the simplicity of entire surrender by faith to the living and resurrected Saviour on the basis of covenant, in the love and power of Christ, who has already made the way, so that one simply has to enter, price paid on arrival, covered from the first by the all-knowing God, who indeed knows His own (II Timothy 2).
If then one seeks by angst to penetrate the heavens, arraign its ‘god’ or thrust one’s ham-fisted fervour into the face of the Almighty, shame is not remitted, and place is not to be found (cf. Matthew 7:21ff., Romans 10:1ff). Once however move from the imperious, or the impervious, the demanding and the self-assured, or self-based, be it imperial or merely disquieted, then in faith coming where you should always have been, you find in the entirety of the simplicity, that the door was always open. You were merely beating your spiritual wings on the stone-work of the wall*2.
The door, it is necessary to enter the door, who has come a long way to be available with such finality, simplicity and directness, such freedom and such manifest beauty of holiness. From celestial to terrestrial; from eternity to time, He came; from the splendours of perfection to the indictment of men and the impact of sin, swallowed up with its confines of death, in victory (Isaiah 25:8, Acts 2:24-31).
He is available to Gentile, He is available to Jew, and to all He will fulfil ALL that He has said (cf. Matthew 5:17-20, Isaiah 8:20, 44:24-28, 34:16ff.). He is directed by none, but ready at the cry of heart and faith, for any (Psalm 145:18, Isaiah 49:6, Mark -24).
It is not a question of angst, but action; not by man but by God, who has taken it and it is finished (Hebrews -28, -14). This done, it must be received. Be not deceived, its simplicity is ravishing in its purity, effectual in its function, divine in its construction and available on request from the broken and contrite spirit, to the arms of faith whose object is NONE BUT THE LORD!