As we read Scripture carefully, we should note that there are many differences between the status of the Jews in Isaiah’s day, for example, and our condition. At the same time, we have to realize that God gave the Scriptures to us for an example, so that we would be able to learn from their failures. We see this in multiple places (e.g. 1 Cor. 10:6, 11; Jude 7; Rom. 15:4). And this means that there are strong elements of continuity, and not just discontinuity. If there is no continuity, there are no lessons.
“Woe unto them that seek deep to hide their counsel from the Lord, And their works are in the dark, And they say, Who seeth us? and who knoweth us?” (Is. 29:15).
Summary of the Text:
There are different kinds of blindness. There is natural blindness—a rock is blind, for example. Rocks can’t see at all. There is unnatural physical blindness—as a man may be blind through no fault of his own. He belongs to a race of seeing creatures, but he cannot see. And then there is the peculiar kind of blindness that believes that the God of all omniscience is blind. This kind of blindness is the result of a judicial stupor—when God strikes a people for their rank hypocrisy.
In just such a context, Israel was blind because they had blinded themselves (v. 9). They were drunk, but not with wine. The Lord had poured a spirit of stupor over their heads (v. 10). What was happening was to them a sealed book, or an unsealed book in the hands of an illiterate (vv. 11-12). The cause of all this was their formalism and hypocrisy (v. 13). God was therefore going to do something amazing (v.14). Then we have our text—woe to those who want to outsmart God (v. 15). Surely, Isaiah says, you have everything inverted—clay does not shape the potter (v. 16). Clay does not have the right, or the power, to do any such thing. Clay that attempts to aspire to the role of potter can only achieve the status of being messed-up clay.
The Father of Lies:
The issue is lies, always lies (John 8:44). In political life, the foundational issue is honesty. What do I mean? If someone were to maintain that God did not know the location of a particular river in Montana, and someone were to contradict him, their resultant debate would not be a debate over geography. We have to recognize that when two armies meet in a particular place, fighting over the control of a continent, the actual turf where they are fighting need not be that important—whether it be Waterloo, or Gettysburg. When the serpent lied to Eve, the death was in the forbidden fruit, but the poison was in the words “hath God said?”
“But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.” (2 Cor. 11:3).
So for example, if someone were to tell you that Jesus never went to Capernaum, the issue is not how important it was in the abstract for Him to ever visit that place. The issue is what God has told us—whether through conscience, nature, right reason, or Scripture. And the central, foundational warning must be this matter of simple intellectual honesty. As Emerson once put it, “The louder he talked of his honor, the faster we counted our spoons.” When dealing with liars, you must always define your terms. Defining terms is how you count the spoons.
All of our current woes are a function of idolatry. Either we are living under the blessing of the true and living God, or we are living under the faux-blessings of the false gods, faux-blessings that will always reveal their anemic nature at some point. Consider some of the following:
What’s Wrong With Human Rights?
Human rights are given by the god of the system. If the God is the true God, then the rights are true rights. If the gods are false, then the gifts they give (including “rights”) will be false gifts. Moreover, they are false because they will reflect the nature of the giver. In a secular society, where the god is Demos, the people, the gifts will reflect the nature of the giver—and so they will be both sinful and mutable.
For instance, if you have a right to affordable housing, this means that someone else has an obligation to provide you with it. This is the kind of thumb-on-the-scale-cheating that idols do all the time. But when you have the right to speak your mind, no one else need do anything. So always remember that false gods offer a false gospel.
It is a matter of great importance whether Moses or Jeroboam writes the history books. We might be able to agree on the phrase “this is the God who brought you out of the land of Egypt.” The disagreement comes when we examine the referent of “this.” What God are you pointing to?
You have been told, ad nauseam, that the United States was founded as a secular republic, breaking with the older order of Christendom. Secularism, formal religious neutrality, saved us all from endless religious strife and blood-letting. But this is almost entirely false. False gods write false salvation narratives.
One of the more common idols on the right is the notion of American exceptionalism. False gods offer a false doctrine of election. But look where this hubris has gotten us.
What Cultural Engagement Actually Is:
Some Christians run away from culture. This is the separatist move. Others approach culture, hoping for some kind of amalgamation or compromise. This is the syncretistic move. Others go over to the secular culture in order to surrender to it. This is the “convert me” move. The only appropriate option for us as Christians is to recognize the ultimate authority of Christ, and to disciple all the nations, including this one, baptizing and teaching obedience.
Has It Come to That?
We have to choose from one of the two main candidates, it is said. But why? If someone says that we have to vote for Trump because Hillary is far worse, then wouldn’t that require voting for Hillary at some point if she were running against someone far worse?
What do Christians do when there are no elections where they live? Well, they have to trust God. But we don’t want to have to do that. Trust God? Has it come to that?