Recently, I have been reflecting upon the book of Isaiah – a book which our daily reading is taking us through and one which always astonishes me with its resounding relevance to our modern culture. For example, chapter three describes the consequences for a culture, in this instance Jerusalem, which defies God’s leadership and learns to boast about their sin. They cultivate an environment where youth despise their elders, people oppress one another, and blame existing leadership but do not want to be leaders themselves. It’s a culture which stomps out integrity and tramples on the poor. It’s a society where the young women boast in their self-made beauty and the young men despise honorable living. Sound familiar??? Isaiah was clearly writing to the people in Judah during the 8th century BC, but the culture which is described also looks very similar to our Western society.
Somewhere in the midst of that mess, was a group of people who wished to live differently – who repented of their sin and desired to honor God even though they were the minority. Do you ever feel like that? Do you ever feel as though everyone around you is compromising their values, conforming to the cultural tides, and cultivating arrogant rebellion against authority, one another and God? Workplaces, friendships and even families can easily feel this way.
So what should a disciple of Jesus do when surrounded by this kind of toxic environment?
The Lord gives Isaiah some words which may be helpful for you. “Woe to those who boast in their sin! For they have brought evil on themselves. Tell the righteous that it shall be well with them for they shall eat the fruit of their deeds” (Isaiah 3:9b-10).
The first helpful piece of advice is to remember that the Lord sees. He knows every destructive word and every malicious action. There is no need to point it out because the Lord will allow these people to bury themselves in a mountain of destruction.
The second piece of advice is to cling to the promise that righteous living is beneficial in the long run - “It shall be well with them.” God desires to protect and provide for you as you seek to honor him in a culture which has lost the ability to blush.
The final piece of advice is found at the end of verse 10, “they shall eat the fruit of their deeds.” If you are willing to practice righteous living in a toxic environment, the Lord will satisfy you. In other words, compromising to the world will become distasteful in your eyes and no longer inviting. That is good news! It’s so much easier to be a witness for the Lord and care for those who are trapped in sinful rebellion, if their world has no pull upon your heart and mind.
There is a growing need to, as the Apostle Paul writes, “no longer conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2). We may have very little control over how toxic the culture grows around us, but we do have a God that is able to teach us how to live differently in order to be a witness to His power and grace. May we grow in this as we face a new year.