Shout for Joy

We need a vision of God for who He really is and the passion to pursue life as it is meant to be lived.

“Where is God?” is a question found not only on the lips of skeptics but also deep within the hearts of believers. Circumstances have a way of testing the strongest of wills and troubling the most devoted of hearts. Yet God answers them both, truthfully.

Why truthfully, you may ask. Because humans are more than capable of creating gods for themselves. Everyone who asks questions about God has a picture of what God is like. Many skeptics, for example, expect that if God exists, He would be more visible or would exercise better control. Christians, on the other hand, believing that God will work everything for good, expect that God must do what they deem is good.

However, no matter how obliging or convenient our view of God may be, if it is not based upon truth, it will ultimately be unlivable. The human soul rots when the mind settles for lies; left to ourselves, we will remain blind to the very things we desperately need to see.

We need a vision of God for who He really is and the passion to pursue life as it is meant to be lived. And we are given both in Jesus Christ. It is to him the Scriptures, like all of human history, points.

The prophet Isaiah, whose name literally means, “The Lord saves,” paints a vision of hope in his ancient words and invites us to marvel at God’s beauty. In the book of Isaiah, we see God making Himself manifest in three distinct ways.

First, God upholds righteousness in the face of moral degradation (Isaiah 1-39). God is holy and He will judge sin.

Second, God offers forgiveness as a gift to the undeserving (Isaiah 40-55). God’s judgment is not merely to show that humanity has fallen. The severity of his judgment is a foil for the magnitude of his mercy. God’s judgment needs no explanation. His heart to redeem the rebellious, however, remains a mystery.

Third, God remains committed to perfect humanity in spite of human depravity (Isaiah 56-66). God, in his holiness, not only reclaims sinners but also redeems them to make them holy.

Isaiah spends over six decades pleading with his people to know their God and to wait for Him patiently with hope and even joy. However, that did not sit well with the people. Waiting patiently in hope and with great joy does not come easily. The people expected that God would throw off the yoke that oppressed them and crush the heads of their oppressions. He did, but not the way they expected. They wanted a triumphant king, but God became king in the suffering servant—a paradox that the human mind will never fully fathom.

It is possible to believe that there is a God from what we see around us (while others might assert that what we see argues against God’s existence). And yet, we need not settle for nature, or what theologians refer to as general revelation, as our guide. God has made it possible for us to know the truth of who He is in the person of Jesus (special revelation).

With the coming of Jesus, the invisible God became incarnate. “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us,” as John the apostle wrote, giving humanity an unprecedented privilege: to know God for who He truly is (see John 1:14). As we reflect upon the life of Jesus, we begin to appreciate the lowly stable in which he was cradled; it points to the humility in which God reached out to humanity so that anyone could come to Him. The cross on which he died signified his forgiveness that we all, though undeserving, desperately need and can freely receive. And the empty tomb vindicates Jesus. He is who he claimed to be: the Living God. The resurrection evidences why everyone everywhere must come to Jesus, for eternal life is found only in him.

It might seem incredulous to believe in a God who is sovereign and benevolent when the world seems to be spiraling out of control. But it is not incredulous. That was Isaiah’s plea:

Listen! Your watchmen lift up their voices; together they shout for joy. When the Lord returns to Zion, they will see it with their own eyes…. The Lord will lay bare his holy arm in the sight of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth will see the salvation of our God. (Isaiah 52:8, 10)

When we immerse ourselves in the wonder of who God is, the incredulous gives way to the incredible, satisfying both the heart and mind. Jesus invites us to come to him, to listen to him, and to see that because he is whom he claimed to be, we can know the truth of who God is. We can learn to trust that God is good and live in hope that He will remake all things good. Might this promise cause us to lift up our voices and shout for joy, even this very day.

Jose Philip is a speaker with RZIM Asia-Pacific in Singapore. This article originally appears in Just Thinking magazine issue 28.2 Click here to download the PDF.

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