I love Isaiah 28:16-17. I mentioned the passage a couple of days ago in this blog post. Today, I want to touch on another topic we find in Isaiah's words. Read Isaiah 28:17:
I will make justice the line,
and righteousness the plumb line;
and hail will sweep away the refuge of lies,
and waters will overwhelm the shelter.”
"...hail will sweep away the refuge of lies." That statement is so very powerful. We learn two things in that one statement alone. First, we learn that lies can shield us; they can serve as a refuge or a shelter. Second, we learn they're inadequate. I wonder, what lies have I used to shelter myself? what refuge have I built from lies?
When I was younger, I was swinging my plastic lightsaber and I knocked over a little decorative statuette in my parents' living room. I tried to put the pieces back together, and ultimately stood the figurine back up with its cracked head balancing on its body and leaning a bit.
A few days later, my mother was dusting the mantel and found my handiwork: A statuette in pieces, cobbled back together in childlike fashion. My mom asked me, "Did you break this statue?" I replied "No." This was my second lie (the first being the inexpert way I tried to piece this figurine back together so that no one would notice).
The moment that I lied to my mother, I built a shelter. I shielded myself from punishment under the cover of my lie. Of course, as you might imagine, it didn't work. My mom got to the truth and I was summarily punished. But I learned that day that a lie could become a refuge, even if just for a few hours or a few days.
I wonder what lies are shielding you right now? What lies are you telling yourself, God, and others, believing that under such cover you'll be spared from punishment? What false hope might you be harboring? What hasty confidences?
You might think your own moral goodness will shield you from punishment. Or maybe you think that your own professed religion will save you, as if God cares how often you've taught Bible study or attended Wednesday prayer meeting.
We're talking about a God who said in Isaiah 1, "The multitude of your sacrifices—what are they to me? I have more than enough of burnt offerings, of rams and the fat of fattened animals; I have no pleasure in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats."
You might be the type who says, "If it's meant to be..." thinking you'll be saved by some eternal fate or predetermined set of events. “Everything is set and determined and ordained," "If I'm saved, I'm saved, and if I'm lost, I'm lost" or when you sin you say, "I couldn't help it. The devil made me do it. God led me here. I'm being tested."
Sure, God has a plan and God knows the future, but when we sin we do so willingly. When supper's on the table, you know you're going be nourished, but you've still got to raise it to your mouth and eat.
Your false hope might be in some novel doctrine, some out-there idea that conflicts with Scripture or takes Scripture out of context. Sure, God loves the whole world, but that doesn't mean he won't punish evil. Stop reading Brian McLaren and start reading your Bible again.
Or you might be making a shelter of the lies of old age, some old experience, some old worldly "wisdom." You've been around the block. You didn't just fall out of the turnip truck. You said a prayer back in '62 at that Billy Graham rally and you've been a believer ever since.
Don't lie to yourself! That prayer—if it's not met with continual, daily repentance and it's not met with a daily renewal of your spirit in a daily walk with the Lord—that prayer didn't save you. Salvation is a gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast.
Are you living with your gift, a personal relationship with the Lord? or are you boasting in the work you did way back when, when you prayed that prayer? We're saved by grace, through faith. We're not saved by effort, through intention.
God says I'm going to send a hail storm to sweep away that lean-to of lies you've lived under. That shelter you've made against the storm of punishment—it's no match for the wrath of a righteous God. Ok, I'm preaching a bit now!
All lies have leaks. All lies are a poor excuse for a shelter. They're like those pop-up presswood sheds you buy at the Home Depot to stash your mower and some garden tools in. When the rain comes, that little shed's not going to keep you dry.
My neighbor down the street has this dinky aluminum carport for his tractor, and God love it, if that thing hasn't collapsed seven or eight times in the last year alone! Every time we get a strong wind I see that aluminum-sheet-on-rails go crumpling to the grass below.
The next day, without fail, I see him out in his yard bending back the poles and hammering out the dents as best as he can. By now the thing looks like a twice-used piece of aluminum foil or something.
That's the image I want you to see from now on when you think of the lies we tell. The lies we tell ourselves to take false comfort, the lies we tell others to avoid conflict, and the lies we tell God to dodge his wrath in vain. Those lies have leaks. Those lies are bad shelters. Those lies will not shield you from what's to come.
Confession saves us. Repentance saves us. The truth sets us free. Righteousness gives us access to God—righteousness not through our own good works but through the once and finished work of Jesus Christ.
"He made him who knew no sin to be our sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." That's the only way to live. Confessional, truthful, honest, unprotected from consequences at times yes but always having a free conscience, knowing God is on our side.