Spitballs and Chewing Gum
Reading: Isaiah 22-24, Titus 2
These Old and New Testament passages aren’t intended to combine in any particular way, but once in a while one seems to mesh quite nicely with the other. Today is one of those times. Let me give you the background.
Chapter 22 of Isaiah recounts the story of God’s dealings with Jerusalem. The inhabitants of the city knew they were in trouble. They had offended God and had subsequently been warned that He was not going to let them away with their rebellion any longer. The truth was that they were defeated long before the enemy arrived at their front gate. From verses 8 to 11 we see them frantically looking for a solution to their problem. They saw the weaknesses in their physical defenses and began to make what they thought were adequate repairs. Their mistake was not asking the One whose walls these were what HE saw.
“You did not look to the One who made it, or have regard for the One who planned it long ago,” writes Isaiah in verse 11.
If they had sought that One, He would have told them that repentance was their only defense.
“The Lord, the Lord Almighty called you on that day to weep and to wail, to tear out your hair and put on sackcloth” (Isaiah 22:11, NIV)
Instead they patched up the crumbling walls and partied on, embracing the illusion that they were safe. But God would not forgive the offense where forgiveness had not been sought.
To whatever era chapter 24 refers, it is a horrifying picture that Isaiah paints—total destruction.
The chapter from Titus begins with a list of instructions for all the believers who make up the body of Christ. Basically all these instructions address the unity, respect, discipline, godliness and all the other good graces that are needed to show the world the reality and efficacy of the Gospel. Whether it be in the home or outside of the home, the bottom line for the believer is to “make the teaching about God our Savior attractive” (Titus 2:10, NIV).
We make Christ attractive to the outside world, not through gimmicks, but by holy living. The grace that brought us salvation, writes Titus, “teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age” (2:12, 13).
Titus goes on to say that for this purpose Christ redeemed us “to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good” (2:14).
So what has Isaiah got to do with Titus? Isaiah tells us what the consequences are when God’s people don’t live out His purposes for them. You see, God chose Israel to be His special people so that they would make God “attractive” to the pagan nations. Instead they damaged His reputation, brought shame on His Name, rejected Him in favour of false gods, and disobeyed Him in every way possible. They made God unattractive. And there were consequences.
The message delivered in Titus reminds us that, on this side of the cross, we as believers are now God’s chosen people, redeemed for the purpose of making Him attractive to those who don’t believe. Titus tells the people within his sphere of influence what that attractiveness looks like.
And when we make Him unattractive through our disobedience and by the dishonor we bring on His reputation, what happens? God calls us to repentance just as He called the inhabitants of Jerusalem to repentance. It's the only solution. Woe to us if we ignore the real problem—sin—and try to plug the holes in our defenses with chewing gum and spitballs, or with more gimmicks and newer programs. Without repentance there will be no saving us from whatever consequences God deems appropriate.