Read: 1 Peter 2:9; Isaiah 5:1-21
My husband told me this week that one of our local stores is featuring Christmas items. It doesn't bother me to hear that, but I usually don't ponder the buying part of Christmas until Thanksgiving has come and gone. However, I do have an incident that happened years ago at a family holiday get-together I'd like to share.
It's hard to say how many years ago this happened. Maybe around ten? Everyone had contributed to the festivities by making or bringing something, and one of our family members kindly had a cake baked just for us. She knew someone who sold beautiful confections, and this one was no exception. Decorated so nicely and waiting for us when the time was right. However, there was a problem. When I received my plate, I was standing among some of the family when I had my first bite. I said nothing, but I noticed right away that the cake was very dry. I surely understand how that can happen since I have made cakes that had a texture that was very disappointing. Unfortunately, the cake's unpleasantness didn't end with its consistency. There was no sweetness in it. Maybe, I thought, it was only those first few bites. I was moving around as I tried another tentative bite. Sadly, there was no improvement in the lovely dessert. I made my way into the pantry and sneaked it into the trash right on its plate. I am fairly certain of two related things. The baker would have been horrified if she knew how her cake had turned out, and she didn't ruin it on purpose. Surely, she believed that her cake was sweet and decadent.
In Isaiah 5:20, we read of something that was occurring in Israel that was much worse than a cake that had evidently been made with little or no sugar. There were leaders who were saying that sweet things were bitter and bitter things were sweet. They were calling what God called good evil and referring to what God said to be evil as good. In Isaiah 5:21, we see the source of their problem. They considered their own wisdom to be superior to the Lord's. The things they said and the way they lived set a horrible example and were very displeasing to God, causing Him to warn them of the judgment that would be coming if they continued down that path.
These weren't people who were deceived or those who were making mistakes. They were the deceivers. They were as Jude says like clouds that bring no rain to a thirsty ground and autumn fruit trees that bear no sustaining fruit, Jude 1:12. Their lives should have displayed God's character and been like signposts, pointing others to the Living God. Isaiah 5:1-7 is God's lament. He compared His people to a vineyard that He had planted and scrupulously tended. Oh, how the Lord longed to receive sweet fruit from their lives. Instead, what they gave Him in return for His loving care was bitter fruit which they labeled as sweet.
When confronted with the truth of God, the people chose to go their own way, rather than turning around to live by what God considered to be good. When they called light dark and dark light, they were mimicking Satan in Eden. He was the first to question God's motives and His Word, Genesis 3:1-5. The Evil One actually called the truth of God a lie. Talk about calling sweet bitter and light darkness. The result of Adam's having listened to this lie? We all are born with hearts that are not bent toward God. In fact, the scriptures say that before we are rescued by the Savior, we are part of the kingdom of darkness and dead in our sins, Colossians 1:13-14; Colossians 2:13-14. It is only after the Lord has made us new creations, 2 Corinthians 5:17 that we begin to learn what He calls sweet and what He calls bitter. It is after we are born anew, John
3:3 that we begin to discover the difference between what God says is good and what God calls evil. In 1 Peter 2:9, we read the wondrous truth. We are priests of God. A strange term to most of us, but what an honor we have received.
We who belong to the Savior have the privilege of showing as well as telling others what God is like. As we grow and change, 2 Corinthians 3:18, we will act and react more and more like our Master. Our lives will look less and less like the darkness from which we have been rescued. As we learn what God considers sweet, by God's enabling our lives will display those qualities. Will we do it perfectly? Sadly, no.
Back to the cake baker for some encouragement. What if one of the family members would have told her cake wasn't sweet at all? We didn't do that, and I can't say with total certainty what her reaction would have been. However, my guess is that she would have made things right. She might have given the purchaser her money back or made another cake. She would have reacted this way, I believe, because she simply made an error as she put the cake ingredients together. She hadn't been trying to trick the purchaser and she wanted to please her.
That is how it should be with those of us who have been delivered by Jesus. When we see that we have chosen bitter rather than sweet, we should agree with God's assessment and choose what He calls good, 1 John 1:9. We can do this because we have the Holy Spirit to strengthen us and God working in our lives so that we desire to choose His ways, Philippians 2:12-13. Thankfully, we don't have to accomplish this growing and changing alone. When we are part of a fellowship of believers, we are challenged by seeing other believers choose light over darkness. Observing even small steps of growth in the lives of our brothers and sisters encourages us to continue choosing God's ways and truth rather than the world's.
Lord, help us to learn what You call sweet and then to choose it. Help us not to be wise in our own eyes.