Woe Is Me – Isaiah 6:5

Let’s face it. Part of the role of a Prophet in the Old Testament was to say woe is them. It was certainly part of Isaiah’s assignment as he would give admonishment and warning to people through his prophetic gifting. It was an assignment of prophet’s of old to point out when people had strayed from the path and were off course with where God would have them to be.

Woe is them was the message until Isaiah saw the Lord high and lifted up with the train of his robe filling the temple. There was something about that encounter that shifted his narrative. It was no longer woe is them, but the message shifted to woe is me.

That’s the power of the presence of God. It changes our awareness.

We live in a culture that is hyper aware of the faults and frailty of others. I suppose we’ve always been self righteous. It’s our tendency and the default setting of our souls. Our thoughts originate with us and are very familiar to us, so how can they be wrong, right? We have the innate ability to justify the words we say, the decisions we make, and the actions we take. That would otherwise be known as self justification. With the advent of social media and a device to keep us constantly connected to an online world we now have access to express our thoughts on every subject known to man. A long time ago, in a galaxy far away, there was a word called tolerance that was celebrated. The idea was to tolerate and be kind to people who were different than you. Tolerance was a novel idea I suppose. Like a whale breeching the surface with mouth agape engulfing anything in its path, the behemoth of social media and our own self righteousness consumed that idea in one gulp.

Today, it’s not uncommon on social media, the news media, or probably our own conversations to find out what is wrong with “them.” You can use any medium you like to impute wrongdoing on a person who is different than you. It’s funny how tolerance has led us to extreme intolerance. Funny in an ironic way and not an “lol” sort of way. The other day the phrase “fake Christian” was trending on Twitter. Enough people in our nation felt self righteous enough to condemn christianity as a whole. The debate was centered around a political issue of our day. It’s an important issue for sure. The problem is the term “fake Christian” was trending the same day as an event called “serve day.” A day when thousands of churches from all over the USA and even the world go out of the four walls of the church to simply serve in their communities. Thousands of teams went to paint, clean, serve food, provide clothes, sit with the elderly, and in general just meet the needs of the hurting, lonely, and poor. Yet, feeling self righteous and self justified, christians and non christians alike, chose one political talking point to paint the whole of Christianity as fake.

So, people who can point out problems are a dime a dozen. Solutions are priceless. Don’t you get annoyed by the person who can find all of the problems, but never come up with the solution? What is the solution for self righteousness in the world at large, in our own personal world, in our phones, and in our hearts?

Here’s my offer for a solution whether its the self righteousness of the world or a religious type of self righteousness. We need the presence of God. Like Isaiah, we need the presence of God to bring self awareness. When we’ve been in God’s presence it shifts our narrative from woe is them to woe is me. It shifts the focus off of what’s wrong with them and begins to bring awareness of what’s wrong with me. Our righteousness dominates until we are in the presence of His righteousness. In a world of intolerance, its the presence of God that brings grace. God didn’t condemn Isaiah, he helped him with his unrighteousness. The presence of God is the presence of grace. Without God’s presence we live in an intolerant and cruel world that looks for the wrong in others. With the presence of God we live in a grace filled world that sees our own ineptness and the sufficiency of God’s grace to help us.

Here’s what God’s presence does:

  1. It creates self awareness.

The presence of God illuminates our lives with a clear picture of our deficiency. It brings us back to a place of God awareness and self awareness that changes our message from woe is them to woe is me.

2. It shifts the narrative from “me versus them” to “me versus me.”

We live in a culture where each group is fighting for the rights of their own particular group. Not realizing that we are splintering ourselves into a place of disunity, distrust, and anger. As the pastor of a church I never want the narrative of our church to be us against them. As a church we don’t exist against the world, we exist for the world. Separated from it? You betcha. Taking on the characteristics of it? Not in a million years. But here for it. Absolutely. It’s God’s presence that brings the kind of grace that says “I’m not here to fight against you, I’m here to fight for you.”

3. It reminds us of who is really in control.

We fight over authority, government positions, and places of leadership. Isaiah was worried about a vacant thrown in Israel, what was revealed to him was Israel’s thrown is vacant, but heaven’s thrown is not. Fear drives us to hate. Faith and confidence drives us to grace. God’s on his thrown. He will vindicate justice. I don’t have to lash out in fear. I can reach out in grace because God’s still in control and God’s still on the thrown.

If someone will please play a warm pad on the keyboard I will bring this to a close. When was the last time you were in the presence of God? Not in the presence of hype, not in the presence of religion, but in the presence of God. Here’s my best solution for a hurting and subsequently angry world. Find a place of worship. Don’t just stand and observe singing this weekend at church, worship and engage God’s presence. Find a personal and private place of worship and prayer before the weekend. Are you angry at the world, angry at liberals, angry at conservatives, angry at your spouse, angry at your kids? Go to God’s presence. Stay there until you say woe is me.

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