Bread – Substitutes

December 17, 2014


Readings for Wednesday, December 17, 2014, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Isa. 9:8-17; 2 Peter 2:1-10a; Mark 1:1-8; Psalms 49,53,119:49-72

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From our reading in Isaiah today, the following: “…who say in pride and in arrogance of heart: ‘The bricks have fallen, but we will build with dressed stones; the sycamores have been cut down, but we will put cedars in their place.’” Isa. 9:9:b-10

Perhaps our lives are cut down by illness. We then say to ourselves, ‘Through hard exercise and a better diet I will improve my health and be even better than I was before.’ Perhaps we have lost our job or find ourselves paid or treated inappropriately. We then say to ourselves, ‘Through hard work and using my friends and family and broader network, I will improve my economics and life by finding me a better job.’ Perhaps we have suffered from some kind of addiction. We then say to ourselves, ‘I will raise myself from this muck by keeping to the straight and narrow, by following the plan, and by avoiding triggers and people and situations which are not good for me.’

Every one of these situations is a problem in life. And our responses are not bad – surely it is better to rise to the challenge rather than sulk in defeat!

But Isaiah warns us about something – does this self-improvement effort arise from “pride and arrogance of heart” or does it proceed from obedience to God’s commands and in reliance upon His grace, wisdom, power, and love? The actions may look the same to an outside observer, but the effort based upon self-will soon falters and withers because in our own power we are weak, but the effort based upon God’s direction and support in our lives will succeed (maybe not on our timetable or in the way we think is right, but will succeed nonetheless).

When we substitute our efforts and plans for God’s efforts and plans, we have chosen a poor substitute. If we have been commanded by God to build a house of bricks and we choose instead to build it out of dressed stones (a superior and prettier product, to be sure), we have chosen a poor substitute. When we substitute our goals for God’s goals for us, we have chosen a poor substitute.

Why do we pick a poor substitute over a better? We cannot hide behind the excuse that “we don’t know better,” because God through His Word has shown us better. Maybe it is because we really don’t trust God. Peter has something to say about that in today’s readings – “…the Lord knows how to rescue the Godly from trials.” 2 Pet. 2:9

Indeed He does. Indeed He has.

So when are we going to stop replacing the real thing with bad substitutes?

Let’s begin today!

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© 2014 GBF

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