Tuesday, March 06, 2007

When Our Eyes Cheat Us

What's your favorite car?

Mine is my family's 1965 Ford Mustang. It was first purchased by my grandmother and then handed down to my Dad. Today it has 70,000 original miles. It's sweet.

In 1981, the floor boards were nearly rusted through, so Dad decided to get it repaired and have some extensive restoration work done. We took the car to our friends at Bramlage Automotive.

After a few weeks, we called to see how the work was progressing. "Oh come on down," they said. "We'd be glad to show you."My Dad and I were expecting to see our old car looking even better than when we first brought it in.

Instead, our mouths dropped in horror:

The paint job was stripped to bare metal, the front hood, back trunk, and convertible top were off, and everything inside the car--dash, front seats, back seats, carpet, etc., was laying around the shop in pieces.

We both went home saying, "Our car is ruined." Like Humpty Dumpty's court, we were convinced it could never be put back together.

I thought of this story as I was studying on the Servant Song in Isaiah 52:13-53:12. This Lent I'm preaching 3 verses a week through this incredible Old Testament vision about the death of Jesus. It was given to the prophet Isaiah 700 years before the birth of Christ. This past weekend's sermon was based on Isaiah 53:1-3:
Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?

He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.

He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
Concerning this section, Dr. Allen P. Ross makes a brilliant observation (BTW--find his outstanding exegetical notes here and expositional notes here):
These words illustrate vividly a habit we all share, the habit of letting the eye cheat the conscience, of letting the sight of suffering blind us to the meaning. We dislike pain and suffering; we turn away from it, forgetting that it has a reason, a future, and a God. We look on things so superficially. We make snap judgments about suffering on the surface... We allow suffering in others or ourselves to blind us to the fact of the reasons and purposes for sufferings... The truth is that suffering is part of God’s plan to remind us of the human predicament we share, to bring up out of ourselves in sympathy and patience, and to eventually fit us for glory. So it is reasonable that the suffering Servant himself share the suffering of the world to redeem the world.
My Dad and I were horrified to see our beloved car in such a state of "suffering." But when we picked it up several weeks later, it was better than new.

The "suffering" had served its redemptive purpose.

Whatever suffering God brings to you, let it shape you into His faithful vessel.

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