Thursday, August 14, 2014

The foolish tenacity of sin

In the midst of a long discussion of the idolatry and wickedness of an Israel in exile, the Isaian prophet utters one line which is particularly impressive and inspired:

You grew weary from your many wanderings,
but you did not say, "It is useless."
You found your desire rekindled, 
and so you did not weaken (Isa 57.10).

This text contains some very profound truths which are worth considering.

In the first place, the prophet affirms that a life led in sin is unsatisfying. He tells the Israelites that they grew weary from their wanderings. They went back and forth, here and there, into the woods, into the cities, into back alleys, but all this accomplished was to tire them. They engaged in orgies in the woods and in child sacrifice (57.5) and worship of false gods (v. 6). All this merely wore them out.

In spite of the fact that the pleasures they pursued did not satisfy them, however, they did not change their thinking or adjust their priorities. They did not say, "It is useless to pursue pleasure. It doesn't satisfy me, anyway, since one the pleasure is gone I need it again, and I find myself enslaved to its pursuit. All this does is tire me; I'd better find something else." Why don't they say this? Because they find the desire awakens again, and again, and again. They've accustomed themselves to obeying the desire for pleasure; they've trained themselves to live in the pursuit of every object they desire. At this point they can't say No any longer to the desire they feel. When the desire is rekindled, they go back at it.

When we find that the pursuit of the satisfaction of sinful desires does not have a lasting effect, when we observe that persisting in sin leaves us unsatisfied and empty, we should learn the lesson that we are meant for something else. We're not made to live in sin; the evidence of this is that our lives are empty and miserable when we do. But the trap of sin is that our foolish persistence, our dogged tenacity, our conviction that "next time around it will be better" hardens within us vices of which we cannot easily rid ourselves. We become trained to pursue desire, even though every time we'd done so until now had left us unhappy.

What do we do? What can we do? The LORD says: I have seen their ways, but I will heal them (v. 18). We must go to God and learn from him what will satisfy us, how to live our lives, what things to pursue and what to flee. We have to retrain ourselves in the pursuit of God's plan for humanity and no longer blindly to chase after every fleeting desire and every pleasure.