10 “Now will I arise,” says the LORD.
“Now will I be exalted;
now will I be lifted up.
11 You conceive chaff,
you give birth to straw;
your breath is a fire that consumes you.
12 The peoples will be burned as if to lime;
like cut thornbushes they will be set ablaze.”
13 You who are far away, hear what I have done;
you who are near, acknowledge my power!
14 The sinners in Zion are terrified;
trembling grips the godless:
“Who of us can dwell with the consuming fire?
Who of us can dwell with everlasting burning?”
15 He who walks righteously
and speaks what is right,
who rejects gain from extortion
and keeps his hand from accepting bribes,
who stops his ears against plots of murder
and shuts his eyes against contemplating evil-
16 this is the man who will dwell on the heights,
whose refuge will be the mountain fortress.
His bread will be supplied,
and water will not fail him.
17 Your eyes will see the king in his beauty
and view a land that stretches afar.
The Good Man Who Does Good
The last devotional highlighted that internal change, on the level of our very identity, needs to occur if we want to change our behavior in any lasting way. And consequently, we sometimes have to take stock of our identity if we want to alter our actions.
But lest we take this too far, I think the arrow actually goes both ways – yes, identity will powerfully shape our actions. But at the same time, our actions have a role in shaping who we are, and transforming our identities in turn. After all, if all of our actions simply unconsciously overflowed out of us, why would ever need obedience? Because obedience necessitates that there will be moments when we do not want to do what is right, but do so because we know we should.
And so in verse 15, when Isaiah describes the type of man who can stand in God’s presence, it is important to see this catalog as both descriptive, as well as prescriptive. God doesn’t reveal these actions merely so we could know if we are righteous or not, but so that we could imitate them, and in so doing, encourage the process of becoming more like Christ. I think many of us can testify to times where we did not want to do the right thing, but were changed through the process of doing that right thing.
In the end, action and identity are not distinct from one another, but affect one another in turn: it is our identity as God’s children that creates a desire within us to obey our Father, and our obedience that marks us as belonging to Him (John 14:15).
Read the following passages prescriptively: what does it mean to imitate these passages in your life?
1. Micah 6:-8
2. Matthew 5:1-12