Lessons Not Learned (a meditation)

“Who does the Lord think we are?” they ask. “Why does he speak to us like this? Are we little children, just recently weaned? He tells us everything over and over—one line at a time, one line at a time, a little here, and a little there!” ~ Isaiah 28:9-10

In prophetic voice, Isaiah recorded complaints of Israel’s leaders against God. They complain that God treats them as toddlers, repeating the same warnings and commands over and over and over. What they didn’t understand was that God did this because they never learned what he taught.

Isaiah described the leaders as sloppy drunks, stumbling and vomiting all over the place (28:7-8). These were not men who could lead well, but rather foolish men who refused to obey God’s voice no matter how many times they heard it. Sadly, the people under their charge did the same.

Because they refused to listen to these lessons, God promised to send a more difficult one: “Now God will have to speak to his people through foreign oppressors who speak a strange language!” And Isaiah even turns the complaint upon them, “So the Lord will spell out his message for them again, one line at a time, one line at a time…” (28:11, 13).

The Bible repeats so many lessons because sin makes us stubborn and hard-hearted creatures. Too many lessons we should learn we don’t because we either hear and reject them or hear and forget them.

Even as followers of Jesus, repetition has its place. Peter wrote: “Therefore, I will always remind you about these things—even though you already know them and are standing firm in the truth you have been taught… I will work hard to make sure you always remember these things after I am gone” (2 Peter 1:12-15).

As followers of Jesus we have been freed from sin, but until we pass from this life into the next, the remnant of sin still clings to us—defeated but trying to drag us down as it goes. The temptation is for us to forget what we have learned and now practice in Christ, and instead slip back into old habits and patterns.

So Peter said, “I’m going to tell you this again and again.” But unlike Isaiah’s warning, Peter was not trying to pull stubborn hearts away from sin; instead he was trying to keep redeemed hearts from returning to dirt pile of former sin.

And so we are to welcome the reminders of faithfulness to Jesus not with complaints but with eager anticipation that they will keep us rooted in him and lessons learned will not become lessons unlearned.

This post is part of our ongoing journey through the Bible as a church.

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