A portion of Isaiah’s 30th chapter reads, “…your Teacher will not hide himself anymore, but your eyes shall see your Teacher. And when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left, your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.’”
I once dealt with a young man who was so convinced of a particular meaning of the literal truth in these words that he would wait for holy inspiration to tell him which way to walk to work. Oddly enough, he went on to a successful career in a field rife with ethical ambiguity. More common is the assertion that God is in control of everything that happens, and that God’s plan for one’s personal life is something like a heavenly AAA TripTik complete with turn-by-turn directions to a final destination, including all the stops along the way. For those of you unfamiliar with the ancient technology of an AAA TripTik, it’s something like a paper version of a talking GPS guiding you from point A to point B with many stops in between. The main difference is that the Triptik also describes all the details of points of interest along the way.
That view of what it means to say that God has a plan for your life, it seems to me, misses the whole point of everything God had to say through the prophets. The holy voice that says, “This is the way; walk in it,” is not talking about sidewalks or roadways. It is talking about the moral choices one makes in one’s life. God’s plan, both personal and corporate, is all about what it means to live together ethically. The prophets, illuminated by Christ’s teaching, provide challenging standards for what that means.
One of the temptations we embrace is how much easier t is to ignore God’s moral imperatives while pestering God for detailed instructions on important life decisions as well as on the minutia of daily life. It’s so much easier to assert that God is in control of everything while we go about the business of screwing things up with our ego driven selfishness. It’s a win-win for us. We can avoid taking responsibility for ourselves and our communities while boldly asserting that whatever crackpot idea we’ve come up with is a part of God’s plan. We can confidently rest in the blessed assurance that we have accepted Jesus Christ as our personal savior while ignoring most of what he, and all of scripture, have to say about the ethics of life together. Moreover, we can arrogantly assert that our culturally formed way of life is from God himself, and, therefore, is the way of life everybody else should adopt.
It must drive God crazy to have to put up with us. Frankly, I’m amazed that God can love us so much that he would send his only begotten Son. That his plan for salvation somehow includes the whole of creation is what gives me hope. It certainly won’t come from our end.