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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Returning and Resting: An Observation on Isaiah 30:15-18

The following is a observation I made/revelation God showed me while studying my devotional passage for today.  It can also be found on my Facebook, under Notes:  Returning & Resting.
One of my new favorite songs lately is Casting Crowns' "Come to the Well," the title track of their latest album. If you have not heard this song, then all I can tell you is to go buy it and listen.  Regardless, there's a line from the verse after the first chorus that always catches my attention every time:

"Just rest in my arms a while, you'll feel the change, my child
When you come to the well"

As I was reading my devotional today, entitled "Waiting for Humility,"  I nearly did a spit take when I read the following verse:  "For the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, has said:  'You will be delivered by returning and resting; your strength will lie in quiet confidence.  But you are not willing.'" - Isaiah 30:15 (HCSB).  While I suppose I shouldn't be surprised how God moves in mysterious ways, I can't help but be amazed in the ways God can take the disparate threads of our existence and weave them together to show us He's there for us.

You see, God was angry with Israel in this passage, so much so that He sent Isaiah to prophesy the doom that would follow their rebelliousness.  Rather than having Isaiah denounce Israel's sin right off, though, He has Isaiah point out that God had already promised deliverance from their enemies , but on two conditions:  that Israel return to God and rest on Him.

It doesn't seem like an unreasonable request at all; it was only the call that echoes through Casting Crowns' song:  "Leave it all behind/And come to the well."  But Israel's response in v.16 is all too often like our own response:  "You say, 'No! We will escape on horses' - therefore you will escape! - and 'We will ride on fast horses' - but those who pursue you will be faster."  The Israelites thought they could outrun their enemies on fast horses, but God observed that their enemies would merely catch up to scatter and destroy them (v.17).

In reality, they were not running from their enemies, but from God.  As Jonah would later prove, this is a futile effort.  Further, it seems mind-boggling that the Israelites would chose to run from the rest and peace they so desperately wanted.  The key lies in the end of verse 15: "But you are not willing."  Israel was not willing to simply accept the peace God was offering.  Rather than humble themselves and claim the assured victory God offered; they chose to continue working on a strategy doomed to fail!

If that sounds familiar, it's because it's the same position many Christians put themselves in on a daily basis. When life's troubles come our way, we want them to be over NOW, to escape our problems "on fast horses."  We pray to God accusingly, asking "Where are you, Lord?  Why haven't you helped me?"  The simple-sounding answer is in v.18: "Therefore the Lord is waiting to show you mercy, and is rising up to show you compassion."  This brings up a volatile question:  What is God waiting for?  If He wants to show His Love, why hasn't he already?

Answer:  Just as with Israel, God is waiting for us to humble ourselves and say, "Okay, God, let's do it Your Way."  Like Israel, we already have an assured victory (in Christ) IF we are willing to humble ourselves to "rest in his arms a while."  If it seems God is slow to respond to our prayers, perhaps the source is within ourselves:  unconfessed sin, a "self-sufficient" attitude, or a lack of faith in God's promises are all possible culprits.  Whatever the problem may be, the reason God is waiting is to allow this spiritual toxin to be purged and our relationship with Him restored.  Then, we can allow God to fulfill the final part of verse 18:  "All who wait patiently for him are happy."

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