Why do you say, O Jacob,
and speak, O Israel,
“My way is hidden from the LORD,
and my right is disregarded by my God”?
Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The LORD is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
his understanding is unsearchable.
He gives power to the faint,
and to him who has no might he increases strength.
Even youths shall faint and be weary,
and young men shall fall exhausted;
but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
they shall walk and not faint.

(Isaiah 40:27-31 ESV)

I read a piece of really stunning microfiction yesterday (unfortunately I don’t have the link. [Update 1/25/16: found the link]) about a guy who was abducted by strangers, locked in a room with a telephone, and instructed to never use the phone or else bad things would happen to him. He was fed crackers and water each day and after several weeks he was, understandably, starving and going out of his mind.

He finally used the phone. Without getting into the bizarre details, the result was really bad, but irony was that if he had just waited five more hours he would have been released.

It was a good story and I was reminded of it when reading Isaiah 40 tonight. Waiting is hard; the end of Isaiah 40 speaks to this. The voice in verse 27 expresses what most of us have sometimes felt, a feeling of abandonment by God. I’m waiting here but I’m not sure if he even remembers me.

The Lord through Isaiah reminds us of something important. God is not limited in any way to come to our rescue. He is not tired. He doesn’t get tired. He knows and understands everything. He seeks to give power to those who are losing their might.

This is all inextricably tied to waiting on him. What does that mean? What does it mean to wait on the Lord? And secondly, why do we have to wait?

I think this is important to understand; this idea of waiting. We are beings who have never known anything but the flow of time, and so we’re locked into temporal thinking and our spiritual sight, our perception of the bigger picture, is extremely limited in most of us. So we find ourselves at times in desperate need of rescue but with no rescuer in sight.

God does this to us, I think, on purpose, for reasons higher than I can imagine but I think partly to teach us some of the basics of life in his Kingdom, including the basic 101s of patience and faith. So we will find ourselves wanting desperately for something to happen, but forced to wait. What do we do while we wait? I don’t think this passage implies that we do nothing. We need to wait for him because there are numerous (more than we know, I suspect) things in life that we truly are not going to be able to take care of on our own, so the ultimate fix for our problem is truly out of our hands. But when you’re waiting for the Lord to come to your rescue, that’s a perfect time to, for example, cry in the wilderness and make straight paths in your life for him.

He is coming. The people Isaiah was writing to still had centuries to wait for their Savior, but he was on his way, in God’s inscrutable, perfect timing.

Wait on him. He will renew your strength. He will rescue. You will soar, you will run, you won’t get tired.

He’s on his way!

What he remembers, what he forgets

Remember these things, O Jacob, and Israel, for you are my servant; I formed you; you are my servant; O Israel, you will not be forgotten by me.  I have blotted out your transgressions like a cloud and your sins like mist; return to me, for I have redeemed you.

Isaiah 44:21-22 ESV

There are a lot of things I could comment on about this passage,  but tonight what I’m thinking about specifically is this: “you will not be forgotten by me.”

He will blot out our sins so they can no longer be found. He even says several other places in Scripture that he will remember our sins no more; feel free to parse that theologically but the effect is that our sins are effectively forgotten.

But he does not forget his people,  nor will he ever.

“Remember these things” – we’re to remember that he remembers us.  We aren’t orphans,  we aren’t alone. We will not be forgotten.

This speaks to one of the deepest needs of mankind: to be fully known. We have that need met,  fully,  in Christ.

Thanks be to God.

“If they do not hear”

From today’s reading of Luke 16 – 17:10

And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house—for I have five brothers—so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’ But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’” – Luke 16:27-31 (ESV)

This is from the parable of the rich man and Lazarus.

At first blush there’s a tendency to agree with the rich man who is in torment in hades. Surely sending Lazarus to his brothers to warn them would work? But there’s a truth, often repeated in scripture, regarding seeing and hearing, that bears upon this. It is expressed, for example, in the calling of Isaiah:

And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.” And he said, “Go, and say to this people:

“‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand;
keep on seeing, but do not perceive.’
Make the heart of this people dull,
and their ears heavy,
and blind their eyes;
lest they see with their eyes,
and hear with their ears,
and understand with their hearts,
and turn and be healed.”
– Isaiah 6:8-10 (ESV)

In our fallenness, we can often hear without hearing, and see without really seeing. If we would but see what God has placed before our eyes, and hear his words, and understand, we would be healed. But the hardness of hearts and the distractions in life and just an inborn force-field to spiritual input leaves us deaf and blind.

This is one reason Jesus healed the blind and deaf during his earthly ministry; to demonstrate the blindness and deafness of those who physically see and hear just fine but who completely miss him.

There is the cry of the agnostic heart: “God, show yourself, and I’ll believe!” To this the Lord responds, “no you won’t.” If we ignore his Word, skeptically deny his work, and continue shutting our ears and covering our eyes to an entire universe declaring his glory, it is doubtful that there’s any great miracle that will sway us. We were designed to see and hear clearly, but we are fallen and broken and our eyes and ears are in need of the healing touch of the Lord. Thank God that Jesus still touches blind eyes and deaf ears and opens us up to the light and music of salvation in him.

“Behold, my servant whom I have chosen”

From today’s reading of Matthew 12:1-21, Mark 3, and Luke 6

Jesus, aware of this, withdrew from there. And many followed him, and he healed them all and ordered them not to make him known. This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah:

“Behold, my servant whom I have chosen,
my beloved with whom my soul is well pleased.
I will put my Spirit upon him,
and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles.
He will not quarrel or cry aloud,
nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets;
a bruised reed he will not break,
and a smoldering wick he will not quench,
until he brings justice to victory;
and in his name the Gentiles will hope.”

– Matthew 12:15-21

Matthew here quotes from Isaiah’s great vision of Jesus in Isaiah 42:1-4. Isaiah’s prophetic utterance follows and contrasts with the Lord’s words about the futility of idols in the previous chapter which ends like this:

Behold, they are all a delusion;
their works are nothing;
their metal images are empty wind. – Isaiah 41:29

Is this not a message for the ages?

Behold, they [idols] are all a delusion, their works are nothing; their metal images are empty wind.

Then . .

Behold my Servant!

Our idols are indeed an illusion, but most of us spend far too much of our time chasing after them, these shiny, metallic distractions of empty wind.

Why? We have a designed-in longing for Jesus, but fall easily for the counterfeit, many times because the counterfeit is easy, compared to what we perceive is the cost of following the Lord. But Isaiah cries out here, behold Jesus!

He is the only one who brings the justice that we desperately long for. Idols offer distractions and false hopes. Jesus has promised, and will in truth, make everything new and make everything right.

Our world is full of the noise of our idols. Behold Jesus; he is not brash, doesn’t raise a ruckus and a spectacle in the streets, doesn’t shout-down his opponents. Yet he is the Final Word, and will one day silence the noise.

From the heavens you uttered judgment;
the earth feared and was still,
when God arose to establish judgment,
to save all the humble of the earth. Selah – Psalm 76:8-9

And if you are broken, wounded and burned out; a bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not quench. He is the great Healer, and he will heal you.

“Many followed him, and he healed them all”

Behold him, and hope in his name.