Random and not so random musings from a 5th generation NE Missourian who became a 1st generation Episcopalian. Let the good times roll!

Isaiah Chapter 51

Vv. 1-8: Remember where you came from

It appears to me that God is speaking to Israel, reminding them that even in their downtrodden state they come from a godly heritage. “Look to the rock from which you were hewn, and the quarry from which you were dug.” I particularly like the part where God says he will comfort our waste places.

Really, it is our darkest hours that shape us. As much as I wish I could get rid of the dark places in my life, as bothersome as those shadows are in my present life, I recognize that they define my humanity in a way that my happier moments do not. It is difficult to struggle with that dark and easy to become discouraged in the face of it. I have kind of been doing that off and on all winter. One of the things about this part of my life in general is that is the first time I see an endpoint on my horizon, and it is not so far away I can ignore it. When I was younger, and still “climbing the ladder”, thinking about the winding down or ending of my working life was not even on the radar screen.

I am starting to see that the career part of our lives become a form of “exile”, too. There are things related to making a living, no matter how much you love your job, that keep us from our heart’s desire (and I don’t just mean money or lack of money). There are issues that folks who are caught in the day-to-day of rearing their children that keep them in “exile”. We are ALL in exile in one way of another, and we forget where we came from. We forget the deep bedrock from which we are hewn.

Vv. 9-11: God promises you CAN come home again

I think Rahab is somewhat of an interchangeable name for Leviathan. In Jewish tradition, Rahab is the “angel of insolence and pride”. The word is used in Hebrew to represent “noise”, “tumult”, and “arrogance.” I think what God is telling his exiled people (us too) is that to truly “come home” to a place in our heart where we can easily feel the glory of the Lord, that we have to cut these monsters to ribbons. We have to cut apart our own arrogance. We have to shred the noise and tumult in our souls.

Arrogance is a hard word. None of us would claim to be arrogant. The word comes from the Latin arrogantem, meaning "assuming, overbearing, insolent". Assuming—that’s interesting. We make certain assumptions when we are being arrogant. So we don’t necessarily have to be all high-and-mighty to be arrogant, merely to assume something which may or may not be based in fact. I think we make assumptions sometimes about what God thinks...a form of arrogance. But to draw closer to God, we have to drop those assumptions.

Vv. 12-17: Why do you worry about these people?

God is telling the Israelites, “Why are you worried about these people? They are gonna someday get sick and die and their civilization will go to hell in a handbasket, as is the way with all civilization. You worry too much about what these people are going to do to you instead of thinking beyond that and realizing I am the one who comforts you, who protects you.”

I really like the line that he has hidden us “in the shadow of his hand.” I think of how I hold a puppy or a baby chick—loose enough so it can stretch and squirm a little, but tight enough it can tell I’m protecting it. I can get really wound up on what disastrous thing could happen next in my life. I am always expecting the next disaster around the corner. Seems like every Friday, there is something that happens that has the potential to wind me up for the weekend.

Why do I worry? Why can I not release to myself to the idea that whatever happens with what has me wound up, good or bad, God will continue to hold me in the shadow of his hand?

Vv. 18-23 When “Enough is enough” God will take the bitter cup away

Even though the people are leaderless, Messiah-less, and wandering in circles of their own self-pity, God is promising the Israelites that at some point, their troubles will pass on to their tormentors. What goes around, comes around, eventually. But it is not a time of the people’s choosing, it is a time of God’s choosing.

That is a hard set of verses for me, because it’s couched in that Old Testament “smiting” attitude. That whole “short history of the Jews” joke--”They tried to kill us, we won, let’s eat.” But I think a way to look at those verses, rather “they’re gonna get what’s coming to them” or “Why does Dad hate us?” way, is to think about the concept that what APPEARS to be God punishing us is really our own wandering around not looking for a window of God’s grace. Eventually, if we are patient, and faithful, and discerning, we’ll see that window or door leading to the way out of the darkness.

What I wonder is how many windows does God stick in front of my nose before I notice one? How many times did he shine a big light my way but I never looked up or stopped pacing in circles???? I sort of laugh at the notion that I might see what looks like the “first” window out of my distress, and God is rolling his eyes and going, “DUH!!!!!! That was only the FIFTH one I put there for you!”

But the take home message is, there is a point where that “cup of staggering” and “bowl of wrath” is pulled out of our hands. I ask myself: Do I let those utensils go willingly? Do I hand them over to God right off the bat? Or is it more often that God has to rip them out of my hands, and say, “LET GO! Now go! Shoo! You’ve suffered enough, thanks to your own stiff-necked inability to let things go! AAARRRGH! Do you not get it, I’m crazy about you...why don’t you believe it?”

So....there’s week 3!



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Kirksville, Missouri, United States
I'm a longtime area resident of that quirky and wonderful place called Kirksville, MO and am wondering what God has hiding round the next corner in my life.

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