Friday, December 17, 2010

Nontraditional Advent: Isaiah 30 - That's okay, God. We've got it covered.

Last year I went out with a few of my friends from school, and one of them mentioned that she had recently been to a church.  She really enjoyed it because the teaching described how God can be whoever we need him to be. That made sense to her, she thought.

Hmm.  What to say?

Debating the essence of God, with the objective of winning an argument, isn't the most effective means of evangelism.  So I needed to open up the conversation carefully.

I can't remember the conversation word for word, but I opined that if God is really God, if he is not just another being like us, then he gets to define himself.  We may misunderstand him, but he does indeed get to say who he actually is.

That made sense to her, and the conversation wandered into new directions as we discussed Abraham and Isaac and Ishmael and reflected on how this great group of friends would soon be splitting off as most of them graduated in the spring.

The thing is, God does get to be God.  My friend doesn't confess to be a Christ follower so these are legitimate questions for her to ask as she explores ideas of faith.

It gets more problematic when those of us who do follow Christ decide to define him according to our own needs and desires instead of by what he says in Scripture.

If you're following this blog, you may have read The Messenger.  God called Isaiah to deliver a message to the people of Israel.  I mentioned that perhaps the people wouldn't be that receptive to the message, and that is certainly the case.

They've got problems.  Neighboring countries are attacking.  They've asked Egypt to help.  And Isaiah's going around telling them that's not going to work.  They need to return to God.  They need to seek him.  And obey him.

Obedience is such a bore.

Essentially, they tell Isaiah (30:10-11):
Enough with your prophecies and your visions already, Old Man.  We don't really want to hear them.  If you can't say something nice, then don't say anything at all.  
Go away.  Leave us alone.  Stop telling us what God says.  We can find better god-voices that that one.  And anyway, we've got it covered.  
Like my friend, like many of us, we don't want to hear what God wants us to hear.  We don't want him to solve our problems if it means we need to change the way we live.  And so we shape the god-voices that make us feel good.  We can find our own solutions and so we don't want to be bothered by what God has to say.

And God says, Sorry. That's not the way it works.
In repentance and rest are your salvation.  
In quietness  and trust are your strength.  
Turn away from your broken ways.  Turn away from the idea that you can solve your own problems.  On your own.  Without me.  Turn to me and rest in my love.  Trust me.  Be still and know that I am God.  And I will take care of you.  (Isaiah 30:13)

And they people respond, "No thanks, God.  Really.  We've got it covered.  Our horses are really fast, and it's not a problem."

But it is a problem.   And the horses aren't quite fast enough, and the people are "left like a flagstaff on a mountaintop."  Basically, they are sitting ducks.  And w'ere not a lot different.

Why is it that we would rather do things our own way?  Find our own solutions?  Why is that we don't want to sit quietly and ask God what he wants us to do?  What he wants to change?

And the faster our horses go, the faster the problems chasing us go.  Until finally we have no more solutions left.  We have nowhere to turn but to God.

And still, "the Lord longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion.  For the Lord is a God of justice.  Blessed are all who wait for him."  (30:18)

And at some point, we realize that no, we don't have it covered, and yes, we do need God.  Not the one that we define according to our own desires, but the God who defines himself.  And Isaiah says, ". . . how gracious he will be when you cry for help.  As soon as he hears, he will answer you" (30:19)

I guess the waiting, the sitting, the listening, the trusting are harder than running as fast as we possibly can.  At least they are for me.


Joy said...

you always have had a way of speaking right to me :)
I looked up Isaiah 31:13 on to study it a little more but there is no 31:13?? I haven't looked in my actual Bible so maybe I am wrong?

Erin Flew said...

Well, it's always good to cite the correct passage!

I went back and changed everything to Isaiah 30.


Joy said...

thanks Erin!

Erin Flew said...

It's a really powerful passage!