“Where are you from?” I don’t know if it works the same in urban areas as it does in the country where I live, but this is a commonly used opening line. Where you grew up, who your “people are'' and “what neck of the woods did you come from” shed a lot of light on your character and personality. The older we get, the more we see the connection between who our parents were and what we are today. How many times have you heard, “you remind me of your father” or “you look just like your mother.” Maybe you’ve caught yourself using their phrases, mimicking their habits, or groaning getting out of your chair without being consciously aware. Sometimes the patterns we’ve gathered from our origins are good and helpful, even humorous, but sometimes they are ways of thinking and acting that dishonor God and need to be corrected.
Spiritually, it is wise to take an account of ourselves regularly. Where and how were you living when God sought you out? How desperately had you been living before the God of Heaven revealed himself to you and offered you redemption through His Son? Do you remember the hopelessness and misery that were your daily companions before you surrendered to Christ? Are we living a life that glorifies God and witnesses to others about His saving power, or have we forgotten where we came from?
1 Hearken to me, ye that follow after righteousness, ye that seek the Lord: look unto the rock whence ye are hewn, and to the hole of the pit whence ye are digged.
This message to the nation of Israel is about their origin story and there are two ideas presented here. First, they were hewn from a rock. This illustration speaks to the divine work God accomplished through their creation and the calling out of Abraham. All of mankind is created in the image of God, we were designed to be in relationship with our Maker. We came from Eden, and there isn’t a person on the planet that didn’t have an ancestor on the ark. One family of humanity inhabits this globe and they are all special creations of the Father. First of all, remember that you were created by God and to Him one day you will return to give an account. You may have forgotten that your beginning starts with God, but God has not forgotten a single one of us.
Secondly, God asks them to think of the pit that He brought Israel out of, both from the land of Ur that Abraham left behind, and the slavery in Egypt which held them captive for 400 years. Now, think of the hole and the pit that you were in when God showed up in your life. We have all sinned and come short of the glory of God. Even if you are a person of material and social success, in your heart you know that your life is a mess without God. The life of every human being, according to the book of Job, “is but a few days and full of trouble.” Because of sin, our own, and the curse we were born under, we find ourselves in a pit, far from God, without a meaningful purpose, and without a solution to save ourselves from the destruction that we honestly deserve. “But God,” these are two of the best words ever written or spoken. The surge of hope it ignites in my soul is beyond comprehension. Take a look at these verses.
4 But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us,
5 Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)
6 And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:
7 That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.
8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.
Isaiah 51:2 Look unto Abraham your father, and unto Sarah that bare you: for I called him alone, and blessed him, and increased him.
It was not random circumstances that caused a mighty and world-renowned nation to be born from the faith and obedience of a single man and his wife, it was the calling of God. It was the handiwork of God. In the middle of our challenges in life, it is difficult to trace God’s hand. It feels confusing, and we often feel overwhelmed. But if scripture teaches anything, it teaches that our feelings lie and cannot be trusted. When we look back over the years we’ve walked with God, it is much easier to see how He blessed us, how He protected us, and how He turned bad into good for us. As God calls Israel to remember that all they were and all they ever hoped to be was the plan of God and by the grace of God, He calls us to recognize that God is with us every step of the way and it is He that holds our lives together.
3 For the Lord shall comfort Zion: he will comfort all her waste places; and he will make her wilderness like Eden, and her desert like the garden of the Lord; joy and gladness shall be found therein, thanksgiving, and the voice of melody.
God is the Great Redeemer. Imagine what Israel is facing, they are rolling toward the destruction of their nation, punishment for their sins, and captivity among a foreign people, and yet Isaiah’s prophecy speaks of the hope that God has already determined for them. An unimaginable upheaval, a life-altering tragedy, and the desert places of our lives have the power to shatter our vision and our perspective about God, but God has already promised what our end will be like. Those who put their trust in God will not be forgotten. He will truly make “the desert like the garden of the Lord.” We are a long way from the Garden of Eden. It feels like we are an eternity away from the perfection of Heaven, but the promise of Heaven is sure, and the promise that God loves you and has a plan for your life, is absolutely guaranteed and illustrated with an empty tomb.
Jeremiah 29:11- For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.
4 Hearken unto me, my people; and give ear unto me, O my nation: for a law shall proceed from me, and I will make my judgment to rest for a light of the people.
My children walk around a lot of the time with earbuds in their ears. Likewise, I have started many a conversation with a person speaking loudly in my general direction, but who was not speaking to me at all, but talking to someone on a Bluetooth device. It’s embarrassing for both of us. Many people begin their day with the television or with the radio blaring. There is a lot to choose to listen to, so much information it’s mind-boggling, and so many distractions it is a wonder any of us are sane. And yet, God pleads with Israel to listen to Him. He has something important that they vitally need to hear, they are His people and He desires to guide them through their trouble. His desire has not changed for the New Testament Church. Jesus said, “if I go away, I’ll leave you another comforter.” We have the Holy Spirit of God living within our hearts, He’d like to show you the way. Are you listening? Do you feel like you are stumbling in the darkness, like the way you should go is hidden and you're overwhelmed by frustration? It’s possible you need to shut out all the noise around you and get alone with God. He’ll guide you through words of scripture, through prayer, through the events in your daily life- if and only if- you’ll tune into Him.
5 My righteousness is near; my salvation is gone forth, and mine arms shall judge the people; the isles shall wait upon me, and on mine arm shall they trust.
6 Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look upon the earth beneath: for the heavens shall vanish away like smoke, and the earth shall wax old like a garment, and they that dwell therein shall die in like manner: but my salvation shall be for ever, and my righteousness shall not be abolished.
People often talk about the stability of the Earth, the solid ground on which they stand. I’ve learned something about the solid ground, it’s a myth. My daughter loves horses, and so I’ve spent quite a few years tromping through that solid ground we like to romanticize, only to find myself hip-deep in the mud. The ground under you is shifting all the time, because of rain, because of erosion, because of farmers tilling the soil, etc. Nothing on Earth is constant and lasts forever, except for the God who made it and holds it together. The people of Israel would encounter uncertainty unlike the world had ever known as they saw the temple destroyed, their families divided, and their children marched off to Babylon. The events of their destruction and captivity, however, were a foreshadowing of the judgment of God that is coming in our future. God will answer with Justice. The Sin of the World, and the earth will be unrecognizable during that time, read the book of Revelation and see that it’s true. And yet, the salvation of God is “forever.” When nothing else is permanent, God always will be, and all who trust in Him, will be glad that they did.
7 Hearken unto me, ye that know righteousness, the people in whose heart is my law; fear ye not the reproach of men, neither be ye afraid of their revilings.
8 For the moth shall eat them up like a garment, and the worm shall eat them like wool: but my righteousness shall be for ever, and my salvation from generation to generation.
It would appear, for those conquered people of Israel, that pagan kings and violent soldiers held all the power over their lives. Many would be placed in unfamiliar surroundings, spoken to in a language they didn’t understand, and forced into customs that would challenge every religious conviction that they held. But God’s admonition is that they should not be afraid, despite appearances, He is in control. Not only would He take care of them personally, but He would be faithful to the righteous generations that would come after them. People hold power temporarily and under the authority of Heaven, God is always Sovereign and our fear (righteous respect) of Him is appropriate, we don’t need to fear men or what they can do.
Matthew 10:28- And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.
I am forever telling my kids to listen to me, to look me in the eyes, to act like they are somebody. I can relate to this conversation between Israel and God their Father. I have an expectation that my children will recognize that I have their best interest at heart and that I have lived long enough to gain some wisdom that they could benefit from, but sadly, sometimes they don’t want what I have to offer. Especially when they are teenagers and adults, it can take all of our energy to sit back and wait, until they ask for our help. God is the perfect father, He offers redemption, forgiveness, instruction, and unfailing love, and I am so dumb, that sometimes I refuse to listen to what He has to say. Shame on me. This is my wakewake-upup call to tune in, and tune the rest of the noise out.
Thank you for studying with us! God bless!