Wednesday was one of those “off” days. I slept fitfully, woke up late, and work was frustratingly futile. To top it off, Jonathan Acuff’s daily article was pointedly painful. We may know all the right words, say all the right prayers, and talk of God’s grace and forgiveness. Yet if we don’t belong to Him, if we are not wholly surrendered, our complacent and selfish human hearts beat only enough to pump the blood out our gaping wounds, slowly draining us of life like the butcher at a slaughter house. Acuff spoke of the nuclear meltdowns, the rock bottom experiences, the last final gasps where we finally give up, and can then be reborn as we rely fully on God. I’ll refer you to the website instead of continuing to poorly reiterat – A Near Life Experience.
It’s terrifying to look at my life and see so many ways in which I live this way; slowly draining of life, but never fully surrendering or experiencing the fullness of submission to Christ. What a way to make to make an “off” day better. Wait, no, I felt far worse!
What drove my Bible reading that evening was Jon’s mention of Isaiah 30. It all starts off with a diatribe against Israel’s alliance with Egypt, condemning the agreement as unwise, ending only in shame and desolation. “But wait,” I think, “Israel was an occupied country!” They were under the oppressive control of Assyria and desperately wanted out. Time and time again, scripture talks of God’s desire for freedom; freedom from sin, from death, from slavery. Israel was suffering under all of it, and they were yearning for freedom!
Their desire was, I think, spot on.
Their action was not.
Instead of turning to God, or even asking if alignment with Egypt was wise, they made a choice on their own; what must have looked like a promising friendship, a shrewd and timely political alignment.
Now judging from what little I’ve read on the subject, it seems like allying with Egypt could have been recognisable as a bad idea, even without Divine insight. Egypt had been a fickle friend to the Philistines in exactly the same setup just a few years before, and had proven themselves an untrustworthy ally. But Hezekiah apparently didn’t know the underlying political motives, or realise just how easily Judah was getting played. Using neighbouring countries as a buffer between themselves and Assyria, Egypt encouraged rebellion by promising military backing as a way of preventing further incursion by the Assyrians into Egypt’s territory. Of course, once the small nations rose up against their oppressors, providing the perfect distraction for Assyria’s armies, Egypt’s promised military support never materialised, leaving the border countries overpowered and laid to waste. The parallel to our own trusting of worldly strength to combat sin is downright overwhelming as well; betrayal is the only result.
I can’t imagine that God didn’t want freedom for Judah, but that He wanted so badly to be their deliverer Himself. To be the first one they turned to, the only one they trusted, their sole focus. Maybe He would have destroyed Assyria from the inside out, struck them down with plagues, or even used Egypt to turn the tide of the invading armies, but Israel would have had to ask Him first! To trust!
While not as perhaps immediately comforting as I would have liked, I should have recognised the passage; Isaiah 30:18 has been in my list of daily reminders for several weeks now.
Isaiah 30:18 AMP
And therefore the Lord [earnestly] waits [expecting, looking, and longing] to be gracious to you; and therefore He lifts Himself up, that He may have mercy on you and show loving-kindness to you. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed (happy, fortunate, to be envied) are all those who [earnestly] wait for Him, who expect and look and long for Him [for His victory, His favor, His love, His peace, His joy, and His matchless, unbroken companionship]!
Mindblowing, isn’t it? I still have no idea how mercy and kindness are a causality of God’s justice, but I’ll try to keep reading through this passage every morning, dwelling daily on the sheer exuberance. The phrase “expect” seems especially potent, repeated both in this verse and in others. Unlike the english word “hope” it cannot be mistaken for vague optimism or well wishes for the future. It’s specific, focused…
and fully trusting.