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Being a disciple of Christ is a lot like learning to build a walkway except, instead of YouTube, we’ve got the Bible, the Holy Spirit, and people who have more experience to teach us everything we ever wanted to know. In the beginning, we don’t know anything. But then, as we spend more and more time studying and then practicing what we’ve learned, something actually begins to take shape.
As I read Psalm 75:3, I can’t help but remember how it felt when the earth was literally quaking beneath me. I also recall similar feelings at other times in life, times when the quaking wasn’t literal, but metaphorical. I think of when I learned that my father had terminal cancer, or when my infant son ran a fever of 106 degrees. Most people have experienced this kind of quaking. Some have known turmoil far beyond anything I have experienced, as victims of violent crime or war, as people who have lost loved ones tragically, or similar “earthquakes.”
In Isaiah 29, the Lord indicts his people for saying the right things while their hearts are far away from him. They profess faithfulness to God, but their desires are selfish and idolatrous. Rather than seeking God’s glory, they live for themselves. Their worship is “by the book,” but not “by heart.” They do the right things but don’t do them as a genuine act of self-offering to God.
In the midst of foretelling his judgment of his people for their unfaithfulness, the Lord offers a surprising word of hope. He is laying “a stone in Zion” (28:16). This “tested stone” is “a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation” on which one can build without fear that one’s structure will come tumbling down.
Isaiah 27 foresees the exile of Israel and, beyond that, the time in which God will gather his people once again. Though they have been scattered throughout the world, the Lord will bring them back to their land and to himself.
Do you know what it’s like to wait for God? I expect you do if you’ve walked with the Lord for even a little while. We all experience the desire for God to act. We pray with expectation and hope, even fervor. Yet sometimes nothing happens. We pray again, trying to have faith that moves mountains. But, still, nothing happens. We begin to wonder if God is listening. We wonder why God doesn’t act, why he seems to be so frustratingly slow.
Like Moses, we must all assess the various ministry tools at our disposal. Are you a wordsmith, who uses the tools of communication? Perhaps you are an athlete, actor, writer, lawyer, doctor, politician, engineer, or artist. No matter what the tools, when you function in these roles as a way to glorify God, you are a marketplace minister.
So what has been forgotten and lost? What can we learn from an older, biblical vision of human work? In today’s text, Paul picks up the original creation story imagery of human work as gardening. While Paul didn’t work in an actual garden, he saw his gospel work imaginatively within that framework.
When we see God being mocked today, when we hear people deride the Lord and ridicule Jesus Christ, our hearts are stirred with indignation. Like the psalmist, we pray, “Rise up, O God, and defend your cause; remember how fools mock you all day long.” Yet God holds back for a time so that his purposes might be fulfilled. He seeks not to destroy those who malign him, but to save them.
I can still hear echoes of my Sunday School teacher quoting Isaiah 26:3 in the classic language of the King James Version: “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.” What an amazing, alluring promise! “Perfect peace” accurately renders the Hebrew original, which reads literally, shalom shalom. Don’t you want to be kept in perfect peace?
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