In Isaiah 44, God speaks through the prophet to highlight his divine uniqueness. Though there are many other “gods,” the Lord reveals, they are mere idols, formed by human hands from material elements… The Lord, on the contrary, is unique. He alone is “the first” and “the last,” the one who is before all things and who will be there at the end of time (44:6).
Scripture proclaims to us that if anyone is in Christ, that person has been made new and begins to participate in the reality of the new creation (2 Cor 5:17). Yet when we look at our lives, when we see our failures and frustrations, we often can’t see the new thing God has done in us. If he were to ask, “Do you not see it?” our answer might well be, “No. I really don’t.” So how can we see God’s renewing work in our lives?
Scripture teaches that God is with us even when we cannot perceive him. God is watching over us as a good shepherd. God dwells within us through his Spirit. Sometimes we struggle to experience or even affirm God’s presence. But if we base our faith on what God has revealed, then we know that he is with us.
The prophecies of Isaiah testify to the treacherous “waters” and scorching “fires” of Israel’s experience. Because Israel persistently rejected him, the Lord disciplined the nation through the domination of foreign rulers. Yet, even in those hard times, God did not abandon his people. He promised to be with them, protecting them from ultimate devastation.
Why would a loving God allow his people to suffer? We can’t find a full answer to this question from one small verse of Isaiah. Indeed, the question of suffering is one of the toughest questions that Christians face, not to mention Christians who are presently suffering or sharing in the suffering of others. But Isaiah 42:24 suggests one small facet of an answer.
When we are set free from our “prisons,” we also join Jesus the Servant in his mission of setting others free. We share the good news of the Gospel. We stand up against oppression. We do battle in the Lord against all that keeps human beings in chains… We who have been entrusted with leadership have a particular responsibility to seek God’s justice in our places of influence.
When we acknowledge Jesus as the Servant of God, we also acknowledge that he brings God’s justice. We pray as he taught us, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” We seek first the kingdom of God and his justice. And we offer ourselves in humble service to Jesus the Servant. We become servants of the Servant, ready to do his will on earth.
As the children of Israel were buffeted about by the more powerful nations of the ancient Near East, they must have sometimes felt like “a worm.” This image conjures up a sense of smallness, powerlessness, and vulnerability. Worms can’t fight back. And they are easily crushed. Yet God offered reassurance to his people. Though they may have felt like a mere worm, he was there to help them. He would redeem his people—bringing them back to their homeland, protecting them, and blessing them with his presence.
Do you feel tired and weary today? Do you worry that you might stumble and fall? Then why not put your hope in the Lord? Why not choose to wait upon him? I’m not suggesting this is always easy. It’s certainly not for me. But the promise of God through Isaiah encourages us to turn fully to the Lord, to wait for his provision, to hope in him even when we feel hopeless. God will strengthen us for all that lies ahead.
In yesterday’s Life for Leaders devotion, we glimpsed a vision of God’s power and tender care. Yes, God has a mighty arm, which he sometimes uses to judge the guilty. But, in Isaiah 40:10-11, God’s mighty arm is used as “he gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart.” Yes, God is strong, stronger than anything we can imagine. Yet God is also tender, tender in ways for which our hearts yearn. As I reflect on this picture of God’s power and tenderness, I wonder if I am faithfully imitating God’s example in my leadership.
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