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Isaiah calls Israel to “return . . . to the One you have so greatly revolted against” (31:6). The fact that God’s people have rebelled against him does not preclude them from turning back to God.
In times of suffering, it can seem as if God is completely absent. We wonder if God has forgotten about us completely. The good news is that he continues to be with us, even when we cannot perceive him. In time, he will make himself known with new clarity and intimacy. He will teach us, and we will be in a place to learn with open minds and hearts.
That last line of verse 15 unsettles me. I wonder how many times God has offered me his help, but I “would have none of it.” I wonder how often God has offered me the gifts of rest and quietness, but I have been unwilling to trust him.
Many mornings, when I leave for work, my husband is high on a ladder, gingerly removing one of the hundred-year-old storm windows from its hinges and then carefully lowering it to the ground so he can work on it in the garage. When I return in the evening, the result of his hard work is evident: yet another freshly painted window, gleaming at me in welcome.
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.
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