A friend suggested in his blog that we get off auto-pilot when reading Scripture, and take a well-known verse and pretend it is the first time we have ever read it. He suggested Psalm 23 – a staple at most funerals, a Bible reference many can even quote, perhaps but never ponder.
Today let me look at Isaiah 33:6, a life verse for me –
And He will be the stability of your times,
A wealth of salvation, wisdom and knowledge;
The fear of the Lord is his treasure. (NASB)
That was quite a promise when I first read it – I read the verse mainly from a vantage point of hope what God had done for Israel He did and will do for the church, and the admonition to fear God more than my circumstances – but how personally scary were my circumstances in the early ‘90’s? Bosnia and Herzegovinian and Rwanda were the shot spots of horror; the televised reports on political scandals, gaffs and intrigues were not 24/7; nobody I knew relied on the Internet or cell-phones and I felt secure from foreign invaders.
When I consider this promise that’s comforted me for decades, how do I disengage from autopilot? Asking who, what, why, when and how helps.
- Who is He? If He is God, how have I managed to relate to Him as if on autopilot? I take Him for granted, as much as the personal peace and affluence that has seemed the norm of my life – compared to how so many other nations’ experiences.
- What does stability of my times mean when terrors assault, financial markets roil, and people excuse crummy behavior as within bounds? Salvation, wisdom and knowledge – that is deliverance and freedom from something; understanding, insight, and both common use and expertise – are values even the church stumbles over. And treasure is not what we define today as a spiritual virtue – fearing God.
- How do I have this stability, or salvation, and when?
Pondering it this morning – with all the bad stuff swirling around I won’t itemize, the promise has never seemed more vital, simple, but elusive . . . stepping on to the solid ground it offers, resting upon it, seems as unfathomable to me as it may have been to the folks who knew Isaiah.
Isaiah wrote to people who could not imagine the troubles that would befall them, their children and their nation – which would be destroyed by the Babylonians, and those who escaped the sword would have been marched hundreds of miles into captivity, most never to return; the Temple in Jerusalem – their meeting place with God — smashed. He wrote to people who forget God, so comfortable were they in their prosperity. In Babylon, they remembered his words – and still later, his words were the foundation of the apostle John’s gospel and letters.
When I first read this promise, I could never have imagined 9/11 or all that has come from it – nor, the rise of evil. (More Deadly than ISIS and al-Qaeda) I would not have believed hotels would chuck the bedside Bibles for a fantasy on bondage. (Source) I couldn’t anticipate some of the conflicts and problems we have lived through in the church, and in our own family. And I couldn’t anticipate the joy of having married kids and their kids while being 1500 miles away! Yeah – my world has been rocked a bit in 20 years
Isaiah’s great guarantee to people who were facing unthinkable ruin is freely available still; it is an infinite pledge and it is personal.
- When my world shakes because of terrors within and without, He will not be moved. I will have all that I need, though the storehouses of personal peace and affluence run empty.
- Will I know what to do – will I be able to do it in uncertain times?
Isaiah saw the Man who was the foundation of his faith, the Messiah. Praying for eyes to see, ears to hear, and a heart that says, Here am I, send me Lord – and the courage to take the next step into a hurting and hopeless world.
Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep Company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”