15 This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says:
“In repentance and rest is your salvation,
in quietness and trust is your strength,
but you would have none of it.
16 You said, ‘No, we will flee on horses.’
Therefore you will flee!
You said, ‘We will ride off on swift horses.’
Therefore your pursuers will be swift!
17 A thousand will flee
at the threat of one;
at the threat of five
you will all flee away,
till you are left
like a flagstaff on a mountaintop,
like a banner on a hill.”
18 Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you;
therefore he will rise up to show you compassion.
For the Lord is a God of justice.
Blessed are all who wait for him!
What a great section of Isaiah this is! Isaiah is telling the people to remember that God is there to fight for them. The Israelites are seeing the Egyptians come on horses and are getting all freaked out and wanting to run (which is, I am sure, immensely logical), but God is telling them that He will take care of them. This is not the time for them to run away, but to stand firm.
What I love is that God is telling them that their salvation isn’t coming from being “rough and ready”, but from repentance and resting in Him. He’s saying that their strength must come from trusting God alone.
Those promises are repeated at the end. God wants to be good to us because He is a God of justice! We are to continue to live in hopeful expectation (i.e. waiting) of his love and grace.
Is this passage telling us to be passive? NO! Repentance is a moment-by-moment activity of walking with Jesus (although you may have a different experience if you sin less than I do, I suppose). Resting in Jesus is not sitting around waiting for the right circumstances to happen – rather, it is letting him take our burdens and worries and taking His burdens on us (Matthew 11:28-30). When we trust that God can meet our needs, we are free to put our energy towards creative solutions to problem and quit spending time and emotional energy worrying.
In my situation right now, I’m frustrated that my occipital nerve block almost two weeks ago was a failure. But, my neurologist started me on some dexamethasone for the severe headache which worked great until I fell in the living room at about 3am (dexamethasone gives me insomnia) and hit the back of my head on a table. I don’t have a significant head injury, just a goose egg, but my neck and shoulder pain are getting worse. Thankfully, I already had planned to see occupational therapy tomorrow for an older and far less problematic neck injury. This therapist is going to get a lot more than he/she bargained for.
What does that have to do with this scripture section? When we see obstacles coming up at us – another temptation, more headaches, falling down and getting a sore neck and shoulder – instead of responding in fear about what will happen next or rumination on how much time and energy it will cost to get to feeling better or stressing about how this is going to affect my headache recovery, I should be spending more time repenting for my lack of faith and asking God for more faith. I need to be willing to rest from whatever is giving me problems right now, even if it’s knitting (although, please, God, no!!). My goal is not to be passively accepting circumstances, but neither is it to be running away from a problem like the Israelites were trying to do here.
Isaiah clearly had a different audience, setting, and context for this prophecy, but I think it very easily applies to the Christian life. God’s essential nature hasn’t changed. He doesn’t want us running off like chickens with our heads cut off trying to sort out problems that we don’t need to worry about. God is big enough for our anxiety. Our part is to repent, rest, be quiet, and listen. When God says to do something, then do it.
So, tonight, I’ll try to sleep (again). I’ll call my neurologist and see my occupational therapist and, hopefully, get through this little “blip” in a reasonable time frame. And in the meantime, I will steadily, but not anxiously, do the work of educating kids, keeping house, and selling yarn in between migraines, all while walking with Jesus.
How do you handle the day-to-day walking with Jesus? What tends to make you anxious and feel “unrested”?