Although I am generally more of a Jeremiah girl than an Isaiah one, I’ve been thinking about this particular book and its prophet a lot recently. Isaiah, like most of the prophets of the Old Testament, doesn’t get much air time in an average church – he’s brought out at Easter and Christmas to remind us that, as Christians, we believe that Jesus’ coming and actions were predicted long before his birth, that promises and prophecies do come true, and that with him, the harshness Mosaic law died to the gift of grace, the gift of the Son, but aside from that, he’s kind of like the weird spices you buy on a whim that just sit on a shelf gathering dust, out of sight behind the ubiquitous mixed herbs and chilli powder, just waiting for the day when you’ll get your act together and cook up something a bit different.
I sort of forget sometimes that although my Bible is in a single, nice, portable volume, that’s not how it was written – that the little book I carry about with me represents centuries of documentation, hundreds of authors, thousands of revisions. There’s something amazing about knowing that the apostles (the Jewish ones, at least) would have read the OT as I do (and much more regularly, I imagine!), that they would have read about Elijah and his fierceness for the Lord, and Jeremiah and his tentative courage, and Isaiah, the picture of zealousness, with his strange visions of a man, pierced and beaten for the sins of the Earth, sent for redemption and returned broken and bleeding, to God. And, inspite of Jesus laying down history in front of them, like a well played hand at cards, they would still fail to make the connection, they would still fail to realise that the prophecies they had heard from the cradle, were being fulfilled before their very eyes, under their roofs and around their tables. The old has gone, the new, has come.
I was thinking about the eagles in the last part of Isaiah 40 again this week, about running and not growing weary, and walking without stumbling. In the last few weeks, despite feeling so much better, something still hasn’t been sitting right. I’ve been feeling so much better, making plans for moving forward, getting new projects on the go, and thinking of how to reduce the impact of this year – but something still felt like it was jarring, sticking somewhere. This passage cast some illumination on that unease, as, to some extent. I got through the depths of depression by relying a lot on my faith, weak as it was – and then, once it started, finally to lift, it was as though I turned to God and told him ‘I’ll take things from here, cheers for the help, but now, I’ll go my own way. Again. I’ve got this under control’.
I do not have this under control.
God doesn’t just sustain me when I’m at breaking point – he sustains me every day. I need to stop thinking I can act out of my own strength, and get by without His input, aside from when things crumble and I get truly desperate. He’s not a last-chance God that I stick on a shelf until all other avenues have failed – I need to get better at relying on Him permanently, through the easier times as well as the hard ones. I’ve made myself busy with all these plans, but I haven’t really prayed about them, or relied on God’s hand to guide me through the decisions, and because of that, once again I find myself wearying and tiring. Depending on God is something I don’t find easy – having grown up being fiercely independent, making my own decisions and not really having anyone to ask for guidance, learning to pray and ask for this, and to stop being so self-reliant, was a lesson that took me a long time to learn, and even longer to put in practise.
Sometimes, we talk about God’s power to rescue as so situation specific, when really, we need that rescuing every day, as every day, we live our lives under sin, outside of godliness. We need grace, every day, not just the day we commit to Jesus, not just in the darkest hours when all hope seems lost, not just in the lonely hours before the dawn, when our separation seems most painful. My need for rescuing doesn’t change; my need for Jesus, doesn’t change. If anything, I need God more now, that I’m trying so desperately to stay on an even keel. I need that guidance to keep me going, to lead me as far away from the grip of depression as possible, to stop me wearying and tumbling down. I need a steady hand and a level road. I need God, who weighs the islands and names the stars, who brings down nations, yet still gathers the lost as sheep, who knows us, you, me, by name. I need that man, pierced for my transgressions and hung on a tree before the crowds. Salvation isn’t a one-day event that tarnishes with time or wears out with use; it’s eternal, unchanging. I need to remember this.