8th February 2009 (3rd before Lent)
‘God doesn’t really care about me and my situation.’ If we think that we’re not the only ones – the nation of Israel felt the same way at the time Isaiah was writing for. The situation this part of Isaiah best fits was the time when the nation was in exile and in despair about the future. His words of comfort fit many situations in our own lives as well.
God’s message through Isaiah first reminds people how great and powerful God actually is, despite appearances. People are very small compared to the God who made the sky. Even the most powerful people – the princes and leaders of the nations – are very small in comparison to God. It is God who gives them authority to rule, and takes it away when the time comes. To say that was not to approve of what those rulers were doing – the rulers of the various empires at that time often were as cruel and despotic as any – nor to approve of how they got into power. What Isaiah is saying is that rulers must not think that their power is permanent, nor need their oppressed people feel that their situation is hopeless – the rulers’ positions are wholly dependent upon God’s will. Even President Mugabe acknowledged that – though he misused that idea to mock opposition efforts to unseat him.
Isaiah goes on to emphasise God’s power by reminding the Israelites of his work in creation. Look at the night sky. It was all created by God! It is all maintained by God – the stars remain in position by God’s power. Nothing can compare with God’s power, not in the whole of nature, nor in the whole of humanity.
Isaiah then comes to the point: if God is so great, how can you say he does not see your situation! If God is so great that he looks after the universe, that includes looking after the details – even insignificant ones, Jesus would add (Matthew 10:30).
What then should we do in such situations, where evil reigns and we can see no hope of making things better or finding an escape? Isaiah’s message is very simple: trust in the Lord, and wait expectantly for him to act. Those who do so may not see any change in the situation – the time may not be right for God to act. But they will be able to bear it, they will renew their strength. More than that, they will keep going – soaring, running, walking. The strength to do so is not natural. Those one would expect to keep going may not have the strength to do so. That strength is God-given, and it is given to those who keep trusting in him and in his deliverance, however evil the times.
1) What situations in the world tempt you to despair? What might Isaiah say?
2) What should be our reaction to evil situations?