11 For the Lord spoke thus to me with his strong hand upon me, and warned me not to walk in the way of this people, saying: 12 “Do not call conspiracy all that this people calls conspiracy, and do not fear what they fear, nor be in dread. 13 But the Lord of hosts, him you shall honor as holy. Let him be your fear, and let him be your dread. 14 And he will become a sanctuary and a stone of offense and a rock of stumbling to both houses of Israel, a trap and a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. 15 And many shall stumble on it. They shall fall and be broken; they shall be snared and taken.”
16 Bind up the testimony; seal the teaching among my disciples. 17 I will wait for the Lord, who is hiding his face from the house of Jacob, and I will hope in him.
- Isaiah 8:11-17
My husband would drag his birthday or Christmas out for days if he could. I remember in his early twenties he would allow his gifts to languish under the tree or on the table, taking his sweet time getting around to opening them. He likes the hope of possibility in the waiting. It drives me nuts. I love the gratification of a 30 minutes or less dinner, an instant DIY makeover, or a quick new way to get something done.
I was recently struck with my hastiness by Isaiah 8:17, “I will wait for the Lord, who is hiding his face from the house of Jacob, and I will hope in him.” Isaiah is talking about how God has called Isaiah to hope in Him while waiting for the redemption of Israel.
Before verse 17, the Lord tells Isaiah how Israel will fall into captivity and about the sins of the chosen people. Specifically in verses 11-15 the Lord tells Isaiah to view Him alone as holy and not to fall into the worldly snares of the Israelites. God is on the move and lots of things will happen. He’s preparing Isaiah and God-honoring people, because He will be moving in ways that are confusing to some and hard to understand.
While studying this portion I got a little confused and even a little angry. How could God make someone stumble? How were they/we supposed to dread God? Part of what God is speaking of here was the coming of Jesus. Jesus made lots of Israelites stumble in their beliefs‒some for good (they turned to belief in Jesus as the Messiah) and some for worse (they couldn’t get over their love of the law to see the grace being extended to them). I worked through and understood this a little better, but dread, how could I reconcile that?
We often forget the full character of God and this is why I’ve been loving my recent study of Isaiah. The Lord is so multifaceted that we often forget to give Him credit for all His attributes. We forget that while God is loving and just, He is equally strong, fierce, and jealous. We forget that God is the one who takes life for His purposes. He does not answer to us; we answer to Him. He does not cower behind kings and rulers; he is not a commander in a war room just commanding others to do His work. He is the one who chooses and works and breathes inside us as believers. He is a force that will cause us to fall to our knees; even the wind and the hills bow to Him. When we are against God we certainly should dread Him, and we’d better beware of what we do. Luckily, on this side of the cross we have the everlasting and abundant grace of Jesus.
Here’s where my impatience comes into play. Verse 17 tells us to wait on the LORD and hope in Him. The waiting is hard. When I see something I don’t like in the news, I immediately start calling for God to right the injustice, or I want to immediately post on social media 12 ways to correct it. It’s the same with a behavior I don’t like in my child; I want to correct it instantly. I want it fixed and fixed now, or even 5 minutes ago. But what if, like Isaiah, we aren’t sure exactly what God is doing? What if we don’t quite understand how this all plays out?
This section of Isaiah has come to my mind often lately as I’ve found myself wanting to jump straight into the fray of things I find unacceptable. It’s telling me to pause and take a moment to stop and wait on what the Lord might want from me, and to choose hope in God first before taking action.
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