I've been slowly reading through the book of Isaiah for the past two months and each chapter makes me want to write a whole blog post, buuuuut 66 blog posts? Maybe someday. For now, I want to focus on the chapter I dove into this morning - Isaiah 59, "Warning against Sin".
Before I began this particular book, my discipleship leader introduced me to a Bible commentary app - "BLB" (it's the blue one in the app store & totally free, too) - and I've been using it to help analyze each chapter of Isaiah so far. It provides tons of answers to pretty much any question regarding the Bible (in every version) and other helpful tools I don't even know about yet, but I mainly use it for the in-depth commentary by other pastors on each verse.
Anyway, I had barely finished the second verse of chapter 59 this morning when I just had to open up the app (click here), in search of some clarification.
Whoa... I thought, rather speechless. Oh, and this isn't the first time Isaiah has left me with nothing to say but "whoa", but I'm elaborating here because it's what I read this morning and answers a question I've always wrestled with in regards to God's role in our lives as Christians.
Summarizing the verse in my head, I came up with this: Okay, so if God does not lose power or concern for us, despite our sins, then why do bad things happen? And if it's my sins that separate me from God, then where does that famous chunk in the book of Romans, assuring us that "nothing can ever separate us from God's love" (chapter 8, verses 31-39), come into play? This is where the BLB app had my back. I tapped any verse in Isaiah 59 and then "Commentaries", and chose David Guzik's study guide, The Reality Check. Let's get started, shall we?
So, put yourself in the shoes of one of God's people in this verse. Better yet, just think back to a time when you've suffered, or seen/heard terrible news, or wondered where in the world God's hand is in this trial - that's where God's people are in this verse. Side note: isn't it cool that we can relate to people from this long ago? Blows my mind every time. Anyway, back on track. Isaiah the prophet assures the people that God has not lost any power or concern for them. Verse 2 explains that sin is the culprit, as it almost always is. Sin is what separates us from God. Now, don't let your mind wrestle too hard with this verse and the ones in Romans 8:31-39, yet, because I'll tie them all together for you.
David Guzik organizes his explanation into 4 parts, which I'll re-explain in my own words. Sin separates me from God in terms of:
- My fellowship with Him - "fellowship" is another word for "companionship". It's basically a relationship. For example, (PS I've never cheated on anyone or had thoughts about another guy while in a relationship, but I feel this is a closely related example) if I have a boyfriend, but I see another guy who I maybe grow interested in, the attention I devote towards my boyfriend now flows over to this new guy. In other words, my fellowship with my boyfriend loses its richness because of my sinful desires. Guzik says, "...at the point of our sin, we no longer think alike with God." Does He divide His heart amongst His children? Somehow, He doesn't. The book of Isaiah boasts several verses that tell of God's love for each of His children, but this one stands out to me: "See, I have written your name on the palms of my hands..." (Isaiah 49:16). When I sin, I separate myself from Him because I allow desires of my own flesh to consume attention I could otherwise be devoting to the Lord.
- Receiving His blessings - When I am distracted by other things - usually stress - I inhibit myself from seeing the blessings of God. Under stress, I instinctually turn inward for strength and place heavy pressure on myself to accomplish whatever it is that needs to be done, despite the fact that I may not be able to every single time. My mind is clouded and overwhelmed and forgets that it doesn't need to, and can't, figure things out on its own. Matthew 13:13 describes it perfectly: "...For they look, but they don't really see. They hear, but they don't really listen or understand." I know in my heart that I should and can totally depend on God, but I'm buried beneath stress (or sin or whatever it may be) and struggle to surface myself.
- The benefits of His love - Don't get ahead of yourself and think that God ever stops loving you because that's just frighteningly false. Remember, Romans 8:31-39 promise that nothing is powerful enough to wedge between me/you and God. However, sin can still tease me with the alluring temptations of its own proposed benefits. For example, I've fallen into the trap social media sneakily sets up - I've searched for confidence and attention in likes, comments, and followers. I've chased after companies in hopes of partnerships and collaborations. Aside from social media, I've longed for relationships selfishly to feel more loved and beautiful. I've turned to food and exercise to shrink myself into the size society told me was "perfect". These desires told me they could satisfy my every need and answer all my questions, and I believed them, until one day I realized I'd been emptied more than ever before.
- His protection - here's the big one. When God sees how misled I am, He does reach down to help lift me out of the state I'm in, but it's not always a smooth ride. God speaks to the stubborn Israelites in Isaiah 48 and says, "I have refined you, but not as silver is refined. Rather, I have refined you in the furnace of suffering." The furnace of suffering, huh? Ouch. I thought, when I read that verse. But the more I let it run through my mind, I couldn't deny it's truth and God's right in doing so. Guzik agrees in his commentary: "We should remember that we are not at the center of the universe, but God is. Everything He does and allows furthers His eternal purpose." The Lord allows trials to mold us into the individual He originally designed us to be and to serve for Him here on this earth, making those trials the prime opportunity for us to draw closer to Him, to understand Him more and more. Isaiah 49 says, "Sing for joy, O heavens! Rejoice, O earth! Burst into song, O mountains! For the Lord has comforted His people and will have compassion on them in their suffering."
My summer thus far has been all over the place - moving out, traveling to England, moving in (temporarily) and moving out again, moving in aaaagain and all the while searching for a job. After a few exhausting weeks of applying to everywhere and anywhere, I couldn't push out feelings of discouragement any longer. I stayed faithful that God would provide something somehow, but I wasn't rejoicing in the sole blessing of the Holy Spirit. Instead, point number three took over and I lost sight of how bountiful God's love is. Workouts, treats, nights out with friends, movies, and beach days are exciting and fun and definitely helpful in distracting me from the stress of having to "adult", but they never satisfy my heart's deepest need, the one for which only God's love has the fulfillment.
If any of this seems heavy and unconvincing of God's love, verses 16-21 come to the rescue...
I hope this has helped in some way - reading through Isaiah and elaborating on it like I have here has definitely provided explanation for me in terms of God's provision in my life. If you liked this post and were able to take something away from it, and maybe if you have suggestions for another post, leave a comment down below or send me an email.
Thank you for reading, and my prayer is that God will continue to use me as a lamp, Him serving as the lightbulb, to help you :)