“On that day the root of Jesse shall stand as a signal to the peoples; the nations shall inquire of him, and his dwelling shall be glorious.
On that day the Lord will extend his hand yet a second time to recover the remnant that is left of his people, from Assyria, from Egypt, from Pathros, from Ethiopia, from Elam, from Shinar, from Hamath, and from the coastlands of the sea.
He will raise a signal for the nations,
and will assemble the outcasts of Israel,
and gather the dispersed of Judah
from the four corners of the earth.
The jealousy of Ephraim shall depart,
the hostility of Judah shall be cut off;
Ephraim shall not be jealous of Judah,
and Judah shall not be hostile towards Ephraim.
But they shall swoop down on the backs of the Philistines in the west,
together they shall plunder the people of the east.
They shall put forth their hand against Edom and Moab,
and the Ammonites shall obey them.
And the Lord will utterly destroy
the tongue of the sea of Egypt;
and will wave his hand over the River
with his scorching wind;
and will split it into seven channels,
and make a way to cross on foot;
so there shall be a highway from Assyria
for the remnant that is left of his people,
as there was for Israel
when they came up from the land of Egypt.” Isaiah 11.10-16 (NRSV)
I have tried to figure out God and failed. I would like to say it is because God is so vast that I cannot grasp or comprehend Him. However, it may be simply because I overthink His simple and profound love. I don’t get stuck on the ‘what’ God is doing questions, so much as the ‘why’ questions. I cannot just accept love as the answer. There has to be something more. So I look for signs – not of His love, but of the master plan… the end goal… the great ‘why’.
We have all become highly suspicious of those questions of motivation. I see it every day in politics. Every email, every tweet, every facebook post our leaders make is suspect. It seems that soon, even the food our leaders eat will send out a chatter online that will throw the stock markets. It matters whether those motives are right or wrong… it matters very much, but it also matters how and how much we scrutinize. Most cons require you to be looking at the con men and women, so that you are not looking at things they are taking from you.
Our God has never been like that. He is jealous for our attention and affection… but not all of it. His desire is that we would share that love with one another as well as Him. He does not fight for the limelight. In fact, He often does just the opposite.
God leads with signs and signals, great promises made, and then He ducks away as those promises become fulfilled, often after He is out of sight. This Christmas season we celebrate the power of the Word made flesh… and yet no one was able to physically see this miracle occur. Mary was visited by the angel, given a promise, and then she certainly felt the symptoms of that pregnancy – but there was no great fireworks going off as the King of kings and Lord of lords stepped into our world. It happened rather quietly.
Isaiah reminds us of God’s promise. He is going to build a highway, straight through the lands of our enemies, leading right into God’s kingdom. He did it before, paving a path of dry land through the Red Sea. He did it again with literal roads from Israel to Rome where the new Church would find a home in the capitol of Gentile territory, and from there spread out to change the world. I believe God is doing it again. What we in the south have often called revival is not a boost in church attendance, it is a movement of the Spirit of God, which calls for a movement of His people… (which means we have to literally move sometimes) and means that sometimes the central location which we perceive God to be basing His work may move. Indeed it may move away from us, out of our own nation – just as He did to Israel in the Gospels and Luke. This is just our own perception though… God has a central office from which He bases all his work. It’s called Heaven. Every time He sets foot in our world He is doing field work.
So what is your role in this work? Are you a field worker too? Are you one paving the way and helping God make that highway straight through enemy territory, connecting God and His lost children? Or are you a signal: a sign pointing to the promises God has made and directing our gaze to the work He is doing now? Maybe you are both. Loving God and loving others does not have to be complicated. Maybe we can do it simply because God does.
- What promises has God made to you?
- How have you seen them fulfilled?
- Where is God calling you to serve Him today?