The book of Isaiah captures a beautiful, and yet foreboding, story of God’s judgment and redemption for His beloved nation of Israel. In it, the southern kingdom of Judah has a long track record of making choices that consistently focus on present danger; they eventually end up in Babylonian captivity. One of Judah’s idolatrous sins is short-sightedness concerning their current situation: they are fixated on present woes. Even on the precipice of invasion by the Assyrian army, Judah’s looming fear prevents them from listening to the prophecies of Isaiah urging hearts to return to God.
Ironically, 500 years earlier, when entering the Promised Land, God actually warned Israel of this nationwide trap:
10 When the Lord your God brings you into the land he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to give you—a land with large, flourishing cities you did not build, 11 houses filled with all kinds of good things you did not provide, wells you did not dig, and vineyards and olive groves you did not plant—then when you eat and are satisfied,12 be careful that you do not forget the Lord, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.
The nation of Israel forgot God. They forgot much of what He had done for them starting at the Exodus. So, through prophets over the course of 100 years, God reminded them to examine their ways and repent so He could once again lead them. Yet they fell captive to the snare of idolatrous thinking: deeming the woes of tomorrow as more powerful than the God who had already proven Himself a fortified defender even through hopeless times.
There will always be very real things to worry about in this life, things that we may or may not be able to control. But as I read Isaiah, I find the story of Judah is quite similar to my own story. When faced with real concerns about the future, I can choose to hold things I can’t control under the authority of God and recognize their fleeting place here on this earth. Or I can wring my hands and wonder if worries will take me down. I can trust in the defenses of God or I can question if God truly cares about my life and the lives of my children. And I can wonder if God’s ways can be trusted or if I should craft my own plan.
Psst! There is reason to rejoice.
See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.
Here’s the beautiful twist of Isaiah. Even after years of Judah placing God on the outside of their equation, God remained faithful in his promises to them. God made a way for Judah. He cleared a path for “impossible possibilities”. And God still does this for his children today. That doesn’t mean He turns a blind eye and staves off judgment: That would denounce his holy character, and actually prove him an unjust God. But as with Judah, He promises to redeem us and to be with us through every difficult situation. He tells us He will not abandon us in the tough times, and that something good will come from them.
But I the Lord will answer them;
I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them.
18 I will make rivers flow on barren heights,
and springs within the valleys.
I will turn the desert into pools of water,
and the parched ground into springs.
19 I will put in the desert
the cedar and the acacia, the myrtle and the olive.
I will set junipers in the wasteland,
the fir and the cypress together, so that people may see and know,
may consider and understand,
that the hand of the Lord has done this,
that the Holy One of Israel has created it.
So, if today you face unease about the future, rest secure in the fact that God is acutely aware of what is going on around you. Spending time in scripture reviewing His faithfulness is key to remaining joyful through seasons of anxiety. His track record spans over thousands of years, and it has been recorded and written down for the sole purpose of helping you rest hopeful during these times. So, we can rejoice because God— the Holy One of Israel— says there is no need to fear, for He promises to help us.
Do not be afraid, you worm Jacob,
little Israel, do not fear,
for I myself will help you,” declares the Lord,
your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel.