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River run wide and deep

Friday, December 15, 2006

Isaiah 48:17-19
This is what the Lord says - your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go.

If only you had paid attention to my commands, your peace would have been like a river, your righteousness like the waves of the sea. Your descendants would have been like the sand, your children like its numberless grains.

"If-onlies" are anathema to those of us who want to live in the present. Nothing can change what has gone under the bridge. I've done my sins, made my choices, and some of them weren't so good. Now I get to live with the consequences and figure out what to do next.

So it surprises me to read this "if only" right there in the Bible. Maybe Isaiah got this one wrong? So often God speaks about the future. "I will make your peace like a river. Your righteousness will be like the waves of the sea."

When I think about it, though, my human eyes don't ever see that future very clearly. Sounds like pie-in-the-sky to me, with the lousy choices I'm making and watching everyone else make too. It's a lot easier for me to relate to this "I told you so" language. Sounds like something I might say, or at least think.

I can give up on myself pretty quickly. And God just doesn't do that. He breaks my heart (one commentary had this to say: "It is sobering to think what unfulfilled potential we have, and what disobedience or unbelief keeps us from everything God has for us. Just twenty-four hours' obedience in our lives, and we would be living in such a flood tide of Holy Spirit blessing that there would not be room enough to contain it!"), and then he tells me to stand up and go on, because he is right beside me. Here's the next verse: "Leave Babylon, flee from the Babylonians! Announce this with shouts of joy."

God doesn't live in denial. He tells me what he sees. He shows me what could have been. And then he shows me what he's going to do next.

I get tied up trying to think what I can do next, once I've blown it. God tells me to look at what He's doing. That's his way of living in the present.

I think of what you tell me, Lord: "Behold, I make all things new." How many times do I have to hear that? You're the one who does the Making. Thanks for your patience. Thanks for telling me over and over again.

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