I love to read. All the time. Anywhere we are. (That's not the admission.) I heard from one of our youth pastors that iPods are what he calls "isolation devices". Teens can use them to disconnect from others around them. That was what a book was to me when I was a teenager...and still can be. An escape, often. A way to disconnect with life, sometimes. A way to knowledge, understanding, experience without having to move off the couch, always.
But somewhere along the line, and probably earlier than I'd like to admit, I became as much a critic as a reader. I'd change lines in stories, plot locations and devices and most certainly, endings. That last one was after I was burned a couple of times. You know the feeling? When you hit the last couple of pages of the book or the last few minutes of a movie and realize: This is the end? You've got to be kidding me! That's when it started...I became one of those people...the ones who read the end from the beginning. I want to know that the characters come to a good end...things wrap up nicely...justice is served...goodness prevails...the question is answered. Every now and then I'll tell myself that I'm not going to do it. And I'll usually get a good 100 pages or so into it before I flip to the back to see if she really dies or if I actually agree with their conclusions. I'm weak. I know it. I'm seeking help...no, I'm not. I actually like it!
How nice to see that God understands me and gives us words that tell us the end from the beginning! That's what Isaiah 40-66 is all about. Words of comfort before the exile begins. Words meant to give Israel a glimpse of who He is and what He's about. Words that don't answer all the questions, but hit right at our need. Obviously, I can't cover all that He says in a blog (PLEASE read it sometime for yourself), but I'd like to hit some of the highlights as we consider what it is about God that He wants us to behold...that should settle our hearts as we hit times of suffering.
Look for yourself just in chapter 40. So often, when we see a passage of Scripture, our eyes run over it quickly. Don't run your eyes over these words. If you have time to click this blog, you have time to read the next passage. Really listen to a God who desires to provide words of comfort. Then in the next few blogs I'll sum up some of what I see that I need to be reminded of when need is great and times are hard.
10 Behold, the Lord GOD comes with might,
and his arm rules for him;
behold, his reward is with him,
and his recompense before him.
11 He will tend his flock like a shepherd;
he will gather the lambs in his arms;
he will carry them in his bosom,
and gently lead those that are with young.
12 Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand
and marked off the heavens with a span,
enclosed the dust of the earth in a measure
and weighed the mountains in scales
and the hills in a balance?
13 Who has measured the Spirit of the LORD,
or what man shows him his counsel?
14 Whom did he consult,
and who made him understand?
Who taught him the path of justice,
and taught him knowledge,
and showed him the way of understanding?
15 Behold, the nations are like a drop from a bucket,
and are accounted as the dust on the scales;
behold, he takes up the coastlands like fine dust.
16 Lebanon would not suffice for fuel,
nor are its beasts enough for a burnt offering.
17 All the nations are as nothing before him,
they are accounted by him as less than nothing and emptiness.
18 To whom then will you liken God,
or what likeness compare with him?
19 An idol! A craftsman casts it,
and a goldsmith overlays it with gold
and casts for it silver chains.
20 He who is too impoverished for an offering
chooses wood that will not rot;
he seeks out a skillful craftsman
to set up an idol that will not move.
21 Do you not know? Do you not hear?
Has it not been told you from the beginning?
Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth?
22 It is he who sits above the circle of the earth,
and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers;
who stretches out the heavens like a curtain,
and spreads them like a tent to dwell in;
23 who brings princes to nothing,
and makes the rulers of the earth as emptiness.
24 Scarcely are they planted, scarcely sown,
scarcely has their stem taken root in the earth,
when he blows on them, and they wither,
and the tempest carries them off like stubble.
25 To whom then will you compare me,
that I should be like him? says the Holy One.
26 Lift up your eyes on high and see:
who created these?
He who brings out their host by number,
calling them all by name,
by the greatness of his might,
and because he is strong in power
not one is missing.
27 Why do you say, O Jacob,
and speak, O Israel,
"My way is hidden from the LORD,
and my right is disregarded by my God"?
28 Have you not known? Have you not heard?The LORD is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
his understanding is unsearchable.
29 He gives power to the faint,
and to him who has no might he increases strength.
30 Even youths shall faint and be weary,
and young men shall fall exhausted;
31 but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
they shall walk and not faint.