For thus the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, has said,
“In repentance and rest you will be saved,
In quietness and trust is your strength.”
But you were not willing. (Isaiah 30:15)
Israel makes an allegiance with Egypt, which Isaiah advised against. Isaiah voices God’s displeasure and, in the process, reveals things about God (who is now our Father). The reality that God is my Father, alters how I read the Old Testament. It also provokes my imagination: if Isaiah were a contemporary author, how would he title his book? Perhaps it would be How Then Shall We Be Saved? Here is a chapter-by-chapter review of Isaiah’s bestseller.
Part I—Not Like This
Chapter 1: Making Plans Without God
Planning without God has exposed Israel as false sons. These rebellious children compound their misery by making and executing their own independent plans. To reinforce their delusion, they pressure God’s spokesmen to only speak to them pleasant words, not true words that would reflect God’s holy nature. The holiness of God is the thing—above all things—they do not want to hear about. (Israel was not unique. Check out II Timothy 4:3-4).
Chapter 2: If You Persist
In issuing God’s fair warning, Isaiah refers us to a clay jar. This jar might be useful in holding water, but it is going to be broken. It is not going to be merely cracked. It is going to be reduced to shards—crushed suddenly into unrecognizable powder. God also alludes to a sense of paranoia, which overtakes those unwilling to listen. Consequently they become isolated, easy prey.
Chapters 3: Accounts
These chapters will detail in one story after another how this has been a chronic pattern—always yielding the same disastrous consequence for Israel. The author further highlights the attributes of God’s holiness and justice.
Part II—Like This
Chapter 1: God’s Nature
This chapter is a review of God’s attributes, focusing on his holiness, his justice, and his compassion.
Chapter 2: God’s Intentions
Isaiah gives us a peek into God’s heart. He shows us that while being holy and just, God simultaneously longs to be gracious. God is waiting patiently to reveal His compassion.
Chapter 3: How God Has Planned Our Salvation
This is the Old Testament—the details are still sparse at this stage of God’s self-disclosure, but the spirit is clear. Put succinctly, “in repentance and rest you shall be saved, in quietness and trust is your strength.” In the absence of intellectually satisfying detail, the author whets our spirit with these words: “How blessed are all those who long for Him.”
Chapter 4: If You Obey
This chapter details the myriad blessings for those with ears to hear. For them, it will include a day of renouncing dependencies on things other than God. Consequently, the water will be turned on again and even the earth’s longing and thirst for moisture will be satisfied. With God, even the broken clay jar (which He personally crushed) will be repaired to carry water once again. Unbelievably bright days are ahead. The Lord’s wrath will be turned away from his own people and redirected, full bore, onto those who dealt treacherously with his own true children.
Isaiah boils it all down. Since his eviction from the Garden, man, in his fallen condition, tries to save himself. He attempts to save himself from his guilt with offerings of good works. He attempts to save himself from his insecurity through his independence. He insists on trusting his own initiative and ingenuity. Mankind compulsively makes alliances with the world. And, even though he reaps the whirlwind, he fails to understand God’s simple plan: Our alliances must be made exclusively with Him, or we will forgo his intended blessing.
The author confidently asserts his status as seer-in-good-standing. While it is painful to him, Isaiah unapologetically acknowledges that much of his writing is dark and leaves his readers hanging. However, knowing his message is but a prelude, he practically begs his readers to find the thread of hope in his words. He gives us a clue as to where we should look—pay heed to your longing. In verse 15, he tells us where and how longing will gain its traction: “In repentance and rest you shall be saved, in quietness and trust is your strength.”
He tells his readers to stay tuned, intimating that longing will be an ongoing theme, one that will be addressed by future authors, writing in the same spirit.
Father, please cause us to be those who long. Awaken us to the immeasurable privilege we have as your true sons and daughters. May profound gratitude be our daily response as the beneficiaries of a New Covenant. Let astonishment and wonder grip us as we consort with you as sons and friends. We rejoice in you Jesus—the consummation of all our longing. Amen.