"Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or his ear dull, that it cannot hear." (Isaiah 59:1).
Today's Wednesday's Word is taken from my Christmas sermon on Isaiah 59. To listen to the full message or to download the free Advent devotional, visit www.paultripp.com/advent.
At the time this prophecy was written, Israel was suffering big time. You could argue that it was one of the darkest moments in the history of their nation. The children of God were in captivity in Babylon, and they came back to a decimated Jerusalem. It was a huge mess.
We don't read this directly, but we know that Israel accused God of being absent during this period of trouble. We can infer that they accused God of two things: 1) being powerless to help them in their time of need and 2) being ignorant to their cries for help. Isaiah 59:1 documents the Lord responding to these charges through his prophet.
You and I are much like Israel. When life isn't working out according to our plan and when we're suffering in some way, it's very tempting for us to bring God into the court of our judgement and question his faithfulness, wisdom and love. That's what Israel was doing - they were questioning the character of God.
You and I would like to say that at all times, we trust in the sovereignty of God and we worship his good character. That may be true most of the time, but if you're honest, when the comfort and ease of life is interrupted, you begin to wonder if God is actually who he claims to be.
Here's what's dangerous about that doubt: you no longer seek help from someone you don't trust. Think about it. Would you invest in a company if you knew the CEO was corrupt and stole the money of the investors? Would you seek out advice from a fraudulent "doctor" who had no medical training whatsoever? Would you trust your child to a babysitter convicted of repeated crimes?
When you allow your heart to begin to question God's goodness, even in subtle ways, you’ll quit seeking him. That’s exactly what happened with Israel. Israel thought that God wasn't strong enough to intervene (his hand is too short) and that he didn't love his children enough (his ear is dull to their cries) to rescue them from the difficulty.
Here's what Israel didn't understand: the grace of God will visit you in uncomfortable forms. Difficulty in your life is not a sign that God's hand is too short, nor is it a sign that his ears are too dull. Rather, it's a sign of his love. God will wrap his arms around you and bring you through difficulty to make you more like him.
Even though you've been saved for eternity, you still have sin inside you. You still love yourself more than you love the Lord. You still worship the creation instead of the Creator. You still serve your little kingdom instead of the Kingdom of God. So the Lord will bring difficulty into your life to break that sin that has a hold of your heart. In other words, uncomfortable grace is at work to free you from you.
This Advent season, remember that the greatest expression of the love of God is found in the sending of his Son. You don't need to question His love when difficulty comes. In fact, you should view difficulty as a sure sign of God's unending love for you!
Paul David Tripp
- What difficult circumstances are you facing right now?
- What does the Bible say about God's power? Is his hand too short to intervene in your specific circumstance?
- What does the Bible say about God's sympathy? Does God feel the pain of your specific circumstance?
- How can your difficult circumstances be used to grow your faith and increase your worship?
- How can you use the Advent season to remind yourself of God's love?