God’s message through Isaiah is very clear – He hasn’t forgotten his people, and He will rescue and restore them. Big promises, by a big God. But for people who were oppressed by a cruel foreign power who had gutted their country, temple, houses and farms, it was hard to trust those promises. They struggled – they were depressed by their circumstances and the temptation to not believe what God was saying was enormous. Especially so since their situation hadn’t changed for generations. It’s easy for us to condemn their lack of trust in God and faith that He would keep his promises.
But how good are we at waiting for God, especially when life’s circumstances are hard, and it seems like there is no end to the difficulties we are experiencing, or the frustration we go through in becoming more Christ-like? I suspect our patience and trust may not be much better than God’s people in the old covenant. And yet we are much better off than they were. As Peter says, “we have the promises made more sure” (2 Peter 1:19), through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. And we have the Spirit of God in us. One of the fruit of the Spirit is patience, another is long-suffering. I guess we usually think of these things as applying to our relationships with others (and they do!), but they primarily apply to our relationship with God. It is the Spirit who empowers us to keep on trusting the promises of God to redeem and restore us, in spite of our difficulties and the pressure to give up.
Eugene Peterson wrote a book describing the Christian life as “a long obedience in the same direction” (That’s the title of the book – subtitled “Discipleship in an instant Society”). That’s what we do whilst we wait for God’s final redemption and restoration. One foot after the other, following Jesus and believing his promises.
Trust and obey, for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus, as the old song says. Let’s keep on encouraging one another to joyfully hang on to the promises of our Lord and rescuer.