I know we aren’t supposed to have favorites but this is mine. This one book nestled in the middle of the Old Testament declares the entire book of the Bible in a nutshell. It’s poetic, prophetic and showcases God’s heart. We believe the main author is Isaiah whose name means – the Lord is salvation. It is the most quoted book in the New Testament. “The Lord is salvation” – not church attendance, tithing, good works or anything we do, it’s Gods’ work in Christ.
A story comes to mind that I will risk sharing here. It is the night when I was licensed to preach the Gospel. My family was too far away to come so I went to the ceremony with a couple girlfriends from My Bible College. As we drove along I got more nervous. I was greatly concerned that I would never again be able to smoke. Those who struggle with this addiction may sympathize with me but I had never smoked a cigarette. I vowed to God I would not drink and increasingly grew more stricken with the thought that I was dedicating my life to Christ and would lay down forever the “right” to drink as that was the commitment I was making to preach the Gospel. In my young foolish mind I thought serving God was about what I would do, heroically giving God my life. How would I last my whole life without drinking a beer, sipping a margarita? At first I did not dare share with the others in the car what I was struggling with. I was tempted with things I did not know even existed which should have tipped me off that there was another battle in place. When I discussed this with my friends they were not making the same vows and thought it odd that I was. Kissing came next and I’ll leave that off this website but you get the idea. As we drove through the dark night of Minnesota, I kept counting the cost and focusing on what things I chose to lay down to be used by the Lord. At the time it seemed like such a HUGE sacrifice I was making for the Lord. I worried my life would not be lived to the fullest. I did not realize that salvation is not laying down our lives but taking up HIS life.
On that journey a big semi-truck darted in front of us. We had no choice but to read the words scrawled on the back of that very dirty truck – “He whose mind is stayed on thee will be kept in perfect peace.” The rest of that passage left off the truck states – because s/he trusts in YOU (Isaiah 26:3) The debate, the struggle, the temptations quickly faded away as I realized I was not leaving behind wonderful things, fun things (or even things I had ever done or tried), I was moving towards something- or more accurately SOMEONE. Peace not only flooded my mind but flooded that car. My mind and spirit went higher than temporary pleasures. “God, I lay down lesser things so I can understand you as the MORE.” I have never regretted that decision. While my license to preach was to commit to the Word and the Body, I also laid down my life and asked God to help me take up HIS. It was a serious commitment for my entire life – not just for a piece of paper from a religious organization. My choice to lay down other freedoms was something I did out of a willing heart – not because any denomination or group asked me to. That choice has led to an increasing hunger for God, taken me around the Globe to witness people coming to Christ, to church meetings where I’ve seen amazing things, to neighborhoods where miracles have happened. I didn’t exchange that for a glass of beer (nor do I fault people that don’t have that same conviction) but I did set apart my life for God to have every second available for His purposes possible. It was a commitment of my heart to let Him sanctify me for His purposes. That’s about relationship- not ministry.
Isaiah gives us the prime example of the Suffering servant. He laid down His life, suffered and was bruised for our iniquities and took on our guilt and shame. My favorite chapter is 53 where we find Jesus was silent, “He opened not His mouth” choosing instead for God to vindicate Him which He did – big time. I have some awesome mentors and teachers that have taught me through the years but this is the best example – Jesus. He laid down His reputation, His rights, His destiny, everything He was or wanted to be and picked up instead — My sin, our sin, their sin. He was in His prime, His ministry was front and center, He was on the fast track and then He lays it ALL down and takes on the sin, shame and punishment of people who clearly did not deserve it. Death seemed like a very unlikely achievement – at the time. Giving up His rightful place in “ministry” for a bunch of scoundrels seemed self-defeating – at the time. His promotion was nails, blood, sweat and tears. The only flow in His career was blood trickling down an old rugged cross. He didn’t walk a line for graduation; they drug him through the crowd. The marks on his “vessel” were not degrees but nail scarred hands. The only commencement was demons gathering to jeer and scowl. Only Heaven saw angels gathering near to usher this righteous one home.
He didn’t do it for a title – though they put one there instead of His name. Instead of His day it was Yahweh’s day. He didn’t do it for money – in fact all the money he had was spent and the blood money spilled out in a field like a game. He didn’t do it to look Holy – they criticized and mocked and there was great shame.
I think in the midst of this book, in the midst of Jesus life was more than just ministry or acclaim – as His head hung down, as his legs went lame, Jesus had a question, like the broken, bloody criminals beside Him, it was the same – where are you God, why have you forsaken ME? That question outlasts and out screams all others. Where are You God when I’ve made You my life, my all? Why am I forsaken when I’ve defended your name? Are my minor sacrifices enough to show you my heart or are you wanting me instead to see YOURS? In the midst of serving God, in the midst of denying all other Gods, what are you asking me to do and where will YOU, and I… be in the end?
What we lay down is not of utmost importance. What we do with our hands and our hearts is not of utmost importance. How we live our days or our lives is not of utmost importance. What brings us peace, in the moment, in the life is our connection with God, knowing He is there, with us each and every day. We receive Your love Lord; You have loved us and will NEVER, EVER go away. THAT bloodied One – took on my sin and shame. ALL my righteousness He covered, yes even my blame. There is nothing I can offer that He has not already done, all my trophies and achievements in His sacrifice, HE HAS WON.
Isaiah is a book that teaches us God’s heart, God’s ways. It predicts the cross and how it works as a SOLUTION for the world’s sin. It also displays God’s son bringing that peace and beauty to a world marred by sin. I brought my bruised heart and weary soul to this book; I dragged near my offenses and grudges. They did not bear any weight after looking into the mirror of this text. One week was not enough to glean all the lessons it affords.
Peace is not what we lay down. Peace is not what we give up. Peace is not what we predict or suppose. Peace is the life of Christ, bridging our lives to the Fathers through the pain and suffering this ONE demonstrated for then and now. His abdication of rights yielded promise, His suffering yielded victory. I want to reject notions of “my” ministry or suffering and take up HIS. The righteousness, holiness… even the government is on His shoulders.
Jesus, we look to You to see Peace, to model Peace, to seek Peace, to receive Peace.
Shalom and Amen, RenaeRoche2019