Even if I'm not doing something strictly productive, a lot of times I feel like I just need to be doing something with my hands or my mind. If I can double up on things and multi-task I jump on it. If I have to unload the dishwasher, I'll put on a CD or prop up a book to glance at. When I put a TV dinner in the microwave, you think I'm going to stand there idly for three and a half minutes to wait for the timer to ding? Ain't nobody got time for that! I'll run over to my computer and type something up. When I'm driving, I feel restless unless I'm listening to a sermon or story or talking to someone on the phone. A drive of 30 minutes is an opportunity to have a conversation with someone I've been meaning to talk to or to instruct myself further on something. I can't let that slip by. It doesn't even matter if it's strictly productive, as long as I'm doing something. For some reason though, I don't think God always shares my point of view.
Recently, there have been situations that I want God to move in and do something about. When He doesn't automatically step in though, it scares me. I want to trust Him, but when it doesn't seem like He's going to do anything, particularly not in the time frame I want Him to do it, I'm tempted to immediately jump to figure out my own plans, and find some way I can fix the situation, without waiting to see what He wants me to do, because He isn't answering me at the time.
At times, it seems the Bible studies I'm teaching conspire to emphasize the same point...usually one that I need to work on in my daily walk with God. The Bible studies I taught over my winter break at school were no exception. Two sections of Scripture we happened to be studying in two separate studies really stood out to me and were emphasizing similar things.
One of the sections of Scripture was Isaiah chapters 7-12...which are amazing, and all of you should go do an indepth study on them as soon as you finish reading this blog post.
The Scriptures start out with a situation between King Ahaz and Isaiah. Ahaz was facing an intimidating situation. The kings of Syria and northern Israel had formed a treaty to come against him and replace him with a puppet king that would do what they wanted. The Bible says that the hearts of Ahaz and all his people were shaken like when trees are shaken with the wind. God told Isaiah to meet Ahaz by the water source of the city, which comes into play later. Listen to Isaiah's advice from God to the worried king.
Isa 7:3-9 Then said the LORD unto Isaiah, Go forth now to meet Ahaz, thou, and Shearjashub thy son, at the end of the conduit of the upper pool in the highway of the fuller's field; (4) And say unto him, Take heed, and be quiet; fear not, neither be fainthearted for the two tails of these smoking firebrands, for the fierce anger of Rezin with Syria, and of the son of Remaliah. (5) Because Syria, Ephraim, and the son of Remaliah, have taken evil counsel against thee, saying, (6) Let us go up against Judah, and vex it, and let us make a breach therein for us, and set a king in the midst of it, even the son of Tabeal: (7) Thus saith the Lord GOD, It shall not stand, neither shall it come to pass. (8) For the head of Syria is Damascus, and the head of Damascus is Rezin; and within threescore and five years shall Ephraim be broken, that it be not a people. (9) And the head of Ephraim is Samaria, and the head of Samaria is Remaliah's son. If ye will not believe, surely ye shall not be established.
Basically, God's advice to the king is not to focus on his own plans, but to trust in God. Just believe that God is going to do what He says. God even offers to give Ahaz a sign, but Ahaz refuses because he is so wrapped up in his own plans and ideas and has placed his investments in something other than God, and doesn't want to consider the possibility that all he needs to do is wait and trust God. It's a scary thing to wait, because I think we oftentimes don't really believe God will really come through. We don't think He really interacts with us. I love that God tells him to be quiet. Just be quiet, Ahaz! But Ahaz didn't. We learn what he did in 2 Kings.
2Kings 16:5-18 Then Rezin king of Syria and Pekah son of Remaliah king of Israel came up to Jerusalem to war: and they besieged Ahaz, but could not overcome him. (6) At that time Rezin king of Syria recovered Elath to Syria, and drave the Jews from Elath: and the Syrians came to Elath, and dwelt there unto this day. (7) So Ahaz sent messengers to Tiglathpileser king of Assyria, saying, I am thy servant and thy son: come up, and save me out of the hand of the king of Syria, and out of the hand of the king of Israel, which rise up against me. (8) And Ahaz took the silver and gold that was found in the house of the LORD, and in the treasures of the king's house, and sent it for a present to the king of Assyria. (9) And the king of Assyria hearkened unto him: for the king of Assyria went up against Damascus, and took it, and carried the people of it captive to Kir, and slew Rezin. (10) And king Ahaz went to Damascus to meet Tiglathpileser king of Assyria, and saw an altar that was at Damascus: and king Ahaz sent to Urijah the priest the fashion of the altar, and the pattern of it, according to all the workmanship thereof. (11) And Urijah the priest built an altar according to all that king Ahaz had sent from Damascus: so Urijah the priest made it against king Ahaz came from Damascus. (12) And when the king was come from Damascus, the king saw the altar: and the king approached to the altar, and offered thereon. (13) And he burnt his burnt offering and his meat offering, and poured his drink offering, and sprinkled the blood of his peace offerings, upon the altar. (14) And he brought also the brasen altar, which was before the LORD, from the forefront of the house, from between the altar and the house of the LORD, and put it on the north side of the altar. (15) And king Ahaz commanded Urijah the priest, saying, Upon the great altar burn the morning burnt offering, and the evening meat offering, and the king's burnt sacrifice, and his meat offering, with the burnt offering of all the people of the land, and their meat offering, and their drink offerings; and sprinkle upon it all the blood of the burnt offering, and all the blood of the sacrifice: and the brasen altar shall be for me to enquire by. (16) Thus did Urijah the priest, according to all that king Ahaz commanded. (17) And king Ahaz cut off the borders of the bases, and removed the laver from off them; and took down the sea from off the brasen oxen that were under it, and put it upon a pavement of stones. (18) And the covert for the sabbath that they had built in the house, and the king's entry without, turned he from the house of the LORD for the king of Assyria.
The result of Ahaz's plans seemed to work out in the short run, because Assyria fixed the short term problem, but it caused so many more problems. God protected Judah and Ahaz as king, as He said He would do for His greater plan (bringing forth Immanuel), but Ahaz's plans to fix the short term brought about all kinds of problems for his country and people and for him and his family. The LORD brought Judah low because of Ahaz. And the very thing Ahaz was trusting in backfired on him. Tiglathpileser, king of Assyria, came and distressed Ahaz...but strengtehened him not...he helped him not. He sacrified to the gods of Damascus which smote him, thinking it made sense, but they were the ruin of him and of all Israel! Why? Why would Ahaz do this? Because it can be hard to wait for God to do what He says He will do. We want to immediately jump in with our own plans and 'help' God out, when it seems like we're being attacked on all sides and He isn't coming through....which brings up the next illustration I saw in Bible study. Abram and Sarai.
I noticed something the last time I was studying the story of Abraham. We read about God's promise and all the things that happened to him in a couple chapters, and sort of focus on the part where God says, "By this time next year, you will have a son." But do you know when God first promised that to Abraham?
Abram was already 86! He was promised this when he was 75! That's a long time to wait! I don't like the sound of that. 10 or 11 years down the road, when time seems to be getting short, making my own plans and helping God out seems to make a lot of sense to me. But it wasn't God's plan, and God makes this clear.
Gen 17:1 And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the LORD appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect.
I'll admit freely that I'm speaking to myself in this post. This is an area I'm struggling with, so I'm not pompously posting with some pretentiously pious perspective. (And that's actually an amazingly awesome alliteration, amen? ;) )
The reason this is so important to me, and why I spent so much time on it is because it is something that has been hitting me between the eyes recently, and I keep coming to it. I hate the concept in my flesh. I want to get answers, I want to figure things out intellectually, I want relationships to be restored, I want friends of mine to come to know God, I want debates to be settled, I want to feel God's presence and hear His voice right now, and know exactly what His map for my future is. But it seems like He keeps telling me to wait. And wait. And wait. I want to jump in and beginning making my own plans to protect and solidify myself, but that's not the way He wants me to do things. While I want to make sparks and walk in the light of my own fire because I'm in the dark, He says to just trust and wait on Him. (Isa. 50:10-11) It sometimes seems like I've been waiting for a long time, but He is trustworthy and faithful, and I certainly haven't been waiting as long as Abraham. So I'm going to keep plugging away and I encourage you to do the same!
Isa 8:12-17 Say ye not, A confederacy, to all them to whom this people shall say, A confederacy; neither fear ye their fear, nor be afraid. (13) Sanctify the LORD of hosts himself; and let him be your fear, and let him be your dread. (14) And he shall be for a sanctuary; but for a stone of stumbling and for a rock of offence to both the houses of Israel, for a gin and for a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. (15) And many among them shall stumble, and fall, and be broken, and be snared, and be taken. (16) Bind up the testimony, seal the law among my disciples. (17) And I will wait upon the LORD, that hideth his face from the house of Jacob, and I will look for him.
Isa 40:26-31 Lift up your eyes on high, and behold who hath created these things, that bringeth out their host by number: he calleth them all by names by the greatness of his might, for that he is strong in power; not one faileth. (27) Why sayest thou, O Jacob, and speakest, O Israel, My way is hid from the LORD, and my judgment is passed over from my God? (28) Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of his understanding. (29) He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength. (30) Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: (31) But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.