To the Church in Exile,
Greetings in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Today’s meditation is from Danielle Merseles:
Good morning! Today our text is from Isaiah 25.
This passage in Isaiah follows a long description of destruction and despair. Some even call this section the “Isaiah Apocalypse.” Everything seems to be falling apart and then we read these verses which sound like a song or a psalm to me – not something I expect in the middle of a time of upheaval.
Isaiah 25: 1-5
O Lord, you are my God; I will exalt you; I will praise your name,
for you have done wonderful things, plans formed of old, faithful and sure.
For you have made the city a heap, the fortified city a ruin;
the foreigners’ palace is a city no more; it will never be rebuilt.
Therefore strong peoples will glorify you; cities of ruthless nations will fear you.
For you have been a stronghold to the poor, a stronghold to the needy in his distress, a shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat; for the breath of the ruthless is like a storm against a wall, like heat in a dry place.
You subdue the noise of the foreigners; as heat by the shade of a cloud, so the song of the ruthless is put down.
Shelter in the storm and shade from the heat stand out to me. It doesn’t mean the storm didn’t happen, or stops completely. The important part here is that God is providing the shelter, the resting place, the freedom from the rain that is pouring down. It pours, but there is a canopy above us.
When I lived in New Orleans, it would often rain in the afternoon. It wasn’t Seattle style rain like today. It was 3pm buckets of water dumping from the sky. It was all you could hear, wherever you were. It was all you could see – sometimes so much rain that you could no longer view the other side of the street. It would overwhelm the storm drains and rivers would sometimes form in the roads on the worst of days. Underneath entryways, overhangs, and awnings, you would see pockets of people all huddled together, making room for those running to huddle underneath. You would see people with umbrellas sharing those with a stranger on the street for the moments of deluge. The rain was disruptive though. I remember once being stuck at the architecture building, needing to get across campus and being late to Spanish class. Another time, I waited at the grocery exit for 30 minutes with a growing crowd. At a moment’s notice, we were all just stuck there together waiting out the storm.
The circumstances of life sometimes catch us off guard and force us to wait. God provides a space in the waiting. A shelter. A place to huddle together and just wait it out. It’s unexpected and you might miss something and get wet for a moment and wish you were not there. But there is God, offering the overhang to wait the storm out. Those New Orleans storms always ended. However, I would often stand there and wonder: “How long? Should I wait this out or just run for it? Will it ever stop so I can get back to my life now?” Waiting, and wondering what is next feels like the theme of this season.
In verse 1, God’s plans are described as “old, faithful, and sure.” Isaiah is reminding us of God’s promises. No matter what, God is good and longs to give us good gifts. God’s working, though it’s sometimes hard to see with the storm cloud overhead. God’s promise to always be with us is one we can be sure of, even in an uncertain world. Love and salvation through Christ. Grace and mercy. Shelter in the storm. Promises that are old, faithful, and sure. We can count on them. Trust them. Trust God.
I’m pretty sure I’ve written in these devotionals before that trust is one thing I’m trying to learn and practice more in this pandemic. Not surprisingly, I keep wondering when I can come out from under the umbrella to blue skies. Pete Enns in his book, The Sin of Certainty, says this: “Rather than being quick to settle on final answers to puzzling questions, a trust centered faith will find time to formulate wise questions that respect the mystery of God and call upon God for the courage to sit in those questions for as long as necessary before seeking a way forward.” (p. 205)
Time. Patience. Stuck. Wondering. Waiting.
There will be a day when we can emerge from the overhang outside our front doors. Jesus is not asking us to praise the storm, or have an answer for all of our big questions right now. Jesus is simply saying: Praise the fact that God’s promise is forever. I love you. I give eternal life. I give shelter. Even as you wait, my promises are old, faithful, sure.
Jesus, help us to remember your promises. Help us to praise you, even when we long to solve the puzzle or know the timetable. Help us to trust you will provide. Give us courage in the middle of fear. May we have hearts of compassion to offer our umbrella to another person you love dearly. May we have ears to hear one another and wait with one another. May we remember how much you are with us in everything. We love you. Amen.
Peace in Christ,
Associate Pastor of Youth & Young Adults
Bethany Presbyterian Church