I’m still on my first cup of coffee, so don’t expect brilliance this morning.
I try to be a faithful Bible reader in the morning. For years, my dad’s Bible has sat on the edge of the china cabinet next to our kitchen table, only removed when he reads it at breakfast or takes it with him to church. My mom has a drawer for her Bible study supplies, all in the living room where she drinks her coffee in the morning and spends time with God.
If I don’t have to get up too early, I read my Bible during breakfast like my dad…. I’m still working on that faithfulness piece. I rest in the knowledge that Jesus isn’t finished with me yet.
Anyways, this morning, after a spotty record of faithful quiet time this week, I picked up my Bible and sat with French toast and coffee at our counter. I just finished reading Ephesians, and I was at a loss for where to go next. I like short books because I can finish them quickly and read them again in a week if I need to. Longer books intimidate me, so that’s why I was a little hesitant to get going on Isaiah.
Gosh, it’s long. And it’s dense. And if there was ever a book where I’m not exactly sure what’s going on, it’s this one…. well, I sort of do, but there are a lot of things I don’t understand in it. It’s no Leviticus or Numbers or Revelation, but Isaiah knows Israel’s history and situation at the time he’s writing a lot better than I do.
Still, I thought it might be a good book to read. I can take it slowly.
Last week, my pastor reminded us that prayer is integral to everything in our lives. He encouraged us to pray before we read scripture, to ask God to speak and to give us clarity.
So, as the caffeine went to work on my brain and lungs and heart and everything else, I asked God to speak and to give clarity… of course, this was in between getting distracted by my French toast and staring out the window at the blue truck rambling down the street.
I need coffee to focus.
I started at the beginning, and when I got to the end of chapter 1, something caught my eye.
You will be ashamed because of the sacred oaks in which you have delighted. You will be disgraced because of the gardens that you have chosen. You will be like an oak with fading leaves, like a garden without water. (vs. 29)
It caught my eye because I love the verse at the end of Isaiah, in chapter 61:
The will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of His splendor. (vs. 3)
It was a small revelation, but I had to think about what changed the message from the beginning of Isaiah to the end. What made it so that Israel, the people to which both of these verses are directed, could become oaks of righteousness instead of oaks with fading leaves?
My study Bible indicates that oaks were the places were the Israelites conducted pagan rites and were sexually immoral. This was the very place where they had rebelled against God, so he says, “You’ll be just like them. Since you’ve chosen them over me, you can be like them. You’ll be an oak that is dying. Because that’s what the world offers: no water, dying oak.”
But God is responsive. He sends Isaiah to prophesy to Israel, to tell them what they’re doing, that it’s destroying their relationship with Him, that it has consequences. As Israel turns to Him, God’s words change. He tells them that they will no longer be conquered by their enemies, that they will be called His people again, that they will become a healthy version of an oak.
He restores that image. Where oaks were once a symbol of ungodliness, they are now a “planting of the Lord for a display of His splendor.”
That’s just so like God, isn’t it? To be disappointed in us because of what we’ve turned to but keep chasing us down until we’re ready, to say “You were once this, and you will be a transformed version of that. You will be my planting for my glory. You will have deep roots in me.”
I need these reminders that God restores, that no cause is lost.