Unexpected

Isaiah 65:1 “I was sought by those who did not ask for Me; I was found by those who did not seek Me. I said, ‘Here I am, here I am,’ To a nation that was not called by My name.”

Have you ever felt so alone or so abandoned that you wished you’d never been born?

There have been times in my life, particularly as a young man that I was wrestling with the prospect of hopelessness. I must have wrote half a dozen run-away letters as a 13 year old, but I could never pull it off. I would think and think where I could go, who I would stay with, or how I would get there and before I knew it, the letter was torn up and back to life I’d go.

It was usually in these moments of weakness and vulnerability that God would simply reach out and touch me. There were times when I would awaken with His presence all around me and I would feel His comforting arms. I might read a book or listen to a favorite radio broadcast and I would yearn to know God more.

I had a youth pastor named Phil who came to our church at just the right time in my life. He would schedule hay rides, plan rafting trips, or just invite me and my friend over to watch Davy Crockett movies and simply hang out as friends. Phil was not only a godly example to me but he was fun and carefree, I really admired him. When I didn’t think I couldn’t take one more song from the outdated “Dottie Rambo and the Creek bank singers” album, Phil shows up playing Petra and opened my eyes to christian rock music. The Lord used people like Phil, my fried Todd, or others to fill an emptiness in my life when I needed it most.

When I look at this scripture in Isaiah, I think of how the Lord has been reaching out to people for a long, long, time.

Here I Am, here I Am, He proclaims to His people, a people who had chosen to go their own way. Yet God, in His loving kindness, still reaches out and beckons them to come.

Why does He do this? Why does He care if we come to Him when He really doesn’t need us?

He doesn’t need us, He wants us.

1 Peter 2:4 “Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious,  you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

The model of God’s desire for us has been revealed through the children of Israel. For centuries the loving guidance of a Father over his children was shown by the intimacy by which He associates with us.

When we think we are alone or abandoned, we discover He was there all along. He reaches out and comforts in sorrow, He brings hope in the midst of dismay, He provides strength in weakness, He lifts up when we are down, and He chastises us when we rebel. If we wander from the path, He first gently corrects and if that is not enough, He makes it more and more clear the further away we go. Sometimes in our stubbornness, we simply press through the correction, determined to go our own way. He shows us the path toward hope and if we spurn His guidance, the path becomes so difficult we cry out in despair.

Did He remove His hand of protection during those times of trouble?—It’s hard to say but I seriously doubt it, at least not fully. We see evidence of God protecting those who are not His own, simply out of the love and mercy of His abundant heart.

Malachi 3:6-7 “For I am the Lord, I do not change;
Therefore you are not consumed, O sons of Jacob.
Yet from the days of your fathers
You have gone away from My ordinances
And have not kept them.
Return to Me, and I will return to you,”
Says the Lord of hosts.

God’s call is consistent with His character. He embodies love, and even though we may spurn Him on to anger, He withholds the fullness of His wrath because He has a purpose in all He does.

He would not ask us to do what He has not already done.

He takes us into the storm, not around it.

Psalm 23

The Lord is my shepherd;
I shall not want.
He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters.
He restores my soul;
He leads me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil;
For You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil;
My cup runs over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days of my life;
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord
Forever.

Notice the patterns of God’s grace? He leads us in times of peace and tranquility, He leads us in obedience. He directs our paths into the dark valley, only to show us He was with us, all along. In the midst of those who hate us, He sets His Spirit over us as a testimony of His faithfulness. When we fail, His mercies are new every morning and even though the journey may seem long and arduous, our heavenly abode awaits us when this life is complete.

The 23rd Psalm is one of the most endearing passages in the Bible. The abiding presence of God is the resounding message. His seeming absence in times of trouble is simply another opportunity for a lesson learned in trust. If we take our eyes off Him and place them on our circumstances, He reminds us that He has not left us, we are not abandoned to despair, but we are His and He watches over us like a Shepherd over His sheep.

John 16:33 “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”

If you feel like giving up….please don’t. The night always seems darkest before the dawn. Call out to the One who loves you more than you could ever know and rest peacefully in Him.

Remember—-your redemption draws nigh.

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