One of the Most Tragic Verses in the Bible

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When I read this verse, something in my stomach drops. It is heart-rending, describing realities I see and feel. It comes from the Old Testament book of Isaiah where God speaks to His people about their frantic pursuit of other nations to save them. Here is the verse: "In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength" (30:15). So far so good.

Then comes the stomach drop in the next line: "but you would have none of it."

Yesterday, I was out on the freeway noting my own sense of hurry and the hundreds of vehicles rushing by me. All of us have a destination in mind, with a schedule to keep and mounting frustration over traffic. We are all in motion with little time to ponder why or how. I suddenly realized I was in the midst of a living parable. Our inner lives can feel like life on the interstate, rushing to keep deadlines, frustrated over interruptions with little space for reflection. Underneath the external hurry is a deeper one, a frantic pursuit after all manner of things to save us: reputation, money, acceptance, fame, power. Although human culture has radically shifted since Isaiah's days, the human condition has not, still stuck in the same quagmires.

But God's word still speaks the same hope through Isaiah. Our chasing after these things will not save us but ruin us. We can only find that salvation by repentance and rest, by turning from those pursuits and coming to a full stop. We let them go to enter rest with God. But there is more.

Quietness and trust will yield strength. The deep strength to live life well, the warrior strength to win life's battles, never comes from our busyness. It must come out of doing nothing, of escaping the parade of vanities and choosing to be nothing before God in the silence. Here we let the rush of the world go on by. We are still and trust.

But the hope offered has a tragic sting: "You would have none of it." 

For all that the Lord offers, there is refusal and rejection. None of us like to have our invitations refused. Imagine what the Lord might feel here. It is a stinging rejection. They would have none of it because they would have none of Him. 

Although there are nearly 200 countries in the world and over 10,000 culturally distinct people groups, in the end, there are only two strains of humanity: those that find rest in God and those that keep running. For those that find rest, there is glory, honor, and immortality. Yet for those that are still running, the Lord speaks another word of hope three verses later in Isaiah: "Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you" (v. 18a). It is the longing of the Father for His child who has run away, waiting for him to come home. 

At any day, at any point, each person can choose to stop running and come home. The tragedy can be averted. The hope can be ignited. And one of the most tragic verses in the Bible can now be the doorway into joy unspeakable. 

Wherever you are today, you can choose to come home and rest. Today can be the day of salvation. Today can be the day of strength.

For the Lord longs to be gracious to you.