Isaiah assures us that God keeps His Word - and that each of us can be at peace right where turmoil appears to be. The more we know "of" God, the more peace will reign and all sense of turmoil will fade away.
Categories: Fatherhood/Motherhood, Guidance, Putting God First
I love to draw connections between the Bible and modern everyday experiences. As I see it, Bible characters have life stories that have endured for centuries, and regardless of the time in which we live, there is certain to be a link between the past and the present. These links are signposts for living, for overcoming "every ill that flesh is heir to" and for understanding how and why we can be assured of success. To me, one of the loudest lessons the Bible teaches is to let God be God. This simple four-word statement has remarkable and lasting applicability. It covers every need, every want, every woe, every challenge to our inner and outer peace, regardless of the circumstances, the surrounding story. The Bible is full of resounding evidence.
Isaiah speaks in words that inspire and guide, reassure and comfort. Listen to this:
O thou afflicted, tossed with tempest, and not comforted, behold, I will lay thy stones with fair colours, and lay thy foundations with sapphires.
And I will make thy windows of agates, and thy gates of carbuncles, and all thy borders of pleasant stones.
And all thy children shall be taught of the Lord; and great shall be the peace of thy children.
In righteousness shalt thou be established: thou shalt be far from oppression; for thou shalt not fear: and from terror; for it shall not come near thee.
A cursory reading of that passage might be small comfort in the face of a real tempest—the kind that's plaguing your family at the moment. It might be an infant who cries incessantly or a toddler who melts down over every tiny thing. Is your grade school student being bullied—or being a bully? Is someone in your family struggling with being either under- or over-weight? Is there a teenager in the house who's in love? What happened to time spent together as a family, enjoying each other's company? And what about the hydra-head of technology looming over all of us—constantly interrupting and adding to the mele? We needn't look far for a tempest of one kind or another! If we don't fight back, we are truly "afflicted" – stuck in the maelstrom, buffeted by the swirling wind and towering waves of mortal existence as they roll in and out, in and out, in and out.
But, keep reading! Isaiah assures us that God is right here. "Behold" -- look up, look out! See what's right before your eyes. Here's where the connections begin...
Isaiah describes God's presence and power in terms of "fair colours," "sapphires," "agates," "carbuncles" and "pleasant stones." And he describes each of us as consisting of "stones," "foundations," "windows," "gates," and "borders." As I picture the images Isaiah's words suggest, qualities and character traits come instantly to mind. Consider these:
The stones are our structure – they are the walls, the framework of our identity. They are the cornerstones and keystones and building stones that make each of us unique and sturdy. Without these stones, there is no unique shape or lasting character.
The windows allow light in and out. Windows suggest perspective – gaining it from others and sharing ours with others. A window on one's soul is filled with the light of knowing and feeling God. A window on the world radiates that light to others.
Gates imply the comings and goings of ideas and opportunities. A gate welcomes in as much as it invites out. Without gates in our thinking, stagnation and depression settle in.
Borders infer interactions with others, maintaining our own identity while respecting the identity of another, of all others. If we ignore our borders – that is, if we fail to define and know ourselves -- we are likely to be swallowed up by others, if not smothered by them. Eventually, we become lost to ourselves and to the world.
Now, let's think of this fact: God promises (we know this through the use of the words, "I will…") to make each of these aspects of our identity – our individuality, our character, our body of experience – out of precious and beautiful gemstones: agates, carbuncles, and pleasant stones, all with fair colours. (By the way, look for the archaic definition of "carbuncle," not the modern one!) We are made to be sturdy and strong, to stand and withstand, to shine and sparkle and radiate light from multiple facets.
That's not all: "And all thy children shall be taught of the Lord; and great shall be the peace of thy children." "Shall be" is a promise as well as a command. It's another way of saying, "It will be so," affirming God as the ultimate Parent. And, it's a demand to "do it," – to fulfill our job as parents. It could also be viewed as a directive to our children to be God's willing listeners and followers. The fulfillment of "shall be" is also a promise—a promise of peace within our children, with our children, and for our children. Oh, and there's one more point to be made here: we are all "thy children" – God's children – regardless of our standing here on Earth as parent or child. In other words, ALL of us will be at peace. The word "of" has a pretty interesting connotation: it implies essence or nature or intrinsic value. When we talk about someone, we speak as one who knows from the outside, who's an observant bystander. When we speak of someone, we draw on an internal source for our "knowing." "Of" speaks to inner connectedness; "about" references external awareness.
Imagine what it means to be "taught of the Lord"! God communicates with us. God is evident to us. God makes Himself known to each of us. God teaches us directly, not indirectly. God IS, and we KNOW Him. The corollary to this relationship is unfathomable peace: "great shall be the peace of thy children." Peace is ours. It's here, now, and never leaves or diminishes. It simply IS because God IS, and we KNOW God, therefore we HAVE peace.
In essence, the previous paragraph is the foundation of a daily prayer for ourselves and for our children. Establishing the facts about our spiritual identity, our true identity, is the best way to assure ourselves of our foundation of sapphires. And building on this foundation along with the walls, windows, and gates, has an instant, calming effect on ANY sense of turmoil.
From here, we can continue to pray confidently with Isaiah: In righteousness shalt thou be established: thou shalt be far from oppression; for thou shalt not fear: and from terror; for it shall not come near thee.
Isaiah's words are timely and timeless reminders that God keeps His Word – and that each of us can be at peace right where turmoil appears to be. The more we know "of" God and "of" our intrinsic and inviolable connection to God, the more peace will reign and all sense of turmoil will fade away. Letting God be God is the most beautiful gemstone of all.