“Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel, “My way is hid from the LORD, and my right is disregarded by my God”? 28 Have you not known? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary, his understanding is unsearchable. 29 He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength.”
I don’t know if young parents today teach their kids the old nursery rhymes. My guess is most don’t. If so, it’s too bad. Take, for example, the old rhyme ‘Little Jack Horner”;
‘Little Jack Horner sat in a corner eating his Christmas pie.He stuck in his thumb, pulled out a plumb and said,”Oh, what a good boy am I.”
I’ve never had Christmas pie but I am familiar with the moral of this little ditty and its logic: Little Jack concluded that the plum was his reward for being good. Goodness is rewarded with a treat.
If any country has ever said, with little Jack, “Oh, what a good boy am I!’, it must be the United States. Our abundance and success has led many to conclude that we are in God’s great favor and that our prominence gives evidence that God has rewarded us.
Ancient Israel, like its modern counterpart, was in a bad neighborhood. They enjoyed a very brief period of glory under David and his son Solomon. But for most of their history they were run over by one conquering army after another. Their little country lay in the lanes of traffic as stronger countries swarmed through the region, took them into exile, and made them strangers on the earth. Why should they have had any trust, any faith, in God at all? There was no evidence, really, to conclude they were in God’s great favor. So, it is not surprising, as Isaiah recounts, that they had questions about God. But in the end, what came to characterize Israel was not doubt but faith, faith in God’s faithfulness.
A strange fact of history is that abundance and success rarely result in faith; religion, maybe, but not faith. Truth be told, Israel’s faith was born out of weakness and not strength, failure and not success. When the crowds began to gather around Jesus, because he seemed to be popular, He cautioned them: “The birds have their nests, the foxes their dens, but the Son of Man has no place to lay His head.” There is no security in power or might that may be drawn from following Jesus.
The Little Jacks (and Jills) of this world look at their abundance and congratulate themselves, sustained by the evidence of their deserving. People of faith look to the cross, seeing there the evidence of our spiritual poverty, our undeserving, and are sustained by the One whose power and grace are made perfect in weakness.
“May the peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord.”