Updated: Nov 7, 2022
Like so much of Scripture, this verse is packed with insight and power. Isaiah is telling the oppressed and distressed Israelites that the key to their freedom and safety is first, repentance—a return to God—and rest. This is followed swiftly by the promise that strength comes from quietness and simple trust in God.
How I long for this sweet rest! I cannot help but think of Jesus’ assurance of His provision so much later in Matthew 11:28-30…gentle, humble, easy.
This recipe for rescue is so different than my own go-to, which usually involves fretting, anxious striving, manipulating, controlling…all of which are sins, by the way. It is also revealing that Isaiah is harkening back to the Israelites’ exodus to the Promised Land. Repentance, rest, quietness, and trust are God’s path for us to the land of milk and honey.
I’m currently reading through a precious little book Elisabeth Elliot recommended by Quaker Hannah Whitehall-Smith, The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life, an international bestseller when it was published in 1835.
Hannah’s basic conclusion about attaining a semblance of happiness this side of heaven is to be childlike, trusting our loving, heavenly Father just as a little child would. Hannah elaborates on just how to do this, which seems to be elusive for so many of us, most certainly including me. I have often said that I cherish the imagery of a loving papa for God, having had a rather challenging papa myself. I’ve been deeply moved by Jesus’ use of the word Abba, something like “Daddy” in Aramaic. It helps me so much to visualize this in my dealings with God, but it has been admittedly very difficult to grasp.
It’s ever-important to note that Isaiah is exhorting the Israelites to start with repentance—a sincere, remorseful turning away from their sin. Sin ultimately creates sorrow, suffering, spiritual separation, turmoil, and destruction, grieving God’s heart, just as it would any dad. This is every bit as true in the New Testament as it was in the olden Israelite days. Repentance remains the first step to enjoying God’s rest, and the confident, quiet trust we can have in Him. This is not only a clear conscience but clear connection to the Source of our strength and peace.
When it comes to repentance, the loving parent imagery is especially helpful. I know that when my children are doing something wrong, it saddens and angers me. I’m concerned about the impact on them and others. I’m concerned because I love them deeply and want the very best for them. If they’re deceitful about it, it impacts our relationship and makes it hard for me to help the effectively.
I want my relationship with my kids to be close and candid. I want them to feel safe telling me when they’re struggling. When they admit a mistake to me and apologize, I’m eager to forgive them and to help repair the consequences of their error. In a small way, this helps me understand God’s attitude toward us.
In Christ, this is not shame-laden, burdensome, terror, but a healthy, childlike, reverent fear coupled with confidence that if we come clean, Abba will forgive us and help us get back on track.
The last little bit of verse 15 is where we all run into a problem. We are unwilling.
The Israelites would rather flee their enemies in terror than return to God in childlike trust. How like us! In this view, sin is truly its own punishment and we are the perpetrators. How much better to cry out earnestly to Jesus and receive His rest and strength?!
Later, in Isaiah 30:18, we’re told that God is waiting to be gracious and merciful toward us, His ear is attentive for our cry.
Let us turn/return to Jesus for our salvation.
In Him is the shalom sabbath rest we all so dearly crave.