Candidate’s Seminar Devotions: The Story After… (Part 4)
11 Then I said, “For how long, Lord?”
And he answered:
“Until the cities lie ruined
and without inhabitant,
until the houses are left deserted
and the fields ruined and ravaged,
12 until the Lord has sent everyone far away
and the land is utterly forsaken.
13 And though a tenth remains in the land,
it will again be laid waste.
But as the terebinth and oak
leave stumps when they are cut down,
so the holy seed will be the stump in the land.” (Isaiah 6:11-13, NIV)
What an exit speech. These are the words that end a conversation with the Almighty. It’s not exactly optimistic, is it? Wouldn’t it have been so much better to close out that conversation on… well… anything else? Maybe a high note? Maybe a big celebratory speech? Maybe a pep talk? “Hey, Ise.” (I feel like God may have that “punch in the shoulder” kind of relationship with Isaiah), “You got this buddy. Go get ‘em.”
Nope. This is a redemptive work and redemption is hard. By nature, redemption is a total re-write. Whether it’s in the life of the nation of Judah, the people of Israel or the life of Chris or Joanna or Matt or Marie, it’s a fresh start and it’s a process. It’s a process that by very definition means to “buy back” and to “bring out.” So something has to be erased and something has to be left behind. It’s unrecognizable. That’s where and how God does His best redemptive work. That’s where the holy seed will begin to grow into something beautiful, something necessary, something transformational.
You see, we work ourselves into these places. It isn’t that God really enjoys a good ruin or that He prefers to stroll through a land that is utterly forsaken. The deserted houses, life in exile in Babylon, ruined and ravaged fields and uninhabited cities are the consequences of broken covenant. They are the results of faithlessness, disobedience, idolatry, arrogance, pride, entitlement and apathy. God creates, sin destroys, God creates again, sin destroys again…
Into that, Isaiah is called to work. To be present. To be in relationship with God and kings and people. He’s supposed to work until. As long as… Up to the time when…In expectation of…
Until the cities lie in waste and empty. Until homes are abandoned and fields are useless. Until everyone is exiled and the land itself is desolate. Whatever does remain will be wrecked even more. Even the strongest things of this world will be reduced to nothing, so that the idea of God’s plan is all that is left. Work until then. That’s not the end, though… It’s a beginning.
That’s not the end, though… It’s a beginning.
There are a number of things that it doesn’t say. It doesn’t say until you are ruined. It doesn’t say until you are left deserted, ruined and ravaged. It doesn’t say until you are forsaken. It doesn’t say until you are burned out and exhausted. It doesn’t say until you have nothing left. If you are called into relationship with God and kings and people, or God and city mayors and people, or God and board members and people, or God and anyone and people, you are first and foremost called into relationship with God. That primary relationship is the most important and requires the most effort and the highest commitment.
There’s only one way to work until. Take care of yourself and let God take care of you. Take care of your soul. Cultivate your relationship with the One that calls. Attend to the One that has always been speaking. Seek out, yearn for, desire depth with the One who redeems the world and who has redeemed you. That is how you can work until. That is the only way.
Think about the redemptive work that God has been doing in your life. Think back as far as you can, to as early as you can remember. Write down the fresh starts and the beginnings that He has given you. Write about the desolation around you, not in terms of emptiness or loss, but in terms of potential and promise. Write down names of people whose lives sound like those verses and commit to pray for them and to work with the Lord in those places. Write about how you are going to engage in self soul care in ministry.
Begin in gratitude for these past weeks and for the voice of God in your life. Appreciate God’s work in your life as you look at the fresh starts you wrote about. Pray in expectation of God’s transforming work around you. Say “Here I am, send me.” And if you are brave ask, “For how long, Lord?” Ask God to lead you into practices and rhythms that will engage and feed your soul while you minister to others.
It has been my absolute pleasure and privilege to prepare these devotions for you. God has spoken in so many ways to me throughout this process. I have been praying fervently for you and for what He is doing in, through, for and around you. I am grateful that you chose to spend some time with these thoughts. Thank you. Please receive a blessing…
May God bless you in every endeavor.
May His hand:
cover you when you are vulnerable
push you when you are afraid
hold you when you are weak
bring you up and out
reach you when you fall
guide you when you are lost
craft you into who He desires and intends for you to be
and carry you now and always into His presence.
Spiritual Life Development Dept.
On behalf of the Territorial Candidate’s Department
Majors Linda & Richard Lopez, Major Elmer Deming