Isaiah 33:14-15 (ESV)
The sinners in Zion are afraid;
trembling has seized the godless:
“Who among us can dwell with the consuming fire?
Who among us can dwell with everlasting burnings?”
He who walks righteously and speaks uprightly,
who despises the gain of oppressions,
who shakes his hands, lest they hold a bribe,
who stops his ears from hearing of bloodshed
and shuts his eyes from looking on evil,
God promises, in this chapter, that the destroyers will be destroyed and God’s people will be restored. Before that happens, however, God’s people will experience terrible things. How can they survive? First, they are to call out to God. “O LORD, be gracious to us; we wait for you. Be our arm every morning, our salvation in the time of trouble” (Isa 33:2). Second, they are to trust God. “The LORD is exalted, …and he will be the stability of your times, abundance of salvation, wisdom, and knowledge” (Isa 33:5-6). Third, they are to walk righteously, speak uprightly, and live honestly (see Is 33:14-15).
First Isaiah writes, “O LORD, be gracious to us; we wait for you” (Isa 33:2). Let’s be honest, we don’t do this very well. Waiting on God is not our strong suit. We’re impatient. We want instant answers just like instant oatmeal, instant coffee, and instant microwave meals. We don’t like to wait. We want God to answer, and we want him to answer now. To cry out to God and to wait is foreign to us. We are more likely to complain to God and then run out to find a solution, much like Israel in the wilderness, or Judah running off to Egypt instead of waiting for God’s deliverance from Babylon.
Deliverance from Babylon first meant experiencing the destruction of all that they loved and were familiar with. It meant being carried off into captivity. It meant waiting seventy years until God’s time to restore his people. Egypt looked better, but it was not God’s solution and it did not fix their problem. We don’t like that solution so we look for our own, but our solution never works. We need to learn to wait.
Second, God’s people were challenged to trust him. Trusting is hard when we can’t see the solution. But then, if we see the solution it is not really trusting. “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Heb 11:1). Faith is trusting God when we cannot see the answers. It is believing that he is in control when everything feels out of control. It is knowing that God is God even when we cannot see him. As their city was burning, God called Judah to trust him.
Third, they were to walk righteously, speak uprightly, and live honestly. This is a life of grace. It is only by the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit that this is possible. We cannot lift ourselves up by our own bootstraps. We cannot change our ways on our own. This is why Jesus died, was buried, and rose from the dead. This is why Jesus promised to send “another comforter” (Jn 14:16). This is why “his divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness” (2Pet 1:3). This is not something we can do on our own. For the Jews, it meant living by the law. For the New Testament believer, it means keeping in step with the Spirit (Gal 5:25).
“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Gal 5:22-23). This is what walking righteously, speaking uprightly, and living honestly looks like. It is love, joy, and peace, not dissatisfaction, blame, and selfishness. It is patience, kindness, and goodness, not taking things into our own hands, and taking advantage of others. It is faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control, not impatience, manipulation, and self-interest.
This is what sets believers apart from the world. It is not about whether we eat lunch in a bar, listen to music with a beat, or let our children go to public school. The thing the world notices is when the fruit of the Spirit is evident in our lives when everything around us is burning. They sit up and take notice when we call out to God and wait on him, trusting him, and walking righteously, speaking uprightly, and living honestly no matter what. May that be the reflection of Christ in our lives today. “He will be the stability of your times” (Is 33:6).