Isaiah 63:15-17 (ESV)
Look down from heaven and see,
from your holy and beautiful habitation.
Where are your zeal and your might?
The stirring of your inner parts and your compassion
are held back from me.
For you are our Father,
though Abraham does not know us,
and Israel does not acknowledge us;
you, O LORD, are our Father,
our Redeemer from of old is your name.
O LORD, why do you make us wander from your ways
and harden our heart, so that we fear you not?
Return for the sake of your servants,
the tribes of your heritage.
The last part of Isaiah 63 is a cry for mercy. It is a call for help that goes on into the next chapter. It is a rather self-focused and naïve cry. “Where are your zeal and your might?” (Is 63:15). Where are they indeed? The first part of the chapter tells us the answer? The zeal and might of the LORD has been pouring out judgment against the world. “I trampled down the peoples in my anger; I made them drunk in my wrath, and I poured out their lifeblood on the earth” (Is 63:6). At the same time, the LORD has been protecting his people in mercy and covenantal love. “I will recount the steadfast love of the LORD . . . that he has granted them according to his compassion, according to the abundance of his steadfast love” (Is 63:7). Yet despite his love and protection, “They rebelled and grieved his Holy Spirit” (Is 6:10).
Where is God indeed? He felt every pain of their anguish. “In their affliction He was afflicted” (Is 63:9). He guarded them, protected them, provided for them, and judged their enemies. Yet they failed to recognize his steadfast love, walk in his ways, embrace his passion for holiness, or honor him as God. And when things got hard they had the audacity to cry out, “Where is God?”
Certainly, sometimes bad things happen simply because we live in a broken, fallen world. Sometimes bad things happen because we fail to honor God as God. Either way, where we fail first is that we do not recognize his steadfast, faithful love. We neglect to recognize the blessings he has surrounded us with. We take our freedoms, our wealth, our privilege, and our comfort for granted, and complain at the least little discomfort in life.
This reminds me of Hebrews 11:35-38
Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated— of whom the world was not worthy— wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.
“In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood” (Heb 12:4). And still we complain. Perhaps we should take a day to focus on the blessings of God rather than the difficulties of life. What if, for just 24 hours, we made every breath a prayer of gratitude? How might that change our perspective? What if we looked for two blessings for every difficulty we encounter? How might that change our attitude? What if we became people of gratitude rather than chronic complainers? How might that change our walk with God. Why don’t you give it a try today?