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'This is the Way walk ye in it.'

Isaiah Chapter 30 Verses 18 -21

Time and time again the enemies of Godís chosen people threaten to destroy them. In this case, Jerusalem is under threat from the Assyrian army. The prophets had warned the people over and over again that this was going to happen, but they took no heed.

Now with the Assyrian army on their doorstep the people look for help. When under attack from the Assyrians they looked to Egypt for help. When under attack from the Egyptians the looked to the Assyrians for help. They would look left and right but never up!

They would load horses with precious gifts and head South hoping to sway the Egyptians to succour them. The Egyptians had more allegiance to Syria than they had to Judah so they would gladly take of their riches, but would fight against rather than fight for the people of God.

The holy men of God had warned the people that their strength was to sit still. They took counsel together and turned their backs on God thinking that they could overcome the enemy in their own strength.

What a graphic picture this is of the rebellious Christian. The enemies of his soul are laying siege to his heart. Enemies like unbelief, pride, envy, greed and lust. Instead of turning to God for help, he tries in his own strength to defeat them. Great clouds of darkness come in upon his soul as he is robbed of the riches given to him by God like peace, hope, faith and love. He takes counsel with his fellows. They can sympathise, as many are in the same condition. The voices of the teachers can be heard in the distance. Your strength is to sit still! To look to Jesus for help to defeat your enemies.

We are to sit still in a humble dependence upon God for deliverance. If we trust Him then all will be well. We will have our enemies, we will have our battles but we will always have the victory if our trust is in God. Remember what was written about Daniel after a night in the lionís den. "So Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no manner of hurt was found upon him, because he believed in his God."

Because the people of Judah had sought refuge with others and not with Himself; God withdrew His Presence from them and ordered the prophets to proclaim His anger. Not only were they to cry out to the people but also they were to write it down and make it a public notice so that all could see it. The message from God was that they were a rebellious people, lying children that would not listen to the Word of God. These three declarations from God are warnings for the church in all ages.

First He calls them a rebellious people. How often it is the case that God would have us do something for him and we refuse. We rebel against Him. At times we are doing wrong; our conscience warns us to stop; yet we rebel against the warnings. Are you rebelling against God as you read this? Are you hanging on to some precious sin that only you and God know about? He wants you to surrender that sin to Himself now, in order that His peace and blessing may return to your soul.

He says that they are a lying people. It is strong language but how many promises have we made to God and fulfilled none of them. We repent of our sin and promise reformation, yet it is not long before we are wallowing in the same mire again! Procrastination is just a deferred lie! It is so easy for us to put off till tomorrow what we can do today. We live our lives banking on tomorrow, but one day tomorrow will not come. It is time to set our house in order. Today, now! The time has come for us to rededicate our lives to God and to present our bodies living sacrifices unto Him. Time is short let us live for Him today!

Finally, He says that they are a people who refuse to listen to the Word of God. We hear the Gospel preached Sabbath after Sabbath; every service has a message from god to us. Whenever we open our Bibles, God is speaking to us, yet how often do we listen to what He is saying?

The Jews in this chapter forbid the prophets to speak to them. They did not want to hear the Word of God. They had light but they loved darkness. They were the most privileged people in the world at that time, yet they abused their privileges and turned their backs on God.

When the prophets had preached they had told them of their sins and their wickedness. They pleaded with them to turn back to the Lord but they did not want to hear. They wanted to hear smooth words. Words that would not trouble their consciences.

The prophet Isaiah, having made known to the people that if they put their trust in Egypt, then it would turn to their shame. In the passage that we are considering he tells them of the blessings awaiting all those who put their trust in the Lord.

The Lord is very patient with us. He says that he will wait in order that He may be gracious. What does he mean? Well, when we return and seek His face the we will find Him and He will meet us with mercy. All to often we find ourselves waiting for God to do this or that for us, when all the time God is patiently waiting for us to do His will! When God hears the cry of necessity, when it is most fervent then He will answer it. How often has that been true in your life and in mine? He never fails us. Daily we murmur and complain about this and that and we petition God for help. We want God to lift up our spirits, to make us feel good and when our prayers are not answered then we feel as though God is against us and we become even more disconsolate and depressed.

The problem in such cases is not with God, it is with us. We wallow in self-pity and pride. God would have us to walk in holiness but we tamper with sin! When sin has got hold of us then we wonder why we have no fellowship with God. What sin is lying at your door just now? God wants us to return to Him and do the first works. Do you remember the joy that you had when first you saw the Lord? What was that joy? It was the knowledge that all your sins were forgiven. He wants you to know that each day! That is your strength. Repent and believe, the message hasnít changed, you have! Often it is the case that pride will not allow us to humble ourselves to accept Godís grace. The next thing that you know is that you are trying to earn Godís favour by works or by prayer. Praying earnestly for light Ė but light is there! Praying for guidance Ė but you already know the way! Praying for mercy, yet mercy has been given in abundance however not humbly received! There are even times when we pride ourselves in our humility. What do I mean by that? Well, often when we are walking in Ďself madeí darkness and armed with certain passages of Scripture like Isaiah chapter 6 and Luke chapter 5 we comfort ourselves with the thoughts that we must be walking closely with God because we are so burdened with our sins. These situations I believe are common to all Christians, yet we wonder why our prayers are not answered.

When however we are in real, desperate need and we cry out to God then He promises to answer us. Remember a cry that was made on the cross at Calvary. It met all the requirements that I have already mentioned. It was real, it was desperate and there was a real need Ė yet there was no answer from Heaven. Heaven was silent. This will never be the case with us. Christ has paid the penalty due to us for our sins and we are accepted in Him. He was forsaken in order that we would not! No prayer from Hell could be answered! It was and is impossible!

The people here are told that all those who wait upon the Lord are blessed. That they should weep no more and that they will dwell in Jerusalem. This is all wonderful news to them, however He warns them that He may give them the bread of adversity and the water of affliction to be their food. This may strange to many of you. It almost seems like a contradiction in terms. On the one hand God is saying that if His people sit still and wait upon Him; He will deliver them in His own way and by His own power from the Assyrians. Not only deliverance but also they shall dwell in Jerusalem and there will be no further need for weeping.

It is after these promises that He warns them of further affliction and adversity; the difference this time being that it is from His hand. These trials will be for their good and for their eternal benefit. How often has God been gracious to his people with miraculous deliverances only for that same people to forget all about them!

Time and time again the Lord has blessed us in ways that we did not deserve. He has delivered each one of us from sore and difficult trials. How much thought do we give to God when everything is running smoothly? When all is well with our health, our families, our employment then what further need do we have for God?

God does not want us to walk at a distance from Him, so in His love for us He feeds us with the bread of adversity and gives us to drink of the waters of affliction. For some chosen saints this may be their portion for many a day and their cross is not any easy one to bear. None of us would have adversity and affliction in our lives if we could avoid it, however for a few this is their portion. The live on the diet of prisoners; bread and water! They are indeed Godís prisoners living in Godís prison. For some this may sound foreign and strange to you, yet for another it may be their portion just now.

There are times when God shuts up His people in a spiritual prison. It is not a place of punishment; rather it is His college of education. The imprisoned soul may and does feel a very real and trying bondage. There is separation, loneliness, unbelief, questionings and impatience. Each day however there are valuable lessons taught and learned from the Hand of the Master Teacher.

With all prisoners there is separation. There are times in our experience when for our own good, God in one way or another separates us from those that we tended to rely upon. Our God is a jealous god and he would have us lean upon Himself alone. This separation inevitably leads to loneliness with almost a sense of alienation from our brothers and sisters. If you meet with them and try to explain your situation to them, you may receive a certain amount of sympathy but little understanding.

With the separation and loneliness comes unbelief and questionings. Why is this happening to me? There must be some great sin in my life that is causing such displeasure from the Lord. We find ourselves looking in the wrong direction. Instead of looking up to the Lord for deliverance, we wallow in self-pity. Looking inward, we become more and more acquainted with the sin that is in us. Sins that at one time did not bother us, now they press heavily upon us. We become like lepers Ė loathsome to ourselves and to our friends, to our brethren and we even think loathsome to God. As time goes by we acknowledge that God is just in His punishment of us. I say this however it is a wrong attitude of mind.

Impatience is a mighty water to tread for those in this condition. Anger wells up at God for not delivering, for not keeping His promises, yea for creating us in the first place!

I have tried to explain the negative side of the prisonerís existence, however there is another side to the story. Though we may think it for evil, God meant it for good.

God has given us teachers. Our eyes, our ears, hearts and consciences. We have those who preach Godís Word to us from week to week. We have Godís Word that we can read and be instructed from. We have friends that patiently bear with us and give a word in season now and then.

Although this diet may be difficult to digest and we may rebel daily against it, yet our teachers are at work. We learn many wonderful lessons in the school of affliction. Day by day we are weaned from the seductions of this world. They have become empty to us and they hold no satisfaction for us anymore. The heavenly shores of glory beckon to us and become most desirable to those in prison.

Freedom from sin, from pain, from self, from trials. From tribulations, from sorrow, from tears. We would see no man save Jesus only. Amidst all the conflict a desire for holiness is affected and a closer walk with Jesus becomes our all-important goal. This is life and life more abundant. Jesus becomes the altogether lovely One and no one else can meet or satisfy our desire for Him. He was spent for us at Calvary, now my friend it is time that you and I were spent for him the short time that remains for us on earth.

My friend whatever your portion may be as you read this let us sit still and wait upon our God, for He alone sets the prisoners free. His word for you and I now is "this is the way walk ye in it."

Iain Mackenzie