Monday, October 19, 2009

Calm After Storm

Isaiah has long been my favorite Old Testament book, though certain portions of it have confused me regarding the character of a loving God. And then I read the following excerpt from The People's Bible where the author is speaking of the 25th chapter. Here we find Isaiah, after delineating the judgments of God,  now speaking of the calm after the storm:

"We can only understand the highest, sweetest meaning of this chapter in proportion as we enter into the spirit of the one which precedes it . . . it is full of clouds, and darkness, and judgment. The Lord himself seems to have yielded to the spirit of contempt, and to have held in scorn even the work of his own fingers. The sarcasm of the Lord is intolerable. His laugh, who can stand? It is a laugh of judgment; it comes after certain moral experiments, and endeavours, and issues; it is not frivolity, it is a singular aspect of judgment, the only aspect which certain men in certain moods can understand; for they have withstood mercy, and compassion, and tears, and they have seen God himself in an attitude of supplication, in the posture of a supplicant and a beggar, and they have turned him from their heart-door.The only thing which he can now do is to laugh at their calamity, and mock when their fear comes. We have walked through the dark valley of the preceding chapter, and now we come to a calm after a storm, to a sweet and beauteous song, to an eventide that carries the burden of its waning light easily, and that shines upon us with mellowest, most comforting sympathy. Who could claim such a God as a refuge? An hour or two ago he thundered in the heavens as Almightiness alone can thunder; nothing was sacred to him that defied him by its bulk and power and pride; he turned the earth upside down and laughed at its impotent endeavours at rectification. Who can flee to him, and call him by all these tender names----a strength, a refuge, a shadow, a sanctuary?

"The very terribleness of God is a reason for putting our trust in him. Probably this view of the divine attributes has not always been sufficiently vivid to our spiritual consciousness. We have thought of God, and have become afraid; whereas when we hear him thundering, and see him scattering his arrows of lightning round about him, and behold him pouring contempt upon the mighty who have defied him, we should say, See! God is love. What does he strike? No little child, no patient woman, no broken heart, no face that is steeped in tears of contrition.On what does his fist fall? On arrogance, on haughtiness, on self-conceit, on self-completeness. He turns the proud away with an answer of scorn to their prayer of patronage. God is only terrible to evil. That is the reason why his terribleness should be an encouragement and an allurement to souls that know their sin and plead for pardon at the Cross.

"In the 4th verse we find what we may term a completing view of the divine personality and government. Say whether there is aught in poetry that streams from a fountain with this fluency:

Thou has been a strength to the poor, a strength to the needy in his distress, a refuge from the storm, a shadow from the heat, when the blast of the terrible ones is as a storm against the wall. (verse 4)

"Here we come upon language which the heart can understand, and which the heart responds to with personal gratitude. Sometimes the Scriptures leave us. They are like a great bird with infinite wings, flying away to the centers of light and the origin of glory, and we cannot follow them in their imperial infinite sweep; then they come down to us and flutter near our hearts, and speak or sing to us in words and tones we can comprehend. This verse is an instance in point. Every man who has had large experience of life can annotate this verse for himself; he needs no critic, no preacher, no orator, to help him into the innermost shrine and heart of this holy place. Each of us can repeat this verse as a part of his own biography: each can say, Thou has been a strength to me when I was poor; I never knew my poverty when thou did break the bread; we always thought it more than enough because the blessing so enlarged the morsel: thou has been a strength to me in my need and in my distress; when my father and my mother forsook me thou did take me up; thou did turn my tears into jewelry, thou did make my sorrows the beginnings of paeans and hymns of loud and perfect triumph:  thou has been a refuge from the storm; when men could not bear me, tolerate me, see anything in me to touch their complacency; when the roof was broken through by the weighty rain, and when the flood put out the last spark of fire, I never felt the cold because thou was near me, and in the multitude of my thoughts within me thy comforts delighted my soul. Thou has been a shadow from the heat; I could always fly to thee at noontide, and rest in thine almightiness as a flock gathers itself around the great tree, and tarries for a while during the sultry noontide. So long as men can say this, with all the passion of earnestness, with all the vividness of personal consciousness, the Bible smiles at every attempt to overthrow its supremacy, and waits to take in the last wanderer from its hospitable shelter.

"Remember, therefore, when reading passages that are surcharged with judgment, verses that are all lightning, Scriptures that are hot as hell with God's anger, that other Scriptures must be quoted if we would realize a completing view of God, as to his personality and government and purpose; and the last and uppermost verdict will be, "God is love." When God once begins to be gracious, turns away from judgment, and dawns upon the world's consciousness like a new morning, who can tell what he will do? He gives with both hands; he withholds nothing; he not only causes the storm to cease, he proceeds to positive hospitality, goodness, beneficence; he comes down to us to search into our need in all its extent and urgency, and crowns the day with infinite satisfactions."

Oh dear Father, that these words might be sweet to my soul, feeding my soul hunger as I ponder them throughout my busy day!

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