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Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Relentless Pursuit of God

Treasured friend,

I had intended to return to Matthew 14 for this week’s devotional thought – but as I was reading devotionally myself in Isaiah 26, a passage jumped out and ministered to my heart – so I thought I’d share it with you today. (Perhaps next week we’ll return to Matthew 14—where Jesus walks on the water—because there’s some meat there to sustain us, as well.)

Now, on to Isaiah 26, beginning with v. 7:

The path of the righteous is level; You clear a straight path for the righteous. Yes, Yahweh, we wait for You in the path of Your judgments. Our desire is for Your name and renown. I long for You in the night; yes, my spirit within me diligently seeks You, for when Your judgments are ⌊in⌋ the land, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness (Isaiah 26:7-9, HCSB).

The heading for the section in my translation is “God’s People Vindicated.” And I love that. The injustice and suffering that swirls around us in this world of exhaustion isn’t getting the last word. And it isn’t as out of control as it feels. God is at work—sometimes, as in the case of His faithful servant Job, His hand clearing a path for our feet is deeply hidden behind the scenes—but He is there, at work and ready to meet the righteous on their path of seeking Him.

I love that the passage gives us a defining picture of the abstract concept of righteousness. It’s not sinless perfection—none of us could ever claim that. But it is a passionate desire for God’s renown—God’s reputation. It is an adoring, zealous seeking of Him—even in desperate times when He seems so tragically far removed from us. A pursuit of Him leads us in the paths of righteousness—the paths that are level and straight. It sounds a lot like Psalm 23: “He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake” (NKJV).

The picture in my mind is of a bruised but persistent hunter: panting, gasping, wheezing through the dark underbrush of a dense forest in the dead of night—even then undeterred because she’s hot on the trail of God. Never giving up the pursuit—not when scarred by thorns or thistles; not when chewed up by deep-woods insects; not when tailed by blood-thirsty predators.
I want to be that brand of righteous person, whose path God can ultimately level, as I seek Him that ardently.

As I read and studied further, I went to my Life Application Bible Notes on the passage, where I found this comment:

At times the "path" of the righteous doesn't seem smooth, and it isn't easy to do God's will, but we are never alone when we face tough times. God is there to help us, to comfort us, and to lead us. God does this by giving us a purpose (keeping our mind centered on him, 26:3 [we studied that verse on Father’s Day; Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee, because He trusteth in Thee.]) and giving us provisions as we travel. God provides us with relationships of family, friends, and mentors. God gives us wisdom to make decisions and faith to trust him. Don't despair; stay on God's path.

I suppose I needed that challenge and encouragement this week, as our family suffered the terrible shock of the unexpected death of one of our own—my dear aunt. As all of you who have suffered a similar loss know, in those hours, we are more obviously desperate for God’s face, for His wisdom, for His provision of faith to battle the crouching enemy of despair.

I know this passage encouraged me to keep pursuing God in righteousness, even when I don’t understand what He’s “up to” in my life, and in the lives of my beloved ones.

May you find hope there today, as well.

Blessings,

Julie


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