Yesterday at church the pastor spoke from a section of Isaiah 1, a powerful message about worship that struck many hearts (my Sunday school class punted our regular lesson to continue talking about the topic, finding much to think about and wrestle with). I'm back in Isaiah today, wanting to sit with this chapter myself for a while. I skipped back to the beginning to read and see if any part grabbed my eyes, and verse 5 did.
Why should you be beaten anymore?
Why do you persist in rebellion?
Your whole head is injured,
your whole heart afflicted.
God's words for his people in this chapter are tough words, parental words. His children are not listening to him, and he tells them, things would go so much better for you if you would. I would rather bless you, but your behavior requires discipline. No good parent delights in discipline, but all good parents know it is necessary, and God is no exception. He's speaking in a mode I have heard used with my niece and nephew, and other kids of my acquaintance. You know what I'm asking of you, God says, and if you will just listen to me and make some better choices, this misery will stop for both of us.
The second part of the verse is what really catches my attention today, though. It's not only that God's people are not listening, they have been damaged. He says they are suffering from wounds, injured in both head and heart, and that speaks to me. Because who thinks straight with a head injury? Who can manage their emotions correctly from a broken or embittered heart?
God is saying, you think you are doing what's right for you, but you are injured and you can't tell what's right. Please listen to me, because you're not healthy and you're making bad judgements. I want to help you fix it, but I'm not going to help you keep hurting yourself. Trust me to guide you, and I will heal you too.
I am so like this. I have not been spending the time I need to in God's word and his presence, and I can see and feel the effects. I can't tell what's most important and where to concentrate my efforts. I feel the creeping tension in my body from not taking care of myself physically and emotionally. Neither my logic nor my emotions are reliable guides of what I need to do every day, they miss things. I don't "feel" like getting out my bible, I don't "think" I have time to plan my next steps or make a point of basic caretaking, and as a result I start to fall apart.
God understands that I am not altogether well, my head and my heart unreliable guides, and so he offers the guidance I need. But he's not going to let me go on hurting myself. He tells us clearly what we need to do, just like any parent guides his or her child, and when I am petulant he won't let me get away with it. You need to spend time with me, he says, you need to read my word and learn from it, you need to keep me in mind when you make decisions about what to do and how, and I will help you. Your head is injured and your heart is afflicted, dear child, and I want to help. Please let me.
Yes, God, I hear you. I'm listening today. Please help.