(1) Oh that you would tear the sky open and descend,
Mountains would tremble before you in terror!
(2) As flame burns brush,
or fire boils water,
so you would make your fame known to your enemies,
Nations would shake before you!
(3) You performed wonderful miracles that we didn’t expect,
You descended, and mountains trembled before you. — Isaiah 64:1-3
This passage is addressed to people who have very little hope. They look back from the time of exile in Babylon, and they remember the stories of God’s powerful action in the life of Israel. They long to see God act, to see him come and take care of them and restore them.
The desire to see God rend the heavens, or tear the sky open is one drawn from a sense of despair, of the absence of God, of loneliness and hopelessness. Why doesn’t God get busy? Why doesn’t God act?
But let’s look back in Isaiah for another point of view:
(19) Look! I’m doing a new thing!
It’s springing forth right now!
Don’t you recognize it?
I am putting a path in the wilderness,
streams in the desert. — Isaiah 43:19
God is working. Do you recognize it? God is making a path. Are you willing to follow it? God is putting streams in the desert. Are you going to complain because he has not yet made it the Garden of Eden?
The one thing I always remember from Experiencing God is the admonition to look for the place where God is working, and join him. The Israelites in Babylonian exile found themselves in a similar situation. They wanted God to come down and deliver them in a spectacular way.
Instead, he sent Cyrus, whom he called his â€œanointed one,â€ to conquer the Babylonian Empire. There were no plagues or opening of seas, but rather Cyrus, voluntarily, as part of the policy of his new empire, freed the Jews.
When they got home, surely there would be miracles! But no, they had to build the temple one stone at a time. They had to build their own houses and do the work of restoring their own country. It’s the constant struggle of God’s people over how much we long for God to do everything, and yet God so often asks us to work.
You can see this very struggle between a minority of Jews who believe that returning to the Holy Land was a mistake, that Israel should not exist until the Messiah comes. The Jews who are actual there in Israel may be making the desert blossom, but that’s not good enough. Unless the Messiah himself shows up and does it, it’s no good. We laugh and wonder what they’re thinking. But in reality they’re just thinking another version of what we do every day. Why doesn’t God miraculously make me wealthy? Why doesn’t God miraculously heal very illness, every decayed tooth, everything that I need fixed in my life.
Now make no mistake, God is capable of doing all those things, and his plan, as we read in the last two chapters of Isaiah, involves his intervention. But if you want to go where God is leading you, you’re going to have to start down the path he puts in the desert. Look for it, recognize it, start walking on it. Because if his plan is for you to walk down a path, he’s not going to provide you with an airplane.
Where is God in the plan for your life today? Will you recognize what he’s trying to do with you and move with it?