The Lord God says: “You will find peace and rest
when you turn away from your sins and depend on me.
You will receive the strength you need when you stay calm and trust in me.
But you do not want to do what I tell you to.
You said, ‘No. We’ll escape on horses.’
So you will have to escape!
You said, ‘We’ll ride off on fast horses.’
So those who chase you will use faster horses!
But the Lord wants to have mercy on you.
So he will rise up to give you his tender love.
The Lord is a God who is always fair.
Blessed are all those who wait for him to act! Isaiah 30:15-17 (NIrV)
My parents owned a small weekend ranch which my father named the RRR which stood for Rest, Retirement, and Relaxation. Of course, there had to be a horse, and my little sister grew up riding and even barrel raced in high school. As a twenty-something who didn’t grow up with a horse, riding fast never ended well for me. There was that time my Dad “won” a Shetland Pony. At first I thought, “Oh good, I can manage something smaller.” My first untrained experience on the back of the pony ended up Pony: 1, Robbi 0. From the minute I got on the pony’s back, it raced as fast as possible to the trees and only stopped in time for one of us not to get hurt. (It was him, by the way). I have often approached the busy stress of life with a similar foolishness of getting on for the ride without prayer or guidance, thinking I can get it all done faster by myself.
Unfortunately, God’s people in this reading rode fast horses to accomplish their own goals and flee their problems, rather than trust God for guidance and strength. And sadly their fast horsepower was met with the enemy’s even faster horses. What we fear the most can all catch up to us in the end. The Lord God describes his own people as “stubborn children,” “who carry out a plan, but not mine, and who make an alliance, but not of my Spirit.” (30:1)
Isaiah 30:15 is a beautiful, oft quoted verse: “In repentance (returning) and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.” The prophet was assuring the nation that their true security lies in returning to God and resting from self-effort to find strength. The less popular “but” verse comes next as the prophet says , “BUT, you were unwilling.” Much the same as today, these ancients were relying on their own resources: “No, we will flee on horses…We will ride on swift horses.”
Alan Fadling in An Unhurried Leader says: “They decided to rely on horsepower. To try harder. Do more. Work longer. Hard work and human effort are good, God-given capacities, but when these become separated from a living communion with God, they can become destructive rather than constructive. We can find ourselves running past God rather than walking with God.”
Reflect. Read Isaiah 30:1, 15-17 in another version. Where can you see yourself in the story? Have you been running fast away from God, wanting to trust in your own capacity and plans? Think through the guiding words from God for security and strength: Returning, Rest, Quietness, and Trust.
Act. Honor God and your own human limitations through restful rhythms. Do one daily practice of solitude and silence in God’s presence in quiet trust every day this week.
Coming up this month: More posts on “Healthy Rhythms,” ideas and spiritual practices to strengthen your soul.