Isaiah 30:20-21 Although the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, your teachers will be hidden no more; with your own eyes you will see them. Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”
It’s interesting that where the NIV says “adversity” and “affliction,” the Japanese says “insufficient” and “scarce.” The point, however, is the matter of guidance and teaching. There are few things as precious as clear, accurate guidance, and that is what God is promising us here. Circumstances might be difficult, but determining the right way to go won’t be. What a blessing! We tend to get paralyzed by indecision, and/or wonder for years, even, if we made the right decision “back then.” God does guide, but we’ve got to be committed to obedience before we can recognize that guidance. All too often it takes real adversity before we focus on God enough to hear what He is saying. It’s interesting that this passage says, “a voice behind you.” It does say that our teachers won’t be hidden, but it doesn’t say that we’ll be given big signposts out in front of us. That is to say, we’ve got to be listening. In the world today, the number and variety of distractions is limitless, so it takes focus and commitment to be able to hear God consistently. I’m reminded of the “still, small voice” (“gentle whisper”) with which God spoke to Elijah, after various things that probably grabbed his attention but weren’t God speaking to him. (1 Kings 19:11-13) We have to be careful to distinguish what is God and what is the world or our flesh yelling at us. There is no better tool for that than growing familiarity with the Bible, because whereas God will give us guidance that isn’t explicitly in the Bible, He will never guide us to do something that violates the Bible. I’m reminded of Peter’s experience of the vision that made him willing to evangelize Gentiles, recorded in Acts 10. Peter thought he knew the Bible, but he was fixated on tradition more than on God’s Word, and God had to be very strong and clear to break him out of it.
I would have trouble remembering all the times I’ve agonized over decisions of one sort or another, and I couldn’t begin to count all the times and ways God has guided me. That gives me great empathy for those who ask me for help, either advice or prayer, about major decisions. My father was well known for answering such people with, “Well, what does God want you to do?” If a person has much depth to their Christian walk, most of the time they can answer that question! The problem comes with our either wanting to do something else, or our not believing that God wants us to do what we want to do. Either of those can make us deaf to what God is saying. I need to remember, and remind others, that we are to “Delight yourself in the LORD and He will give you the desires of your heart.” (Psalm 37:4) The best statement on this whole subject is found in Proverbs 3:5-6 “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.”
Father, thank You for how You have guided me, even recently, and for how I see You guiding others. Give us all peace about trusting You, rather than trying to second-guess everything. There are several people facing major life decisions. Keep me from inserting myself into those decisions, but help me help them turn their eyes and ears to You, so that as individuals and as a church we may walk in all that You intend for us, for Your blessing and Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!