Isaiah 61:11 For as the soil makes the sprout come up
and a garden causes seeds to grow,
so the Sovereign Lord will make righteousness and praise
spring up before all nations.
In such a dearly-loved chapter as this I was again at a loss for what part of it to focus on, but then the Lord spoke a fresh revelation to me from this verse. I had never thought about it before, but the imagery here is very clear. Since seeds sprout when they are in the soil, it is when we are in the Lord that we produce righteousness and praise. God is comparing Himself to dirt! Actually, this should be a very comforting thought for every believer. It isn’t that we have to produce righteousness and praise on our own, it’s that we simply have to abide in God. We get all tied in knots about what we think we have to do to be pleasing to God, when what He asks of us is to rest, relax, and rejoice in Him. When we do that we will indeed do all sorts of things under His direction, but it isn’t a matter of our striving. Like seeds in the soil, we need to be willing to die to self. Jesus pointed that out very explicitly. “I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” (John 12:24) Our ultimate fruitfulness comes as we die to self and abide in the eternal life that only God can give.
As I am reminded frequently, my father wrote his doctoral dissertation on the New Testament use of In Christ, along with related expressions. He told me personally that though he did that research and wrote that dissertation, he didn’t really understand what it was to be in Christ until he had an encounter with the Holy Spirit over a year after he had arrived in Japan, PhD in hand. I find it fascinating that the idea isn’t limited to the New Testament, but is expressed here as well. (Just another reason to call this book, “The Gospel according to Isaiah.”) Like so many around me, I too have struggled with trying to “be good,” when what I needed to do was focus on being in God. We are so prone to look at God’s rules as demands on us, when actually they are guides to help us avoid the traps of the devil and abide in all that God has prepared for us. I’m not a very good judge of my own righteousness, but even I can tell whether or not I am praising God. I need to keep watch over that, and when the praise dies down, I need to check my alignment, whether I am pressing in to rest, relax, and rejoice in my Lord.
Father, thank You for this reminder. This is a really good message to share with the believers! Help me do so by Your Spirit, not working it up but allowing You to flow it through me. Thank You for the privilege of interpreting yesterday for the sister from Brazil, and for giving me understanding of her non-native English. Thank You for what she shared about how You have been working to grow her group in Brazil, and for how that could be applied right here. Help me indeed apply all that You teach me so that I won’t deceive myself, but rather be the son and servant that You desire, for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!