17 September 2012

Isaiah 38:9-20

"My eyes are weary with looking upward." (v. 14)


Much like yesterday's passage, we see the words of a man who no longer sees death as something in the distance, but rather a real and present possibility. While Jesus denies Peter's assertion that this is something to be avoided, Hezekiah of Judah is much more convinced that staying alive is the best thing to do. While I can see why Jesus says that he must die, and it is not to be avoided, I find it easier to agree with Hezekiah; I too, would try and avoid death should it confront me, as it has done here in this passage.

These verses contain the cry of a desperate man; an appeal to God when things become intolerable. This is so often true of our interactions with God. We often hear sermons about how we must not only pray when we are in times of trouble, or when we feel downtrodden and hopeless. And it is surely a factor and a mark of 'true religion' (to use the old-fashioned term) that prayer is part of everyday existence. However, today's passage tells us something else - that there is value and use in crying out to God. "God is our refuge and our strength, a very present help in trouble" (Psalm 46:1) has always been a great comfort to me, to know that God dwells with us at all times, including those that are of the very worst kind. We don't begrudge our friends' presence when we maybe haven't seen in a long time, but who then reappear when things have gotten tough for them. How much more then, does the almighty, all-loving God not begrudge us the prayer in the middle of the night, or the sorrow that we throw upon God in our darkest moments?

Jesus says to the crowds "Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest… and you will find rest for your souls" (Matthew 11:28-29). The old hymn also tells of "what peace we often forfeit" and "what needless pain we bear" because we don't share those problems with our Lord and Saviour. A friend of mine works for the Samaritans, answering the phone and speaking to people who she has never met, because she knows of the value for those folks of having someone to talk to. It's such a huge gift in our Christian faith to know that we can speak to God, who is in all things, and we can know not only that he understands, but that Jesus himself felt these things too. He was rejected, he was left alone, and he felt the worst kinds of pain, just like Hezekiah felt when he spoke these words. He understands and is with us through all the worst sufferings, whether we've have remembered him in the better times or not. Therefore, we can realise what a friend we have in Jesus.

To Ponder

  • When things get too much, what can you do to maintain your faith?
  • What markings of 'true religion' might help us?

Bible notes author

Jon Curtis

Jon Curtis is a Venture FX pioneer minister in Exeter, Devon. He lives with his exceptional wife Beth, and beautiful baby Freddie.