Thursday, May 14, 2009

Shelter and Shade

The wind.

The storm.

A dry place.

A weary land.

Four unpleasant situations, in the extreme. Survival is hard if you're caught in a strong gust of wind which threatens to blow you off your feet. Or if you're stuck in the open with a full-blown storm lashing rain onto you. Or, from the extreme of plenty of water, to the other of being in a dry place, a parched land. Or, if carried even further, to a weary land, the heat unbearable, the sun scorching, sapping life itself from your tired body.

In some ways, they could describe the people of Jerusalem when Isaiah was prophesying. Not in the geographical details of climate, but in their spiritual situation. The cold wind of God's displeasure and judgement was blowing on them, which brought the storm of the threat of the Assyrians, that great ancient superpower. It was a dry place, because they had rejected God's word and were trying to live by their own wisdom. The end result was that they were weary, scared for their lives.

The people were like this, because the leaders of God's people hadn't been much better. Prophet and priest were more keen on getting drunk, and disregarded God's word. They said smooth things rather than true things. The king was a bit of a failure, thinking that Egypt, the ancient place of slavery, might just be a better option than facing the Assyrian army.

Isaiah appears on the scene, God's prophet declaring God's word. Here's what he says:

Behold, a king will reign in righteousness, and princes will rule in justice.
Each will be like a hiding place from the wind,
a shelter from the storm,
like streams of water in a dry place,
like the shade of a great rock in a weary land.
(Isaiah 32:1-2)

On the immediate level, Isaiah was looking to the promise of one of the reforming kings - Hezekiah or Josiah, and yet, as we read these words, how clearly they refer to the King of Kings!

Jesus the King gives us rest, shelter, refreshing water, and shade - the very things that are needed in each extreme climate. How wonderfully and graciously the Lord provides those things that we need! In coming across this verse, it has also explained something that was a bit of a mystery to me for many a year.

In the hymn 'Beneath the cross of Jesus' by Elizabeth C Clephane, there is a line:

Beneath the cross of Jesus I fain would take my stand,
The shadow of a mighty rock within a weary land;

Here is where she got the inspiration for the line! It's as if the Lord takes the full glare of the burning light of the sun, and we can shelter in the shade, safe.

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