When you are searching the scripture looking for a word to jump out at you obstinate is not the word you want speaking to your soul. However, that’s the word I landed on tonight. Maybe it was because its one of those words that I can use in a sentence, but have to look it up in the dictionary to make sure I am using it right. Or maybe its because it speaks to the very nature of my soul, as I am sure it does to many of us who are searching. In case you are in the same boat as I was a few sentences up; obstinate is defined as: Stubbornly refusing to change one’s opinion or chosen course of action, despite attempts to persuade one to do so. I don’t know what happened to you when you read the definition, but for me it went from a word that stood out in the scripture to a full blown ah-ha moment.
As of late I have been feeling compelled to pick apart Isaiah 35 word for word. Being that this text has been put in front of my face several times in rapid succession I can only assume God wants me to get the message. It is a lot like when God spoke to Joshua and told him three times in four verses to be strong and courageous. If God is trying to tell you something, He’s going to repeat it so that you know its clear! Anyway, as I started to read through the sub-notes and little fine-print letters sending me to other parts of the book for more understanding; I started to see something. A pattern, and I think is not just my own.
In my investigation to better understand Isaiah 35, I found myself at the beginning of Isaiah 30. “Woe to the obstinate children, declares the Lord, To those who carry out plans that are not mine, forming an alliance, but not by my spirit, heaping sin upon sin…” And there it is, the word that convinced me to pen to paper tonight (on a keyboard, rather.) I am going to speak for myself here, and if matches you, too, I wouldn’t be surprised. I will say that I am confident that I am not alone, but lets just look at it from my perspective for a moment.
Being obstinate is something I am far too familiar with. Stubbornness is something that has always been a struggle for me. My opinion, my perspective, my personal interest. If you didn’t see it my way, that was going to be a problem for us. The problem with this thinking in my own life, however, is that it is called out right here in Isaiah 30. “To those who carry out plans that are not mine.” Yep, guilty to the first degree. “Heaping sin upon sin.” Second count. To say I was building up my own death sentence with shame and guilt is sadly not an over exaggeration. I was on a path – that was my own – straight down the road to emotional, spiritual, and even physical destruction. Clearly, that was not the direction that God had intended for me, but I was being an obstinate child determined to do things my own way even if it killed me. As much as these words were meant for the Israelite people back in the day; they were also written for me to read today.
I didn’t know – before I started reading the Bible today – that God was going to have me take a look back to see where I was in contrast to where I am today. But here I was stuck walking down memory lane, hand in hand, with God making sure I knew where I was, so that I would know where I am going. However, we weren’t done with Isaiah 30 quite yet. As I continued reading on I landed soundly on the words of verses 10 through 14.
They say to the seers, “See no more visions!” and to the prophets, “Give us no more visions of what is right! Tell us pleasant things, prophesy illusions. Leave this way, get off this path, and stop confronting us with the Holy One of Israel!” (10-11)
All I could think about in this moment were all of the times in the past 8 years that people would approach me and ask me about my faith. To which I would spout something intellectual and make it sound like I knew what I was talking about. Only to know in my heart that I was so far away from the Lord I didn’t even remember the last time I’d prayed. “Yeah, I’m a Christian, and I am messed up, but Gods got my back.” Yeah, no He didn’t. I mean, sure, if I would have asked he’d have jumped at the opportunity, but I was pleasantly lying to everyone around me that I was on good terms with God. I knew about God’s grace, but I wasn’t going to make time to ask for it. I was too busy searching for my own fortune, my own version of success (horribly I might add.) I wasn’t going to make time for God because I knew he’d tell me I was doing it all wrong, because I was. So I would lie – especially to myself – and say that I felt like God was directing me here or there when in reality I was directing myself hoping to find my greener grass always on the other side of the fence. If people would confront me about my position, I would instantly get defensive. I’d try to make them feel stupid for confronting me about it, even though I was the only fool in the situation. Then, God’s response to his people (and me) hit home hard.
“Because you have rejected this message, relied on oppression and depended on deceit, this sin will become for you like a high wall, cracked and bulging, that collapses suddenly, in an instant. It will break into pieces like pottery, shattered so mercilessly that among its pieces not a fragment will be found for taking coals from the hearth or scooping water out of a cistern.” (12-14)
Reading those words felt like a direct smack in the face. A nudge in the ribs. Those words define exactly what took place in my life almost a year ago now. My path had lead me to the point where I was ready to call it quits. I was ready to accept that my path had lead me straight to a cliff and I was ready to jump off because I didn’t see another way. Many times I have said that the defining moment in my life was when God saved my life only to shatter it. He let the clay jar drop and shatter to dust, so that He could rebuild it the way he intended for it to be used. As though God wanted to make sure there was no coincidence that He was in charge of this trip down memory lane what came next hit just as hard, but as a reminder of God’s amazing grace.
In that day they will say, Surely this is our God; we trusted in him, and he saved us. This is the Lord, we trusted him; let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation. (25:9)
Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; therefore he will rise up to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him! (30:18)
There I was broken, shattered, dust to dust, but God took mercy on me and on that day he saved me. He took me to my sanctuary and began the healing. He spoke truth into my soul and I trusted him again. I rejoiced because he redeemed me and restored his salvation for me.
You see, here’s the thing. Maybe these words aren’t defining an exact moment in your life, but I would wager that it’s speaking to a period of your life. Maybe one years ago, maybe one you are still in, or maybe one that is going to find its way into your future. We are all obstinate children who love to take charge of our own life. We love to say we can find our own way. We love to give it our best shot without involving God. We just don’t want to bother Him with our life right? No, we don’t want Him to bother our lives with Him. We don’t want to stand corrected. We don’t want to hear the right way because we like our way, and in the moment it seems “right.” Speaking from experience, I can say plainly. If you are living a wholly obstinate lifestyle avoiding God’s correction, it will absolutely come back to bite you. Ask God to correct you. Repent to God and ask Him to steer you back on the path he has designed for you, because what held true for Israel also held true for me. I am sure it holds true for every one of us.
The enemy loves stubborn people because he can make easy work of us. All it takes is a little misdirection and we will take ourselves out. From there minimal effort is needed to keep us walking down the path leading to the cliff. No matter where your stubbornness is, rather it be addiction, lust, pride, greed. Get off the path. Stop, and pray. Ask God to redirect you because no matter how far off the rails you are now, it will only get worse from here. Give it up and give it to God (I know how cliche that is.) If this spoke at all to where your life is today it’s time, now, to allow Gods grace to flood over you. It is time, now, to ask for forgiveness and redirection. It is time, now, to accept your way is never going to lead to the right way, and only the Lord can point you back to the true way that He intended. Trust me when I say that path is far greater than anything we could ever imagine for ourselves.