What’s Your Hurry?
“For you will not leave in a hurry, and you will not have to take flight; because the Lord is going before you, and the God of Israel is your rear guard.” (Isaiah 52:12)
I cannot get this verse out of my head. The implications of this are many and massive. This is Isaiah prophesying to Israel that they will be delivered from being exiles in Babylon. When delivered, after 70 years of captivity mind you, they were leave – get this – slowly.
Now I don’t know about you, but I imagine I would find that hard to do. For the first time in 70 years, I have an opportunity to finally go home, and I am told I need to casually stroll? Can’t imagine.
As I write this, the country is gradually (hopefully) on the other side of the COVID-19 pandemic. No gathered worship services. Shelter in place. Work from home. No guests at home. No school for the kids. Lock. Down. The nation is ready to return to a semblance of normalcy. . . and it’s only been two months! I, for one, cannot wait for all restrictions to be lifted. I want to gather again for worship. I want to go out to eat where and when I desire. I want my kids to go to their friends houses. I want to watch sports. . . live sports. . . with fans. And I want it quickly.
So I have a hard time imagining being told I don’t need to take off and flee quickly when delivered from Babylon – after 70 years.
As with so many words from God, I have to ask, “Why?” Why would the Father say such a thing? Why couldn’t they run as fast as possible? Why not leave in a hurry and take flight? From the way it is worded, it seems as if it would be wrong to get out of their quick. Why?
The longer I think about this, two reasons come to mind.
First, because God didn’t want them to think He might change His mind.
This wasn’t a, “Hurry! You’ve got about 10 minutes and then the enemy will pursue again!” Or, “Get out now, or God may remember your rebellion and sin and send you back!” No. This was a finished deal. This was a completed action. God’s purposes in the exile had been accomplished. God’s revelation of salvation had been made known. They didn’t have to worry about going back. They didn’t have to worry about being attacked again. God went before them. God stayed behind them. They could take their time. It was finished.
Second, God wanted them to live in the present because that’s where He was.
Think about it. Isaiah – quoting God – said, “For you will not leave in a hurry, and you will not have to take flight; because the Lord is going before you, and the God of Israel is your rear guard.” (emphasis mine) The Father who was delivering them was in front and in the back. He was with them. He was there. His presence was in Babylon. His presence would be on the journey back. His presence, of course, would be in Jerusalem when they got home. They could soak it all up because God was there. They could rest and relax and slow down because the Lord was with them.
Isn’t that the point of life, anyway? To be with God? To be where God is? To enjoy His presence and lean into what He is doing – regardless of where or what circumstances?
My default mode (read: flesh) is reaction. I am a reactor. If one of my children makes me angry, I tend to blast. If I hear of a problem with the church I pastor, I tend to want it fixed 10 seconds ago. If my wife and I get in a tiff, I tend to bark things I wish I hadn’t said. If I read an instructional book, I want my life changed immediately. If I start a diet, I want the pounds gone before bedtime. . . on the first day. I am a reactor. I guess you could say, I am an impatient reactor. Not. Good. Often, I feel like the road runner when he’s released from a cage or being captured. Poof! Gone. Why? Because I don’t believe the Lord is before me, nor behind me. I forget He is right there. . . with me in the moment.
I tend to react to my circumstances or flesh or the seemingly-but-not-really-urgent. . . not to the presence of God who is near.
Let me challenge you today. Don’t be in such a hurry. Don’t take flight. Don’t react with such intensity. The Lord is before you AND behind you. Enjoy Him and what He is up to.