“The wasted city is broken down; every house is shut up so that none can enter.” Isa. 24:10
If you are reading this then you are quite aware of the pandemic surrounding COVID-19 and its worldwide effect on the very fabric of our livelihood. Shelves that were once filled have been replaced by emptiness and scarcity has taken on a whole new meaning. Currently, group gatherings in public spaces have been limited and households are advised to quarantine themselves from the threat of possible infection. These are uncertain times that may have us emotionally unstable, questioning our faith and confused about the sovereignty of God. In the book of Isaiah, we are confronted with a judgment from God that is universal and has often been referred to as the Apocalypse of Isaiah. This blog is not a doomsday readers digest but if you will permit me, we can learn some truths in between these chaotic lines of the text. These are the sentiments of some who have deemed this time as a punishment from God because of sin.
Chaos can be described as a state of disorder or confusion, and unpredictability that conveys a sense of emptiness. We find in Isaiah 24:10 that God has announced judgment to what has been called the “city of chaos.” The word that the prophet uses here is tō·hû that means formlessness (Gen. 1:2), an empty space, nothingness as not having any definite shape. The city is a wasteland, unpopulated (like a scene from the walking dead) that feels desolate, inhabitable that parallels the story of the flood during the time of Noah. What was once a vibrant city full of life and laughter has now shut its doors in fear of lack, disease or being dominated. Yet, even in the midst of such devastation, there is the presence of hope in the security found in God’s sovereignty that drives out fear. Have we forgotten where our eternal inheritance lies?
“Then take care lest you forget the Lord, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. 13 It is the Lord your God you shall fear. Him you shall serve and by his name you shall swear.”
This scene fits into the scope of what we’re facing as the floodgates bring their cataclysmic effects on the city. We feel like prisoners in a dungeon (24:10), secluded from the rest of society, lamenting from our inability to have community or church as we normally view it. The only difference we must come to acknowledge is that we are doing ordinary ministry in extraordinary times. The message is the same and the imagery of this city will not stay in its present form. This city of chaos may have been built by human resources, but it was divinely constructed in God’s covenant agreement. There will come a song that is sung in our land that will echo, “We have a strong city; he sets up salvation as walls and bulwarks. Open the gates, that the righteous nation that keeps faith may enter in. You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you because he trusts in you” (Isa. 26:1-3). The purpose of our peace isn’t hallmarked in our current situation or turmoil but is found in faith. You can choose this day to abide in the fear of formlessness, listen to every news report or you can decide to live in the peace of God that surpasses our understanding that all things will work out for your good. Isaiah’s vision of this city sees this destruction as a work and will of God that calls upon the inhabitants to place their trust on Heaven’s mandate rather than rely on Earths assets.
I want to leave you with an ultimatum that you can either choose creed over chaos. The word creed in Latin is credo which is a basic summary of what we hold as truth in accordance with our Christian faith. A creed is a declarative statement that no matter what is before me, I will choose to remain in the confessions of my faith. It was in the chaos that the Heavens and Earth were completed, and it will be in the creeds we hold that God will deliver peace. “For God is not a God of confusion but of peace” (1 Cor. 14:22). Let’s take this opportunity to learn the rhythms of grace and hear the voice of God that whispers in the storm, come to me and I will give you rest.
Lord, even in the storm, there can be found peace. Teach us to hear clearly what you are speaking. Remove the clutter of our present circumstance and fill it with faith.