“…then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday. The LORD will guide you always; He will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.” Isaiah 58:10b-11
Have you ever prayed the prayer, “Lord, bless me”? Of course you have. So have I. Maybe your version was filled with more words and specifics, but the request remains the same. Although I believe that the discipline of prayer is perhaps one of the most neglected disciplines of the faith, this short, 3-word prayer doesn’t often go missed in the life of the believer. We want God to bless us. Even if we fail to commune with Him in any other way throughout our days, we don’t seem to forget to inquire of His blessings.
We love the verses in Scripture that detail God’s blessings for us, don’t we? We often run to those very words in times of need and in times of difficulty. What I think you and I fail to recognize, though, is that blessing is most often contingent upon obedience. Let me rephrase that. The countless blessings that fill the hands of our loving Heavenly Father that He longs to pour out into our lives are often withheld (and rightly so) until we choose to walk in obedience to God’s commands. Blessing hinges on our obedience. We live in a self-driven culture that wants to satisfy every self-centered itch and craving. We want the paycheck, but we don’t want to put in the sweat. We want the recognition, but we’re far less interested in developing the character to back it.
Isaiah 58 might be somewhat new to you. If it is, take a moment to read through its 14 verses in their entirety. This chapter is FILLED with the promised blessings of God. In fact, there are 11 blessings that are promised to God’s people packed with a few short verses (8-9a, 10b-12, and 14) – in other words, not the vast majority of the chapter. The remainder is focused on two things: Israel’s waywardness and the command to return to genuine obedience to the LORD. The nation of Israel had gotten caught up in the “keeping up of appearances”. Anybody know a thing or two about that? Yes, we do. We do it every day. Pretending is something that we as women are especially good at. The sin that Israel was being called out on was one that might surprise you, though. You see, they were doing all the “right things” – fasting, seeking God daily, prayer. But within the first 5 verses of this chapter, it is made very clear that although they seemed to be doing the “right things”, they were doing them with the wrong heart. Their motive was to glorify self, not Almighty God. They sought their own pleasure and fame, not God’s.
As you continue to read through this chapter, it lays out a clear description of what abiding life in Christ can look like if we deny self and say “Yes” to God. Blessing flows abundantly into every crevice of our lives when we choose obedience. What does this mean? Well, let’s narrow our gaze to verse 11 alone. When we deny self and say “Yes” to God, we are blessed with His constant guidance and lasting satisfaction. Just curious, but anybody in need of either today? How many times have I prayed for guidance? Um, A LOT! Well, it’s a non-negotiable for those who say “Yes” to God. And satisfaction? We live in a world that races after every temporary high, desperate for soul satisfaction, but we just can’t find it outside of Jesus Christ. Satisfaction is a promised blessing to those who say “Yes” to God. Will you today, lay down your pride, your ego, your determination to see yourself elevated, and instead say “Yes” to what God is asking of you? He desires obedience, genuine obedience that stems from a heart that desires the fame of His name, not your own. Perhaps today needs to be a day of confession, where you and I get on our knees, deny self, take up our cross, and follow Jesus. It is quite unfathomable what awaits those who would say “Yes” to God.