Upward and Forward

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For Lent this year, I am studying Isaiah with She Reads Truth. We recently read Isaiah 30 and verses 1 and 2 stood out to me.

1 “What sorrow awaits my rebellious children,” says the LORD. “You make plans that are contrary to mine. You make alliances not directed by my Spirit, thus piling up your sins.

2 For without consulting me, you have gone down to Egypt for help. You have put your trust in Pharaoh’s protection. You have tried to hide in his shade.

Isaiah is rebuking the Israelites, because when they are faced with fear, they turned inward and went backwards. Inward because they began serving pagan gods and backwards by reaching out to Egypt for protection. The very place where God told them never to return.

According to Matthew Henry Commentary on the Whole Bible and I paraphrase, when the Israelites found themselves in danger and distress, they:

  1. Would not consult God. They decided what they should do by looking at the situation and coming up with a solution.
  2. Would not confide in God. They did not think having God on their side was enough. They strengthened themselves in the strength of Pharaoh. They thought he was their powerful ally.

Many times in the Old Testament you will read that the Israelites “forgot the LORD their God”. They started to depend on their own knowledge and did what they thought was right.

How many times do you find yourself doing the same thing? I know I am just coming out of one of those times. I did a few things that I felt shame for. Instead of going straight to God with these feelings, repenting and letting the Holy Spirit minister to me. I allowed the shame to move me away.

Fear is an incredible emotion. It is the root of shame and so many other problems. I did a quick google search to find out how many times fear is mentioned in some way in the New Testament. Ladies, at least 57 times. It seems that God has a lot to say about fear.

Over and over we can read the simple words, “do not fear.” Do not fear, because God knows what fear does to you.

I was taught that I could lose my salvation. If I did too many wrong things, God might not take me back. I feared God and not in the awe inspiring way. He was apathetic, sitting in heaven tallying up the good and bad I did, deciding if I was worthy. And I knew I would never be worthy.

So, I carried two chalkboards around in my mind. I kept my own tally of what I did right and wrong. After a while, I gave up. I pushed God aside and decided to do what was right in my mind. I don’t have to tell you this didn’t work out well. Many wounds and years later, I turned back to God. He graciously embraced me, because that is who He is. A wonderful friend shared the following verses with me.

John 10:28-29:

28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them away from me,

29 for my Father has given them to me, and he is more powerful than anyone else. No one can snatch them from the Father’s hand.

These verses saved me. They healed me. I am a child of God. Jesus already took my sins to the cross. When God looks at me, He sees the righteousness of Jesus. He is not tallying up my sins. For me, the years of carrying around the mental chalk board, tallying up good and bad were over. Okay, maybe not over, but they are definitely fewer.

Fear can make us turn inward and backward. It distorts us.

When I think about distortion, I am reminded of a recent sermon from No Easy Jesus. In Philippians 2:15, Paul warns

15 so that no one can criticize you. Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people.

I have always read this as crooked and perverse being sinful. But Jason Mitchell explained it is not a moral category; instead it means different than what is “intended” for you. He used the analogy of a tree. A tree is meant to grow straight and tall, but sometimes because of outside forces, the tree begins to grow in on itself, which destroys it.

Like a tree, there is a way God intended us to be. Our choices can warp and distort us from what God created us to be. Our fear can keep us from embracing God and what He has for us. It can cause us to do what we think is right or what feels right instead of what God’s word says. God does not call us to do what feels right, but to do what He says. It is not about feeling good or feeling yourself; it is about focusing on Christ and living connected to God.

Ladies, let’s set our eyes upward and move forward.

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Teresa Neal is a Christ follower, wife, and mother. Her passion is to see women grow in their relationship with Jesus and understand how great His love is for them. She is attends LCBC Church in Waynesboro and leads a women’s life group. You can email her at connectingwomenwithgod@gmail.com.

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