And therefore the Lord [earnestly] waits [expecting, looking, and longing] to be gracious to you; and therefore He lifts Himself up, that He may have mercy on you and show loving-kindness to you. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed (happy, fortunate, to be envied) are all those who [earnestly] wait for Him, who expect and look and long for Him [for His victory, His favor, His love, His peace, His joy, and His matchless, unbroken companionship]! (Isaiah 30:18, AMPC, emphasis added)
Review: After examining the context and main points of Isaiah 30 in Part One, in Part Two, we discussed the subtle ways the enemy of our souls deceives us into devoting our hearts to idols, rather than the one true God, the Maker of heaven and earth. In Part Three, covering Isaiah 30:10-17, we saw God explain to Israel how their rebellion against His ways would cause calamity. In Part Four, we examined verse 18, which describes what God is earnestly doing as He watches over us and waits for us to return to trusting Him and whole-heartedly obeying Him. In Part Five, we will examine the second half of Isaiah 30:18.
Blessed (happy, fortunate, to be envied) are all those . . .”Blessed (happy, fortunate, to be envied) are all those who [earnestly] wait for Him, who expect and look and long for Him [for His victory, His favor, His love, His peace, His joy, and His matchless, unbroken companionship]!” (Isaiah 30:18b, AMPC, emphasis added)
One of the first passages I memorized as a new believer was Matthew 5:3-12, well known as “the Beatitudes” or the be-attitudes. Each of the beatitudes begins with the word blessed. The word blessed appears 295 times in the AMPC, blessing 188, and bless 576. Blessing obviously is important to God. So, what does blessed mean?
Westers 1828 online dictionary defines blessed (an adjective) as “Happy; prosperous in worldly affairs; enjoying spiritual happiness and the favor of God; enjoying heavenly felicity.” As a verb, to bless means “To make happy; to make successful; to prosper in temporal concerns; as, we are blest with peace and plenty.” No wonder the clarifying phrases of the AMPC are “happy, fortunate, to be envied”!
So, whenever God promises a blessing, we should be eager to find out how to obtain that blessing. God knows the human heart. He knows how to motivate us. Living out the beatitudes–being meek, merciful, pure-hearted, and a peacemaker, etc.–is not easy, but each command in the beatitudes is linked to a blessing. Everything God tells His children to do is for their good and brings about blessing. God wants us to know this. It motivates us toward good behavior. He says in Hebrews 11:6 “For whoever would come near to God must [necessarily] believe that God exists and that He is the rewarder of those who earnestly and diligently seek Him [out] (AMPC).”
God also wants us to know that He will give us strength to follow His commands. Consider Isaiah 40:29. “He gives power to the faint and weary, and to him who has no might He increases strength [causing it to multiply and making it to abound].” emphasis added) Consider also Exodus 15:2, Joshua 14:11, and Psalm 10:17, which is just a start on examples of God’s giving His children strength.
Some of the conditions that bring about blessing are easier to live out, like earnestly waiting, watching for and expecting God.
. . . who [earnestly] wait for Him]
“Here Nana. Do you want a piece of my cookie? You can have it.”
I looked at the small outstretched hand, still so tender, soft and unformed, the tendons that one day will be cabled with male strength now veiled beneath soft flesh, the fingers that one day will be thickened now slender, the skin that one day will be hairy now smooth. I smiled. Pinched between thumb and forefinger was a teaspoon-size piece of his double chocolate chip cookie.
“Oh, yes! Thank you darling!” I said as I took the offering from my grandson’s hand.
“Mmmmmm. That is delicious! Thank you!
I ask you, is anything on earth sweeter than the face of a young boy offering a gift? Such earnestness, such whole-hearted sincerity, such clear and pure love enlightening features as yet largely indistinguishable from those of a girl, brow ridge not yet formed, brows not yet thickened, jaw as yet unsquared, chin as yet not more noticeably protruding. And the eyes, those windows to the soul, so filled with light, with joy, with sincerity.
My grandson, his brother and I were celebrating the end of school at in the small dine-in area in their favorite bakery. That cookie was a treasure to him. When he finished, he always popped into his mouth any large crumbs left on the table or the napkin. Two or three years earlier, his gifts had been mere pinches of cookie but generosity had grown. And I had treasured those mere pinches as much as this larger piece. My grandson gave of his best to me with earnestness.
Webster’s 1828 online dictionary defines earnest as “Ardent in the pursuit of an object; eager to obtain; having a longing desire; warmly engaged or incited.” Also, “Serious; important; that is, really intent or engaged; whence the phrase, in earnest To be in earnest is to be really urging or stretching towards an object; intent on a pursuit.”
Think now of the last part of Isaiah 30:18. Because of Israel’s idolatry and rebellion against Him and His ways, God is earnestly waiting, “[expecting, looking and longing] to be gracious to” them. It is only fitting that we, too, should earnestly wait for Him. Whole-heartedly. Sincerely. Ardently. Passionately. Go to Bible Gateway and look at the 180 times Holy Spirit moved on His anointed writers to use the word earnest or earnestly. Notice also that it is used to express both God’s feelings toward us as well as what our feelings should be toward Him.
How do we earnestly wait? Read through Psalm 106 and note the word earnestly in verses 7, 13, and 45. The psalmist is declaring the mighty deeds the Lord did with Israel and the psalmist is giving God the praise that is due Him. In verse13 the psalmist says “our fathers in Egypt understood not nor appreciated Your miracles, they did not [earnestly] remember the multitude of Your mercies nor imprint Your loving-kindness [on their hearts]. . .” The psalmist goes on to recount the many times God delivered Israel out of troubles they had brought on themselves. And he states that, even then, they remained rebellious and became even more wicked. Yet God “[earnestly] remembered for their sake His covenant.” And He rescued them yet again.
It is exactly the same with each of us today as it was with ancient Israel. We vow to follow God, but we fail in countless unintentional and far too often intentional ways. Yet God earnestly forgives us when we earnestly, sincerely, turn to Him, put Him first by obeying Him and trusting in Him rather than our idols and our rebellious way of living. Our earnest repentance moves His heart (Psalm 51:17).
And what are we to earnestly do? Wait for Him. That means obey and then wait, with confident expectation, for Him to deliver, bless and guide as He promises. In Isaiah 30, Israel sinned by relying on the help of Egypt against their enemies and refusing to “hear the law and instruction of the Lord.” Part of God’s laws and instructions to them was verse 15 when He said, “In returning [to Me] and resting [in Me] you shall be saved; in quietness and in [trusting] confidence shall be your strength.” But Israel’s actions told God “Get out of my way! I do not want to hear about the Holy One of Israel!” We do the same when, in trying to solve a problem, we disobey God. We also do the same when we let worry or fear or other wrong emotions dominate us, rather than waiting on God to act while we rest our souls, quietly and confidently, in Him.
This last is a hard saying. How are we rebelling against God when we worry or live in fear? Prayerfully read Hebrews 3:7-19. When we worry or live in fear, we are not believing God and His promises, just like the Israelites who refused to believe God would give them the promised land had ”sinful, unbelieving hearts” that turned “away from the living God.” (Hebrews 3:12, NIV). When we worry, we are refusing to believe God will fulfill His promises of peace and provision for us. Like Israel, our “sinful, unbelieving heart” causes us to turn away from God because we do not believe God is really sovereign over everything and we do not believe He actually means Romans 8:28 and Genesis 50:20. God swore that those who disobeyed would never enter His rest because of their unbelief. (v. 16-20.) Just like Israel, we disobey and we deprive ourselves of living in the fulfillment of God’s promises.
Most commonly used translations render the second half of Isaiah 30:18 as “Blessed are all those who wait for Him.” We must obey God and then wait for Him, rather than taking the matter into our own hands. Consider one of Saul’s chief errors. When facing the Philistine army, instead of waiting on the priest, Saul offered sacrifices himself. God then told Saul that his kingdom would not endure but instead would be given to a man after His own heart, because Saul had not kept the Lord’s command (1 Samuel 13:5-14). God has orderly ways of doing things and has designated an orderly way of life for His children. We are to live as He says to, in hard as well as easy times, and wait, with confident expectation, for Him to fulfill His promises.
. . . who expect and look and long for Him. Notice that God is described as expecting, looking and longing to be gracious to us and we are blessed if we wait for Him and expect and look and long for Him. When we expect something, we believe that something will happen. Expecting is synonymous with trusting and faith. We are also to be looking for God, which means our eyes will be focused fully on Him, just as our eyes will be focused on the door of a coffee shop if we are looking for a friend who has promised to meet us.
And think about that word long. Far stronger than mere wanting, longing implies yearning, pining, craving, and having a hunger for something. When your husband or wife serves in the military and you have not seen him or her for thirteen months, do you want or do you long to see him or her? Think about it.
. . . [for His victory, His favor, His love, His peace, His joy, and His matchless, unbroken companionship]! Most translations end Isaiah 30:18 with the word “Him.” The AMPC, as always, adds more understanding.
One of many reasons I love the Amplified Classic Bible (AMPC) is its amplifying phrases guide your mind as you meditate. You have the subtle meanings of those key words or phrases that speakers of the original hearers would have automatically understood.
Think about that in reverse. When I say “Let’s go get a burger” you know I mean go to a fast food place or a restaurant and eat a piece of beef on a bun. An ancient Israelite would not understand us. Likewise, when we read words written for people living in Bible times such as faith in Colossians 1:4, we do not automatically think, as they would, that faith means “ [the leaning of your entire human personality on Him in absolute trust and confidence in His power, wisdom, and goodness].”
In Isaiah 30:18, the AMPC lists for us some of God’s countless wonderful aspects to comfort and stir ourselves with as we wait on Him. We are to wait for, expect and look and long for the following from Him. Let’s look at these aspects of God we are to expect and look and long for.
—His victory – God always, always, always comes through for His children (Hebrews 13:5), and He always, always, always wins (Psalm 33), and He stores up victory for the righteous (I John 5:4, Deuteronomy 20:4,I Corinthians 50:57.).
–His favor – God surrounds the righteous with His favor as with a shield. Psalm 5:12 promises that if we are upright and in right standing with God, He will shield us with His goodwill, pleasure and favor. That means God will make people kindly disposed toward us, we will have pleasant things in this life, and we will experience His special kindnesses and support.
––His love – I do not know how many sermons, books, songs and poems have been written about the love of God but were you to multiply them by a trillion you would barely have a beginning. I can only echo Charles Wesley and say, “O, for a thousand tongues to sing. . .” and Frederick M. Lehman, who wrote:
“Could we with ink the ocean fill,
And were the skies of parchment made,
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
And every man a scribe by trade;
To write the love of God above
Would drain the ocean dry;
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky.”
–His peace. I could say the same about the peace that God gives. It truly is far, far, far beyond our human ability to comprehend (Philippians 4:7). Jesus promises His peace, not the peace of the world (John 14:27). At the last meal Jesus would share with His disciples, He taught them, and us, many things, and ended by saying:
I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have [perfect] peace and confidence. In the world you have tribulation and trials and distress and frustration; but be of good cheer [take courage; be confident, certain, undaunted]! For I have overcome the world. [I have deprived it of power to harm you and have conquered it for you.] (John 16:33, AMPC, emphasis added.)
—His joy. Another thing we are to be expecting, looking and longing for as we obey God and then wait on Him, is His joy. Joy is used 250 times in the AMPC, rejoice 214, glad 163, happy 108, and, some form of bless, 576 times. It is also the second-mentioned fruit of the spirit. Joy was, pre-fall, the natural state of the human heart. It is the natural state of children before the world, the flesh and the enemy steal it. Joy is, in all its marvelous manifestations, one of God’s greatest gifts. Psalm 35:27 tells us God delights to give His children joy.
Why? One reason God delights in giving us joy is that His joy is our strength. In Nehemiah 8, when the people were grieved because they had just heard and understood God’s laws and become aware of their great sin, God told them, through Ezra:
“Go your way, eat the fat, drink the sweet drink, and send portions to him for whom nothing is prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. And be not grieved and depressed, for the joy of the Lord is your strength and stronghold. So the Levites quieted all the people, saying, Be still, for the day is holy. And do not be grieved and sad.” (Nehemiah 8:10-11, emphasis added).
God requires true sorrow and repentance for our sin but He does not want us to remain sorrowful! How quickly He draws us back into His arms, and presses us close.
You may have seen this picture of Jesus holding a lamb close to His face. I have two framed prints of it in my two-bedroom condo. I can never glance quickly at it. What an anointing must have been on the artist! Notice that Jesus has pulled that little lamb close to His face. Can’t you feel Him gently pressing His cheek into that fluffy fleece, like a parent clasping a child or lover embracing lover? See the fingers of the nail-scarred hand spread wide, tenderly supporting and holding the lamb securely. See the eyes of the Good Shepherd, closed by the intensity of joy and pleasure flooding through Him. That is how God feels about you, this moment, no matter your situation.
–And His matchless, unbroken companionship. Matchless means incomparable, beyond comparison, unequalled, unsurpassed, supreme above all else. Once we taste and see how good God’s companionship is, we never want to do anything to interrupt that. We say with David “As the hart pants and longs for the water brooks, so I pant and long for You, O God. My inner self thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and behold the face of God? (Psalm 42:1-2, AMPC)
If we have God’s companionship, we are satisfied, dwelling in unsearchable peace. The secret [of the sweet, satisfying companionship] of the Lord have they who fear (revere and worship) Him, and He will show them His covenant and reveal to them its [deep, inner] meaning. (Psalm 25:14, AMPC)
According to www.gotquestions.org, the Aaronic blessing in Numbers 6:23-27 has been extensively used since it was first uttered. But that blessing has been given permanently to believers living after Calvary’s work was completed.
“For ancient Israel, the Aaronic Blessing expressed the highest state of blessing that the nation would enjoy as they were faithful to God. The application is slightly different for the New Covenant believer. Jesus Christ has already granted us all of the things that are asked for in the Aaronic Blessing, and they have been granted on a permanent basis. Our direct experience of these things can fluctuate over time. For the believer, this blessing should be a reminder of what one has in Christ. It should also be a prayer for a fuller understanding of God’s blessings in Christ and for the corresponding feelings that should accompany that understanding.”
And the Lord said to Moses,
23 Say to Aaron and his sons, This is the way you shall bless the Israelites. Say to them, 24 The Lord bless you and watch, guard, and keep you; 25 The Lord make His face to shine upon and enlighten you and be gracious (kind, merciful, and giving favor) to you; 26 The Lord lift up His [approving] countenance upon you and give you peace (tranquility of heart and life continually). 27 And they shall put My name upon the Israelites, and I will bless them.
Have you ever heard that “You can have as much of God as you want.” I believe it because the Word backs that statement up Fellow believer, you and I can have awareness of the unparalleled joy of God’s companionship — in proportion to our waiting and hoping in Him (Psalm 33:22.) We can have God’s face shine upon us.
So I say let us strive to “dwell in the shelter of the Most High” so that we may “remain stable and fixed under the shadow of the Almighty [Whose power no foe can withstand.]” Let us “say of the Lord, He is my Refuge and my Fortress, my God; on Him I lean and rely and in Him I [confidently] trust!”
If we do that, all the promises of Psalm 91 will be ours. Consider the footnote for Psalm 91 in the AMPC: “The rich promises of this whole chapter are dependent upon one’s meeting exactly the conditions of these first two verses (see Exod. 15:26).” Selah, oh selah!
In Part Six, we will start looking at all that God is earnestly, eagerly longing to do for us when we return to Him.