Oh, Where Have All the Leaders Gone?
“Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it’” —Isaiah 30:21, NIV.
By itself this verse is a wonderful word of encouragement. But to ignore the its context is like picking the carrots out of the stew and ignoring the rest of the ingredients as well as to miss an important detail in the message. Isaiah speaks to a nation about God’s heart for His people; what God has for them after they come to their senses and after they have suffered the consequences of their rebellion against Him.
For those who see the God of the Old Testament as an angry and vindictive One, these verses are a rebuke as well as a lesson about the nature of God.
“Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice, Blessed are all who wait for him! O people of Zion, who live in Jerusalem, you will weep no more. How gracious he will be when you cry for help! As soon as he hears, he will answer you. Although the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, your teachers will be hidden no more; with your own eyes you will see them. Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.’ Then you will defile your idols overlaid with silver and your images covered with gold; you will throw them away like a menstrual cloth and say to them, ‘Away with you!’ He will also send you rain for the seed you sow in the ground and the food that comes from the land will be rich and plentiful…The moon will shine like the sun, and the sunlight will be seven times brighter, like the light of seven full days, when the Lord binds up the bruises of his people and heals the wounds he inflicted” —Isaiah 30:18-26, NIV.
The promises are of restoration, blessing, brilliant day that comes after the long dark night of discipline. But the verse for today, taken by itself, seems to assure us that God is whispering in our ear as we turn to deal with the decisions that we need to make every day. And, in a sense that is true.
But the context here clearly points in slightly different direction. Part of Israel and Judah’s problem was her leadership. As the king and the priests went, so went the people. If those in authority followed God, then the people followed Him as well. If not, well, the people still followed their leadership—right into captivity! In this passage God promises that in that day of restoration the people will not need to wonder if their authority figures are giving them sound advice. They will not have to wonder where those leaders are, and why they aren’t around to tell them what the Lord says. The nation will be able to clearly identify them and will hear the voice of God through them. The result will be spiritual renewal and the rejection of all the things that took the place of God in the lives of the people of the nation.
If ever the church needed strong spiritual leaders, that time is now. If ever we needed to be spiritually restored, that time is now. If ever we needed to put away what has replaced God in our lives, that time is now. If ever we needed God to show us compassion, that time is now. As Isaiah says, “…he longs to be gracious…”
God never fails to keep a promise. The blessing will come.