Have you ever been canoeing or rafting on a river? I have, a couple of times. Now before you see me as this adventurous woman rolling through rapids and fighting to keep my craft upright and afloat, let me assure you, it was nothing like that. Both of the rivers I traveled, while they had their dangers and swift currents in places, were relatively placid.
I’d like us to consider going on a river adventure. I mean a real river with rapids, jagged rocks, and other potential dangers around the bend, where you do have to fight to keep yourself afloat. My husband has been on a rafting trip with friends where, even with experienced guides, they met some serious challenges. No one was hurt, but several tipped their canoes and ended up in the drink. And that water was cold!
God promises “peace like a river” in Isaiah 48:18 and 66:12, but, at this point, you may think that’s not such a grand thing, and you’d rather have “peace like a pond.”* Or peace like a river where the water carries you along while you and your friends chill to your favorite tunes. So perhaps we need to consider the context of Isaiah 48:18. First, it addresses the nation of Judah, the Southern Kingdom, and the people’s disobedience to God. In Isaiah chapter one, God speaks through the prophet Isaiah.
Hear me, you heavens! Listen, earth!
For the Lord has spoken:
“I reared children and brought them up,
but they have rebelled against me.
3 The ox knows its master,
the donkey its owner’s manger,
but Israel does not know,
my people do not understand.”
4 Woe to the sinful nation,
a people whose guilt is great,
a brood of evildoers,
children given to corruption!
They have forsaken the Lord;
they have spurned the Holy One of Israel
and turned their backs on him. Isaiah 1: 2-4 (NIV)
I want you to see this context for it is important to understand this promise is conditional on obedience. Now read Isaiah 48:17-18 and 66:12-13
17 “I am the Lord your God,
who teaches you what is best for you,
who directs you in the way you should go.
18 If only you had paid attention to my commands,
your peace would have been like a river,
your well-being like the waves of the sea. Isaiah 41:17-18 (NIV)
12 For this is what the Lord says: “I will extend peace to her like a river,
and the wealth of nations like a flooding stream;
you will nurse and be carried on her arm
and dandled on her knees.
13 As a mother comforts her child,
so will I comfort you;
and you will be comforted over Jerusalem.” Isaiah 66:12-13 (NIV)
Isaiah 66:12-13 is a powerful, promise-filled passage and part of the reason many people love Isaiah. But keep in mind what I said about rivers. They can be a challenge to navigate, and for some who love adventure, an exciting experience. For others, just the thought of running a series of rapids or navigating a rocky river with icy water is plain scary.
What adventures or challenges are you facing? Has the last twelve to eighteen months been rough for you? Are you searching for a time of rest and renewal? God wants that for us. In Matthew Jesus states this:
28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-29 (NIV)
But also notice what He says in John:
20 Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. John 15:20 (NIV)
And look at what James tells us:
2 My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. James 1:2 (NKJV)
So we, as Jesus’ servants, can count on trials and tests of our faith. But can we still have peace and joy in those moments? I believe we can even as the world around us seems grim, and our own trials overwhelm us. As those waves of the sea crash and the rapids threaten, we can know He is our Emanuel—God with us—and His peace will guard our hearts and minds (Philippians 4:7).
Will there be placid moments where the water stirs in a gentle swirl and fish dart beneath clear waters? You bet there will be. God wants us to find rest in Him as we draw close, but let us be ready for the trials, the suffering, and the adventure.
Blessings on your journey,
*I’d like to thank Bible teacher, Beth Moore for this insight.
Scripture quotations taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® NIV® Copyright © 1973 1978 1984 2011 by Biblica, Inc. TM Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved