“For thus saith the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel; In returning and rest shall ye be saved; in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength: and ye would not.” (Isaiah 30:15 KJV)
The ESV translation puts this a little differently, “…in quietness and in trust shall be your strength…” Either way there is something very frustrating about this verse. It is frustrating because any way you look at this, there seems to be anything but quietness, stillness, or anything that looks like rest. When you hear just this verse quoted you think it must have been spoken during a quiet peaceful time and the one to whom it was spoken was able to appreciate the value of those quiet times. The verse is actually spoken in the middle of prophecy, so it is likely not even the present time that is being reflected on. It is spoken in the midst of a rebuke to tell them not to flee; which is very telling because anyone looking for an opportunity to flee knows very little of quietness, confidence, trust, or peacefulness. Finally, the term saved is not usually associated with rest. At least not in the order given. Generally, we think of rest as something that we experience after we are rescued. After the turmoil has been dealt with we can think about returning and rest.
Yet, the text specifically says “…in returning and rest shall ye be saved…” and “…in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength…”. Why? How does that work? Part of the transforming work God puts us through is more than not conforming to the world, but learning why the transformation is necessary. There is something in us that says there is a time to get to work and a time to rest and those times do not seem to match what everyone else around us is taking their queues from. To top it off, finding strength inside quietness or trust seems as backwards as a heat pump unit that seems to find coolness outside in the summer and warmth outside in the winter. It seems like more work and backwards. The work now becomes trusting and listening to the direction from God so that I might understand what I need to gather to deal with the problem at hand. What makes the work extra difficult is that we think we have a viable option that we can be working on and to put that aside and get under the Lord’s wing seems counterproductive. Sometimes we do not even want to be under the Lord’s wing. We think our plan is just fine. Yet, it is “…in returning and rest shall ye be saved…”.
Obedience is the difficult and lonely road going up when everyone else seems to be heading down. It is the road that saves us from so much grief. It is also the road that requires a focus and an intentionality to it of daily communication with God. It is in the tearing down of old muscles and the building up of these new ones that you really do begin to see real strength. Perhaps there is a mixed irony to this story. Do you ever notice that when you pursue God, that those who pursue you get fewer? The closer they get to God, the less they can see of you. Perhaps that is why John the baptist said that he must decrease (see John 3:30).
“But ye said, No; for we will flee upon horses; therefore shall ye flee: and, We will ride upon the swift; therefore shall they that pursue you be swift.” (Isaiah 30:16 KJV)