“O that you would tear open the heavens and come down, to make your name known to your adversaries … because you hid yourself we have transgressed … Do not be exceedingly angry, O Lord, and do not remember iniquity forever, Now consider, we are all your people.”
Isaiah is having a passionate conversation with God. Seemingly exasperated, he holds nothing back in begging God to come into the presence of God’s people because they need to see God’s “face.” They seek concrete evidence that God is still with them as in the days when Moses encountered God in the burning bush on Mount Sinai. Isaiah lays his cards on the table claiming that the partnership that God promised with the people of Israel is compromised because God has “hidden” God’s face from the very people God created. He wonders how the people of God can remain faithful in light of God’s seeming absence.
This lament is ancient, but its subject is contemporary. We feel abandoned by God over and over when strife overcomes our peace. In the face of death, war, loss, sadness, disappointment, failure, and many other of life’s difficulties, we too call out in frustration asking why God created us only to leave us to our own inadequacies when we need help the most!
What is wonderful in this encounter is that Isaiah trusts God enough to tell God exactly what is in his heart and mind. It isn’t necessary, apparently, to tiptoe around God worried that God will strike back in anger when the people express resentments. Remember the story of Jacob who actually wrestles with God? He comes away with a limp but also with a blessing and a new and stronger identity. God’s relationship with the people of God leaves open not only a safe space for confrontation but also an expectation of blessing. Human sin is not the last word.
Modeling the give and take inherent in lasting relationships, Isaiah prays that God will do something to show God’s self. In this season of expectation, we pray the same prayer. Full of urgency and passion, we articulate our temporal and spiritual frustrations to our God who has promised to abide with us. We wait for God to respond; to show God’s “face,” and to make things new. God’s face will be a face of love, and it will be the source of our salvation. Wait. Expect. Happy Advent!