We are not the first people facing crises. In the Old Testament the Prophet Isaiah confronted a people who were coming to the end of a long national crisis in the 40th chapter of his prophecy. There is a call for the Prophet Isaiah to speak to his people who have been in a great crisis. “Proclaim a message,” says the voice of God. “Cry,” God says.
In response, Isaiah asked, “What in the world can I cry out? All life fades away and whithers like flowers in the field.” God’s response is to make clear a message of comfort for those in crisis. This is what the Prophet presents in verses 1-9 about where God is and what He is doing. “Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God. Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned.” The result is “good tidings” that proclaims, “Behold your God!”
In one of Elie Wiesel’s books, there is a wonderful yet troubling story of a man who lived in Europe during the Second World War.
This man was a Jew living in a community where the Nazis had evaded. He was very devoted to God, but he was also a bit on the crazy side.
The day the Nazis invaded, this man goes into hiding. When it is safe to do so, he comes out of hiding, runs to the synagogue, looks up at the ceiling and shouts—“You see God. We’re still here!”
After the Nazis secured their hold on the community, the German army began a series of oppressive actions against the Jews. There were crackdowns on the Jewish population. Occasionally, a number of Jews would be rounded up and put on trains, never to be seen again.
Each time this happened, this crazy little Jew would hide. And when it was safe to do so, he would come out of hiding, run to the synagogue, look up at the ceiling and shout, “You see God, we’re still here!”
Eventually, after many such crackdowns this crazy little man found himself all alone in his community, the last living Jew in town. As was his custom, after he felt it was safe, he came out of hiding.
He walked to the synagogue, looked up at the ceiling and whispered, “You see God, I’m still here.” After a brief pause, he added, “But you God, where are you?”
One Tuesday morning in September 2001 we woke up to a routine day, but it didn’t stay routine very long.
First, one plane crashed into the World Trade Center and then another. There were reports of a plane crashing into the Pentagon.
There were rumors about car bombs exploding outside the State Department. Another plane was crashed into a field in Pennsylvania. But none of the rumors were as bad as the reality.
Many of us watched television as the two towers of the largest building complex on earth collapsed. Hundreds fled and over three thousand people died.
In all of this, many of us wondered and we responded, “We’re still here God, but where are you?” There are many feelings and responses that people have at such times. But the worst feeling of all is the feeling that God hasn’t been paying attention. That He is absent when we need Him most.
Whenever there is a tragedy in our lives, we are haunted by the feeling that God may have deserted us. In the Old Testament there is a profound book about suffering. The Book of Job is all about a man by that name who suffers terribly. He loses his wealth and property. He loses his sons in tragic deaths. He loses his health and endures a long and painful illness. Time and again, Job cries out to God in prayer. At one point, Job asks, “Why did you hide your face from me?” (Job 13:24) Later, he wants to talk to God face-to-face, to ask God a series of questions and in frustration he says, “If only I knew where to find Him . . .” (Job 23:3).
It is the most discouraging feeling in the world, that God has deserted and we don’t know where He is. In the New Testament, it is the most discouraging moment Jesus ever experienced. Hanging on a cross, dying for the sins of others, Jesus cries out a pray, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” This is one of the haunting questions in all human history. It is the question asked by thousands in such difficult and dismal circumstances.
These are the questions and feelings that multitudes of people are struggling with and facing as we deal with the terrible Covid-19, wondering what is happening and why these things happen. We are a nation in crisis. We are a nation in mourning. In this Old Testament passage in Isaiah, the prophet is told to proclaim a message and to announce a message of comfort to the people. Beginning in verse one, the Scripture says, “Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem.”
These people had suffered terribly. They had endured a long national crisis. God tells the Prophet Isaiah to “Cry out!” In response the Prophet looks up at God and with a sense of hopelessness asks, “What shall I cry?”
This was a hard moment for Isaiah.
He is told to proclaim a message of comfort. Most of us would like at such a crisis to know WHY.
Why did God allow this? How does it fit into His plan? But God does not often explain why He permits things to happen. Isaiah raises a question – “Who has understood the Lord’s mind, or instructed Him as his counselor?” The answer is clear – No one has!
God wants us to speak a word, just as He had a word through Isaiah.
He still wants us to bear a word of encouragement and inspiration for others. In the midst of tragedies and losses, crosses and deaths, we must acknowledge that God is real.
He is really here! The thread that runs through all the Bible in every crisis, every loss, every tragedy, even in the cross of Jesus, is this fact—God is present.
We are to declare—Here is your God! Behold your God. God is here with us. This is why Jesus said as He was leaving for heaven, “Lo, I am with you always.”
With this faith we need to trust God and do good! I look forward to hearing from you.