"Da, da, da, da, blah, blah, blah, blah"

Bible Reading: Isaiah 22:1-14; 28; 29:1-21, 13; 33:1

"'Who does Isaiah think he is,' the people say, 'to speak to us like this! Are we little children, barely old enough to talk? He tells us everything over and over again, a line at a time and in such simple words!' But they won't listen; the only language they can understand is punishment! So God will punish them by sending against them foreigners who speak strange gibberish! Only then will they listen to him! They could have rest in their own land if they would obey him, if they were kind and good. He told them that, but they wouldn't listen to him. So the Lord will spell it out for them again, repeating it over and over in simple words whenever he can; yet over this simple, straightforward message they will stumble and fall and be broken, trapped and captured" (28:9-13 LB).

"Do and do, do and do, rule on rule, rule on rule; a little here, a little there" (28:10,13 NIV). "Da, da, da, da, blah, blah, blah, blah..." (28:10,13 Msg). The people were mimicking Isaiah's repetitive and simple message, offended that he was speaking to them as he would to small children.

Many people today are still offended by the simple message of the Bible. Like the Israelites, they mimic the words of preachers and teachers, and even well-meaning friends, as though they were only ideals for the simple-minded or a crutch for the weak. Many haven't paid attention to what God has to say since they went to Sunday School as little children. Many others, who still attend church as adults, have reduced God's life-changing message to a list of "do's and don'ts" that has very little effect on their daily lives and fails to draw them near to the heart of God. "A command here, a command there. A rule here, a rule there. A little lesson here, a little lesson there" (28:10 NCV) ("Do and do..."). "The Lord says: 'These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men'" (29:13).

At one time or another, we all seem to get caught up in the illusion that we can control our own lives and stuff God into the tidy little box our minds have devised for him. "You turn things upside down, as if the potter were thought to be like the clay! Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, 'He did not make me'? Can the pot say of the potter, 'He knows nothing'?" (29:16).

God's desire is not to beat us into the ground so we'll know who's in charge, but to plant and cultivate his living truth into the soil of our hearts. "When a farmer plows for planting, does he plow continually? Does he keep on breaking up and harrowing the soil?" (28:27). Isaiah uses the example of a skilled farmer to illustrate how God deals with each of us uniquely and sensitively, taking into account our individual circumstances and weaknesses. "Caraway is not threshed with a sledge, nor is a cartwheel rolled over cummin; caraway is beaten out with a rod, and cummin with a stick. Grain must be ground to make bread; so one does not go on threshing it forever" (28:27-28). Just like the farmer knows which tools to use for specific herbs and how long to use each instrument for its particular purpose, God knows exactly what we need as he works in our individual lives.

Everyone's spiritual journey is different. God alone knows what will prick our hearts at specific times throughout our journey. He is masterful at using just the right tool at just the right time as he carefully and lovingly guides our fragile growth. May we trust his skillful hand in our own lives and respect his distinctive work in the lives of others. "All this also comes from the Lord Almighty, wonderful in counsel and magnificent in wisdom" (28:29).