“Awake, awake, put on strength, O arm of the Lord!” -Isaiah 51:9
Let’s get to it! – in the new semester, the new job, the new home. Off we go! – you Christians, called to be God’s people, to proclaim the wonderful treasures of the grace of God in Jesus Christ. Rise up, be on your way! – the very power of God rests in this message and its proclamation. Go! Proclaim!
It’s so easy for us to hear this message in the bible passage. We have precise knowledge about the forgiveness of sins in Jesus Christ, but when the bible speaks about it, it’s as though it’s not spoken to us, but rather entrusted to us.
In other words: we hear in the gospel not the voice of God that forgives our sins, but his call to action, to tell others. We need to learn another way. Otherwise risk turning our attempt to obey God into robbing him of his glory.
The rest of the Isaiah quote (and the verses that follow it, if you want to keep reading) makes clear what I mean: “Awake, as in days of old, the generations of long ago. Was it not you who cut Rahab to pieces, who pierced the dragon?”
We’re not the arm of the Lord at all. That doesn’t mean Israel. God himself is being called to get out of bed, to begin to work. Like Jesus sleeping during the storm on the sea and being awakened by the disciples, so also here: We call to God for help, not the other way around!
That’s the point – the voice of the gospel isn’t God’s cry for help, but a word of forgiveness and comfort. And God doesn’t comfort us so that we know how to comfort others. We’re a means to an end, an instrument that he uses to grow his kingdom. We’re the goal. He forgives, so that you have forgiveness. He comforts, so that you can be at peace, and secure, and safe. He speaks, so that you believe.
It’s so easy for us to turn this around. Maybe because we want to be actively involved; maybe because we need a cause to dedicate ourselves to; maybe because we think we need to show our gratitude; or maybe because we don’t really believe that God has everything in his hands.
But he does. And when it doesn’t seem that way, when our faith in God starts to shake, that’s not the time to take things into our own hands, but the time to call on him: “Awake, awake, put on strength, O arm of the Lord!”