I’ve been slowly reading Isaiah. When I say slowly, I mean I’ve been in the first chapter since before the beginning of summer. I recently was reading the 6th verse when a few words jumped out and begged to be studied.
“From the sole of the foot even to the head,
There is no soundness in it,
But wounds and bruises and putrefying sores;
They have not been closed or bound up,
Or soothed with ointment.”
To create a bit of context I’ll point out that the children of Israel are hearing a call to repentance from their God, the LORD. Verses 2-4 explain their spiritual condition. They have been taken care of as a nation by the Holy God of Israel and they have responded with outright disobedience. This disobedience is described best in verse 3,
“The ox knows its owner And the donkey its master’s crib; But Israel does not know, My people do not consider.”
I find it interesting that the charge against Israel is that they do not know their God, the creator of their people. Even ox, who cannot reason and think as humans know who it is that feed and care for them. I can attest to this truth. Growing up on a cattle farm, the cows would begin bellowing long before they smelled the hay on early winter mornings. As soon as my dad’s truck fired up, or the sound of the front-end loader echoed from down the lane, they knew feeding time was near. Immediately their gaze would be cast and set in the direction of the feed lot and terribly pitiful, and anxious lowing would result as they began their journey. Even the most miserable looking momma cow, would steadily shift from hip to hip toward the round bails. She knew, ultimately, what she needed. It was what her master was providing. That is the scene I picture when I consider this verse. Even an ox, a cow, knows its master. But here, Israel is described as not knowing its Master, the LORD. Not only do they not know, they do not consider or understand. Do we typically hold each other accountable to this scripture? Do we consider not knowing God disobedience? This isn’t talking about a general knowledge. This is, like the momma cow, knowing daily we need to meet our Master at the feed lot for our daily bread. (Jeremiah 8:7 & 5:4 & 9:3, Proverbs 6:6-8, Matthew 16:2-3 I also found the parable in Luke 19 about the minas an invaluable tool in helping me understand verse three of Isaiah as well.)
The point is we were created to know God, and to step away from that and go our own way, is disobedience. God continues to speak about the consequences of their choosing this way,
“Alas, sinful nation,
A people laden with iniquity.
A brood of evildoers,
Children who are corrupters!
They have forsaken the LORD,
They have provoked to anger
The Holy One of Israel,
They have turned away backward.
Why should you be stricken again?
You will revolt more and more.
The whole head is sick,
And the whole heart faints.
From the sole of the foot even to the head.”
Another words, why punish you again? It isn’t working to produce repentance. I hear the heart of a desperate Father here. He is saying, “You’re a mess! Look at you, your way is NOT working – PLEASE hear me now!! It’s for your good!” And now, we’ve finally come full circle,
“There is no soundness in it, (your body, Israel)
But wounds and bruises and putrefying sores..”
At this point the word “wounds” intrigued me. I have plenty, maybe that’s why. But most of us do don’t we? Upon further study I found a few other scriptures which used this same word and I found it interesting that each time this particular Hebrew word is used in scripture, it is in the context of justice. In fact as I began to read I learned that wounds are an intricate part of understanding the justice of God in its perfectness. From Job’s “multiple wounds without cause“, to the consequences of too much alcohol which, ironically enough, also produce “wounds without cause”, to the law in Exodus, “wound for wound”, to the accountability of a good friend in Proverbs, “faithful are the wounds of a friend”, to the truth of loving correction, “blows that hurt cleanse away evil”, there is no scenario in which the wounds in our life can not testify to the loving justice of our Lord. Each verse I read I began to understand more about the nature of God. Wounds are used for our good, to grow our faith, to discipline us. They aren’t only cleansing, but they are lasting and fair and equal. They speak mercy to us when we don’t want to hear it. Because truthfully, whether our wounds are born out of our own consequences, someone elses, or just as a test from God – they are intended to be used for good in our life. It’s when we refuse to know Him in these wounded places that we get into trouble. The result of that is a life of bitterness, lies, empty words, an ugly heart and a powerlessness to change. (Jer. 9:3 & 8, Ps. 64:3, Is 59:4, Hosea 4:1&2) And we can stay there for years if we choose, just as the Israelites stayed in the wilderness an extra 38. At this point in Isaiah, they even had the truths of those stories revealed to them, and still, they refused to know Him. And so, their wounds were unhealed.
“They have not been closed or bound up,
Or soothed with ointment.”
Not because God was unwilling. Isaiah 61:1 says
“The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon Me,Because the LORD has anointed Me To preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives, And the opening of the prison to those who are bound..”
In the first chapter of Isaiah the focus of Israel’s sin is NOT what they’ve done, it’s that they are unrepentant!! The Lord is heartsick because of their own unwillingness to accept His loving punishment. He didn’t create us to be forced to love Him, it is our choice. His justice is but a tool used in His great plan to woo us unto Himself. If we are bound up, bruised and wounded, without healing – it is most often by our own choice to refuse Him.
As we walk along this path there have been times when the wounds seem so deep. Just a few nights ago, I wept in Peter’s arms as I prayed to God begging Him to allow us to just hold Haddie Joy. I just want to hold her. As I paused unable to control my emotions, Peter prayed,
“And if we don’t have the chance to tell her we love her……..tell her for us.”
Knowing Him here doesn’t make the wounds disappear, but allowing God a place at our table of pain allows Him to serve us what we need to be healed. Sometimes I’d rather wallow in a pit of despair apart from Him, and believe me, many times in my life, I have. But oh how sweet to accept the wounds of life as something meant for my good, no matter how they got there- my own fault or not, and allow the loving kindness of God’s justice to sweep over me, binding up my broken heart.