Being Motivated By Who God Is
Our daily reading plan moves us into Jeremiah in just a little while, but before it does, I have one more observation from my own reading of Isaiah to share.
I don’t know as much about Isaiah as I would like. (I think I’ve stated that in previous posts. You can find my two previous posts on Isaiah here and here.) But I remember reading somewhere that many people believe the book divides itself into two major parts at chapter 40. Those who believe this call the first 39 chapters “The Book of Condemnation”, as Isaiah is mostly condemning the people of Israel as well as the people of all other nations in those chapters. They further call the final 27 chapters “The Book of Consolation”, as Isaiah turns in these chapters to console or “comfort” the people in those chapters (see Isaiah 40:1).
An Interesting Comparison
A quick aside here: some people use this two-part structure of Isaiah as a mnemonic device for the structure of the Bible itself. They say that the Bible has 66 books just as Isaiah has 66 chapters. The first 39 of those books are Old Testament, just as the first 39 chapters of Isaiah are The Book of Condemnation, and the last 27 are New Testament, just as the last 27 chapters of Isaiah are The Book of Consolation. I’m not sure if that works for you or not, but it is a trick I use when I need to remember how many Old or New Testament books there are.
Now I don’t know if Isaiah really should be divided in exactly that way, nor do I know if these books are really books of condemnation and consolation. As I said before, it is very difficult for me to see the “big picture” of this book because it is so long. And I need to see the big picture before I can confidently say that this is indeed the book’s intended structure.
Nonetheless, it does seem to me that Isaiah is doing some sort of consoling or comforting in these chapters. After all, he uses those words and their synonyms in 40:1. And it does not surprise me that he would be doing so. I’ve known for a long time that the prophets comforted God’s people a whole lot more than we give them credit for. What did surprise me as I read these chapters along with you over the past several days is the way Isaiah motivates the people to accept this consolation or comfort.
We first need to understand that this is exactly what Isaiah is trying to do in these chapters. He is trying to motivate the people. It might seem like he is not. It might seem like he does not need to. It might seem like consolation is not something that requires motivation. That’s how I understood it as a Bible college student. Obedience, I thought then, requires motivation, but consolation does not. Consolation is merely offered and accepted.
What I realize now, though, is that consolation requires as much if not more motivation. Consolation is not immediately accepted when it is offered. No, people have to be motivated to take it. They have to be motivated to live according to it. They have to be motivated to let it become the way they see the world and the future and life itself.
Isaiah is doing just that here. He is motivating the people to accept this consolation, to let this consolation become the way they see. And he is doing that in a unique but very effective way: by telling them who God is.
Who God Is
We can see him do this, see him motivate the acceptance of consolation by appealing to who God is, in the verses that lead up to Isaiah 40:30 & 31. We all know those verses and their great “those who hope in the Lord” will rise up “with wings as eagles” statement. But look at what Isaiah says immediately before that:
Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
The LORD is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
and his understanding no one can fathom.
He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak. (Isaiah 40:28 & 29)
In these two verses, Isaiah describes who God is. Not only so, but by describing who God is he further describes who God will be to His people. Isaiah says God is the Creator, which means He will be able to fix what is broken. Isaiah says does not grow tired or weary, which means He will be there when He is needed. Isaiah says God gives strength to the weary, which means He will give strength to them.
The God of Consolation
This is not the only time Isaiah does this. He continues to say things like this throughout these chapters. You may have noticed that as you read. If you didn’t, take a few moments for some deeper Bible study. Scan over these chapters again and highlight every passage that is simply about God. You’ll find there are a lot of them.
And these passages are there for a purpose. They are there for this very same purpose that 40:28 & 29 are there. Isaiah is telling the people who God will be to them by telling them who God is in general. He is motivating them to accept and live according to this consolation by telling them God is a God of consolation. He is changing the way they see the world/the future/life itself by changing the way they see God.
In my experience, there is no finer motivation than that. In fact, this is the basis of all my devotional reading. I do devotional reading (or sometimes listening) three times a day: I read our daily reading plan in the morning, I listen to a devotion on my phone in the afternoon, and I check the Moravian Daily Text (another reading plan which gives two single verses of Scripture every day) at night.
Every time I do these things, I ask myself one all-important question: what is this saying about God? I have found that nothing motivates me or changes the way I see things more than the truth of who God is, the truth of God’s nature or character or heart. That truth is always good; there is no such thing as a bad truth about God because there is nothing bad about our God. That truth is always ultimately good for me; if God is good in general (and He is) then He must intend to be good to me. That truth always motivates and changes me. It is the one thing that gets me where God wants me to be.
The Truth of Who God Is
That is the truth Isaiah goes back to time and time again in these chapters. And that is the truth we need more than any other. If you did not catch that truth the first time around, I encourage you to go back over these chapters before you move on to Jeremiah. Go back, see who your God is and what He will be to you, and be motivated to see in a much different and much better way than you ever have before.