Direction. Vision. Clarity.
Five years ago I placed a one inch by one inch piece of notebook paper in my Bible. On it were written three words that I thought would be a temporary prayer: Direction. Vision. Clarity.
I felt the calling from God to proclaim His mission and be a witness of Jesus Christ. Once God showed me how to get there, I wouldn’t need to pray for those things anymore. Or so I thought.
If you were to open my pink Bible where this small square of paper is located, you would land on Isaiah 43. “But now, thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine” (v. 1). Here we find Isaiah speaking God’s words of healing and new identity over Israel, currently in exile by the Babylonians. God’s chosen people were just as lost as the nations. This wasn’t a failure from God; it was a choice Israel had made to turn against God and His word. That was the issue. Captivity wasn’t their problem; captivity was the inevitable consequence of what was truly going on in their hearts.
Maybe Isaiah 43 resounded in my soul because I am a lot like Israel.
God knew what they (and I) needed to hear: “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through the fire you will not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Holy Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior” (v.2)
God offered an identity change to His unseeing, unhearing people.
“You are mine.”
“I will be with you.”
“I am the Holy Lord your God.”
An identity marked by these words is secured in the arms of Jesus. A new captivity. It is redemption.
My prayer for direction, vision, and clarity will spring to the forefront of my mind even when I don’t want to pray it. Then I will be reminded of Isaiah 43. That chapter is like a window to my true identity and mission, a prophetic reminder that there is more going on beyond my daily burdens. It is an ode to redemption. Honestly, that chapter is direction. It is vision. It is clarity.
Israel in captivity is like my flesh, who I am without Christ’s redemption. Once I turn to Jesus Christ, I am called to crucify my flesh and die to the desires of the sinful nature within me. I am a new creation in Christ, and I am no longer held captive by the sinful desires within me. Being in Christ is like when God set Israel free and called them to be a light among the nations (v.8-10).
Why is this so? Why would God want to take His people out of captivity when they explicitly chose to turn away from Him?
“For I give water in the wilderness, rivers in the desert, to give drink to my chosen people, the people who I formed for myself that they might declare my praise” (v.20-21). Ah, it is for God’s glory, that they might magnify His being among the nations. That is why He chose to set Israel free, and why He chose to send Jesus to redeem anyone who calls upon His name.
“The glory of God is the beauty and excellence of his manifold perfections. It is an attempt to put into words what God is like in his magnificence and purity. It refers to his infinite and overflowing fullness of all that is good. The term might focus on his different attributes from time to time — like his power and wisdom and mercy and justice — because each one is indeed awesome and beautiful in its magnitude and quality. But in general, God’s glory is the perfect harmony of all his attributes into one infinitely beautiful and personal being.” - John Piper, “God Created Us for His Glory”
God redeeming humanity from their captivity captures the magnitude of His perfect being. We cannot see God, but we can see how He rescued Israel. I can see how He rescued me. And that moves me to my core.
When I read Isaiah 43, it’s like the scales fall off my eyes and I can see the world through God’s eyes. I need that awakening over and over and over again, because it is all too easy to fall back into perceived captivity by my sinful desires. I lose sight of my secure place in God’s story of redemption when other things get in the way: my desire for comfort, lies I believe from the enemy, daily life vying for my attention. I am reminded that God is at work in the world and He calls me to be a part of that work.
It causes me to worship this beautiful, relentless Redeemer that has given my life a direction. His vision is my clarity.