I came up against one of those devotional speed bumps the other day. You know the kind. When you are reading a familiar passage in the Bible and a verse or a phrase sticks out and makes you slow down. You back up and reread it and ponder it for a moment. You’ve read it before but this time it seems to speak to you a little deeper, a little more clearly. I call them devotional speed bumps. I savor those times.
It happened while reading Isaiah 43. It is a place where God is giving comfort to his people. Promising the nation of Israel, he will bring them back from exile. Deliverance and restoration back to the land of their fathers. Verse 6 says, “say to the North, give them up. And to the South do not withhold them.” Although meant for the lost people of Israel, it summons us as well. The words that stuck with me were “do not withhold.”
Do not withhold yourself from close communion with God, from boldly praying or searching out the answers to your questions. Do not withhold from God what is rightfully his to use in his Kingdom. Things like our talents and spiritual gifts. Don’t withhold them. Do not hoard your wealth. Do not waste your time. Do not let your abilities rust or your influence be unfelt.
Do not withhold from union with God’s people. Do not neglect to celebrate baptisms and come to the Lord’s Supper. Do not withhold yourself from worship, singing, praying, confession, or falling under the preaching of the Word. You may be timid or into false habits, or neglecting your first loves. Do not withhold yourself from returning to church.
If you do not know the love of Jesus, do not withhold. Do not let sin or fear hinder you. Come to Jesus just as you are. Pour out your heart and let God surround you with tender loving care. The sinners cry is always heard by God. Be in the front of the line in self-denials and self-sacrifices. Do not withhold from saying “I’m sorry” to God, to family, to others.
God did not withhold his son Jesus Christ. He gave himself up as a ransom for many (Matt 25:46). Jesus did not withhold his love for us when he had full rights to do so. For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son so that we might have life abundantly.
In Isaiah God is seeking the return of his loved ones. He wants them back from their exile. It’s the same today. God wants you back. Do not withhold yourself.
Anyway, that’s how I see it. – Pastor Pete