“O Afflicted One…”

“For the mountains may be removed and the hills may shake,
But My lovingkindness will not be removed from you,
And My covenant of peace will not be shaken,”
Says the Lord who has compassion on you.
”O afflicted one, storm-tossed, and not comforted,
Behold, I will set your stones in antimony,
And your foundations I will lay in sapphires.”
Isaiah 54:10-11

stormcloudsThere are seasons in our lives when we are afflicted and those around us know it. The foundations of our world are shaken – death, betrayal, illness, job loss… catastrophe with any face – and we experience God’s love through the hands and hearts of others coming along side. For a time, we are supported and cared for and encouraged until a sense of normalcy returns and we once again regain our footing.

For some, though, the crisis becomes the norm, and over time the support dwindles away. For others, there are storms and battles nobody ever sees, and there is no comfort from without. And for still others it is the daily struggle to find solid footing in the shifting sands of changing circumstances – trying to “keep all the plates spinning.” The rock of God’s Word, however, provides both unparalleled support and unsurpassed comfort.

The comparisons in these verses are interesting to me. Mountains are compared with His lovingkindness, and hills with His covenant of peace… It is those huge things, the things we take as “givens” in our lives, that may be removed. There are no guarantees when it comes to health and relationships and standard of living and “inalienable rights”… the only guarantees have to do with God. And they are very personal. He doesn’t say, “I’ll always love everybody.” No. He says, “My lovingkindness will not be removed from YOU.” We tend to feel secure and at peace when our circumstances are stable – but that is an illusion. Circumstances are never stable, and it is only in God’s unfailing love that there is security.

Hills represent to me pleasant beauty – neither the overwhelming complexity and towering strength of mountains, nor the monotonous constancy of flatlands. These areas of our lives may be shaken – things that are not foundational, but that make life go smoothly, like tires that don’t go flat and plumbing that doesn’t fail – but His promise of enduring peace will never be shaken. Even with the uncertainties of everyday life, we can have His peace.

And who is it that is giving this promise? It is “the Lord who has compassion on you.” The word that translates compassion refers to a “deep love, usually of a superior for an inferior, which is rooted in some natural bond.” This is not pity for some worthless and undeserving wretch, but rather God’s deep sense of identification with our pain and willingness to shoulder it with and for us. And again, He doesn’t call Himself, “the Lord who is holy,” or “the Lord who is a consuming fire,” or “the Lord of all the earth” – He calls Himself, “the Lord who has compassion on YOU.” It is out of His intimate, tender, passionate love for YOU that He provides this assurance.

Things are going smoothly in my life at the moment, and yet when I read, “O afflicted one, storm-tossed, and not comforted…” my heart cried, “Yes! Yes! That’s me!” And this is the comfort He gave…

“Behold, I will set your stones in antimony,
And your foundations I will lay in sapphires.”

…Commentary on that was sparse, but this is what I pulled together:

    • “Behold” – take note; pay attention; watch what I’m doing!
    • “set” – to stretch out; to cause to yield
    • “stones” – consecration
    • “antimony” – a hard, brittle, lustrous, silver-white, crystalline material. One of its uses is in the manufacture of flame-proofing compounds.
    • “your foundations I will lay” – a metaphor for “cannot be moved”
    • “sapphires” – blue stone; used in the throne of God

Because we belong to Him, we have this promise. Count on it. Watch for it. Pay attention to see what He is doing. He will take those things you have consecrated to Him and spread them out and cause them to be fruitful. He will cause them to endure through the flames of purification and shine brightly. He will make your faith unmovable, and it will be precious, like the very throne of God.

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.

When darkness veils His lovely face,
I rest on His unchanging grace;
In every high and stormy gale,
My anchor holds against the veil.

His oath, His covenant, His blood,
Support me in the whelming flood;
When all around my soul gives way,
He then is all my hope and stay.

On Christ, the solid Rock I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand,
All other ground is sinking sand.


“O Afflicted One…” — 3 Comments

  1. You hit the nail on the head!! There is no other ground to stand on! How wonderful to see the words again to a beautiful old hymn!!!

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