I was doing my daily Bible study this morning in Isaiah when I landed on this passage from Isaiah 57:17c-18:
He went on backsliding in the way of his own heart. I have seen his ways, but I will heal him.
I began to wonder at what it meant to “backslide” and looked at the Hebrew. The Hebrew is שובב “shovav” meaning “refusing to submit to authority” or, in essence, “rebellion.”
The one who rebels against God, according to v17, follows his or her own heart. Jeremiah 17.9 clearly reminds us that “the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked.” Following your heart – meaning, your emotions – is the opposite of following the will of God. Our emotions are all over the place! They change at the whims of hormones and biological processes. They are driven by ever-changing circumstances. They are pulled in different directions by loyalties and relationships. They are so easily deceived. The human heart cannot be trusted. Only God alone – the Unchanging One – is trustworthy.
But what so captured my attention is the next verse: “I have seen, but I will heal him.” HEAL. The Hebrew word, רפא, “raphah” is the type of healing which comes from a doctor. As if rebellion is a wound needing healing. Immediately, I wondered at this turn of phrase. Why would God say rebellion needed doctoring?
God the Compassionate, knows that rebellion comes from past wounds. A wounded heart reacts like a wounded animal: unable to trust, violently reactive, panicked, choosing moment-by-moment whatever seems best to fill the need: Blind survival fueled by the inability to rely upon anyone or anything other than self.
In other words, trauma of the heart leads to abandonment of faith and reliance upon self rather than trust in God through the wounding and healing process.
So often, we react out of hurt and follow our own ways. We let that hurt fester and it begins taking over until it drives everything in our lives.
God is the Great Surgeon who knows that sometimes healing is a hard process. First, he must strip away the infection, cut away the dead, that he might get to the healthy tissue and begin to restore it. As v18 says, He directs the healing and brings comfort and restoration. He brings peace and rest to soothe the ache.
And then he makes us flourish.
This is why Jesus says:
God knows that so often the sin we see in another stems from a heart wound. He knows the hurts which fuel rebellious behavior and has claimed healing as a job for Himself alone.
In this time of hurting, we who wear God’s Name are given immense opportunity to extend the healing love of God to the world. May we remember Jesus’ words:
As we live clothed in the Name of our Father, may we remember His name is Compassionate and live in His likeness.