Ah, stubborn children…who set out to go down to Egypt, without asking for my direction, to take refuge in the protection of Pharaoh and to seek shelter in the shadow of Egypt! (Isaiah 30:1–2)
As a kid, I think I got poison ivy just about every summer. The red, bumpy rash would cover my arms and legs, and drive me crazy with incessant itching. If you’ve ever had poison ivy, you know what I’m talking about. It’s the worst.
In the book of Isaiah, the people of Judah were itching all over with a desire for security and relief from the looming threat of an Assyrian invasion. God promised that if they would turn to Him He would protect them and establish peace in their land. Sadly, the people disregarded God’s promise and devised their own strategy for dealing with Assyria: an alliance with Egypt, which is an odd thing for a Hebrew nation to do. (Remember the book of Exodus, anyone?)
You see, Judah wanted their problems to go away as fast as possible. And they tried to do it with Egypt’s help instead of God’s. By making an alliance with Pharaoh, Judah scratched their itch. But the problem with scratching an itch is that it almost never makes it go away. Sure, it offers some temporary relief, but in just a matter of moments the itch will be back, and almost always with greater intensity.
Yet, in His mercy, God invited Judah to apply the ointment that would heal what was causing their itch: “In returning and rest, you shall be saved; in quietness and trust shall be your strength” (Isa. 30:15). God was making it clear that He wanted to provide His people with the help they needed, but they were too busy pandering to Egypt to listen. In the end, they found that Pharaoh was of no real help.
Like Judah, every person has an itch—a felt need to be delivered from our internal uneasiness and dissatisfaction. This is often at its strongest when we are bored, unfulfilled, stressed, or lonely. When the itch comes, it’s easy to compulsively run to our own Egypts: over-eating, relational co-dependency, pornography, binging on entertainment—anything that we hope will scratch our itch, and provide security and relief as quickly as possible. But it never works. The itch always returns. As long as we refuse the ointment, the itch will intensify and, in time, rule over us.
So what about you? You’ve often felt the itch, haven’t you? You know what I’m talking about. It comes when we’re bored with life’s monotony, tempting us to jump ship and find something new and exciting, even though we know that it too will leave us unfulfilled. Maybe we’re stressed out and looking for a little release. Or perhaps we’re lonely and would do anything to escape it.
Whatever it is, don’t scratch the itch. Instead, choose the right ointment.
Here’s the Gospel sanity we so badly need as we look to Sunday: “Therefore the LORD waits to be gracious to you, and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you. For the LORD is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him” (Isa. 30:18).
Yes, God is inviting us to rest in His promises, and to receive grace that can only be found in His presence. That’s the ointment He provides. If we’ll apply it, it will heal whatever is causing our itch. Probably not all at once, mind you. But in time, if you apply His Gospel ointment faithfully by worshiping Him on a daily basis and with the church in gathered worship, you will find that the itch no longer rules your life. Instead, you’ll have surrendered your life to the Great Physician who heals sinners by the wounds He suffered for our sake (Isa. 53:5).
So as Sunday approaches, let’s stop scratching and reach for God’s ointment. That’s the only way to be free from the itch.
Set List for Sunday, May 13, 2018:
Glorious Day (S. Curran, J. Ingram, J. Smith, K. Stanfill)
Hallelujah! What a Savior (Your Love Has Rescued Me) (P. Bliss, M. Carter, A. Ivey, H. Suh)
Singing in The Victory (M. Dawes, B. Land, A. Ivey, J. McCreary, L. Walter, D. Schmidt)
Heart Abandoned (S. Curran, K. Stanfill)
God So Loved (M. Crocker, M. Sampson)
You can also listen to a playlist of LifePoint’s current song rotation on Spotify.