One of the best ways of learning is to understand how something has been done before and study to see whether the task was successful. For instance, take the Wright brothers. When they first set out to fly, they had numerous attempts but failed. They had even studied previous aviation pioneers but continually failed at their attempts to fly. But near Kitty Hawk, N.C., on Dec. 17, 1903, the first flight took place. It wasn’t perfect, but it was a flight! They flew 12 seconds and made several other successful attempts that day to fly! I think sometimes we should see our Christian faith in the same manner. But far too often we make one attempt, we fail, and we walk away from it thinking we can never do better.
But what if we took what Christians in the past have done, some successful, others not, and learned from them? That is what the Wright brothers did. I was reading this week as I was working on some long-term planning and came across a couple of verses that for me was the ‘Oh, someone has done it before. Can I learn from them’ moment. In the 47th chapter of Isaiah, the people are best described as the ‘stubborn Israelites.’ As Isaiah was writing, he says to them in verse 1, “Listen to this, you descendants of Jacob, you who are called by the name of Israel and come from the line of Judah, you who take oaths in the name of the Lord and invoke the God of Israel — but not in truth or righteousness.” It goes on to continue make known their failures of only saying they are following God. Stubborn is one of the best words to describe the people of Israel! God had given them prophets repeatedly to help guide them and lead them. But repeatedly they did not listen.
The Lord is gracious and kind and continues to pursue them (as he does us) despite their failures and missed attempts. In verse 17 the Lord speaks, and he starts off by saying this, “I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go.” How often do we try to lean on our own understanding in the middle of the trials of life? What about in planning and goal setting? What about the life situations (work, relationship, finances) we are involved in? What if we learned from the stubborn people of Israel? It never worked for them to be stubborn and not follow the Lord. Would the Wright brothers had been successful had they not studied and learned from other aviation pioneers? What can we learn from the Israelites, the Lord-honoring pioneers, that we can use today to keep us from repeating the same mistakes? In this situation, the 48th chapter of Isaiah, we can learn that the Lord wants to help lead us and guide us. We must be willing to follow.
The Lord continues to speak in verses 18 and 19, saying, “If only you had paid attention to my commands, your peace would have been like a river, your well-being like the waves of the sea. Your descendants would have been like the sand, your children like its numberless grains; their name would never be blotted out nor destroyed before me.” When I read that I can only think one thing, I want that! But what does it take? We need to learn from those who have gone before us. The Israelites, the prophets (God's word is just as true now as it was then), the disciples, the apostles. All of them have something to teach us and today, we can be thankful that those people have gone before us and left us with a direction for living. There are people and churches in our community that would help lead you and teach you the things they have learned. Find a church tomorrow in your neighborhood and worship with them. You will be glad you did!
— Clint McBroom is pastor at the First Church of God of Newton.