God’s people were given a resting place,
a land that they could call their own. He gave them victory after victory over their enemies, and led them into the land to rest from all the striving that slavery and war had brought them. But they soon were restless.
They looked at surrounding nations and the idols they worshipped. They wanted to join. And so they did. Soon, these places permeated their land. “High places” where idols were raised and knees were bowed. Even Jerusalem became a high place, as they exchanged truth for lies, putting their hope in pride instead of God, in people and in princes instead of in God.
They’ve defiled the land. Everything is messed up. But they don’t see it. They think they are okay. Their identity as the people of God is enough, they claim, even though their hearts aren’t in that relationship anymore. But God wants more than lip service that in one sentence defies Him and in the next defines them as His.
God wants their hearts back.
And He knows it’s going to take a bold precedent to make it happen.
He is going to have to break their hearts first.
Before the enemy does.
And so, He speaks: This is no place to rest. He’s telling them to move. To march toward the incoming enemy, the inevitable exile from their land, not with weapons in hand, but with a banner of surrender, “with the Lord at the head,” with their hearts breaking as they leave behind their home.
But even in this, do you hear His mercy? This is no place to rest.
I’m big into roots imagery, and I long for a resting place that enables me to plant my roots—deeply, firmly—into soil that is suited for growth and flourishing and fruit. And I think we’re made that way; we’re made to stay, we’re made to abide.
But, sometimes, I feel like I’m flailing. Like a hand has taken this planting—we are His planting, Isaiah says—and is just dangling it over the soil, unable to rest, unable to fully thrive. Flailing. Failing.
Is this the enemy? Is this my own sin? Is this my pride? Sometimes. Israel was so rooted in the place of holiness that she had forgotten to be holy. So rooted in her religious syncretism that she had forgotten the relational covenant God had made with her. She was striving to rest, trying to stick her roots into soil that would never feed her, trying to be planted in soils set for desolation, trying to be rooted in her own landslide of sin.
He has more for her than this, more for us.
God never asks His people to just settle in for destruction, but after the conquest of the land, He rarely said “FIGHT” either. No, instead, He offers them a different way, the way of surrender. And He leads that way. It’s not a charge, not another way around their sin. They still have consequences to face. But He goes before them with mercy and is their rear guard of grace.
He calls her out. He tells her to march into exile. He uproots her. With heart-wrenching mercy, He says—
This is no place to rest.
Hear His voice over you now—
Don’t dig down roots into the sinking sand. Don’t stake your claim on the soil of your former, already forgotten sin. Let go. Follow Me out before the breach, before the siege, and find life—not yet rich and full, not yet a place to rest your roots in—but a place of life still, a place of rest for your soul in Me, the stability of your times, the abundance of salvation, wisdom, and understanding you are so desperately looking for. I am your treasure.
Oh, Father, be our one, true resting place. Be the one rock we lean upon. Be the only soil we let our roots run wild in.