But this is a people plundered and looted,
all of them trapped in pits
or hidden away in prisons.
They have become plunder,
with no one to rescue them;
they have been made loot,
with no one to say, “Send them back.”
Sometimes I feel like this. I feel plundered and looted. Sometimes it’s hard not to feel like little more than a commodity, a tool to be used by others for their own interests. Some days it’s difficult not to see myself as just a means to an end for others.
It happens some days, in the relationships we choose, with people we love. And it happens in the relationships we didn’t choose; those that are the result of work or other necessities. And there are times when it comes from people we aren’t in relationship with at all.
Some days we just feel more valued for what we can give than who we are. Some days it just feels like we are being taken advantage of or that we are just being taken. And it’s good to know that God sees this, that he knows. What’s not so great in this instance in Isaiah 42 is that God actually admits to being the cause of this reality for the Israelites.
Why? Why would God plunder his own people? Why give them over to those who would view them as little more than loot to be taken?
Isaiah acknowledges that the reason God hands them over – lets them be plundered – is because of their choices. The life they had chosen for themselves had caused them to accumulate a lot of baggage. Well, that sounds familiar; that sounds like my life. Looking back on the choices I’ve made and the way I have sometimes gone I can see how I’ve accumulated a lot of baggage and am carrying around a great deal of “stuff” as a result of my history.
I don’t like to feel plundered. I don’t want to feel like those around me are using me, and I certainly don’t like feeling that it comes at the hand of God, that somehow he sanctioned it. But what if the stuff others are taking from me are the things he never intended me to have? What if it’s just junk that God knows is weighing me down, sucking life from me, keeping me from being who he created me to be? What if it’s all the baggage that a life lived away from God has accumulated?
To be honest, I’m not sure how I even feel about this while I’m still writing it. Last night I started this and stopped because I just couldn’t make sense of it all. I couldn’t come up with a nice neat explanation about how to know when feeling plundered by others is from God, and when it’s not. I couldn’t tie it all togetherwith a nice little bow that might make us feel better about the idea that God could be okay with us being looted by the world sometimes.
The fact is, this doesn’t package up nicely no matter how you look at it. We are never going to like this feeling that the world around us is taking advantage of us. And the truth is that usually (I believe) it’s not God at all. The world is a wicked place and it seeks to use us up at any and every turn. But sometimes God can be behind it. Loving us so ruthlessly that he pushes us into places we would never go on our own. Because ultimately he knows it’s for our good. I’m thinking that what I really need to decide, is not whether or not I can discern when it’s God-sanctioned plundering and when it’s not, but will I trust him either way?
Will I trust God to know what stuff in my life is just baggage I don’t need anyway? Will I trust him to control what I can’t and protect me from losing the really significant and important parts of who I am to a world that loves to plunder? Will I trust him to understand what I really can’t – namely, that sometimes it’s in our best interest to go through things we would never choose? Will I trust him with all of that?
Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; Proverbs 3:5