All around me, trees lie on the ground. What used to be a familiar forest to me is now a wide swath of open ground, littered with long trunks of fallen hardwoods. Splintered stumps bear witness to a violent force at work.
My intent, in my detour to this familiar state park near my home, was to find some visual for what I had been reading in Isaiah. I had no idea that I’d find such damage.
As I take this in, a solitary hiker and his dog pass by. He is an older man, stocky and even-paced. His dog greets me like an old friend.
I ask him, “What caused all this? Tornado?”
“High winds,” he answered. “Took out maybe a hundred trees. It was a mess. They’ve been sawing them up and clearing them out, but it’s a lot of work.”
I can imagine.
Later, in my reading in Isaiah, I find a verse a little farther in the text I’ve been studying that seems to be written for this park:
Behold, the Lord GOD of hosts
will lop the boughs with terrifying power;
the great in height will be hewn down,
and the lofty will be brought low. (Isaiah 10:33)
What is so intriguing about this verse is that applies to both Israel and the invading forces of Assyria. For even though this cataclysm is an instrument of God’s purpose, he also intends to judge the Assyrians for their cruelty. They are the axe that God is using to level Israel. But they’re also the trees to which God will wield his axe of judgment.
The glory of his forest and of his fruitful land
the LORD will destroy, both soul and body,
and it will be as when a sick man wastes away. (Isaiah 10:18)
This pandemic we’re living through is like a high wind. In a slow-moving front. It is stripping away our social interactions. Forcing businesses to reinvent themselves. Pressing people to hide in their homes. It has the potential to bring grief on a scale I’ve not personally witnessed.
It is hard to say that God sent it, but it is something that he will use for his purposes. On the most basic level, the Coronavirus is a mutating micro-organism looking for a host. But nothing happens in this world that God doesn’t fold into his plan for his Kingdom.
God used the high wind of disaster in Isaiah’s time to strike at the arrogance and self-reliance of both his people and the invading army. What was in the heart of the Assyrian king could well describe much of humanity today:
“By the strength of my hand I have done it,
and by my wisdom, for I have understanding…” (Isaiah 10:13)
In 1 Kings 19, Elijah hides in a cave as the Lord passed by, accompanied by a terrifying, destructive wind. We are told, “The Lord was not in the wind.” (vs. 11) Nor was he in the earthquake or fire that followed. He was, however, the voice behind the low whisper that called the prophet from his place of hiding.
The high wind has our attention. Now we need to humbly listen for the whisper of God.
God, we pray for the world at this time of crisis. We ask for the harm to be minimal, for the sick to be strengthened and the grieving comforted. But we also ask that you would turn us from our self-reliance that we might humble ourselves before you. Use this high wind to drive us to you.
Reader: What is this high wind teaching you?