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Love Songs from the Word

"The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame."

(Isaiah 58:11 NIV)

When I looked out recently at the beautiful autumn foliage of an English November, my mind floated to another foliage: the sight of soaring gum trees against a china blue sky and the pervading scent of eucalyptus. An image seared through my nine-month stay in Australia in 2020; a signature image conveying a hundred more memories still.

It caused me to reflect how Bible verses, like images, can offer a signature theme that speaks to us and holds further treasures beyond. While in Australia, the Lord offered me two passages of Scripture for my stay that formed my ‘signature verses’: one from Psalm 37 and the other, this stirring, headline verse from Isaiah 58:11 (NIV): “The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame."

For I had arrived in Australia having spent two years recovering and re-building my life from burnout. As 2020 dawned, the Lord had told me that it was a year in which he would “restore”. I still found myself flagging in the early weeks of 2020, but upon arrival in Australia that March, something shifted. Suddenly, under the steamy 35 degree sun, journeying the vast, red hinterland, my frame became strangely strong. And then, I read Isaiah 58:11.

Full of resonance, Isaiah 58 became a promise and a guide for the uncertain days ahead, when the pandemic stretched an intended two-month visit into a nine month chapter of life and my future remained uncertain. Isaiah 58 nurtured me, a word to which I could turn repeatedly - capturing so much of my experience and speaking so specifically to my season.

Almost a year after my return home, I joined an online Australian National Prayer Breakfast, where the Prime Minister of Australia shared how he had spent much time on his knees in prayer as the country faced bush fires, droughts, floods and the pandemic. He shared that through his supplications, the verses that God continually brought to him were from Isaiah 58:11-12.

How poignant this was for me! Here was God bringing the same hope to different people living out their different needs in that sun-scorched land. In an instance, it felt that Isaiah 58 was not just a confirming word over verses I had applied personally, but a Scripture hovering over Australia itself – like a prayer of hope, a song of love that God was sending to people who sought his face in and for that land.

What it made me see is that when God gives us a word for our situation, when at times he confirms that word through another or a chance sighting, he is offering even more than succour or guidance. He is demonstrating his incredible love for us and the people and situations over which we labour or pray. At Christmas, we reflect upon the deepest expression of God's love in surrendering his son to live among us so that he might die for us. I would encourage you to consider afresh the words the Lord whispers to you, not only as responses to your prayers, but also as beautiful expressions of the love of the Father God we serve.

Copyright © Sharmila Meadows 2021

Photograph: personal collection

THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

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