Living

In moments of doubt and stress, reach for the fringes of his robe

jvorhees@macon.com

More than likely, you already love Isaiah 6. Among Bible readers, who hasn’t reveled in the glorious sound of “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty?” If you’re anxious today, here’s a reason to love it even more.

Isaiah’s vision of God came when he was in desperate need of knowing God was still in charge. The king was dead. His people felt unsettled. And he was called to be God’s primary spokesman!

It’s not difficult to wind up in a stressful situation. On some days, all you have to do is wake up. Life will take it from there. Someone will make a decision that affects your livelihood, family structure or your health. Someone else will drop the ball, tweet the insult or say the cutting words, leaving you scrambling for damage control. And sometimes, it’s not even someone else who creates all the stress. Sometimes it’s me.

Whatever the reason, you’re already aware that stress and anxiety can dominate your days. If that’s not the case today, it might be that way tomorrow. So pay attention to Isaiah’s vision. Right at that moment, the greatest of the prophets had never been so stressed or so anxious. Everything in his life was upside down. All that gave him stability had crumbled. All that he feared was becoming more fearsome by the hour.

Once King Uzziah died, all bets were off on survival. An enemy was coming, and Israel needed a wise king. As the nation’s prophet, he knew he couldn’t make any mistakes. He would have to speak the truth with clarity and confidence when he felt only confusion and fear. He was stressed to the max. In his hour of personal distress, Isaiah said something incredible happened.

“I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne, and the train of his robe filled the Temple!”

If you haven’t read Isaiah 6 in a while, you might want to break open that Bible of yours. It’s an incredible scene. Filled with seraphim, smoke and ground-shaking drama, heaven opens before the prophet. He is allowed to see what he should not have seen.

“Woe to me,” Isaiah cried, “for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty!”

And that’s where I’d like to focus your eyes. Isaiah said, “the train of his robe filled the temple.”

When I think of “the train of a robe,” I’ve only got one reference point. It’s the train on a wedding dress. When Isaiah saw the “train of his robe,” he saw something completely different. Isaiah spoke and wrote in Hebrew, of course, and the word used for “train” is better translated “hem,” or “corners.”

All Jewish men wore outer robes in Isaiah’s day, and on the bottom of those robes – or the “corners,” if you will – were “fringes.” The “hem” wasn’t smooth. It was rough. If you’ve seen a modern Jewish prayer shawl, it’s a reminder of the days of fringed outer garments.

The fringes of each garment then – as would be the case now – were unique. Sometimes they were even used to mark legal agreements. A fringe could be pressed into clay, forming a unique mark. If a check needed to be made later on the legality of such a “signature,” the fringes would be pressed again and compared. The fringes also became important for a spiritual reason. As men prayed, they touched their fringes. The hem of a holy man’s garment, therefore, became connected with his prayer life.

Remember the woman who touched the hem of Jesus’ garment? She knew Jesus to be a man of miraculous prayer. It made perfect sense to her to reach for the fringes of Jesus’ outer garment. It wasn’t a moment of magic. It was a moment of faith. The woman knew that when Jesus prayed, miracles happened. No doubt, she was praying as she reached for her own miracle. In Isaiah’s vision, the train of God’s robe – God’s fringes – filled the Temple.

The message?

He’s still here. You may be troubled, but God is still on his throne. You may feel far away from God, but he’s still close enough to touch. Miracles are still possible … and our holy, perfect God is ready to provide what you need, right now. That’s why he’s allowed you to be in his presence! Reach for him. Trust him.

And like Isaiah, find the peace you need to face whatever today will bring.

Andy Cook is a resident of Peach County and the founder of Experience Israel Now.

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