11 “O afflicted one, storm-tossed and not comforted,
behold, I will set your stones in antimony,
and lay your foundations with sapphires.
12 I will make your pinnacles of agate,
your gates of carbuncles,
and all your wall of precious stones.
This is my story. It’s your story too. Don’t let the archaic phrases keep your heart from being wooed by the greatest Love imaginable. These are the words of a true romantic! He is the most creative of artists, the most passionate of lovers, the most beautiful of faces. He is an Architect of unmatched skill. His latest masterpiece? You.
You don’t believe me? Honestly, I’m not shocked. The idea that we’re “God’s masterpieces” is, sadly, a little clichéd nowadays. None of us ever consider ourselves to be a masterpiece of any kind – much less, the masterpiece of a holy God. We think we’re too dirty, too messed up, too fragile, too stubborn, too broken, too anything and too everything to be considered a masterpiece. Today, our task is simple: We’re trading this LIE for TRUTH.
When I first read these words in Isaiah several years ago, my heart was overwhelmed with emotion. They struck a cord deep within my heart…
My life had been a complete and utter disaster just a few months before this moment. I remember feeling hopeless, helpless, and joyless. It was one struggle after another. Brick after brick, the life I had built for myself crumbled around me. I had put up walls to protect myself, to hide myself. Each one was torn down. Only the rubble remained. I searched for peace and comfort, I searched for acceptance, I searched for love, but none could be found. And just when I found the strength to push through some of the rubble, another brick would fall, leaving me paralyzed and confined within the walls of my own little Jericho. And then came the words, like air to my gasping lungs, “O afflicted one, storm-tossed and not comforted.”
Oh, how sublime!
He found me… even in the midst of the rubble.
He knew me… despite my rejection of His love.
Afflicted one, storm-tossed and not comforted was my name. He understood the condition of my heart. He had been there all along.
Life-giving words in the midst of the rubble. And then came the breathtaking words which sucked dry the last bit of oxygen from my lungs: antimony, sapphires, agate, carbuncles, precious stones. I couldn’t believe it. It couldn’t be real. All of that… for me?
In the midst of the rubble, how distraught I must have appeared, how dirty, how broken, how shameful, how worthless. Upon this heap of rubble did this great Architect chose to place the most precious of stones, the most beautiful of elements.
Another gasp for air.
How could He see potential here? My little Jericho, in shambles around me. Nothing worth saving. Nothing of use. Nothing of value. My creation, my establishment, my city, turned to dust.
But He saw purpose. He saw worth. In the midst of the rubble, He saw something worth saving.
Thus, the Architect began His work.
He cleared away the debris. Some pieces were simply not intended to be salvaged, but others were. He kept what was necessary, what was good, and burned the rest.
He laid a new foundation. One strong enough to hold the weight of a mighty city; one sturdy enough to withstand attack. He smoothed it out with His own hands. Not a crack could be found.
Then began the rebuilding. Brick by brick, stone by stone, gem by gem. He gave attention to every detail. He carved every stone and polished every jewel Himself. Nothing but the best for His design.
He scraped away the mold which grew along the banks of my tears. One by one, He plucked every weed that sprung up. He watered the dry ground, He filled the empty places.
I felt the oxygen coursing through my once-lifeless lungs.
Afflicted city, no more; storm-tossed, no more; uncomforted, no more. Those words no longer describe me.
Jericho perished in the rubble. Gilead, hill of testimony, is my new name. I am Engedi, a refreshing spring. A place of enlargement and flourishing, I am called Rehoboth.
And just like that, the Architect rebuilt a city once destroyed. But He didn’t just rebuild it – He made it far more beautiful than it was before and He gave it a purpose. He painstakingly carved every detail by hand, He inlaid every groove with precious stones, He polished every gem until His face reflected clearly in it. He transformed the worthless rubble into a precious work of art. A work of art which only HE had the vision for, a work of art which only HE could create.
Beauty from ashes.
This is my story.
But it’s not just mine. There are many who share my story, many who have experienced this transformation. Many have seen their lives fall to dust around them, and many have witnessed the Lord, the great Architect, rebuild their lives from the ashes.
For those of you sitting in a heap of rubble, find comfort in this truth: The Lord sees your pain, He understands your struggles. He’s not ignoring you. He doesn’t take pleasure in your suffering. But before He can rescue you, before He can rebuild you, you have to let Him. He will not force your hand. He desires to help you, He desires to free you from the bondage of sin and self-reliance. He longs to adorn you with the most precious of blessings. If only you would let Him. He sees you in the midst of the rubble. I pray the weight of this reality hits your lungs so hard that it forces them to expand against the external pressures of this life-sucking world. Let Him give you life.
For those of you early in the process of being rebuilt, understand this truth: The rebuilding isn’t easy. Gasping for air when your lungs are empty is painful and terrifying. Removing the debris and burning away the chaff is the hardest, most painful part. The sight of your worldly objects of affection going up in smoke is difficult to watch. But trust me when I say this: The Lord is extending such immeasurable grace when He rids you of the things you don’t need. It’s a hard pill to swallow, but the freedom you enjoy afterwards is more than worth it – and it’s lasting.
For those of you midway through the rebuilding, trust these words: Nothing is more important to Him than you, His masterpiece in progress. He holds you, He molds you, He delicately carves His image upon you. He adorns you with the finest jewels – not because of anything you’ve done, but simply because He loves you. That’s it. Accept His love and attention. He knows you inside and out, all the good and the bad, and He loves you anyway. So stop seeing yourself as unworthy of the precious blessings He adorns you with and start praising Him with grateful lips that seek to honor Him!
For those of you later in the process of being rebuilt, keep these words close: Just as a poorly tended garden quickly becomes wrought with weeds, an unintentional life in Christ is prone to uninvited guests. So, be intentional. Remain in Him, fellowship with Him constantly, study His Word consistently, surround yourself with godly community – do these things and those weeds won’t have room to sprout! And if ever they do, which they likely will due to our humanly sinful state, do not be discouraged, for discouragement is the working of Satan alone. Rather, confess, repent, and commit the landscaping of your heart to the Lord. He will pluck every weed – if you let Him! Allow Him to water the garden of your heart so that you might be fruitful in Him.
Now you might suppose the next piece of wisdom would be to those whose rebuilding is complete. This is not so, because our rebuilding will never be complete until the day of glory. This shouldn’t discourage us; rather, it should challenge us to continue serving Him!
And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.
The great Architect of the world, He who designed us and rebuilds us, promises to continue His transforming work in us until it is complete! Praise God for this amazing promise!
Each of our once-destroyed cities is a testimony to His faithfulness and boundless love. And together, we will be that city on a hill, a place of light. Together, we are Zion.