BCC Staff Note: You’re reading the first in a multi-part BCC Grace & Truth blog mini-series on Scripture and Counseling. In today’s post, Pastor Jonathan Holmes ponders Counseling from Isaiah.
Incredibly Relevant Story-Line
Over the past year-and-a-half, I’ve had the opportunity to study and teach through the book of Isaiah. It has proved to be one of the richest experiences I’ve had, and I find myself coming back to Isaiah frequently in counseling.
Clocking in at a hefty 66 chapters, Isaiah is a daunting task for many pastors and parishioners. Outside of the more familiar passages, Isaiah provides a timely book to work from for biblical counselors. Mike Emlet in CrossTalk encourages biblical counselors to work with the whole Bible, and not to depend on a few isolated verses divorced from their context and Christ.
Personally my fears about a book like Isaiah kept me from venturing into its rich, but incredibly relevant storyline and themes. When we relegate ourselves to a few well-worn verses, “we end up ministering with an embarrassingly thinner but supposedly more relevant Bible.” As biblical counselors, we want to wisely use all of Scripture in our counseling, because we believe “all of Scripture is breathed out by God…”
One of the lessons and insights I will take away from Isaiah is the way he paints a majestic portrait of who God is. God jumps off every page in Isaiah as the prophet painstakingly gives us a full-orbed sense of who he is.
At a recent conference we hosted, one of the speakers mentioned that in counseling we can do a much better job at using the rich truths of Scripture to help build and strengthen our theology of God. A.W. Tozer perhaps summed it up best in his classic, Knowledge of the Holy, when he wrote, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.”
Consider these rich passages about God and think about how one could use them in a counseling conversation:
- Isaiah 40:11: We are told our God will tend his flock like a shepherd. He will gather His lambs in His arms and hold them tight to his chest. He will gently lead the young. For the counselee who can feel God’s absence more than His presence, this verse and entire chapter speaks into that doubt. We serve a God who is indeed mighty and powerful, but who is also tender and caring like a shepherd. Indeed He gathers us up and holds us to His chest. What a tender and comforting picture.
- Isaiah 46:3-4: In simple poetic words, Isaiah reminds us the God of the universe, Yahweh, the Covenant keeping God, will remain faithful to His people. He made us, will bear with us, will carry us, and will save us. A few chapters earlier in 43:2, we are told He’s with us in the waters, rivers, and fires of life. The promise is not protection from these trials of life, but presence with us during these trials. For the counselee who believes God has given them too much to handle and who sense life is more than they can bear, Isaiah exhorts us to remember God’s enduring faithfulness. This is no prosperity gospel; it’s actually the exact opposite. Isaiah is telling us there will be times of suffering, but he promises us the presence of a Savior who will be with us. God does not protect us from what He chooses to perfect us through.
- Isaiah 49:14-16 (see also 42:13-14; 46:3-4): Here Isaiah uses a metaphor, which would resonate with mothers, as he compares himself to a nursing mother. He asks the rhetorical question of, “Who could forget her own nursing child?” Obviously no loving mother would do such a thing, and even in a greater way our God will never forget us. Instead He will “engrave” our names on His hands. This is no mere tattoo, but the Hebrew here suggests someone coming with a hammer and chiseling into rock. For the counselees who believe God has abandoned and forgotten them, Isaiah puts those fears and doubts in perspective. Our God is one who will never forget His people. Even when we forget, rebel, turn away, or become indifferent, His pursuing love will overcome all.
- Isaiah 59:16-19: Not only is God a God of comfort and tenderness, He also suits up His Anointed One to execute judgment against all who stand against Him. Using language which is perhaps more familiar to us from Ephesians 6, Isaiah reminds God’s faithful remnant that there will come a time when repayment will be made to all of God’s enemies. This is even more graphically depicted in Isaiah 11:4b; 63:1-6. For the counselee who has been abused, suffered unjustly, who has been beaten down, and taken advantage of, Scripture reminds us that we serve a God who is going to make all things right. There is no injustice or unrighteous deed which will go unaccounted for. His judgment and repayment are sure and final.
These are but a few examples from a massive book, which invites you as a counselor to mine the rich depths of truth about God, ourselves, and our Redeeming Savior. “Ditch” passages are fine to turn to, but remember as we declare the whole counsel of God to our counselees this includes books and passages like those we have in Isaiah.
Join the Conversation
- What are some of your ‘go-to’ verses or passages for counseling? How might you spread your wings a bit and explore other areas in Scripture?
- Is there a passage of Scripture which has been particularly helpful for you as you’ve counseled others? If so, why?
Mike Emlet, Cross Talk, Greensboro, NC: New Growth Press, 2009. 16.