"We Cannot Free Ourselves"
by Katie Borden
Raise your hand if you’ve ever tried to convince yourself that you’re invincible. Maybe I’m outing myself here as one who suffers a chronic need for control and capacity… but I also don’t think I’m alone. Our society seems hell-bent on convincing us (and on convincing ourselves) that “we really can have it all”; “we can do it all”; and “we can be anything we put our minds to.” I used to think that. I used to tell other people that. I don’t anymore.
As I’ve aged, I’ve come more face-to-face with my own limitations, failures, and finitude. And this has been the healthiest thing for me. It’s also borne fruit in my relationship with Jesus and given me clarity on just how good and powerful and loving our God is.
I’m reminded of this finitude in today’s Bible reading. In this passage of Isaiah, we read about God’s rescue of his people. If you’re thinking that this seems to be a theme in Scripture, you’d be absolutely right. From the salvation of the Israelites at the Red Sea from the hand of Pharaoh on, the chapters and verses of the Bible point to God’s saving work, including through king Cyrus as mentioned here in Isaiah 45. What I want to highlight today is this simple fact: God’s people couldn’t save themselves.
Read that sentence again if you must:
God’s people couldn’t save themselves.
And God’s people still can’t save themselves.
This is still true for you and for me. We admit this every week in our corporate worship together when we say, “We confess that without Christ, we are in bondage to sin and we cannot free ourselves.” And every week, I believe it more and more.
The good, beautiful, and true news of both this passage in Isaiah and of our confession (which are really the good, beautiful, and true news of the gospel itself) is that God has saved us when we couldn’t. God used Cyrus to release his people from bondage, and God saves us more truly and eternally in Jesus Christ. (By the way, I think it’s SO cool how God foreshadows and demonstrates his character and his gospel action time and again in the Old Testament!)
God is the one who stretched out the heavens.
God is the one who sent Cyrus.
God is the one who rescued his people and set them free.
God is the one who continues to do this for you and for me.
I don’t know who needs to hear this today, but if you’ve been trying to control your life to be “good enough” for God, or if you’ve tried to rescue yourself from the things that bind you, or if you’re striving to prove that you’re “up-to-snuff,” receive this good news:
You cannot free yourself. So stop killing yourself by trying. Receive the freedom found in Jesus and his work and power through the cross and resurrection. And live freely, as a dearly loved, beautifully-limited, child of God.
God, remind me today of my limits, that I might be made even more aware of the beauty of your limitless love for me. Amen.