“[L]ook unto the rock whence ye are hewn, and to the hole of the pit whence ye are digged.” (Isa.51:1b)
Tracing one’s family tree has become a popular activity, and it can be very time consuming and even expensive, if taken seriously enough. If it is used to validate who we are now, it seems of little use; but if it serves to remind us that we are a chapter in a long story of survival, meant to play our part in the plan of God, then it can be illuminating. Though, as anyone who has undertaken a genealogical search will tell you, it’s usually a mixed bag, with some noteworthy entries, and some you would just as soon pass over!
Isaiah reminds Israel in this chapter of their rich spiritual heritage, going all the way back to father Abraham and his wife Sarah (v.2). Nor should they forget, he continued, the LORD of hosts had put His words in their mouths and covered them in the shadow of His hand (v.15-16). They could look back on a long history of God’s provision and protection.
At the same time, Isaiah strikes a needed balance by cautioning them not just to look back as far as the Patriarchs, but to squint their eyes till they could see all the way back to “the hole of the pit” they had been dug from. They may rightly claim a rich heritage, but, at the end of the day, they still came from a hole in the ground! Even Moses told them:
“The LORD did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people: But because the LORD loved you…” (Deut.7:7).
In other words, God loved them, simply because He loved them. They were not chosen because they were special; they were special because they were chosen.
And it is the same way with you and me. We, too, have a rich spiritual heritage. We come from a long line of great saints, martyrs, theologians, and commonplace heroes, who, as Hebrews says, make up a “great cloud of witnesses.” Their God is our God, and we need not cower before any man. But, again like Israel, we have this wonderful heritage, and this great salvation, not because we were worthy, but because of the mercy of God. You and I, my Christian friend, were in a pit every bit as deep and dark as the nation of Israel was.
“But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead I sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) (Eph.2:4-5)
Look back with both pride and humility. Remember your heritage; but don’t forget the hole.