On January 15, 1951, Jim Elliot wrote in his diary:
I walked out to the hill just now. It is exalting, delicious. To stand embraced by the shadows of a friendly tree with the wind tugging at your coat tail and the heavens hailing your heart -- to gaze and glory and give oneself again to God, what more could a man ask? Oh the fullness, pleasure, sheer excitement of knowing God on earth. I care not if I never raise my voice again for Him, if only I may love Him, please Him. Perhaps in mercy He shall give me a host of children that I may lead them through the vast star fields to explore His delicacies whose finger ends set them to burning. But if not, if only I may see Him, smell His garments and smile into my Lover's eyes -- ah then, not stars nor children shall matter, only Himself.
To which Ray Ortlund asks, "What really matters to you?"
And I want you to hear that question with the most positive of intentions. If I have learned anything about pastor Ortlund, it is that he oozes grace. So my confidence is that the question is not meant to create guilt in you, as in, "Doesn't God matter to you? What is with all of these other things that draw your attention, instead of casting your gaze upon God? How dare you; what are you thinking."
Nope. Don't think so.
Rather, it is a gentle friend, coming alongside of you, allowing you the chance to hear the testimony of someone enraptured with Father, Son, and Spirit, and saying, with a smile on his face, "What really matters to you, my friend. If there are other things standing between you and utter joy flowing from our Triune God - Father, Son, and Spirit - how about letting go of them? How about turning your gaze from them, and meditating upon His goodness to you, and delight in you, so that you may delight in Him above all things? And then you will be able to delight in all things because of Him."
That is what I imagine pastor Ortlund meaning with his question. By God's grace, it is how it is landing on me this evening, as I turn to Isaiah 43 and contemplate God.
The Savior of Israel
1 But now, O Jacob, listen to the Lord who created you.
O Israel, the one who formed you says,
“Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you.
I have called you by name; you are mine.
2 When you go through deep waters,
I will be with you.
When you go through rivers of difficulty,
you will not drown.
When you walk through the fire of oppression,
you will not be burned up;
the flames will not consume you.
3 For I am the Lord, your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.
I gave Egypt as a ransom for your freedom;
I gave Ethiopia* and Seba in your place.
4 Others were given in exchange for you.
I traded their lives for yours
because you are precious to me.
You are honored, and I love you.
5 “Do not be afraid, for I am with you.
I will gather you and your children from east and west.
6 I will say to the north and south,
‘Bring my sons and daughters back to Israel
from the distant corners of the earth.
7 Bring all who claim me as their God,
for I have made them for my glory.
It was I who created them.’ ” (Holy Bible: New Living Translation; Is 43:1–7)
(That quote and question come from a sermon by Ray Ortlund on this text from Isaiah.)