Against the Flow (a meditation)

The Lord has given me a strong warning not to think like everyone else does. He said, “Don’t call everything a conspiracy, like they do, and don’t live in dread of what frightens them. Make the Lord of Heaven’s Armies holy in your life. He is the one you should fear…” ~ Isaiah 8:11-13

How we view the world around us and the powers that control it determines much about how we live our lives. Fear and anger seem to be en vogue in the current season. On YouTube you can find rightwing and leftwing conspiracy theorists aplenty. In the news we are constantly shown images of murder, hatred, and war, as well as bombarded with threats of terror. In different wings of political discourse and debate we are told to fear those outside our country, those inside, those with different views, those who might threaten our comforts, and on and on.

The more things change the more they stay the same.

Isaiah wrote his prophecy to the people of Judah throughout the reign of four different kings. During Ahaz’s rule, the nation lacked strong character in government. King Rezin of Syria and Pekah of Israel conspired together to attack Judah. Yet even with God’s assurance these two nations would fall at the hands of Assyria, there was doubt among the people and especially among the king.

Because of this rejection of him, God warned that judgment would also come against Judah by the hands of Assyria (8:5-10). Yet this would be different than the fates that befell other nations. With Ahaz’s son Hezekiah on the throne, Assyria’s armies marched up to the gates and walls of Jerusalem but no further before turning back (Isaiah 36-37).

In the midst of this turmoil, rejection of God, and fear, God called Isaiah and others faithful to him to a different mindset. They were not to think like the rest in their country and culture. They were not to see conspiracies and fear the things that frightened others.

The only one to fear was the Lord himself, and fearing him would be their deliverance. Isaiah was told that the Lord “will keep you safe. But to Israel and Judah he will be a stone that makes people stumble…a trap and a snare” (8:14).

No matter what was happening around them, Isaiah and the faithful were to follow a different path. We who are followers of Jesus are called to the same.

Jesus said not to fear those who can kill the body, but rather the One who can cast both body and soul into hell (Matthew 10:28). Paul said not to conform to the ways of the world but to be transformed in thinking by God (Romans 12:2).

As Christians we know that Someone Else is in charge: the Creator of all things, the One who gave us Jesus to save us from sin, death, and hell. He is the One who works all things—the good, the bad, the beautiful, and the ugly—to the good of those who love him (Romans 8:28). The One who will guide us safely into his Kingdom and presence, even if our lives are cut short by those who can kill the body but can’t touch the soul (2 Timothy 4:6, 16-18).

Therefore, we don’t let ourselves be manipulated by messages of fear and dread. We don’t let others convince us to fear those who think and act differently than us. Instead, we swim against the stream of fear by trusting God, following his teachings, and sharing his love. After all, that is our great motive as those who belong to Jesus: love God supremely; love others deeply.

This post is part of our ongoing journey through the Bible as a church.

Isaiah 8_11-12

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