Today’s passages: Isaiah, chapters 8-10; Hebrews, chapter 8
Scripture: Isaiah 8:11-15 (NRSV) – For the Lord spoke to me thus while his hand was strong upon me, and warned me not to walk in the way of this people, saying: Do not call conspiracy all that this people calls conspiracy, and do not fear what it fears, or be in dread. But the Lord of hosts, him shall you regard as holy; let him be your fear, and let him be your dread. He will become a sanctuary, a stone one strikes against; for both houses of Israel he will become a rock one stumbles over – a trap and a snare for the inhabitants of Jerusalem. And many among them shall stumble; they shall fall and be broken; they shall be snared and taken.
Observations: The word “conspiracy” struck me as I read this passage today, probably because our political “discourse” seems to be little more than accusations of conspiracies from both “sides” of the discussion. When we allow ourselves to be drawn into this way of thinking – looking for conspiracies everywhere, always fearing that “someone is out to get us” – we quickly become driven and governed by fear. God’s Word makes it clear that his people are not to live in fear! The Lord told Isaiah – and I believe that he is telling us – not to be drawn into this mindset of conspiracy: do not fear what [‘this people’] fears, or be in dread.
I also believe that we need to re-orient ourselves toward God’s Kingdom and his purposes. That doesn’t mean that we should not care at all about what goes on in this world; C.S. Lewis said that it is the people who are most heaven-minded who make the most difference on earth. However, this “heaven-mindedness” is not just a wistful longing for “heaven,” but a concerted effort each day to see God’s Kingdom come and his will be done on earth as it is in heaven. When we do that, our ultimate priority is God’s Kingdom and his purposes, and not political or national issues and interests.
In our passage from Hebrews 8 today, the writer of Hebrews talks about the fact that if the first covenant was faultless – if it had been able to transform people from the inside – there would have been no need for a second one. But God’s promise about this new covenant which he has established with us says that “I will put my laws in their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” (Hebrews 8:10) The point, to me, is clear: our ultimate priority must be to work with God in the transformation of people, not to try to “pass better laws” or “elect better leaders.” Those may be worthy goals, but the danger that too often comes to pass is that those things become the ultimate priority. I read a quote recently that said that when power and truth collide, power usually wins. Jesus made it clear that we are to seek first God’s Kingdom and his righteousness. When we do that, God (who still is in control, after all) will lead us to do the things that will bring his Kingdom into this world in greater measure. In God’s Kingdom, power and truth are not in conflict – because both belong to God.
Applications: Every time I turn on a television news program (which, admittedly, is less and less often all the time), I am struck by the anger and fear that seems to drive our culture. The people to whom Isaiah was speaking were seeking refuge in the king of Assyria, because they were afraid of what the other kings who lived around them would do. God’s message is clearly to trust in him, not in political leaders. It’s interesting that in Isaiah 10, after God has said that he would use Assyria to punish those other countries, God also says that Assyria itself would be punished: “Therefore thus says the Lord God of hosts: O my people, who live in Zion, do not be afraid of the Assyrians when they beat you with a rod and lift up their staff against you as the Egyptians did. For in a very little while my indignation will come to an end, and my anger will be directed to their destruction.” (Isaiah 10:24-25, NRSV) The fact that God may use someone – or some nation – does not mean that God approves of all that they do; just as God punished Assyria for its pride (see Isaiah 10:12), God will ultimately be proved in our world to be the only King. God is reminding me to seek his Kingdom, and his righteousness, and not to get caught up in conspiracies and the plans of men.
Prayer: Father, thank you for the reminder that you are in control – no matter how things may seem from our perspective. There are no conspiracies that are hidden from you; there are no powers on earth that can stand against you. Help me to put my trust completely in you, and not in the ideas or programs of men. You have written your word on my heart; help me to be faithful to your leading. Amen.