I’ve never been much into the Prophets. I took a fantastic class on it in seminary and I was completely blown away by the depth and the practical implications of these faithful people. However, I took the class online and completely missed the beautiful content that the lectures held. It’s hands-down my biggest regret of seminary.
But lately I’ve been reading the most major of the majors – Isaiah.
Understanding the prophets is sometimes a challenge because there’s always a historical context to consider. Before jumping to the here & now, we have to get a grip on the there-and-then. And the best I know is that this was a tumultuous time of good and bad kings, a split kingdom and frequent invasions by neighboring peoples.
So I find this word interesting (do me a favor and set aside the obvious Christ references for a moment and look at the entire picture. Then return in Where’s Waldo fashion to see how it all fits together. Sometimes all those trees get in the way of that beautiful forest). Two nearby kings loom in the distance, threatening an invasion. Isaiah goes to King Ahaz to tell him not to fret; Ahaz tells God “I’d never make demands on God” and Isaiah gets a bit huffy about such a statement, following with:
So Isaiah told him, “Then listen to this, government of David! It’s bad enough that you make people tired with your pious, timid hypocrisies, but now you’re making God tired. So the Master is going to give you a sign anyway. Watch for this: A girl who is presently a virgin will get pregnant. She’ll bear a son and name him Immanuel (God-With-Us). By the time the child is twelve years old, able to make moral decisions, the threat of war will be over. Relax, those two kings that have you so worried will be out of the picture. But also be warned: God will bring on you and your people and your government a judgment worse than anything since the time the kingdom split, when Ephraim left Judah. The king of Assyria is coming!” (Isaiah 7:13-17, emphasis mine).
While sometimes the fear of what *could* be coming immobilizes us, we walk around blind to our own bleeding, self-inflicted wounds. Essentially God warns Ahaz, you have nothing to fear from these nobody kings. But your hypocrisies are another story. And because of that, I’m getting a bit tired.
It’s not what these other guys are doing that you need to be scared of.
But the way your own kingdom lives – that should instill a little fear.
So often we look to the distance and allow ourselves to worry and fret over the ways in which our fortress may be insecure. God, save us from…. them.
But we don’t need saved from them.
I need saved from me.
If left to my own devices, I would simply self-destruct. But God offers a way.
She’ll bear a son and name him God-with-Us.
“I still have many things to tell you, but you can’t handle them now. But when the Friend comes, the Spirit of the Truth, he will take you by the hand and guide you into all the truth there is. He won’t draw attention to himself, but will make sense out of what is about to happen and, indeed, out of all that I have done and said. He will honor me; he will take from me and deliver it to you.” -Jesus (John 16:12-15)
It’s not what is in front of us, it’s what lies within us.
It’s not who, but Whose.