Part 10 of 12
Shaking and Quaking
Have you ever thought you were going to die?
That fear-inducing, heart-palpitating conviction pounded through my head as I cowered in my bed one dark evening in September, 1979. I was eight years old, so the facts that an earthquake with a magnitude of 7.9 struck our island of Irian Jaya and set off a tsunami in its wake, did not mean much to me at the time. What I did know was that the ground groaned like a woman in labor. The house shuddered at the onslaught, pitching and rolling with the tectonic waves. And that the sleepless night lasted forever as aftershock followed aftershock. Windows rattled, quaking in tandem with the fear in my heart. Even my parents’ bed did not feel safe in the midst of the earthly aggression. We gave up standing in the doorway; no place felt safe. Even the floor beneath our feet betrayed us, remaining no more solid than sifting sand.
In the aftermath of the earthquake, my parents got on our three-way radio and began calling other stations to see if anyone was hurt. One family on the station of Lolat described their experience in awe-struck tones. Carol said that she had staggered to the front door in the midst of the tremors. When she flung open the door, she was astounded to see the ground rolling toward her like the waves of the sea. Their house, which was built on stilts, rode the grass-covered waves like a ship on the ocean.
Their stilts literally saved their house from the destroying waves of the earthquake’s reach. Praise the Lord! Our house’s stilts did too.
By Way of Review
We are embarking on our tenth devotional on unwavering trust, studying the life of Hezekiah, one of Judah’s most godly kings. Along the way, Hezekiah has been a real-life example of what it means to walk with God…or not. I am so comforted by the honesty in this story. Both Hezekiah and Isaiah could have doctored the details, making the king seem more faithful than he was, but they didn’t. They treated the history as a teaching manual: raw, real content gave rise to a primer on what trust often looks like despite expectations.
My walk mirrors Hezekiah’s in many ways. I often have to battle pride as I discover it rearing its ugly head. Many times I have to attack fear as it sneaks insidiously into my actions, despite my attempts to rebuke it. There are times when I walk in unbelievable faith, but honestly, those times surprise me. I think they are God’s special gift of grace to me when I just unthinkingly lean back into His arms. Usually, I am a Hezekiah: sometimes trusting, sometimes shaking in my faith.
How about you? Have you found a comrade in arms in this Judean king? Does Hezekiah encourage you in your walk with God, that you do not have to always get it right to be loved and held? I pray that this study on unwavering trust has helped you to more faithfully navigate your storms of life.
If we tally up the lessons learned, they would look something like this:
- A life of trust is built on intimacy, identity, and integrity in the calm before the storm. The calm before the storm is the place in which we must build our foundation of trust.
- Trust is the security that comes from resting one’s identity on the Word and the Person of God. Hezekiah stood tall when Israel collapsed because his foundation was built on truth.
- A person who trusts will respond to suffering with worship. Trust in the middle of shattered dreams becomes a healing balm when a person learns to worship despite baffling amounts of suffering.
- Trust always humbly steers toward the focal point of God. When a person loses sight of God as her focus, she will get off track. Pride always steers us awry, but pursuing humility always leads us back into God’s will for our lives.
- A trusting person fears the Lord rather than giving way to fleshly fear. A When Assyria attacked nearby Lachish, fear undermined Hezekiah’s choices. As the storm clouds gathered above his head, distrust began to ignite fear. Hezekiah learned the hard way that God, rather than man, must be his pure object of trust.
- Trust engages in the art of preparing the mind and heart for action. There is an art to preparing for war. Engaging in that hard work before the spiritual battles come, will outfit you to stand victoriously in the midst of the storm.
- Trust draws its resources from the heavenly places when war is imminent. Assyria stands at Jerusalem’s doors, but trust in God enabled Hezekiah to see the reality of his situation. We studied Elisha’s similar stance in 2 Kings 6 to reveal the true enemy and the nine heavenly resources that are available to us in the heavenly places.
- Trust employs the truths of Scripture to unveil the tactics of the enemy. We studied Satan’s agenda, his strategies and his battle tactics. Seven tactics used by the Assyrian general are also used by Satan as he approaches you. Unveiling the enemy’s tactics helps you to be forewarned to how Satan may choose to approach you.
- Principle #9: In the eye of the storm, trust stands firm in truth, righteousness and peace. We learned last week that the eye of the storm is a potentially undermining place to be, but it is also the greatest testament to our faith when we can stand firm in the midst of the pounding rains and flying debris. Standing firm requires us to h – hold our tongues by standing in the shoes of peace, o – obey our King’s commands fitted with the breastplate of righteousness, and w – wait on God wearing the belt of truth.
As I look back on these principles, I am amazed at their simplicity. There is nothing really profound about them, yet they have become everything to me these last couple of months. I am in the middle of a huge storm and have been writing these devotionals to fight unbelief in my life. I have needed Hezekiah’s ministry, this ministry of living, breathing, and sometimes doubting, trust. God has ministered to me so clearly through the truths found in these chapters detailing this godly king’s life. Even as I write the words each week for this blog, I am drinking them in like a woman wandering in a desert. I pray they have ministered to you in a similar way. If you think of it, write and tell me how God is moving in your trust-life as a result of Hezekiah’s memoirs.
The Shortcut to Standing Firm
Last week we attempted to disseminate what it means to be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power (Eph. 6:10). The text answered that question simply for us: we are to put on the full armor of God so that we can take our stand against the devil’s schemes (Eph. 6:11). The first three pieces of armor are for our everyday walk with God. Each day we need to stand firm with the belt of truth buckled around our waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with our feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace (Eph. 6:14-15).
But you and I both know that knowing and doing are two very different matters. It is one thing to understand the armor: to know its names, its uses, its effectiveness, and its importance. It is another thing altogether to appropriate each piece of armor into the fabric of our lives.
That is why Isaiah 36:21 stood out to me so clearly as I was studying this passage. Look at these words, “But the people remained silent and said nothing in reply, because the king had commanded, ‘Do not answer him.’” Wrapped into these short sentences are the shortcut for how you and I can stand firm in the middle of our lives, storms or not. To refresh your memory, I have placed the chart below once again:
H.O.W. To Stand Firm
|Acronym||Piece of Armor||Strategy of Satan||Discipleship Hook|
|H – Hold your peace||Shoes of peace||Doubt||Intimacy|
|O – Obey the king’s commands||Breastplate of righteousness||Denunciation||Integrity|
|W – Wait on God||Belt of truth||Deception||Identity|
H – Hold your peace.
Though the general exerted all of his verbal faculties to create doubt in the minds of the Judeans, they held their peace. They chose not to respond, but to stand there, firm and resolute in their faith.
For you, the same can be true. Instead of responding in emotionally-filled hurt, you can stand firm wearing God’s shoes of peace. You can choose to lift your cares to God because He cares for you (1 Pet. 5:7). Peace with God guarantees a Father who will act on your behalf. Peace from God can infuse you with a stalwart, unwavering trust, even under stormy fire. The scheme to knock you off of your feet by shaking doubt does not have to be your story. Don’t get caught up in the devil’s rhetoric. Just reiterate the truth of the Gospel and you will stand firm.
O – Obey your King’s commands.
The second step in standing firm before God is to obey the King’s commands. Hezekiah had told the people under his care not to answer the general. Despite the pressure, despite the mounting sense of injustice, and despite the urgency of the moment, the Judeans obeyed their king. They stood silent, just like Jesus did before His oppressors. They did not give the devil a foothold, an environment of unrighteousness in which to do his work.
The same can be true for you. What is God asking you to do right this moment? Forgive? Help someone? Trust Him unequivocally? Replace lies with truth? Friend, what He is asking you to do as your King, is what you need to do. Do not put off, even for a moment, the orders of your King. You will not stand firm under the weight of the enemy’s storm if you allow unrighteousness and disobedience to fester in your heart. Integrity before God and men is the breastplate that will help you to stand firm in the eye of your storm.
W – Wait on God’s truth.
The Judeans remained silent. That word ‘remain’ is indicative of a lifestyle of waiting on God. Instead of charging into the fray or running away as fast as their legs would take them, they stood firm by remaining, abiding, in the Vine.
You, too, must learn to wait on God with the belt of truth wrapped around your waist. It protects your vitals. It protects your heart. The truth of God’s character and His ways must always be forefront in your mind. Do not let Satan’s deceptions cloud your vision of your Lover’s face. Withstand the lies being whispering by speaking out loud in the heavenly realms, “God is good and all His ways are good” (Ps. 119:68), “God fulfills my desires as I fear Him; He hears my cry and saves me” (Ps. 145:19), or “God came to give me everything in abundance, more than I can expect – life in its fullness until I overflow” (Jn. 10:10b – The Passion translation). These are Gospel-truths, my dear waiting one. Live in them and stand firm in your faith.
They “Why” Behind Hezekiah’s Faith Stance
In meditating on Isaiah 36 and 37, one question that came to my mind over and over was, “How did Hezekiah act with unwavering trust in this particular instance, in this, the hugest of storms?” You see, he had blown it quite a number of times. Pride took over his faith stance when he showed the Babylonians all of his treasures. Fear overrode his chance to fully trust God as he desperately grasped at alliances and sold off pieces of the temple to pay his tribute. Even the good reforms around the city were highly suspect, since they may have come again from a deep place of pride or fear. Hezekiah, all in all, did not show consistent unwavering trust throughout his lifetime.
But this horrific storm – the camping of Assyria at his newly-remodeled doorstep – should have been his undoing. He had capitulated to wavering distrust on much lesser terms, with much smaller stakes. How was he able to muster a faith that withstood the greatest test he ever had to endure? How was he able to stand firm in the eye of his biggest storm ever?
I need this answer badly, for I am walking through one of the biggest storms my faith has ever needed to withstand. I do not want to blow it. I want to stand firm and bring God glory in all of the fury Satan is throwing at me. I want my path to be level, because the upright One makes it smooth. I want to walk in the ways of God’s laws and wait for Him to act in His timing. Most of all, I want God’s name and God’s renown to be the desire of my heart, that as I yearn for God in the night, as I long for Him in the morning, His judgments would come down in righteousness (paraphrase of Isa. 26:7-9). I want my life, my faith, my trust to bring God praise and be a beacon of unwavering trust for those who are watching me.
I have pondered this question, “How?” an awful lot and I believe the answer is found in verses 2 and 3 of Isaiah 36. Read these words with me in hope, “Then the king of Assyria sent his field commander with a large army from Lachish to King Hezekiah at Jerusalem. When the commander stopped at the aqueduct of the Upper Pool, on the road to the Fisherman’s Field, Eliakim, son of Hilkiah, the palace administrator, Shebna the secretary, and Joah son of Asaph the recorder went out to him.”
I know what you are thinking already. Really? There is nothing here at all. What does a meeting at an aqueduct between an Assyrian general and three non-threatening Judean palace officials have to do with unwavering trust? I am glad you asked, because I believe this meeting with these particular people at this particular location has everything to do with the tender growth, the blossomed trust, and the hope-filled movement of faith in Hezekiah’s firm stance.
In our eighth lesson together, Unveiling the Enemy’s Tactics, I mentioned the significance of this meeting place (see Isaiah 7:3). The king at the aqueduct was not Hezekiah at that time; it was his father, Ahaz. There was no Assyrian general lying in wait at this location for Ahaz; just a lowly prophet (Isaiah) and his firstborn son. By all outside appearances, there were no real physical connections between these two seemingly dissimilar events, besides the physical location, but spiritually, my friend; spiritually, there were huge ramifications.
If you will recall, Ahaz was struggling with a decision to believe Isaiah’s words (see Isa. 7:9b) or to make an alliance with Assyria. In the end, he chose to disregard the Lord’s safety net of faith and went ahead, allying with Assyria, who would one day become his enemy. Ahaz’s faith nosedived into disaster right here at the aqueduct of the Upper Pool on the road to the Washerman’s Field.
I mentioned in that same devotional that Hezekiah had a chance to redeem his father’s lack of faith at the very same location where disobedience had preceded disaster. This aqueduct spelled the demise of his father’s faith and the future of Judah, but Hezekiah knew he was being given a second chance. A chance to act in the trust his father forfeited. A chance to believe the God his father had disregarded. And a redemptive chance to stand firm in the faith that his father had shakily abdicated.
Why was Hezekiah able to stand firm in the greatest storm ever? I believe it was because he knew the consequences of not standing firm in God. He had watched his father walk into a lifetime of sin. He had spent years cleaning up the messes his father had made: repairing the neglected temple, destroying idols and high places, re-educating his people in the ways of God, and instituting godly reforms.
He also had made some bad decisions of his own. The consequences of pride and fear in his own life had been astronomical. He knew firsthand and secondhand, that if he did not stand firm in his faith, he would not stand firm at all (Isa. 7:9b).
Years later, Hezekiah recognized God’s movement in bringing the enemy to that pivotal aqueduct. God was offering him the most loving of choices: trust God fully and experience abundance and miraculous deliverance or falter in disbelief and be destroyed. Hezekiah had walked with God intimately through many periods of his life. And he had borne the pain of his walk-away-from-God choices. Like David, he knew the filling of the presence of God and the emptiness of His absence. He desired to have a pure heart and a steadfast spirit within him. He did not want to be cast from God’s presence like his father or to have the Holy Spirit’s power taken from him. He longed to experience the joy of God’s salvation and to be granted a willing spirit to sustain him (Ps. 51:10-12).
In short, the ‘why’ behind Hezeiah’s choice to stand in faith was a choice to stand firm in intimacy, identity and integrity. He would rather go down into death with God than attempt to rise up in victory without Him. He would choose to bank everything he had on the love of and relationship with His heavenly Father.
So, you can see, the lessons learned at the aqueduct were imperative for Hezekiah’s faith. As the Lord has shown me over this last month, those same lessons are imperative for you and me too. We cannot stand firm in our faith without internalizing these “long-cut” steps to standing firm.
With that, let’s turn to Isaiah 7 and 8 and begin to unpack this hard-to-understand, yet filled-with-life story of Ahaz at the aqueduct of the Upper Pool, on the road to the Fisherman’s Field. Like my house in Irian Jaya that stood firm on its wooden stilts despite the rolling waves of ground in the middle of a terrifying earthquake, the principles of these two chapters will help your faith roll and bend with the enemy’s onslaught. You can ride the waves of your storm, you can stand firm in the middle of your typhoon with these principles as the stilts to your faith.
A Background Visit
In about 735 BC, Ahaz was king of Judah and Pekah was king of Israel (7:1). Just so you know the people we are dealing with, here is a synopsis of their reigns. Ahaz ruled from 735 to 715 BC, close to 17 years. His name means “he has seized” and unfortunately, what he seized upon in his lifetime was evil. He did not follow the will of God (2 Kings 15:38; 16:1,2, 3, 7, 8). He did not follow the ways of David either (2 Kings 16), but pursued the practices of the pagan nations around him (1 Kings 16:1-4). He brought pagan altar styles into the Temple area (2 Kings 16:10-20) and interestingly enough, Isaiah prophesied during his reign (Isa. 1:1; 14:28), but without much impact, due to the hardness of Ahaz’s heart.
Pekah was the king of Israel from 752 to 732 BC. He was the son of Remaliah and ruled from the capitol city of Samaria. His name means “opened” and he certainly opened his life up to many ungodly influences. He was a typical evil Israelite king who continued to follow the evil ways of Israel’s first king, Jeroboam I (2 Kings 15:27, 28). Assyria began to dismantle the northern kingdom in his reign (2 Kings 15:29) and he was later assassinated by Hoshea, the last king of Israel.
You can see that the whole nation – both sides of the border – were living in rebellion to God: Pekah for many years, and Ahaz from the first year of his reign. These were not godly kings and the fact that the northern kingdom was already reaping some of the consequences of its anti-God behavior should have been a warning to Ahaz. But it was not.
As Isaiah 7 opens up to us, Assyria is already breathing down the neck of Israel and Pekah is feeling the terrible heat of impending doom. So he decided to team up with Rezin, the king of Syria, in an attempt to withstand Assyria’s mounting oppression (Isa. 7:1). These two countries pressed Ahaz to join their alliance, but he refused. When diplomacy failed to entice Judah to join, they invaded to force Ahaz’s hand (see 2 Chron. 28:5-8). Many people were killed – 120,000 in fact – but still Ahaz refused to join their coalition.
A second invasion ensued (2 Chron. 28:17-18) and many captives were carried away to Israel again. Even the Philistines got involved and attacked Judean outlying cities, eventually settling on Judean ground. On this second invasion, Syria and Israel hoped to conquer Judah for themselves and set up the son of Tabeel, a puppet king, in Ahaz’s place (Isa. 7:6).
Ahaz was up a creek without a paddle and he knew it. Outnumbered, outmaneuvered, and outmanned, he had no recourse, or so he thought, but to make a desperate move. And it was a desperate situation. Isaiah 7:2 uses these words to describe the severity of the threat to the dynastic rule, “Now the house of David was told…” In other words, Ahaz was the living heir of David and all the promises given to that first great king. In writing these memoirs, Isaiah, by bringing in the words ‘house of David’ shows us that the threat was not just to Ahaz; it was to the entire rule of David. In short, the future of the dynasty of David and all God’s work through that royal family was on the proverbial line. What Ahaz determined to do in that moment at the aqueduct of the Upper pool would determine the future of David’s ruling longevity.
In verse 2, the house of David was told, “Aram has allied itself with Ephraim.” You need to know that this coalition was not new. In fact, it was almost ten years old. So what caused the fresh panic? I believe it was because Israel and Syria were planning another attack, a third attempt on Ahaz’s kingdom and the Judean king was scared spitless. He knew he needed a get-out-of-jail-free card. No longer would he pass go and collect 200 dollars. He was out of time and out of options.
So he began to think in desperate ways. The only option he could come up with to withstand a third invasion from the coalition was to go to the enemy of the coalition. Instead of remaining neutral and trusting in God to help him out of a truly dangerous place, Ahaz contemplated the unthinkable, the notion of sending a desperate plea to the king of Assyria for help (2 Chron. 28:16).
The Lord, who knows all things (Josh. 22:22, 1 Sam. 2:3, 2 Sam. 14:20, Ps. 94:11) knew the state of Ahaz’s faith. He saw him shaking in his Judean boots. He heard the pounding of Ahaz’s panicky heart and so he acted toward this king in love; not just for Ahaz’s sake, but for the sake of David (1 Kings 11:12, 13, 32, 34, Ps. 132:10, Isa. 37:35), the man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22).
He sent the prophet, Isaiah, to the meeting point at the aqueduct. He knew Ahaz would be there shoring up the city’s water resources, trying to prepare for war in his own strength. Isaiah obeyed, taking his son with him for reasons we will yet discover. He then gave Ahaz an encouraging word from God. The invasion would not take place if he chose to refrain from involving Assyria. All he had to do was stand firm in his faith.
The rest of the story is that Ahaz did not listen. He did go to Assyria for help and this decision set into motion consequences that ended the reign of David and precipitated the demise of Judah. This decision was also the key factor, I believe, that gave Hezekiah the faith that he needed to trust only in his God and not in the supposed earthly alliances he could make.
In order that we do not repeat the actions of Ahaz, we need to wake up to the reality of our situation. We must face the facts of our circumstances and acknowledge our feelings. These are the first two steps of faith. But then we must ignite our will. In order to stand firm, like Hezekiah, we must examine the principles of faith that almost seem to jump out of these two chapters. Follow closely and see how you can apply the lessons in these sometimes difficult to understand, but incredibly important words. Don’t read them like a text; read them, instead, like the Book of Life that they are. Read them as if your standing firm in your faith depends solely on them, because it surely does and this thought leads us to Principle #10: In the eye of the storm, trust stands firm in faith.
The “Long-cut” to Standing Firm
The thought behind this acronym, S.t.a.n.d. F.i.r.m., still flows from the message in Ephesians 6. All twenty-four of these little steps turn on the hinges of truth, righteousness, and peace. They are a very practical way to put on the armor needed in Ephesians 6:14-15 in order to stand firm in the eye of the storm. I pray these practical steps given from Isaiah 7 and 8 will help you consistently wear the first three pieces of the armor of God, enabling you to stand firm in your faith.
S – Shake off the fear of shaking.
We looked at the circumstances facing Ahaz already today, but just to remind you, the house of David was told that Syria had allied itself with Israel against Judah…for the third time (see v 2a). Look at Ahaz’s response, “The hearts of Ahaz and his people were shaken, as the trees of the forest are shaken by the wind” (v 2b).
That word ‘shaken’ is a strong word in the Hebrew. It means “to waver…reel, remove, scatter, shake, stagger, to and fro, quiver, totter, move, tremble, to be tossed about or around” (ESV Strong’s). Ahaz’s heart was trembling, tossing, wavering, much like the shaking and quaking of my house in the middle of that 1979 earthquake. Along with the shaking, there is also a sense of wandering, of being lost.
When I first read this sentence, I was quite discouraged. I thought to myself, How can I remove the fear of shaking? Is it even possible to be completely at peace and trust wholeheartedly in God in order to stand? Even if I stand firm in my heart, my body is still quaking and shaking in fear. What do I do with my quivering limbs, upset stomach and beating heart?
What I want to share with you is that I do not think God is asking us to be completely at peace in both our spirits and our bodies in order to demonstrate true faith. Faith is a spiritual discipline and it does not depend on the flesh to fully play out in the spiritual realm. Let me give you an example.
Close to a month ago, I was involved in a life-changing kind of meeting. The weekend prior to that meeting, I was a mess inside. I kept trying to stand firm in my faith. I quoted Scripture and prayed diligently, but it was not until the Lord gave me these principles – I’m calling them the “Aqueduct Principles” – that I felt like I had a leg to stand on. Up to then, I was attempting to fight a spiritual battle with a general logos word. What I needed was a rhema, a Holy-Spirit filled, powerful and personal word. These Aqueduct Principles were the rhema I needed to stand firm in my faith.
I began to live in these truths, quoting them out over my life, but I have to be honest. While my faith was very solid – I actually felt peaceful in my spirit – my body betrayed me. My stomach was so upset. I struggled to sleep. Satan plagued me with nightmares and “what ifs.” My body felt like World War III was raging out of control on the inside of me. My faith was under attack but while it was standing fairly solidly, my body was a mess.
Even in the meeting, though I had peace about the outcome, I still battled fear in my gut and bodily anxiety in my fast-beating heart. I even wept weakly in moments of pain. No matter what I said to myself or did to act out the truth, my flesh was very weak. This concerned me very much. I felt that if my heart was at peace, my flesh should also be at rest. But this was not the case. That meeting brought out a war within myself, a battle fought between my flesh and my spirit.
When I brought all of this up to the Lord after the meeting, I confessed that I was a miserable failure. I could not get my body to comply, to be at peace with God. The Lord spoke very clearly to me in comfort, not rebuke. He told me that a shaky body does not necessarily equal a shaky faith. The body responds with a fight-or-flight reaction. This is normal. This is the way God created us, but our faith is not to respond in the same way. Our faith needs to stand firm despite the shakiness of the flesh.
This principle is clearly outlined in Matthew 26:41, “Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (ESV). Dear one, if you are in the midst of a storm, be concerned mostly about your spiritual temperature. If your heart is at peace, trusting in God, your faith is very secure despite the weak flesh that acts like it will drop you to the floor. Be encouraged that you are standing firm in the Lord, even if your body wants to run away.
Shake off the fear of shaking in your body. Concern yourself solely with the spiritual realm. A shaky spirit needs immediate attention. A shaky body, on the other hand, might only need a good old fashioned nap.
Sink your roots deep into God.
Verse 2 compares Ahaz’s heart, and the hearts of his people, to the shaking of trees in the forest. The winds of invasion shook the Judeans like trees are shaken by the wind. Their leaves were tossed and turned by something completely unseen. You see, in a storm, the effects of the wind are visible; wind itself is invisible. I believe this simile is trying to tell us that when our hearts begin to shake, it is not the actual circumstances that make us totter and wobble. It is actually the fear of the unknown or the ‘what ifs’ that cause us to waver. Those invisible circumstances are the bigger worry to our faith.
We are currently entering into the rainy season here in Chiang Mai. Almost every day, the skies dump rain and many days there is a storm of some kind. You can always tell when the rain is close because the wind begins to whip up the leaves and branches of the trees and the temperature drops quickly. You cannot see the wind or the cooler air, but the effects are very clearly visible.
In this simile between shaking hearts and shaking trees, there is a great word of comfort for me. You see, most trees do not topple in a rainstorm. They were created to shake a lot, to bow and bend without breaking. Shaking is not necessarily bad. It is actually the way God intended each tree to give with the elements. There are a lot of leaves on the ground after a storm, even some branches, but the trunk of the tree remains upright. Why? Because the roots are solidly planted.
In Psalm 1:3, there is a wonderful picture of a tree that stands firm in the eye of the storm. “He will be standing firm like a flourishing tree planted by God’s design, deeply rooted by the brooks of bliss, bearing fruit in every season of his life. He is never dry, never faint, ever blessed, ever prosperous (The Passion translation). Another verse in Jeremiah adds to the picture of this kind of tree, “He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit” (Jer. 17:8).
Because the roots are “deeply” planted by the stream of God, it stands tall and firm. Those roots draw up life-giving sustenance into the trunk and branches of the tree. As a result, the tree flourishes. It does not dry out, its leaves stay green, it does not worry in drought and it bears fruit in season.
Believer, how is the state of your root system? Are your roots shallow, so that any wind that comes along can knock you over? Are they dried-out due to a neglect of the Word of God, that Stream that waters the soul? Or are they deep and sustaining, tended by the Master Gardener over months and years of growing down, down, down into the Vine?
You can know the answer to this question by observing how you handle a stormy wind. If it is only your leaves shaking in the breeze that blows, your roots are deep. If you lose a few branches in the melee, your roots are still deep. But if your trunk breaks and snaps in two, if your foundation is uprooted, if you shatter, topple and fall, you will know that your roots were not deep enough to sustain a standing-firm kind of faith.
We have lost two papaya trees from our property in the storms of previous years. When they fell, we noticed two items of interest about this family of trees. First, they have an inadequate root system – very shallow and sparse. Even a little wind uproots and destroys them. Secondly, we noticed that they are completely hollow inside. Why do they fall so easily? They have shallow roots and no internal substance.
Precious Shaking Tree, it is completely normal for your leaves and branches to sway and creak and bend in the middle of your storm. The ground may tremble visibly around you. Your circumstances may come at you in rolling waves, but you were created to bend in concert with your storm. Even the invisible winds of “what ifs” and “if onlys” will not fell you in the process. This is because shaking leaves do not necessarily equal shaking faith. Let this word encourage you.
However, you must carefully watch and pray over your tree’s foundation. Those roots are the key to standing firm. You must sink your root system deep into the Streams of God. Then, you will be able to shake without shattering, tremble without tottering, and flex without falling.
Then, and only then, will you stand firm with the belt of truth buckled around your waist and the shoes of peace gripping your unsteady soil.
T – Take your eyes off of your circumstances.
Ahaz’s circumstances were dire; there is no doubt about that. Two neighboring kingdoms were intent on fighting against Jerusalem (v 1). King Rezin of Syria and King Pekah of Israel allied together (v 2) for one purpose: to invade Judah, tear it apart, divide it among themselves, and set up a puppet king in the place of Ahaz (v 6). Their anger was fierce as they plotted Judah’s ruin (vv 4-5).
This day for Ahaz was a very bad day indeed. He might have felt like fleeing the city’s premises, but as Jerusalem’s king, he was supposed to have all the answers. He was supposed to know what to do. But he didn’t, and as a result, he made some horrible decisions – all because he was focused on the here and now, on the visible and real, and on the flesh and blood of the impossible situation.
What do you do when you do not know what to do? The answer to this question is that you must learn to take your eyes off of your circumstances. Look at God’s advice in three incredible passages of Scripture:
- “I lift up my eyes to the hills – where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip – he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord watches over you – the Lord is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord will keep you from all harm – he will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore” (Ps. 121:1-8).
- “Don’t you know? Haven’t you been listening? Yahweh is the one and only everlasting God, the Creator of all you can see and imagine! He never gets weary or worn out. His intelligence is unlimited; he is never puzzled over what to do! He empowers the feeble and infuses the powerless with increasing strength. Even young people faint and get exhausted, athletic ones may stumble and fall. But those who wait for Yahweh’s grace will experience divine strength. They will rise up on soaring wings and fly like eagles, run their race without growing weary, and walk through life without giving up” (Isa. 40:28-31 – The Passion translation).
- “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory” (Col. 3:1-4)
On our last furlough I was asked to speak at a Mother’s Day banquet. The theme of my teaching session was how to live life out of our identity in Christ. As a closing to this theme, I sang a song I had written entitled, “Daughter of the King.” The first verse and chorus read like this:
When I listen to those around me, what do I hear? / Deceptive, hollow messages, waking dormant fears / Will I bow to the majority or stand here on my own? / Will I give in to the pressure and place self upon the throne? / Lord, I long to do what’s pleasing in Your sight / And so I offer up my hopes and dreams and walk into Your light// I’ll look up and see Your loving smile / Look out, my life is so worthwhile / Look down at my foundation / Make sure I’m standing on solid ground / Look deep within my heart’s desires / Look long with vision that won’t tire / Look in and see the truth of who I am / A daughter of the King (Ps. 45:8 loosely)
The most obvious piece of advice given in the above-mentioned verses and the words of this song are that we need to change our sight-line; we need to look up. If our eyes are buried in the sodden, damp, discouraging, enervating reality of this earth, we will become discouraged. We will be unable to stand firm. Truth is seen by looking up in faith to the Truth-Teller, the Truth-Maker, the Truth-Shaper and Owner. Looking down at the circumstances of our lives mires us to deception and lies. Looking up frees our mind to soar with hope released in power from the heavenly places.
During our first year in the Philippines, we lived at the base of a very long hill. At the top of that hill was the school that my eldest child attended for first grade. Every day, my three year old and I would walk up that hill to gather David from school. Almost every day, Robert would complain about the long, tiring walk in the heat of the tropical day.
The truth of Psalm 121:1 hit me one day in response to this constant complaining. I thought I would try an experiment. We stood at the bottom of that nemesis of a hill and I asked Robert this question, “Robert, what is at the top of the hill?
I gave him some ideas to get him going and when Robert finally understood what I was asking, he began listing some of the things at the top of the hill where the school’s campus resided. As he made his verbal list, I gently pulled him along by his little hand. He was oblivious to the walk because his mind was trained on the thinking task at hand. By the time he had spoken all of the things he remembered that were at the top, we were mostly up the hill. By his concentrating on what was up, he forgot about the long, arduous journey down at his feet.
My friend, this simple truth can work for you. What is up? According to Psalm 121, only the Source of your help, the Maker of this earth, the One who never sleeps, the One who is determined to watch over your well-being. Only the One who refuses to let your foot slip, who refuses to allow the sun to burn you or the moon to shine too brightly in your eyes. Only the One who keeps you from all harm, even the tempest of the mightiest storm.
I ask you again, what is up? Isaiah 40 describes the One who never tires nor is puzzled about what to do. The One who gives power to the weak and divine strength to His graced ones. The One who is able to lift you up like an eagle’s wings, to enable you to run your race without weariness and walk through your circumstances without ever giving up.
I implore you yet again, what, my friend, is up? Colossians tells you that you are up, raised with Christ. Christ is up, seated at the right hand of God. You are hidden with Christ in God. In the heavenly places, in the “up-ness” of spiritual reality, Christ is your life; He is your All in All (Col. 3:11).
My friend, that is a long list of spiritual blessings that wait for you at the top of your spiritual hill.
If you are tottering in the eye of the storm, I can guarantee you, my friend, that you are not looking up. You are focused on the physical mountains of your life, mountains that God has already promised to level, “I will go before you and will level the mountains; I will break down gates of bronze and cut through bars of iron” (Isa. 45:2). Not only does God promise to take care of those mountains, but your faith, through Christ, is able to take care of them too. “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you” (Mt. 17: 20).
The first question is: Are you looking up? And the second question is very similar: Do you believe in the One to whom you are looking? Take your eyes off of your circumstances and place them on the One who loves you deeply and who died to give you the power to soar above those same circumstances.
Trust in God’s promises.
Isaiah was not alone in his trek to the aqueduct to meet with King Ahaz. His eldest son, Shear-Jashub, accompanied him. When I read over chapter 7 the first time, I totally misunderstood this important piece of information. Why on earth would Isaiah have taken his son with him to meet with the king? It is because Shear-Jashub was a living, breathing symbol of one of God’s promises.
The name Shear-Jashub means “a remnant will return.” In his name is both a threat of decimation and a promise of survival. The threat is that if Ahaz acts out of his unbelief, only a remnant of people will actually survive. Most will be destroyed or taken captive. Unbelief always destroys, whether it be relationships or trust or faith. However, in this same name is a promise that a remnant will return. You see, faith always works to save. It always hopes and believes and restores.
Isaiah knew these two sides of the faith coin. He knew the destructive power of unbelief and the restorative power of true faith. And he brought his son to that aqueduct as a symbol to Ahaz. He “made the word of God ‘become flesh’ in the person of his son” (Tyndale Old Testament Commentary). The goal was to add impetus to the weight of God’s message to Ahaz, but the king ignored the obvious object lesson. God gave a promise of restoration if Ahaz would listen, but we will find out that Ahaz refused to believe God’s promise.
Later on, Isaiah reminded Ahaz of the plot to invade Judah. The coalition desired to tear Judah apart and remove Ahaz from the throne, but Isaiah spoke an incredible word to Ahaz, a word that should have stopped Ahaz in his tracks. “Yet this what the Sovereign Lord says: ‘It will not take place, it will not happen’” (v 7). What will not happen? I ask you. The invasion would not happen. God spoke out into the heavenly realms, into the fearful ears of an underdog king and said, “This invasion is not going to take place. All you have to do is believe me.”
Wow! Those are incredible words. In just a matter of minutes, Ahaz received two incredible promises from God: a remnant would return and the invasion did not need to happen. You would think that he would sit up and take notice, but unfortunately, he did not. He continued in his shaky unbelief and rebelled against the Lord in the process.
It is easy to look at Ahaz and say, “Boy, how could you possibly have missed it? Where is your faith? A prophet spoke the very word of God into your ear, made two huge promises and you still refuse to walk in faith.”
But are we any different?
God has given us so many promises in His Word; not just the logos ones that are sprinkled heavily throughout the Old and New Testaments, but also the rhema ones that God gives us personally. He takes a divine highlighter and bolds certain words in the Bible, personalizing them for you and me. Yet, what do we do? We continue, like Ahaz, to live in shaky, unbelief and rebel against the Lord in the process.
- When God says, “Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you” (Heb. 13:5), we still shake in our boots. We continue to feel alone and deserted.
- As we read, “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving kindness” (Jer. 31:3), we disbelieve God. We say, “God, you don’t love me. You never do anything good for me. I am all alone in this world.”
- We can read, “I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jer. 29:11), but inside, we refuse to believe it. We continue in spiritual blindness, feeling insignificant and unworthy of God’s will for us.
- Even though God’s Word says that He “came that (we) may have life, and have it to the full” (Jn. 10:10b), we counter the truth with deception. “I have a terrible life,” we say. “Nothing in my life is good.”
I could go on and on, but I hope you get the idea. God has a promise for every need in our life. Our job is to ask Him to point us to the promise He wants to speak over us. Then all we have to do is speak it out loud in the heavenly realms and walk in the truth of its cover.
Salvation is a great gift, but with our salvation came the uplifting action of faith. If we believe God has divine power, we can also believe that power has given us everything we need for life and godliness. By His glory and goodness, God gave us promises. By applying those promises to our lives, we can participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires (paraphrase of 2 Pet. 1:3-4).
Did you get the gist of this passage, dear one? You have everything you need to rise above your circumstances. God has called you to do so and He has equipped you with all the knowledge you need to lift up your eyes. His promises, which are great and precious, are His divine power to soar above your situation, participate in holiness and escape the reach of the devil’s attacks.
But, you must lift your eyes above your circumstances to the One who sanctions them in the first place. Instead of trusting what you see, trust what your heart knows to be true. Trust His promises. Then, and only then, will you stand firm armored in the belt of truth and the breastplate of righteousness.
A – Attend to your emotions.
Nowhere in these two chapters are Ahaz’s emotions described clearly except for the “shaken” description in verse 2. But put yourself in Ahaz’s shoes. What would you be feeling about this time? Would you be fear-filled, helpless, or hopeless? Would you have an overwhelming urge to run? Would the desire to numb yourself from the pain and anxiety push you to medicate your life with your favorite fall-back method? Would you cry and weep uncontrollably or would you descend into unquenchable anger at the injustice?
Each of us has our own unique coping mechanisms. It seems Ahaz coped by busying himself, since Isaiah found him at the aqueduct trying to take care of the city’s water resources (v 3). This was not God’s coping method, obviously, because the first words out of Isaiah’s mouth were ones that God told him to speak, addressing Ahaz’s emotions.
Do you find comfort in this, that God addressed Ahaz’s fear and concerns and pent-up anxiety…first? He did not start the conversation with heavy theology or slap a few verses on Ahaz’s out-of-control terror. He did not rebuke Ahaz’s unbelief or show disappointment in his fear. He did not even first begin by speaking out promises. Why? Because He knew that Ahaz’s heart desperately needed comfort before it could begin to open up to the truth of what he had to share.
Oh, friend, how we err in the church! When someone is really hurting, we spout verses at them. We speak platitudes and useless, thoughtless, careless, emotionless advice. We tell them what to do, where to go, and whom to believe. We give up on them if it is a long-term pain or we become too busy to deal with them. We wring our proverbial hands in despair because we just don’t know what to do or we back away because we don’t have time for their messy tears.
If you have experienced this kind of reaction to your emotions, you need to know my Jesus. He always knows what to do. First, He comforts with emotion. He responds out of deep love and a tender heart. As the Father of all compassion and the God of all comfort, He comforts you in your troubles (2 Cor. 1:3-4). He looks with compassion on all of your ruins (Isa. 51:3). Though you feel most alone when you are sad or hurt, God is actually the closest to you…ever. Psalm 34:18 says that He is close to the brokenhearted and saves those crushed in spirit. He draws near to you like a mother comforting her child (Isa. 66:13).
Secondly, He comforts with words of life. Listen to how God begins to speak over Jerusalem’s gaping wounds, “Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins (Isa. 40:1-2). He speaks tenderly with you if you are hurting. He speaks words of affirmation about your service. And He speaks forgiveness for your sins and gives hope for you future.
Next, He acts in comforting ways. In the waters, He walks with you. In the rivers, He does not allow them to sweep over you. While walking through the fire, He will not let you be set ablaze. He watches over the heat of your suffering (Isa. 42:2). He is with you and comforts you with His rod and staff (Ps. 23:4). He makes your deserts like Eden and brings joy and gladness (Isa. 51:3). He heals and guides and restores (Isa. 57:18). He binds up the brokenhearted, comforts all who mourn, and provides for those who grieve (Isa. 61:1).
As a side note, if you don’t know what to do with someone’s suffering, emulate Jesus. Be compassionate. Be close to the brokenhearted. Comfort with your words. Speak tenderly and with great affirmation. Walk alongside the fire-scorched and the water-sodden. Heal with your presence. Listen with your heart. Guide with your example and restore with your faith. Bind up broken hearts and provide a safe place for those who grieve. This is the Comforter’s way. He moves in circles of tenderness with you so that you can be a tender-hearted comforter with others.
This God, the God of all comfort, was the God who approached Ahaz by way of Isaiah. Listen to the words Isaiah first spoke to Ahaz at that fateful aqueduct, “Be careful, be quiet, do not fear, and do not let your heart be faint…(v 4a – ESV). These four phrases give us a lot of information about how to tend to our emotions.
Be careful: This word means “to hedge about (as with thorns)” (ESV Strong’s)…to watch, to keep, to preserve, to guard, to be careful, to watch over, to be on one’s guard” (CWSB Dictionary). God is not saying, “Don’t feel.” I think God encourages us to feel very deeply. You only have to read the Psalms through once to come away with the often-used and encouraging discipline of emoting.
God is cautioning us, however. When emotions are running the will and mind, there is a grave danger of spewing forth poison from the mouth. If you are hurt, you want to hurt back. If you are treated unjustly, you want to vent your anger. If you are fearful, words spoken out in the open can drive hopefulness into the pit of despair.
We are to be careful in how we handle our emotions. Feel them, certainly, but release them to God. We must hedge them about with self-control: “A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control (Pr. 29:11). We must guard against running at the mouth: “When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise (Pr. 10:19). And we must preserve our lives from bitterness: “In your anger do not sin. Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry” (Eph. 4:26).
Feel the emotions, but be careful how, where, and with whom you vent. God is best honored when we release our emotions into His care.
Be quiet: This word has the idea of being at peace, resting, lying still and undisturbed. God is not saying that Ahaz was to stop feeling, but I do believe he was asking Ahaz to stop doing. “Be still and know that I am God,” says the psalmist. We know this part well, but we often forget the second half of that verse, “I will be exalted among the nations; I will be exalted in the earth” (Ps. 46:10).
Do you want to see God exalted? Over your emotions? Over your circumstances? Over your family and friends, even to the nations? Then you will have to learn to be still. Being still is not being inactive. “Watch and pray that you do not fall into temptation” (Mt. 26:41). Do a lot of seeking God, waiting on Him. Just refuse to busy yourself in non-essential faith-drainers. Learn to actively rest in God’s presence, taking all of your emotions to Him.
Do not fear: This is an obvious one. Over and over in Scripture, God asks us to release our fear. There are many antidotes to fear, but most of them have to do with God’s presence or His Word. If you are feeling fear, you need to flee to God. Sit in His lap and draw from His strength.
Do not lose heart: This word means to “be tender, fainthearted, faint, weak, soft. It indicates that a person lacks resolve and needs to be strong in the face of danger” (CWSB Dictionary). Out-of-control emotions weaken us. They seep into our faith and dissolve our perseverance. God wanted Ahaz to know that if his fear was not released to God, he would become faint in his faith. He needed to be tender to the Lord’s leading, soft to the One who can help. Then, and only then, would he be strong-hearted, rising up on wings like eagles, running and not growing weary, and walking without being faint (Isa. 40:31).
Dear one, God is asking you to tend to your emotions. Not out of rebuke or anger, but out of great compassion and love. He knows what can happen when emotions spiral out of control. Actually, He was killed as a result of a riotous, emotion-packed crowd. God wants you to be careful, be quiet, refrain from fear and refuse to lose heart. These are God’s answers for you when your emotions are running amuck.
Anchor them in truth.
After God gave Ahaz his initial four-phrased instructions, He used an interesting metaphor. See if you can figure out how this would encourage Ahaz: “Do not lose heart because of these two smoldering stubs of firewood – because of the fierce anger of Rezin and Aram and of the son of Remaliah” (v 4b).
Both of my older boys are Boy Scouts and have a lot of experience around a campsite. They know how to bivouac, to make a tent out of materials in the wild. They have a wilderness survival badge to prove it. They have learned how to give first aid in the wild and to cook over an open fire. They are pretty handy to have around in an area far from civilization.
One aspect of camping that is pounded into a Scout is safety. Many outings are taken into forests and National Parks and for this reason, fire safety is a predominant theme on hiking and survival trips. Every camper knows that a burning fire is not left unattended and that every coal must be dampened before the campers can crawl into their sleeping bags. Many Scouts will stay up until the last light of the fire dies out, but everyone knows that a quick solution to a burning campfire is a bucket of water. When that water is poured on any living coals, they become smoldering stubs of wood.
The physical truth of the matter was that Rezin and Pekah were angry. Most Bibles translate the superlative of their anger as fierce. This word means “a burning (i.e. intense) anger: fierce, great, heat” (ESV Strong’s). It is a masculine word that means “burning” and comes from anger as derived from the snorting of an angry person” (CWSB): contemptuous, scornful, and barely controlled. These two kings were angry enough to do serious damage. They had already attacked, killed people, and taken others captive – not once, but twice. They had plans to take the kingdom, dethrone Ahaz and divide the land into even parcels of booty. These kings meant business. Ahaz knew this, which was why he was shaking like a leaf.
Their uncontrollable anger with malicious intent was the physical truth that Ahaz saw. But when God used this metaphor, He was trying to alert Ahaz to a spiritual truth. Look at the two words that make up this metaphor: stub of firewood and smoldering. The stub of firewood indicates the end of a firebrand, the very tail coals of what was once a burning poker. This indicates that they had almost entirely consumed themselves and were therefore, completely harmless. What God was trying to say here was that they were soon about to fall before the Assyrian army. Just like a campfire burning itself out, these two kings were about to lose every vistage of peril.
That second word ‘smoking’ denotes a similar thought. A fire that is smoking is no longer blazing. It has no heat. The coals are blackened instead of red. All of this indicates a fire that is about to go out. In essence, though they appeared fierce and powerful in their political posturing, they were virtually impotent. In this incredible unveiling of spiritual truth about the future of the coalition’s fire, God told Ahaz the future; He gave him a prophecy.
I love how Tyndale describes this spiritual insight: “If only Ahaz could be persuaded to disengage himself from politics, Assyria would in any case squash the northern kingdoms and the Lord would preserve Judah – as indeed He ultimately did (Isa 37:36-37). But if Ahaz links himself to Assyria he will indeed have taken a tiger by the tail! In all this the issue is clear-cut: is salvation by faith or by works? Will Ahaz be saved by trust or by astute political gambles” (Tyndale Old Testament Commentary)?
Emotions are a dime a dozen. They can change in an instant based on how the circumstances shift and waver. They are important; just not all-important. We are to hedge our emotions in four actions: be careful, be quiet, do not fear, and do not lose heart. But that is easier said than done because these actions stem from a thinking type of approach. Many times we need more than logic; we need a spiritual connection to the soul of the matter.
God’s revelation provides an anchor for our fluctuating emotions. When He speaks a rhema word over our lives, we need to attach our faith, our hearts, and our emotions to that truth. As Jesus prayed for His disciples – and the disciples of our generation by extension – he spoke these words, “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth” (Jn. 17:15-17).
What is Jesus saying here? We live in a hard world. Satan has almost full reign here – under God’s mighty hand, that is – to harass, kill, and destroy and you, as a believer, are a huge target. Jesus did not pray to remove you from this world, which means that hardships, persecutions, and “attacking kings” could be in your future. What Jesus prayed for, however, was protection and sanctification in the truth of the Word.
These last couple of weeks have been really hard for our eldest son. He has a good job for the summer and has been driving our very old Dodge Intrepid. However, that car has caused him no end of grief: it has been leaking fluid, running hot, and leaving him stranded along the side of the road. He has been coached by friends to just go out and get a better car on credit, but we have been holding him back from making such a foolish decision. He has been frustrated; he has to work to earn money for college, but he needs a set of wheels to get him to his job. And the problem is that we are on the other side of the world trying to do what we can.
Both David and my husband had been trying to finagle a solution. I have not had a peace about the whole situation from the beginning, but could not offer a better alternative to their solutions, so I kept mostly quiet due to what seemed to them a doom-and-gloom perspective. Then we went to church this past Sunday. The pastor’s sermon came from Galatians 3:6-9. In these verses, Abraham was touted as a man who waited for God’s promise to be fulfilled. He was patient in a long obedience and was rewarded for his faith.
My husband heard those words “faith is patient” and realized that he and David had not been waiting on God’s timing; they had been trying to solve a physical problem in physical ways instead of allowing God to answer through spiritual means. After church, he immediately called David and shared with him that rhema word from Scripture. They both decided to take 12-24 hours and just spend the energy praying.
The rest of the story is that God had a plan already in place; He just wanted my men to depend on Him more than themselves. God miraculously provided a car in David’s price range within one day. The tags, title and registration were completed on the spot and insurance was taken care of over the phone by the end of the working day. Triple A towed the old Dodge to the new owner for free and he gave 300 dollars as a trade-in. From the time the Book men stopped doing and started praying, God worked a complete package of provision for my college son.
Friend, God’s Word is your anchor. In a tough spot, where attack seems imminent, do not run. Do not fight the battle in your own ability. Stop and begin to pray. Ask God for His protection and provision. Ask Him for a rhema word from Scripture. Then sit in that promise, trusting God all the while for the outcome. With God’s revelation as your anchor, you can rest your emotions safely in His harbor of truth. Then, and only then, will you stand firm with that belt of truth buckled securely around your waist.
N – Neutralize dependence upon man.
After dealing with Ahaz’s fearful emotions, Isaiah continued to build up his faith. Listen to these words, “for the head of Aram is Damascus, and the head of Damascus is only Rezin. Within sixty-five years Ephraim will be too shattered to be a people. The head of Ephraim is Samaria, and the head of Samaria is only Remaliah’s son” (Isa. 7:8-9).
Ahaz was scared spitless of the king of Aram (Syria) and the king of Ephraim (Israel) and he had good reason to be afraid. They were dangerous and had proved to be formidable enemies. So why would God say they are only Rezin and Remaliah’s son? God was asking Ahaz to ponder His powerful omnipotence. Kings of this earth are no match for the Creator of the universe.
Daniel knew this truth. King Nebuchadnezzar had a dream that no one could interpret. With the threat of their annihilation on the table, Daniel asked the king for time to interpret the dream. He then went to his three best friends and “urged them to plead for mercy from the God of heaven concerning this mystery so that he and his friends might not be executed with the rest of the wise men of Babylon” (Dan. 2:18).
This was a big issue. Their lives were on the line, but instead of panicking, instead of trying to solve the problem on his own, he prayed. He watched. He waited and God came through for him. During the night God gave the interpretation to Daniel in a vision and Daniel knew that his rhema word was the timely, perfect, emotion-settling answer for his situation.
He began to praise the God of heaven. Listen to this prayer, “Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever; wisdom and power are his. He changes times and seasons; he sets up kings and deposes them. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning. He reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what lies in darkness, and light dwells with him. I thank and praise you, O God of my fathers: you have given me wisdom and power, you have made known to me what we asked of you, you have made known to us the dream of the king” (Dan. 2:20-23).
Daniel knew that his God was much bigger than the king who ruled the earthly realm. God sets up kings and deposes them, Daniel said. Men are fleeting in their power, but God is all-powerful. Men are finite in their wisdom, but God is all-knowing. Men are fleeting in their influence, but God is all-present. God is above all powers; He is truly the Lord of Hosts.
The application of this truth was breath-taking to Daniel. When he availed of its truth, prayed for it, and was helped in the revelation of it, he could do nothing but fall to his knees in praise and thanksgiving. This same God came to Ahaz in the person of Isaiah. He came with the same power, knowledge, and presence by which he has come to every victorious believer in the Bible. His word to Ahaz: “Do not depend on people for they are fleeting. Depend on Me for I am immovable, unshakable, and unstoppable.”
Loved one, you might be up against a Nebuchadnezzar. You may be standing between a rock and a very hard place. You may even feel like your life is on the line. But, take heart! Your God deposes Nebuchadnezzars. Your God shatters the mighty, shatters the spear and shatters nations (Job. 34:24, Ps. 46:9, Jer. 51:20). He can handle a little rock. Your God also thinks a whole lot about your life. You are loved and your life is hidden with Christ in God (Col. 3:3).
Neutralize your dependence upon God.
Standing firm in your faith is conditional upon this life-saving action.
Nurture dependence upon God. Neutralizing your dependence upon man is only half of the battle. “If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all” (Isa 7:9b). These are the most-quoted words from these two chapters and they are ones I have repeated often to myself over these last few weeks.
What is faith? Faith is an unreserved confidence in the Bible and the character of God (Heb. 11:6). It is a choice to believe that the Bible is true and that God is good. Faith is taking God at His Word and taking action steps that prove that belief. Faith opens the door to a victorious life (1 Jn. 5:5). Faith is invisible, but the result of living faith is both visible and tangible. By faith, you and I can be at peace untouched in the eye of the storm, but only if we stand firm in our faith.
Tony Evans tells the story of a great art competition. The task given to all the painters was to complete a masterpiece depicting peace. One famous painter went to work, creating a gorgeous serene lake with the sun glistening off of it. A shepherd walked along the lakeside with his sheep following him. Trees stood off to one side of the lake with birds gathered in their tallest branches. It was an absolutely idyllic scene.
Another painter envisioned a thundering waterfall with glowering storm clouds. His scene was full of tempest and tossing, lightning and bent-over trees. But, after a very hard look, a tiny bird could be seen standing on a rock. It had its mouth open, as if singing a beautiful song. One faint light shone down from all of the ominous clouds onto the bird that sang in spite of the chaos unfolding around it (Tony Evans, Victory in Spiritual Warfare, p. 79-80).
Guess you won the contest?
Peace is not the absence of trouble; nor is faith the absence of storms. In fact, the storms only reveal how much peace and faith are in the scene. When Satan comes against you with all of His fury, how will you stand? If you run from your ominous canvas to the pasture of someone else’s reality, you may experience less conflict, but you will miss the peace of God that passes all understanding. God is your nest when the storm clouds gather. God is your peace under the thundering waterfall. God is your song in the midst of sorrow.
What does the conflict reveal about your faith? Will you stand in it or will you crumple in disbelief. David had many opportunities to fall by the wayside of his faith. Hunted, cornered, betrayed, he still kept coming back to his God. “From birth I was cast upon you; from my mother’s womb you have been my God” (Ps. 22:10). He knew no other fortress; he served no other power. He sought no other source; he followed no other Lover. God was his all in all.
As you learn to wean yourself off of self-reliance and other-reliance, you must transfer your allegiance to God. God is your source of life, your source of joy, your source of strength. Unlike men, He will never leave you nor forsake you (Heb. 13:5b). He is always with you, for you, and beside you. Make Him your joy. May Him your love. When you have to make a decision, ask for His answers (Jer. 6:16). When you need to speak, ask Him for the words to say (Lk. 12:11-12). Nurture your dependence solely upon your God and you will stand firm in your faith and in the meantime, you will be suited with the belt of truth.
D – Dare to ask God for a sign.
Just to recap, God has been amazingly encouraging to Ahaz. In verse 3, He sent His prophet out to meet with Ahaz in the middle of a very panicky situation. The first words spoken to the frightened king were words of comfort and encouragement; four phrases to calm his beating heart (v 4a). He then gave a huge prophecy to Ahaz. The two kings plotting to decimate his country would never have the opportunity to invade; instead they themselves would be invaded by Assyria (vv 4b-9a). Then, God spoke a warning, “If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all” (v 9b). In other words, “Have faith in my prophet, in my encouragement, in my prophecy, and in my warning, and do not make an alliance with Assyria.”
Now, I don’t know about you, but if God saw fit to meet my shaking heart in even one of these ways, I would be so encouraged in my faith, but God went even a step further. In verses 10 and 11, God spoke to Ahaz, “Ask the Lord your God for a sign, whether in the deepest depths or in the highest heights.”
Now, we spent quite a bit of time talking about signs back when Hezekiah was on his sickbed. Do you remember that discussion? Signs seem to be encouraged by God throughout the Old and New Testament, but there is a caution needed here. We are not to test God by demanding proof of His works. The Pharisees and Sadducees tested God by asking Him to show them a sign from heaven. This was Jesus’ response, “A wicked and adulterous generation looks for a miraculous sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah” (Mt. 16:1, 4).
This type of ‘testing’ attitude is denounced by God. “It is written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to a test’” (Mt. 4:7). The Pharisees tested God with all kinds of questions about divorce (Mt. 19:3), about paying taxes (Mt. 22:18-21), and about which commandment was the greatest (Mt. 22:36). Their goal was not to show faith in Him, but to lay plans to trap Him in His words (Mt. 22:15).
Manipulating God to get what you want is not a by-product of faith. “The sin of putting the Lord to the test is refusing to trust Him and His past faithfulness unless He prove himself trustworthy all over again” (Tyndale Old Testament Commentary). When God speaks, don’t you think that sometimes He is just hoping that we will take Him at His Word? Stand firm, my child, or don’t stand at all.
But there have been times when a shaky, doubting person asked God for a sign. Gideon, scared and insecure, asked God twice for a sign that he was to complete God’s plan for him (Jdg. 6:17-22, 36-40). Thomas, doubting all the while, inadvertently asked for a sign even though Jesus was not there to fulfill it. Since God knows everything, He graciously did what Thomas asked (Jn. 20:25b-27).
In Ahaz’s case, though, God had graciously revealed so much to Ahaz, there must have been a genuine lack of faith. He could see into Ahaz’s heart and despite the encouragement, despite the prophetic revelation, Ahaz must have been steeped in unbelief. Why else would God patiently offer Ahaz carte blanche, the unrestricted choice of a sign? God wanted His promises to be met with trust. He was ready to go to the “deepest depths” or the “highest heights” to help Ahaz take up a position of faith as the solution for this crisis.
Oh, how this encourages me. So many times I struggle to stand firm in my faith. I wobble and doubt God and feel sorry for myself. But this illustration of God extending grace upon unbelievable grace to an unbelieving man is a picture I can hang on the walls of my soul as a monument to mercy. God desires to build up your faith. He longs to be gracious to you; He rises to show you compassion (Isa. 30:18).
As I was studying this passage, I thought “Why not?” I was in a very bad situation with a very impending meeting. I was shaking in my boots over the ‘what ifs’ of my possible future. I wrote in my journal these words, “God, I do not know if you are asking me to ask for a sign or not, but I am able to ask for a lot…” I proceeded to write out seven signs I was asking God for. The first sign I wrote down that day, I am currently, almost two weeks later, watching God fulfill before my very eyes.
My friend, hang your faith hat on the hook of God’s incredible patience and love. If you are struggling in your faith, don’t shy away from Mercy. Don’t run from Grace. Don’t hide in despair from Compassion. Dare to lay your doubts vulnerably before your Maker. Even dare, my friend, to be a Gideon. Ask God humbly and desperately for a sign; some special means of communication that you know God is listening and responding.
Then sit back, watch and pray and wait for God to answer you. Trust Him and stand firm in your faith that He will hear, answer, and work His plan to incorporate your humble request.
Dwell in His given signs.
Ahaz would not ask for a sign – we will come back to this in a minute – so God gave a sign to him. Listen to these familiar words, “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel” (v 14). You will recognize these words as a prophecy about the Messiah, words that are often repeated around Christmas, but they held true for Ahaz’s day also. God was saying that an unmarried woman in Ahaz’s lifetime would have a child named Immanuel. It was a timed promise with timely results.
The name “Immanuel” means “God with us.” Even though Ahaz would not ask for a sign from God, God was still faithful to David’s house. He provided a signal, a road sign on His own. That sign was a symbol of His presence, His abiding “with-ness” to the people of Judah.
Dear one, if all chaos is breaking loose around you and you are shaking in the eye of your storm, know three things: even if your leaves are shaking, your faith will not falter if you connect your root system to the source, your God is faithful even when you are doubting, and if you cannot believe anything else, believe in the sign of God’s presence. Look for Him. Watch for the movement of His Spirit. Pray for a manifestation of His power. Then rest in His “Immanuel-ness.” He is good and that goodness will cover you with the shadow of His incredible glory.
I am leading worship this coming Sunday, where the themes of promise and covenant rise from the pages of Galatians. Of course, I will be singing the hymn, Standing on the Promises so to give you a sneak peak, look at the words of the second verse: Standing on the promises that cannot fail/When the howling storms of doubt and fear assail/By the living word of God I shall prevail/Standing on the promises of God.
You may feel like a shaking Gideon or a doubting Thomas, but shaking and doubting does not negate faith. Faith is standing on God’s promises even when your courage is failing. In fact, when I look back on my life so far, it has been in some of the most shaky times of my life that I have had to take some of my largest faith steps. So…dare to ask God for a sign of His goodness, but be prepared to dwell in the given sign of His presence. These two actions will help you to stand firm in your faith, buckled in with the belt of truth, shod with the shoes of peace, and covered with the breastplate of righteousness.
F – Forsake the easy path.
I just want to remind you again of the choices Ahaz had. With two kings breathing down his neck, he was contemplating an alliance with Assyria, but God was asking Ahaz to trust in Him alone. I have told you a number of times that Ahaz chose poorly. In the end, he decided to go with the obvious option, the easy path. He settled for the walk of least resistance and meager faith. He choose the politically right thing to do.
In the end, that choice was his undoing. Verses upon verses that follow the initial encouragement of Isaiah are filled with judgment and doom. Ahaz should have forsaken the easy path and planned to follow God’s path, but he didn’t.
His lack of faith needs to be our example, just like it was for his son, Hezekiah. Just because a decision looks politically correct, physically sound, or socially acceptable, does not make it God’s will. Every time you come to a crossroads of faith, take Jeremiah’s advice, “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for our souls…” (Jer. 6:16).
Always ask God which direction you should walk. Usually, just so you know, it is a path that is arduous and difficult, but in the forsaking of what is easier, you will reap a relationship with God that will sustain you for the long haul. And no path, no journey, could ever be sweeter than the upholding intimacy of your God.
Face your circumstances with faith.
God warned Ahaz that if he did not stand firm in his faith, he would not stand at all (v 9b). What God was alluding to was this choice to either make an alliance with the great world power of Assyria or trust solely in God to deliver him. Faith, for Ahaz, was as simple as non-action. He did not have to do anything except give up trying to fix the water source and give up his plans for a desperate alliance. All he would have had to do to show his faith was to walk back to his palace and wait trustingly in his God.
A demonstration of faith does not have to be a big event. Usually faith is clearly manifested in the little things: not speaking up in your defense, choosing to smile instead of complain, disciplining gently when a child is recalcitrant, saying ‘no’ to a compromising movie, and I could go on and on. There are times when God does ask us to take great leaps of faith, but faith is more usually built in the tiny, incremental baby steps.
What step of faith is God moving you toward? What is keeping you from responding wholeheartedly? May I encourage to stand firm in the little bit of faith you feel you may have. Take God at His Word. He exists and He delights in rewarding those who earnestly seek Him (Heb. 11:6). These two Hebrews phrases may be all He is asking you to believe. They may be what is needed for you to stand firmly in your faith.
I – Identify areas of reluctance.
I want to go back briefly to God’s injunction for Ahaz to ask for a sign. Remember it could have been anything in the whole world. God gave Ahaz a blank check. But look at what Ahaz said, “I will not ask; I will not put the Lord to the test” (7:12).
What on earth happened? He could have asked for anything and God would have granted it. God was literally begging Ahaz to show some faith. Why did God care so much? It was because the dynasty of David was at stake. Look at Isaiah’s response, “Hear now, you house of David! Is it not enough to try the patience of men? Will you try the patience of my God also? (v 13).
God had promised that David would never lack an heir to the throne as long as each son followed Him wholeheartedly (2 Chron. 6:16-17). Here was a “son” of David living in blatant unbelief, reluctant to even trust God at all, let alone follow all of His ways. How was God going to keep His promise? How would the line of David go on? It is good that God had a plan, for out of the line of David came Jesus, the greatest king of all. Jesus was plan A and plan B, the most perfect “son of David.”
If God is asking you to do something, even if it seems to be the more dangerous path, take careful note of your areas of reluctance. Process through what is holding you back. Play out the consequences if you do not listen. Lay your reluctant doubts before God and ask Him to refine and mold them to His purposes. Having a surrendered heart is a prerequisite for standing firm.
Reluctance may reveal some unbelief. Surrender spells victory.
Incline your heart to obedience.
After Ahaz refused to ask for a sign, God responded with a horrible set of prophecies. These words should make us sit up and listen. These prophecies should make us clap our hands over our mouths, lest we utter words of unbelief. These consequences should make us want to incline our hearts to obedience.
First, God brings a prophecy of judgment. A boy will be born in Ahaz’s lifetime, whose name would be Immanuel (7:14). His mother would be unmarried, a virgin, before his conception (7:14). He would come from a poor family as the eating of curds and honey shows (7:15), because of the devastation of the land (7:22). The northern threat from Syrian and Israel will be ended (7:16) about the time the boys can tell right from wrong (7:15). Indeed Damascus fell to Assyria three years and Samaria thirteen years later. And the worst news of all: a huge disaster would fall on the house of David (7:17). Ahaz could have had incredible victory standing firm in God. Instead, he incurred God’s judgment.
Ahaz refused the way of faith. When God encouraged Ahaz to ask for a sign, He used the words “your God” (7:11). “Ask your God for a sign.” But when Ahaz refused to stand firm in his faith, Isaiah showed the clear consequences, “Will you try the patience of my God also” (7:13). The royal refusal of trust is the end of the line. That is why the prophet can speak of my God but he cannot repeat the your God of verse 10.
Second, God brings a prophecy of devastation. On the day of judgment, God will whistle for flies and bees from Assyria (7:18) and they will conquer all of the land (7:18-19). The Lord would shave Ahaz’s head, leg hair and beard (7:20), signifying the indignities that would be heaped upon a captive people. No part of the land (v 18) and no part of the person (v 19) will escape the hand of the enemy. The people will be left in poverty (vv 21-22) and the land in decay (vv 23-25). Everything will be covered with briers and thorns (vv 23-25).
Does this horrify you like it does me? All Ahaz had to do was stand, my friend; stand firm in his faith. But instead he refused to surrender, refused to believe, refused to obey. Oh, I hope this sits on you. There are always consequences for our unbelief that play out in rebellious action. Hosea describes the disaster of disobedience with chilling words, “They sow the wind and reap the whirlwind…” (Hosea 8:7). “Pious though his words sound, Ahaz (was) doing the devils’ work of quoting Scripture for his own purposes and thereby displaying himself as the dogmatic unbeliever. This was his moment of decision, his point of no return” (Tyndale Old Testament Commentary).
Juxtaposed with these fifteen verses detailing Ahaz’s disobedient spirit are just two verses detailing Isaiah’s obedience. Similar to the request God made of Ahaz to stand firm in his faith, God gives Isaiah a simple task. “Take a large scroll and write on it with an ordinary pen: Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz. And I will call in Uriah the priest and Zechariah son of Jeberekiah as reliable witnesses for me” (8:1-2).
Just to be clear, God asked Isaiah to get a large writing tablet or something big to write on. It would need to be big enough to display publicly. He was then to write with an ordinary pen, meaning in ordinary characters that even the humblest person could read. The words he wrote meant “quick to the plunder, swift to the spoil.” The people charged with witnessing this event were people of standing in the community.
Without knowing why, Isaiah obeyed. Without understanding the significance of the words, Isaiah obeyed. Despite the possibility of being called ‘crazy’ due to these unusual circumstances, Isaiah made the writing public and called in a couple of important witnesses; he did all that God asked him to do. After he had finished obeying, he still did not understand the significance of all of these steps, but that did not matter to him, for Isaiah knew his Master’s voice. He recognized that God moved in mysterious ways and he had trained himself to always obey without question.
Dear faith-walker, it is important for you to recognize this clear contrast between a man of unbelief and a man of deep faith. Just like Ahaz and Isaiah, God will come to you with choices. He will task you with simple – or sometimes hard – steps of faith. Standing firm in the knowledge of who God is, what He can do, who you are in Christ and what you can do through Christ, will make obedience a simple matter. Waffling in unbelief will ultimately affect your submission to God’s authority. Be an Isaiah, who obeys without question because you know your God to be good and loving. As you stand firm in your faith with the breastplate of righteousness firmly fitted, you will become an obedient God-believer.
R – Reduce your fear of the unknown.
What happens next in this story is amazing. Some time after Isaiah wrote the words on a scroll and posted their message in a public place, he made love with his wife. She conceived and gave birth to a son. The Lord told Isaiah at that time to name the boy Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz (8:3-4). That’s quite a mouthful for a little baby, but remember what that name means: quick to the plunder, swift to the spoil.
In the NIV, verse 3 has an interesting twist. As Isaiah recounts the story of how the baby was conceived, he says these words, “ I went to the prophetess and she conceived and gave birth to a son.” Once more, just like the case of his oldest son standing at the aqueduct with Ahaz, the word became flesh in the birth of this second son. He called his wife a prophetess because she literally birthed the sign of a prophecy that would be fulfilled.
God’s ways are so amazing to me. The scroll, the writing, the witnesses – no one understood any of the proceedings, including Isaiah; yet he obeyed. Some time later, he demonstrated his love for his wife in a physical way and she gave birth to a baby boy. God connected the two events with a name; a name, mind you, that had been written in Isaiah’s handwriting at least nine months prior, publicized, and witnessed. Isaiah had the privilege of fathering a prophecy. Folks, his obedience to God, however blind it was, led to further revelation and understanding.
That was the exciting part, but God had a further purpose in all of this clarified confusion. Notice the meaning of the boy’s name and its further revelation, “Before the boy knows how to say ‘My father’ or ‘My mother,’ the wealth of Damascus and the plunder of Samaria will be carried off by the king of Assyria” (8:4).
A child can say mother or father before he is one year old, so you can see that this prophecy, like Immanuel’s prophecy, had a time stamp on it. Derek Kidner explains the significance of the second name, “The sign of Immanuel…did imply a pledge for the immediate future, in that however soon Immanuel were born, the present threat would have passed before he could be even aware of it. But the time of his birth was undisclosed; hence the new sign is given, to deal only with the contemporary scene.”
Verse 4 links this little boy with Immanuel, from whom he took over the task of being an immediate time-indicator. Like Immanuel, he has four names, but he presages doom while the former focuses on hope. Isaiah, then, is able to date Immanuel’s coming to within nine months to a year. Sure enough, in 734 BC Tiglath-Pileser marched down the Israelite coast and cut off aid from Egypt. Damascus later fell in 732 BC.
Now imagine if you were Isaiah. You just received this incredible word from God about your son who becomes the link to a weird multi-stepped act of faith. But hard on the heels of that connection is a prophecy of disaster. His son was the literal prophecy of doom and destruction, with accuracy to within a year of his birth.
I don’t know about you, but I would have been so afraid. To know that disaster is coming is hard enough, but to know the date is so much harder. This was a father who did not delight in teaching his son to speak, because as soon as he could speak, the prophecy was in danger of coming true.
Later on in chapter 8, God spoke to Isaiah again. He put His strong hand on Isaiah and warned him not to follow the way of the people, “Do not call conspiracy everything that these people call conspiracy; do not fear what they fear, and do not dread it” (8:11-12). Possibly, Isaiah’s stance that Judah should not make an alliance with Assyria was considered treason by the people. They may have threatened Isaiah or his family. We don’t know exactly, but that word ‘conspiracy’ leads me to believe that they were opposed to Isaiah. They feared the destruction of Syria and Israel and dreaded what could happen. Instead of standing in their faith, they were wallowing in their fear.
God’s answer to all of that fear – the fear about the timing of destruction and the fear of the possible invasion – was a strong warning to Isaiah not to follow the public’s consensus. He did not need to fear, even though the storm was swirling around him; in his house, in his family, outside of his door, and throughout the city.
Satan will use any circumstance to reduce you to fear: the speed of destruction, the spoil of the enemy, the haste of impending doom, and the booty of invasion. He will magnify conspiracies, maximize the unknown, and intensify the ‘what ifs.’ You need to hear the Word of the Lord: reduce your fear of what may come. His strong hand is upon you; stay under His authority. His warnings are for you; listen to His voice. His truths are spoken over you; internalize them. Do not fear what others fear and you will stand firm in your faith.
Rest in the fear of the Lord.
After the strong warning not to fear what others fear, God gave Isaiah an alternative, “The Lord Almighty is the one you are to regard as holy, he is the one you are to fear, he is the one you are to dread; and he will be a sanctuary…” (8:13-14a).
Dear friend, God needs you in the fight: standing for purity, standing for righteousness, standing for integrity. Your storm may pound around you. The eye of your typhoon may threaten to buffet the faith right out of you, but you have shoes of the gospel to stand in. Ask yourself, “Is this right? Is this God’s will? Is this aligned with the Word of God?” These questions will lead you to the fear of the Lord. His opinion is the only one that matters. His paths are the only ones that will lead through the storm and safely out again.
When you fear the Lord, you do not need to fear people. When you rest in the fear of the Lord, you do not need to fear your circumstances. “But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened. But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander” (1 Pet. 3:14-16).
Notice in this passage that there will be suffering. If you are a believer, God will allow trials into your live; pain is a given. However, you do not need to fear anyone around your or the circumstances. The God who adjusts the temperature of your refining flame also knows you inside and out intimately. He is ever-conscious of your stress limits and will not allow those boundaries to be crossed.
Instead of fearing men or the unknown, fear the Lord. Set Him apart as your treasure and hope in Him as your healer and redeemer and you will be given the ability to stand firm in the shoes of the Gospel. That same Gospel enables you to demonstrate grace to everyone around you, even the ones that may normally cause you to fear. Don’t fear what you see. Instead, fear and reverence the God that you can’t see but know so very intimately. Stand firm, my friend, in the Rock that promises to be your firm foundation.
M – Master your impatience.
The Judeans’ fear drove them to take desperate measures. They began to consult mediums and spiritists for their answers (8:19). God’s answer to this nonsense was, “Should not a people inquire of their God? Why consult the dead on behalf of the living” (8:19). What was God saying here? He was rebuking their impatient spirits.
Instead of waiting on the Lord and experiencing renewed strength, the ability to run and not grow weary, to walk and not be faint (Isa. 40:31), these Judeans were enervated by their circumstances. Their lives were paralyzed with the ensuing fear that followed a mind dwelling on the impossibilities of the physical realm. As a result, the Lord described the consequences that would follow: “If they do not speak according to this word, they have no light of dawn. Distressed and hungry, they will roam through the land; when they are famished, they will become enraged and, looking upward, will curse their king and their God. Then they will look toward the earth and see only distress and darkness and fearful gloom, and they will be thrust into utter darkness” (8:20-22).
Wow! Look at what happens when we do not master our impatience, when we attempt to handle our problems on our own, or when we become desperate enough to take untold actions. God has a good plan and it will come to fruition in His beautiful time (Ecc. 3:11). We cannot rush it. We cannot manipulate it. We cannot go around it. We must simply learn to wait on God.
Manifest a waiting spirit.
Isaiah was obedient in this respect also. Even though the Israelites rejected his message, this did not mean that his ministry was a failure. He journaled these words, “Bind up the testimony and seal up the law among my disciples” (8:16). In waiting for God, he recognized that though the majority of his listeners rebelled against the message of the Lord, there were some “disciples” who would listen. And for those few who would obey, his ministry was light and life.
He manifested a waiting spirit by being faithful to the few who would listen.
Isaiah next writes a manifesto of sorts. “I will wait for the Lord, who is hiding his face from the house of Jacob. I will put my trust in him” (8:17). Oh, how I love these words! Oh, how I want them to be true of me! They are one of the most trusting declarations in the whole book of Isaiah: simple, honest, and completely sincere. Isaiah ministered to the people of Judah for close to 64 years. Folks, this man was a giant of the faith when it came to waiting on God and trusting implicitly in him.
Isaiah manifested a waiting spirit by declaring his choice to put his trust in God, even though others would not.
The last verse I want to bring out of this passage is another waiting type of action. In verse 18, Isaiah stated the importance his family has been in this whole matter of Ahaz and Assyria, “Here am I, and the children the Lord has given me. We are signs and symbols in Israel from the Lord Almighty, who dwells on Mount Zion.” Isaiah knew that his whole family was a testament to God’s grace and mercy.
Isaiah manifested a waiting spirit by offering himself as a sign of God’s goodness.
Hezekiah’s Response of Faith
You may feel that we have taken quite a detour from the life story of Hezekiah, but I believe Ahaz’s failure at the aqueduct was life lesson Hezekiah needed to really prop up his faith. He knew God was giving him a second chance, a chance to stand firm in his own faith, or not at all.
How did Hezekiah respond? Well, I am glad you asked, for the next two weeks will both complete our study on unwavering trust and prove that Hezekiah trusted in the Word of the Lord. To give you a sneak preview, Hezekiah responded in great faith: he humbled himself, he prayed, he believed the Lord, and he experienced incredible victory.
We have walked over a lot of ground today and I pray that you are not overwhelmed by the sheer volume. This ‘standing firm’ mantra has been ringing in my ears for weeks now and you should be glad I only wrote 29 pages, for there is much more in my heart to share. For now, remember that it is imperative that you stand firm. Put on those first three pieces of armor. Remember the shortcut to standing: hold your peace, obey the King’s commands, and wait on God.
But if you have time to incorporate these nine Aqueduct Principles into the fabric of your faith, I guarantee you will not shake and wobble so much. You will train yourself to stand firm in the eye of your storm. So, to review briefly:
S – Shake off the fear of shaking / Sink your roots deep into God
T – take your eyes off of your circumstances / Trust in God’s promises.
A – Attend to your emotions / Anchor them in truth.
N – Neutralize your dependence upon men / Nurture your dependence upon God.
D – Dare to ask God for a sign / Dwell in His given signs.
F – Forsake the easy path / Face your circumstances with faith.
I – Identify areas of reluctance / Incline your heart to obedience.
R – Reduce your fear of the unknown / Rest in the fear of the Lord.
M – Master your impatience / Manifest a waiting spirit.
And above all, my fellow Aqueduct Standers, stand firm in the truths of God’s character, His ways, your identity in Christ, and what you can do through Christ. In summary, my friends, always STAND FIRM IN YOUR FAITH!