Read the Bible in 2011 ◊ Week 2: Friday
As I was reading through Isaiah 7–11, one thing I immediately noticed were the Messianic prophecies within these chapters: 7:14 (Matthew 1:23), 9:1–2 (Matthew 4:12–16), 9:6–7 (Luke 1:32–33) and 11:1–5 (Luke 1:32, Romans 15:12). These prophecies are mentioned within the context of God’s judgment on sin. We see in these chapters God revealed in His power, holiness and mercy.
Another theme caught my eye as I was reading, and that’s the theme of fear. In chapter 7, when enemies come to wage war against Ahaz, King of Judah, and the people, Isaiah records: “…his heart and the hearts of his people shook as the trees of the forest shake with the wind.” God sends Isaiah to Ahaz to reassure him, but Ahaz will have none of it. God declares to Ahaz:
“If you are not firm in faith,
you will not be firm at all.”
Isaiah 9:9b (ESV)
In his commentary on Isaiah, Ray Ortlund, Jr., writes:
“God literally says, “If you do not firm up, you will not be confirmed.” In other words, “You’ll live by faith, or you won’t live at all. But if you do want my support, all you have to do is lean on me.” God is attracted to weakness and need and honesty. He is repelled by our self-assured pride.”
“Isaiah 7:9b makes faith in God the central, unavoidable question of our lives. What is faith? It has three components: knowledge of God, persuading us to agree with God, motivating us to embrace God….
“…Something inside us—the Bible calls it sin—is spring-loaded to see God as a Hallmark-card sentimental glow for the warm moments of life. But God offers himself to us as our greatest ally at all times. With him, we can face anything. He is appealing to us here, “Lean on me, and you will stand. But treat me as irrelevant, and you will become irrelevant.”
Later on in chapter 8, Isaiah writes:
“For thus the LORD spoke to me with mighty power and
instructed me not to walk in the way of this people, saying,
“You are not to say, ‘It is a conspiracy!’
In regard to all that this people call a conspiracy,
And you are not to fear what they fear or be in dread of it.
It is the LORD of hosts whom you should regard as holy.
And He shall be your fear,
And He shall be your dread.
Then He shall become a sanctuary…””
God’s people are not to fear what other people fear. We are to fear God, and if we fear Him, then He will be our sanctuary. In 10:20, Isaiah writes that the remnant will truly rely on the Lord. (The remnant is mentioned in Isaiah 10:20–22; 11:11, 16; and throughout Scripture—the remnant that God will save).
“Now in that day the remnant of Israel, and those of the house of Jacob who have escaped, will never again rely on the one who struck them, but will truly rely on the LORD, the Holy One of Israel.”
“Sometimes Christians cozy up to ideas, institutions, trends, and even emotions that strike at the heart of their faith….We are more susceptible to alien saviors, spirits, and gospels than we know.
“This is the question Isaiah wants each of us to think through: Where do I get my security, coping skills, confidence for the future? Many salvations are vying for our allegiance. And every false support we lean on turns around and bites us. We do lean on forces that strike us, abuse us, sneer at us. But Jesus never betrays our trust. Isaiah is helping us understand the difference that grace makes. We learn to examine ourselves: “When I am stricken with disillusionment, emptiness, self-hatred, when these emotional undercurrents are dragging me down, what false savior am I leaning on?”
“To his glory, God will not put up with that humiliation. He wants you to know what it means to lean on him in truth—a practical faith in him alone—because that is your salvation. When he rips from your arms some false trust that has struck you a thousand times, and a thousand times you’ve gone back to it in servile compliance, and you’re ready to go back again—when God tears it away, do you see what he is doing? His grace is setting you apart as one of his remnant, dear to his heart.”
I needed to read these words of Isaiah at the end of the week. It’s been a long, hard week and a long, hard couple of years for my family. I will tell you honestly that I have been at points of despair this week over my fear of the future. Isaiah brings me back to God alone—to come to Him for help and to rely on Him. Ray Ortlund is a pastor, and that shines through in his words. They helped me reflect on Isaiah and strengthened me, and I wanted to share them with you.
These are hard times for many people. There are many things of which we could become afraid. It is so easy to build false idols and rely on the same things we see the world relying on—things that have proven themselves false to us in the past.
Do you see how the Bible strengthens me? God uses His Word just today to show me who He is so I won’t despair. The Bible is God’s revelation to us about Himself. The Bible strengthens me and helps me because the Holy Spirit takes it and writes it on my heart— God actively gives comfort to me through His Word. It’s not my exclusive property, either! It’s for you as well. God wants you to know Him, and to trust in Him.
Stay in the Bible—read it to know your God. May He help us to fear only Him, and no one and nothing else. May He enable us to rely and lean on Him alone. In our times of need, may He alone be our sanctuary.
Isaiah 42 Photograph: ChristianPhotos.net – Free High Resolution Photos for Christian Publications
ESV: English Standard Version
Raymond C. Ortlund, Jr., Isaiah: God Saves Sinners, p. 89, 111.
Original content: Copyright ©2011 Iwana Carpenter