The LORD spoke to me with his strong hand upon me, warning me not to follow the way of this people. He said: “Do not call conspiracy everything that these people call conspiracy; do not fear what they fear, and do not dread it. 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; but for both houses of Israel he will be a stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall. And for the people of Jerusalem he will be a trap and a snare. Many of them will stumble; they will fall and be broken, they will be snared and captured.”Isaiah 8:11-15
God’s people (the Church) in every age, and especially today, have much to learn from OT history. This is the point the Apostle Paul makes in 1 Corinthians 10:11-12 – “These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfilment of the ages has come. So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!”
Israel and Judah were in turmoil, spiritually dry, politically confused, and trembling with fear from the threat of the powerful nations surrounding them. But the main reason for their fear was that they had lost meaningful contact with their God. For many years they had assumed they didn’t need him; that they were self-sufficient, masters of their own destiny. Unsurprisingly, Jesus applied these very verses to the Jewish leaders of his own day (eg Luke 20:17-18).
If we acknowledge Jesus as Lord, ‘fearing’ him above all and coming to him with a broken and a contrite heart, he becomes a ‘sanctuary’ that protects us from all other fearful threats; but if we refuse to take SHELTER in this ‘Rock’ we will eventually be CRUSHED under it – and that IS fearful!
It is in this context that Isaiah speaks of the virgin birth (7:14) of Immanuel, ‘God-with-us’ (8:8, 10), and of the coming of a Child, a Son who will be a Wonderful Counsellor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father and the Prince of Peace (9:6). This is the only possible formula for TRUE PEACE in any region at any time.
Reflect on the situation we face in our world today. Read through these verses again. Clearly there is an urgent need for God’s people today to stand firm on, and proclaim, Isaiah’s warning: “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 …”. Yes, with our present media-dominated culture, what God is calling us to do is HUMANLY IMpossible. But remember, Isaiah reminds us that OUR God is ‘The LORD Almighty’, ‘YAHWEH TSABAOTH’, ‘The LORD of ANGEL ARMIES’ – obviously the best one to be in close alliance with! Perhaps the most urgent need for God’s people today is to seek his face in PRAYER, to find in HIM a SANCTUARY (‘sacred, Holy Place’) … and then, in quiet trust, to leave the rest to him to achieve what we could never achieve without him!