Tag Archives: Isaiah 31

The Placement of Faith in Precarious Times

Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help,
    who rely on horses,
who trust in the multitude of their chariots
    and in the great strength of their horsemen,
but do not look to the Holy One of Israel,
    or seek help from the Lord.
Isaiah 31:1 (NIV)

The political situation in Isaiah’s day was precarious. Assyria was a giant, regional super power bent on conquest and destruction. The Assyrian army was on the move, swallowing up every city and nation in its way. The divided kingdoms of Israel and Judah were now in Assyria’s sights. The Assyrian war machine was large, well-trained, well-equipped and utterly ruthless. The Assyrians didn’t just invade, they destroyed. Assyrian kings would repeatedly inscribe the phrase, “I destroyed, devastated, and burned with fire.”

If the Assyrians attacked a city and the city refused to surrender, the men leading the defense of their target would be rounded up to be publicly humiliated. Some could look forward to being flayed alive, their skins hung out for public spectacle. Others could look forward to being impaled alive on stakes or perhaps buried alive. If you approached a city in Isaiah’s day and  found a pile of dismembered limbs by the gate, you knew that the Assyrians had been there. It is no wonder that Isaiah and the people of Judah were in a bit of a panic. The political winds were blowing in the direction of Egypt, believing that an alliance with Egypt would save them from Assyrian devastation.

In today’s chapter, the ancient prophet questions the object of his fellow citizens faith. They were depending on Egypt to save them. They were bowing to foreign Gods in desperation for salvation. Isaiah reminds them that their trust should be in the Holy One of Israel. Isaiah predicts that Assyria’s ultimate fall would not come about from a “human sword.”

Throughout God’s Message there is a recurring theme. The ebb and flow of power throughout history is subject to a larger context. There is a Great Story that is being told in an ever-expanding universe. As with all great epics, the forces of good and evil, creation and chaos, are in constant conflict. I can focus on the temporal circumstance, or I can trust the Author of Life with the storyline. Isaiah was suggesting the latter, and predicting that the Author was going to show up in a eucatastrophic climax to this particular chapter of history. It might seem a bit naive given the grave circumstances. We’ll learn in the coming week or two how things played out.

This morning I’m thinking about the very real fear and anxiety being felt by people and nations in today’s world. I listen to the feelings of people in the media, on social media, and in casual personal conversations. We are witnessing a fascinating time of tremendous change. There is a tremendous amount of fear, and fear leads us to think, speak, and act in atypical ways. It seems to me that Isaiah’s ancient message to the people of Judah resonates even today. We are living in precarious times, as well.

Where will I find hope?

Where will I place my faith?

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Chapter-a-Day Isaiah 31

Temptation. Repent, return, dear Israel, to the One you so cruelly abandoned. On the day you return, you'll throw away—at every last one of you—the no-gods your sinful hands made from metal and woodIsaiah 31:6-7 (MSG)

Growing up, there was an annual traveling carnival that came to town and set itself up in the parking lot of one of the shopping centers we passed on the weekly pilgrimage across town to grandma and grandpa's house. There were bright lights, thrill rides, tents with all sorts of games, and stands with cotton candy and snow cones. Driving to our destination, the carnival would always catch my eye and I would instantly beg my parents to pull off and take me to the carnival (which, they never did).

I reflect back on my journey and the many times I've abandoned the path and diverted from my destination to chase after bright lights, thrill rides, and to gamble on prizes which are worthless in the end.

Reading today's chapter, I'm reminded that following God requires repentance and repentance requires leaving behind that for which we diverted our journey. We don't get to pack up the carnival and bring it with us. "Hang on a minute, God. I want to load the tilt-a-whirl on a flatbed and bring it with us." We must throw away the worthless trinkets and abandon the cheap thrills which stirred the lust of our eyes and the lust of our flesh and led us away from the path.

Following Jesus is a journey of faith. Faith requires leaving things behind.

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and drewesque