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Monday, July 14, 2014

Isaiah 8: The Conspiracy (Part 3 of 4)

Isaiah 8: The Conspiracy

(Part 3 of 4)

Isaiah felt pulled into fear. The people he preached to were shaken to the core and their fear was contagious. But the LORD spoke to Isaiah, warning him not to fear as the people feared. But the LORD did not tell Isaiah not to fear at all. Rather, the LORD told Isaiah to fear the LORD only, and that fear would be their only salvation.

The LORD warned Isaiah against fear of conspiracy:

Isaiah 8:11-12 (ESV) For the LORD spoke thus to me with his strong hand upon me, and warned me not to walk in the way of this people, saying: Do not call conspiracy all that this people calls conspiracy, and do not fear what they fear, nor be in dread.

This word can mean tied up physically. When twins were born to Tamar, the midwife tied a scarlet thread on the hand of one babe as a way of distinguishing them (Genesis 38:38). Proverbs urges us to honor our parents, binding their teaching on our heart (Proverbs 6:20-21).

But more frequently it referred to groups involved in secret rebellion:

King Saul accused his servants of conspiracy with his rival David (1 Samuel 22:8-13). David himself confronted conspiracy after he became king (2 Samuel 15:31). King Pekah, king of Israel during the days of Isaiah, gained his throne through conspiracy, and was assassinated later by yet another conspiracy (2 Kings 15:25). The final book in the Jewish Old Testament, 2 Chronicles, describes the conspiracy that executed Zechariah the prophet. The king who led that conspiracy was himself assassinated by yet another conspiracy. (2 Chronicles 24:21-25).

The people around Isaiah were shaken to their core with fear of conspiracy: Who were the traitors, who were the murderers and oppressors, who were liars? But the LORD told Isaiah to see beyond earthly things. If there was betrayal, murder, oppression and lies, God was sovereign over all. God knew all things, and God was using the murderers, liars and invaders as an instrument of judgement and salvation.

What do you think?

The Sanctuary

Isaiah 8:13-14 (ESV) But the LORD of hosts, him you shall honor as holy. Let him be your fear, and let him be your dread. And he will become a sanctuary...

"Asylum" often has a different meaning in popular languange. It properly means protection granted by a nation to someone who has left their native country persecuted for political reasons. The word is from Greek "asulon" meaing refuge, "without right of seizure". Popular use often connects "asylum" with facilities that care for those with mental illness.

The LORD was not saying to Isaiah, "Do not fear". Rather, the LORD was saying "DO fear the LORD." And the result of that godly fear would be rescue and protection.

However, the journey to rescue and protection would be difficult:

Isaiah 8:14-15 (ESV) And he will become a sanctuary and a stone of offense and a rock of stumbling to both houses of Israel, a trap and a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. And many shall stumble on it. They shall fall and be broken; they shall be snared and taken.

"Lamina" means a thin layer of rock or other material.

The conspiracy and dread that terrified the people went far beyond wicked leaders and oppressive nations. The LORD was using kings and armies as a instrument of judgement and wrath that would lead to rescue and protection of his people. But the process would involve injury and loss, pain and weakness, a "pounding thin" of the people's resolve.

The LORD told Isaiah that he would be their sanctuary, their protection from persecution. But he also told Isaiah that he would be their stone of offense, rock of stumbing, a trap and a snare.

What do you think?

The Fall

Rescue and protection would involve brokenness:

Isaiah 8:15 (ESV) And many shall stumble on it. They shall fall and be broken; they shall be snared and taken.

"It" refers to the LORD.

"Cohere" means to be united, to form a whole; from Latin cohaerer, "together to stick".

Stumbling is not a good thing. It stops a person from continuing on and it causes pain. But if the person is pursuing a dangererous path, or ignoring reality, perhaps stumbling is a good thing:

Romans 9:31-33 (ESV) Israel who pursued a law that would lead to righteousness did not succeed in reaching that law. Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works. They have stumbled over the stumbling stone, as it is written, Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense; and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.

Tripping over Christ provides an opportunity to choose: faith or rebellion.

1 Peter 2:6-8 (ESV) For it stands in Scripture: Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame. So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe, The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone, and a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense. They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.

Christ may be a Cornerstone of life, or a Stone of stumbling.

What do you think?

Photo by Lara Cores, Creative Commons license