I’ve just done the first of several practices of this week’s preach in preparation for Sunday. There’s nothing quite like reading the notes off the computer screen and, in effect, preaching to the laptop with all the enthusiasm and inflection which I hope will form part of my delivery on Sunday.
Mind you, back in the days when I was a lawyer with absolutely zero opportunities to preach in public, I used to preach to my kitchen sink for five minutes at a time, trying to imagine what it might feel like (i) to actually have half an hour’s worth of material which was not complete drivel and (ii) a congregation to listen to it. So, in case you’re wondering, in the scheme of things in my very weird life, preaching to the laptop is quite tame in comparison.
And, no, the kitchen sink days were not pretty and will not be repeated!
Anyway, now that you can picture what I do on the days when I work from home, I can move on to the thought which prompted this post! I will be preaching from Isaiah 7 on our whistle-stop tour through this jewel of the prophetic books. The essence of my message relates to the choice that Ahaz is faced with: to rescue himself by whatever means possible or to trust God.
It’s a hard choice, I always think, that choice between man’s plans and the God-option, between fixing it myself and waiting in stillness for him to fight my battles for me. It’s the age-old conflict between trusting in what I can see, the idols that I make for myself, and the One who cannot be seen.
Ahaz let his fear get the better of him. He saw the size of the mountain facing him, towering over him, blocking his view of the living God.
And he chose the quick fix.
And, so often, so do I.
Yet, imagine if Ahaz had taken the third option that Isaiah offered. What if he had chosen the God-option, if he had had the courage to stand still and trust the Lord for deliverance in the face of Israel and Syria on the one hand and Assyria on the other? What if he had stopped agitating and looking to his own strength to fix the situation?
It seems to me that it’s easy to look back now, though, and see that the only right choice here was the God-option. But when you’re in it, when you have waited and deliverance has not yet come from the One who promised it, when the object of your fear is coming closer and time is running out and it fills your view and everything in you is screaming for a solution…what do you do then? How do you steel yourself in the face of oncoming trouble in the apparent absence of the God who said that he would save you?
I wish I could tell you that I knew.
But I don’t.
All I know is that time and again Scripture tells us to stand and keep standing. It tells us that the Lord will fight on our behalf, that we have only to be still. Moses heard it. Jehoshaphat heard it. The Sons of Korah sang it. The Ephesians were reminded of it. And Isaiah told Ahaz the same thing.
So, if you are in a place like Ahaz, hear this message from Isaiah 7:
Be still and wait for his deliverance.
And, if you are not in that place right now?
That’s simple. Just look for the one who is.
Look for the one whose eyes are downcast, whose heart is burdened, who is tempted to turn to their own solutions instead of waiting for the Lord’s purposes.
And be their Isaiah. Be the prophet who calls them back to that place of radical trust, back to that place of stillness even in the face of great fear. Because perhaps you are the one who can keep them from turning to man’s plans; perhaps it will be because of you that one Ahaz, at least, will keep standing and waiting for the God-option.