This past month, as I perused my notes from the past year, I came upon the verse, “If you are not firm in faith, you will not be firm at all” (Isaiah 7:9, ESV). The verse struck me–not in looking back over the past year, but looking at my life now. Convicted, I dove into Isaiah 7:
“In the days of Ahaz the son of Jotham, son of Uzziah, king of Judah, Rezin the king of Syria and Pekah the son of Remaliah the king of Israel came up to Jerusalem to wage war against it, but could not yet mount an attack against it.”
Think about it. You’re a small country whose golden days are long gone. While the previous king, Jotham, had followed the LORD and brought back some of the legendary glory and might of King David, King Ahaz, the new king, was nothing like his father. The once-distant threat of the Syria-Israel alliance is right outside of your walls. They haven’t attacked yet, but they surely will.
“When the house of David was told, ‘Syria is in league with Ephraim,’ the heart of Ahaz and the heart of his people shook as the trees of the forest shake before the wind.”
Notice here that “the house of David” was told. This is the house and kingdom of which God promised to David, “your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever” (2 Sam. 7:16, ESV).
Yet the king and his kingdom’s hearts “shook as the trees of the forest shake before the wind.” Though they had been firmly rooted, they had “forgotten the God of [their] salvation and [had] not remembered the Rock of [their] refuge” and thus shook at the onslaught of the world (Isaiah 17:10, ESV). In abandoning God, they abandoned His promises of peace and security.
“And the LORD said to Isaiah, ‘Go out to meet Ahaz, you and Shear-jashub your son, at the end of the conduit of the upper pool on the highway to the Washer’s Field.’”
As Judah turned her back on God, He sought them, taking action to care for His people. Even when they forgot and rebelled, God was faithful.
“‘And say to him, “Be careful, be quiet, do not fear, and do not let your heart be faint because of these two smoldering stumps of firebrands, at the fierce anger of Rezin and Syria and the son of Remaliah.”’”
God’s love and grace is amazing; even to those who reject Him, He extends grace and tells them, “Don’t worry, there’s nothing to fear.”
On the more metaphorical side, notice that Syria and Samaria are stumps. They have been cut off, while Judah and its inhabitants are still trees.
“‘“Because Syria, with Ephraim and the son of Remaliah, has devised evil against you, saying, ‘Let us go up against Judah and terrify it, and let us conquer it for ourselves, and set up the son of Tabeel as king in the midst of it,’”’”
What God is instructing Isaiah to say here is that Judah has nothing to fear. Not only did God promise so, but because of the very nature of the Syria-Samaria threat: they plan to put Tabeel, a non-Davidic king, on the throne of Judah.
As I contemplated the “devised evil,” my thoughts immediately turned to the manifold Psalms written on the plots of evildoers: Psalms 2, 21:11, 31:11-14, and 37:12-13 are just a few. Proverbs 16:9 also comes to mind:
“The heart of man plans his way,
But the LORD establishes his steps.” (ESV)
“‘“Thus says the LORD God:
‘“It shall not stand,
and it shall not come to pass.
For the head of Syria is Damascus,
and the head of Damascus is Rezin.
And within sixty-five years
Ephraim will be shattered from being a people.
And the head of Ephraim is Samaria,
and the head of Samaria is the son of Remaliah.”’”’”
Here’s a quick outline of what has happened:
- God has promised.
- Judah rejects God.
- God reminds Judah of His promise.
- God reiterates His promise.
“‘“‘“If you are not firm in faith,
you will not be firm at all.”’”’”
To the Syrians and Samaritans, the statement establishes that, without God, there is no guarantee of anything. One can plan and work one’s utmost to accomplish something, but God can stop it all in a word. In other words, without God, your works and efforts will all come to nothing.
To Ahaz and the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem, the statement warns them, “Hey, if you don’t turn back to God, you’re going to fall. If you’re not firm on the foundation of God, then you’re a goner.”
Ultimately, God is sovereign. Ultimately, He is faithful. And ultimately, faith is what really matters.
It is interesting how we tend to depend more and more upon ourselves as things get harder rather than turning to our Rock and our Sustainer. We try to control our lives as best we can rather than simply trusting in the One who is in control. In the end, we only make things harder and more complicated.
It is simple to discuss the concept of having faith and depending wholly on God, but putting it into practice is a different story. I can testify from personal experience that debating and defending a faith that you are not yourself firmly rooted in leaves you shaky and unsteady. You can know the Bible and theology inside out, but if you do not have a firm foundation on your faith, it is all nothing.
Faith is what we’re saved by (Eph. 2:8); faith is what we’re justified by (Rom 5:1, Gal 3:24); faith is what we’re healed by (Jesus’ miraculous healings); and faith is what we ought to live by (Rom. 1:17, 2 Cor 5:7).
So what can we do about it? Simple. Go back to the foundation of our faith: God and His Word. From there, develop a faith wholly dependent on the power of God (1 Cor. 2:5).
Hymn Spotlight: “On Christ the Solid Rock I Stand” & “Victory in Jesus”
“And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?”
1 John 5:4-5
Photo credit: https://twitter.com/adamputnam/status/988085655614959616