Every once in a while the media gets it right, even when it comes to matters of faith. Recent example: CNN Belief Blog – 10 Things Learned in First Year.
1. Every big news story has a faith angle.
2. Atheists are the most fervent commenters on matters religious.
5. It’s impossible to understand much of the news without knowing something about religion.
8. God may not prevent natural disasters, but religion is always a big part of the response.
Most people live most of time as practical atheists; give God little if any thought, not seeking his help for much if at all. Then a 9-11 comes along, some go to church for few weeks, use God’s name in more appropriate ways in short term. But how about the child of God? What do you do when you’re up against it? When you’ve run out of resources? That’s happened at least once or twice, each day, before you get out of bed! If you’re a child of God, you know where to go for help – our majestic Lord.
Judah was in tough situation: Assyria advancing against cities, Sennacherib threatening seige of Jerusalem, sent his ambassador to give ultimatum. Judah had trusted in Egypt for help; now, being bullied into trusting Assyria. Had they listened to God speak through Isaiah, would have understood: neither one a good idea. Assyria might have an “all wins, no losses” record but God had a plan for their lives and it wouldn’t be wonderful.
In 701 BC God used threat of certain disaster at hand of his agents, the Assyrians, to teach truths about his character. For the remnant, religion would be a big part of the response to Assyrian assaults. First thing God taught Judah was that He was the real sovereign; did so by declaring Assyria’s future was up to him (1): when God says you’re done plundering, when he’s finished using you as his instrument against Judah, you will be plundered.
All the events shaping nations and people were moving according to God’s timetable, not Sennacherib’s or Hezekiah’s or Isaiah’s. Some in Judah understood, the remnant did; they trusted in God. Cried out to him for help; acknowledged they needed help; they recognized who would truly help, where they should go to find him. Most importantly, they knew what sort of God they could expect to find when they called out to him in prayer.
A. cry for help v.2-6
need your grace, strength (2) Threw themselves on mercy of God, depending on him for outcome in big things and small. If not for God’s grace, none of us would stand a chance – we have no means to win points with God on any basis. When God listens, it’s because he graciously chooses to do so, not because we earned privilege. God’s provision comes in his time and according to his measure; means we must wait for him, be diligent in seeking strength and help from him while we’re waiting.
trust your power (3-4) Acknowledged they were trusting in God to deal with their enemies who would run away when God made his move. Even the sound of God getting into action would cause nations to run in fear and be scattered. More humiliating, they would lose all they had acquired in war. God has power, will use it to strip their enemies of all ill-gotten gains.
adore your majesty (5-6) Remnant weren’t satisfied with any less than exalted, majestic, covenant-keeping God. Not interested in a little god like Dagon who could be toppled from his throne (1 Sam. 5:3-5). God to whom they pray is source of all good things for his people: justice and righteousness, wisdom and knowledge, stability and strength, and all in abundance. Exalted God enthroned in majesty wins glorious victory for his people; in response, they devote themselves and all he has bestowed back to him for his use.
B. need for help v.7-9
failed plans (7) Heroes should bring good news, peace envoys should bring word of relief and hope. Neither would be true for Judah. Sadness, mourning all around; plans carried out at great expense failed to bring expected result. Instead of invading army going home, were making fresh advances on Jerusalem itself, putting very life of nation at risk.
broken promises (8) truth be told, wasn’t just Assyrians who broke covenant. Hezekiah did likewise with things reserved for God’s use (2 Kings 18:14-16). Gave all silver from temple, even stripped gold from entrances as payment to Sennacherib for protection. Assyria pocketed the payoff and attacked anyway, showing complete disregard for peace treaty. Hezekiah learned quickly who he should have trusted – God speaking through his prophet, not Sennacherib speaking through his lieutenant.
shattered hopes (9) Assyrian army depended on local supplies to keep going; not only plundered valuables, took food for men and animals leaving little behind. Devastating for agriculture-based society; not only no food for present need, no seed for future crops. Fertile farm country now a brown and lifeless wasteland with little hope for future production. Wherever they looked, all God’s people could see was trouble – a foreign army, desolation, broken promises.
Not only times of military conflict that we need help. What about times when doctor or employer gives news that changes all our plans. Or when people close to us don’t keep important commitments and rearrange our week. Or when future looks hopeless – crushing debt, declining health, uncooperative weather or difficult family members. Tomorrow and next week and next year show little sign of improving. Yet there is one to whom we can turn for genuine help and hope:
C. one to help v.10-19
Yahweh declares his purpose (10-13) When God’s people pray, he speaks: “Now is time for action, when my people have called out to me for help, when my instruments have served my purpose.” Like chaff, stubble, thorns in the fire, so plans of Assyrians against God and his people – gone up in smoke in a moment.
the godless panic (14) response of faithless Israelites to God’s thundering – quickly recognized God as consuming and unquenchable fire no one has power to resist. But, thought God was being mean, harsh; didn’t acknowledge that because they thought they could do just fine without God, they deserved what was happening.
the righteous are blessed (15-16) Prophet answers rhetorical question: the righteous can survive God – “those who live right and tell the truth, who refuse to take money by force or accept bribes, all who hate murder and violent crimes” (CEV) can expect blessing from their Sovereign.
the King takes center stage (17-19) When God’s people turn to him for help, the King in his beauty comes into focus, not defiant and dangerous people. When God begins to move, will be able to see through eyes of faith his glorious beauty and the extent of his kingdom. The glorious King will completely displace any pretenders to the throne, and push any memory of “old days” far into background.
D. place of help v.20-24
ideal setting (20-21a) Look upon Zion, a peaceful and enduring place; “there the Lord will be” – cannot expect to find God and his help where he has not promised to be; he may graciously come to our aid, but we shouldn’t presume (Isa. 55:6) He has promised to meet with his people when they gather together; there in means of grace that he nourishes us. There where we see him in his true majesty, revealed in and proclaimed from his word, experienced in his ordinances.
ideal Sovereign (21b-22) The ideal city, Zion, has an ideal Sovereign ruler, commander and king who delivers his people from all their enemies. Our majestic Lord judges rightly in all circumstances; he has given us a perfect rule of life in his living Word; he governs his kingdom perfectly and righteously. With Yahweh as Judge-Lawgiver-King, his people can have all confidence in their deliverance, security and happiness.
ideal circumstances (23-24) Many blessings accompany life in Christ’s kingdom; the one which makes the rest worthwhile: “those who dwell there will be forgiven”. Our great and majestic God has had victory over enemy even greater than Assyrians or Babylonians: sin; only he can deliver us from sin’s bondage and transfer our citizenship into his kingdom.
God is great in great things, but very great in little things. A party stood on the Matterhorn admiring the sublimity of the scene, when a gentleman produced a pocket microscope, and having caught a fly placed it under the glass. He reminded us that the legs of the household fly in England were naked and then called attention to this little fly’s legs which were thickly covered with hair, thus showing that the same God who made the lofty Swiss mountains attended to the comfort of His tiniest creatures, even providing socks and mittens for the little fly whose homes these mountains were. This God is our God. Anonymous
This great and majestic sovereign Lord is indeed God of gods, Lord of lords, King of kings, creator of massive mountains and miniscule flies. But he isn’t distant, uncaring; he is tender, loving, welcoming to his children. He has room within his warm embrace for all his children, room for each to get as close as possible. He’s given us permission to call him Father; because he has adopted us as his children, we have privilege of calling him Abba, papa (Rom. 8:15), close family name for Daddy.
J. I. Packer, in his book Knowing God wrote: “…Jehovah the Creator, the great I AM, invites us to crawl up in His lap, …and call Him Abba, Daddy. He said, “I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters” (2 Corinthians 6:18, NIV).
It matters not how young or old we are, our situation looks entirely different from daddy’s lap. Do you know the delight of being close to our Heavenly Father? spending time with him? Don’t wait for crisis of hard times to call out to God. You can be closer; ask for his help, spend time in his word and with his people and our majestic Lord and Father will draw you closer to himself moment by moment until the day he takes you home.