August 17, 2015

Fear and manipulation — or trust without guile?

Isaiah 35:1–37:13, Luke 12:22–59, Job 8:11–22

Some say that Isaiah is not written in chronological order. If that is true, then chapter 35 is like the end of the book compared to chapters 36 and 37. It speaks of how God’s people will experience blessing after all the trials of being chastened and purified . . .

“The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad; the desert shall rejoice and blossom like the crocus; it shall blossom abundantly and rejoice with joy and singing. The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it, the majesty of Carmel and Sharon. They shall see the glory of the Lord, the majesty of our God.” (Isaiah 35:1–2)

They will see God’s glory because “the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy.”

Besides all that, “Waters break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert; the burning sand shall become a pool, and the thirsty ground springs of water; in the haunt of jackals, where they lie down, the grass shall become reeds and rushes. And a highway shall be there, and it shall be called the Way of Holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it. It shall belong to those who walk on the way; even if they are fools, they shall not go astray. No lion shall be there, nor shall any ravenous beast come up on it; they shall not be found there, but the redeemed shall walk there. And the ransomed of the Lord shall return and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.” (Isaiah 35:5–10)

But the next two chapters are not so cheerful. Isaiah writes of the King of Assyria’s invasion of Judah and his threats to take the entire land. The king sought God’s will and God told Isaiah, “Do not be afraid because of the words that you have heard, with which the young men of the king of Assyria have reviled me. Behold, I will put a spirit in him, so that he shall hear a rumor and return to his own land, and I will make him fall by the sword in his own land.” (Isaiah 37:6–7)

The threats continued after today’s reading ends but for me the instructions are plain: seek the Lord Jesus Christ when the peace He gives me is threatened, no matter how those threats are shaped. His promises for the future are anchored in the faithfulness of His character, so I don’t need to be anxious.

Another advice comes from Job. Bildad tries to persuade Job to repent thinking all of Job’s troubles are caused by sin. What he says sounds good, but God said this was wrong: “Behold, God will not reject a blameless man, nor take the hand of evildoers. He will yet fill your mouth with laughter, and your lips with shouting. Those who hate you will be clothed with shame, and the tent of the wicked will be no more.” (Job 8:20–22)

If Bildad thought Job was innocent, his words would have been an encouragement, but God rejects true statements given with the wrong motivation. This man was accusing Job, even though what he said was true. He tried to manipulate Job using truth in the wrong way.

My instruction here is to watch my motivations because God is viewing my heart. I cannot manipulate people with lies or even with truth. Godliness is about being sincere and without guile.

Fearing threats and being manipulative are symptoms that I’m not trusting God. Jesus tells me, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life . . . And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest?  . . . . Instead, seek his kingdom, and (what I need) will be added to you . . . . Fear not . . . it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom . . . . For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” (Luke 12: 22–31, 32–34)

What is my treasure? Is it me and protecting myself from threats by manipulating others so as to be on top of things all the time? Or is it to trust the Lord with all my heart, for everything, all the time?

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