“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. 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 and a stone of offense and a rock of stumbling to both houses of Israel’…I will wait for the LORD, who is hiding his face from the house of Jacob, and I will hope in him.” Isaiah 8:11-17
There are so many ways in which we can become discouraged and afraid, simply by looking at the world around us. How dark it seems. How easily deceived people are. And in the constant battle we fight with our sinful nature, it’s also easy for us to start down that same path. To become complacent and to compromise our integrity and character. To think and look just a little more like everyone else.
This passage is looking at Israel when it had turned its back on God and was running in the other direction. And I believe it holds a lot of truth for us as the remnant set apart in our world, all of us who have chosen to follow Christ. We aren’t to focus on conspiracies and fears that others hold to. No, we are to fix our eyes on our Lord. Our purpose in each moment is to honor Him as holy. To fear God as the righteous, just, all-powerful ruler, who sits enthroned in heaven and will judge each man according to his works. He is not some cuddly teddy bear whom we can boss around and ignore whenever we want. He is great, and greatly to be praised. He does wonderful and terrifying things. He accomplishes all His purposes, because against Him no one and nothing can stand. So we look to Him and obey Him in both fear and love—recognizing His absolute authority, and rejoicing that He has chosen freely to set His heart in love on us and covered us in grace through our faith in Jesus Christ.
“He will become a sanctuary and a stone of offense and a rock of stumbling.” This seems an accurate picture of our God, doesn’t it? A sanctuary to those who have trusted in and surrendered to Him—a place of refuge, hope, peace, and salvation. A stone of offense to those lost in darkness. A rock of stumbling to those hindered by their pride and misconceptions about who He is. “If they will not speak according to this word, it is because they have no dawn” (Isaiah 8:20). Those who speak against us and against our Lord do so because they have no dawn. They are unable to recognize truth. It is a sad state of our world, and as those whose eyes have been opened to His light, we are to pray fervently that those who still walk in darkness will see the great light and hope of Christ. There is urgency here. It is literally a matter of life and death. Every knee will bow before Him and every tongue will confess that He is Lord. But some will bow before Him merely as their judge, not as their savior…we must pray that they will recognize Jesus as Savior before it is too late. Snatching them from the fire and setting them apart for His glory and their eternal joy.
As we watch God’s purposes unfold, in our world and in our personal lives, we must take heart and remember always to look to Him. However dark the days may get, our God remains faithful and mighty, and He is with us in all circumstances. We wait for Him expectantly, knowing He will act. Our God will come in strength and all will see His glory. “Take counsel together, but it will come to nothing; speak a word, but it will not stand, for God is with us” (Isaiah 8:10). No matter what happens around us, we can trust and hope in Him.