I have been reading Isaiah recently and his prophecies against Israel strike me as profoundly relevant to the Church of our time. There is a thread throughout the Old Testament of God wanting his people to be dependent upon him, but they repeatedly go astray and look toward others to meet their needs—idols, kings, and other nations. Early in their time in the Promised Land, they accommodated idol worship. Later, they grew dissatisfied with having no earthly king. Still later, when they found themselves under threat from other nations, they sought alliances with others for protection.
In Isaiah’s time, the Jewish nation was under threat from Assyria, the “superpower” of that day. They quashed any resistance and were greatly feared. The temptation was to seek out help from another nation, in this case, Egypt. But Isaiah had a word from the Lord:
Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help, who rely on horses, who trust in the multitude of their chariots and in the great strength of their horsemen, but do not look to the Holy One of Israel, or seek help from the Lord. Yet he too is wise and can bring disaster; he does not take back his words. He will rise up against that wicked nation, against those who help evildoers. But the Egyptians are mere mortals and not God; their horses are flesh and not spirit. (Isaiah 31:1-3)
The common thread is that Israel tended toward reliance on accommodation and alliances for their security, both emotional and physical. The same inclinations are present in the US Church today. She feels under threat by our culture. This is done through giving people what they want rather than what they need. Instead of a call to confession of sin and repentance, we have been more inclined to embrace whatever people want to do in their lives and label it “tolerance,” “love” and “justice.” We long for respect and acceptance from the world. We don’t want to appear judgmental, intolerant, or bigoted. To paraphrase the Israelites, we want to be like everyone else who is considered normal and acceptable. Rather than crying out to God for conviction of sin and revival as a means to grow our churches, we accommodate the desires of those we seek to attract.
And in fear of persecution of Christians in our country through laws and the courts, the Church has believed it has needed an alliance with politicians who will save them from this threat. For several generations now, believers have been urged to rely on their political activism to change our country. In other words, politicians and government institutions are the bulwarks to counter threats to our freedoms.
The bent of the Israelites has been passed down to us, so Isaiah’s prophetic words are relevant to our time. What I have observed personally and through social media is that there is a lot of “wringing of the hands” by believers about the state of our nation. The “conservatives” lament about the “liberals” and vice-versa. They write articles; they protest; they seek to publicly shame the other; they go to court against one another in an attempt to get their way. And in this country, they have every right to do so.
Yet, where is the humility before the Lord? Where is the recognition that crying out to him for help is what he desires, not accommodation and seeking alliances in order to gain respect or to save ourselves? Dependence on him is what he longs for. The mantra of the culture is, “you can change the world,” but we cannot. It is beyond us on our own or even together. Only the Lord has the power to change hearts, and only when hearts are changed can the world truly be changed.
So, if we really desire to see change, the first step, and the most important, is to humble ourselves before the Creator of the Universe, acknowledge our weakness and sin, and ask for his forgiveness and help. That is what he has always wanted from the men and women he has created, and that is the only course of action if we truly want change.
But one warning: the change we seek may not be the change we get. We are fallen human beings with limited wisdom and understanding. Humbling ourselves before the Lord is no guarantee of things working out according to our preferences. We only know he will respond in a way that is good and right in his eyes, and ultimately in the best interest of his will for us and the nation.
© Jim Musser 2019