Monday, September 14, 2009

Clear Direction During Tumultuous Times, Posted By: Heidi Avery

I don’t know about you, but lately I have been deeply burdened by the state of our country. Our future is embarking on certain change and it’s caused quite an uproar among the people of America. People we know are hurting, out of work and some have lost their homes. We as a people seem to be at odds more than ever over the issues and the direction of the government. I have personally been involved in some conflict with people over politics and the health of our nation. It’s been disconcerting and we are all concerned as these times are filled with opposition and uncertainty. We do not know what is going to happen next and we never like that do we?

God has continued to remind me that He is still sovereign, still King of Kings, still Lord of Lords and that is substantial and it’s what we as believers cling to… it is our hope. I feel an urgency to remind us all of our sure position in this world as we experience tough times and conflict at every turn. For today’s blog I am posting the majority of a sermon that was given by Pastor Brian Borgman of Grace Community Church in Minden Nevada. It’s entitled “Do Not Fear Their Fear.” He gave this sermon on November 2nd, 2008. This was just before the 2008 presidential election. It’s what God used to ground me in my fears after the election and it’s what the Holy Spirit has brought back to my heart now in the midst of conflict and uncertainty.

In an effort to reduce the length of this blog I painfully cut out some of the sermon. If you feel lead to read it in it’s entirety I’ve posted the link at the bottom. It’s very powerful and very important for us to understand exactly where God is directing us during these times. Please read this and let your heart and soul soak up God’s truth…

1 Peter 3:14-16

“But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. "Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened.” But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.”

Isaiah 8:11-14

“The LORD spoke to me with his strong hand upon me, warning me not to follow the way of this people. He said: "Do not call conspiracy everything that these people call conspiracy do not fear what they fear, and do not dread it. The LORD Almighty is the one you are to regard as holy, he is the one you are to fear, he is the one you are to dread, and he will be a sanctuary; but for both houses of Israel he will be a stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall. And for the people of Jerusalem he will be a trap and a snare. Many of them will stumble; they will fall and be broken, they will be snared and captured. Bind up the testimony and seal up the law among my disciples.

I would remind you this morning that the people of God have always been controlled by the Word of God, the character or God, the promises of God—and in dark, tumultuous times—God has always had a Word for his true people and it is that Word that sustains them. It is that Word that strengthens them. It is that Word that instills courage and faith within them and so it is today.

In Isaiah chapter eight there are two things that are happening that give us the background. The first is this…

In the course of Isaiah, the leadership of Israel was being exposed for what it was. In the course of Isaiah’s ministry we come to this king Ahaz.

Ahaz was pretentious in claiming to actually know the Lord and care what the Lord had said to him. And, in fact, when the prophet visits Ahaz in chapter seven Ahaz actually tells Isaiah, “Tell me what the Lord has for me.” And yet the reality is that Ahaz had already made up his mind what he was going to do.

King Ahaz had been informed. He had been shaped. He had been governed by the spirit of the age. It was not the Word of God that had influenced and shaped Ahaz. It was the spirit of the age. As a result Ahaz lacked moral and spiritual conviction. Although he was a man who said that he trusted in Yahweh, he did not obey Yahweh’s Word and, in fact, his claims to moral courage and spiritual conviction were simply a sham.

Isaiah, as the prophet, is beginning to expose Ahaz for the sham that he was. Ahaz’ fundamental problem was that he was relying on worldly power and the powers of the nations. Isaiah’s message to Ahaz was, “You need to be trusting God.” And yet Ahaz, while saying with his mouth, “I trust God,” actually was looking to Assyria for his help.

Now Ahaz had a motivation in relying on Assyria. His motivation was to make certain alliances with nations in order to protect his own dynasty and his nation. But the reality of what was happening is that while he was making these alliances right under God’s nose, he wasn’t securing the protection of anything. He was securing the destruction of himself, his own dynasty and eventually the nation.

Ahaz was a bad king. In fact, Ahaz was a rotten ruler. As a matter of fact, Ahaz was corrupt to his core. He disregarded the Word of the Lord. He disobeyed the prophet. He would end up being judged by God. But notice, Ahaz was put on the throne by God. It is God who establishes rulers and kings. It is God who is sovereign over those who rule. In fact, it would be the prophet Daniel who would tell us…

“Let the name of God be blessed forever and ever, For wisdom and power belong to Him. It is He who changes the times and the epochs; He removes kings and establishes kings.” (Daniel 2:20)

That’s the testimony of the Word of God. Governing authority has been put into place by the sovereign hand of God.

The second thing that was happening…

The remnant of Israel was being defined in the process. As the leadership was being exposed for what it was—faithless, unbelieving, self serving, hungry for power, reliant upon human power and wisdom—the remnant in that same process was being defined. The remnant was becoming more and more clear because as the nation Israel was increasingly politicized and increasingly secularized even though profession of faith in Yahweh was probably at an all time high, there was a people within the people who were resisting both wind and tide. There was a people within the people that was actually becoming more and more defined, more and more pronounced, more and more obvious, more and more front and center in the life of the nation. And that people within a people was called the remnant.

What marked them, what defined them is that the remnant absolutely refused to look to Assyria for help. The remnant actually refused to think according to the zeitgeist, according to the spirit of the age. They refused to be influenced, formed and shaped in their thinking by the spirit of the age. They refused to be politicized. They refused to be secularized, but rather there was a fundamental defining commitment among this people within a people and that was a commitment to the Word of God at all costs, turning to God alone in repentance and faith and obedience. To them what mattered most was not the ensuing international crisis. To them what mattered most was not being on the cusp of God’s judgment, to them what mattered most was a fundamental commitment to live out according to the Word of God in repentance and faith and obedience. And that is what drove them no matter what was happening with kings and kingdoms and rulers and nations.

Now most certainly the remnant would not be immune from the coming calamity. It is not as if somehow the coming calamity would pass over the houses of the remnant like the plagues of Egypt. The remnant actually would not be immune from that coming calamity, but they would not be swept away with a sense of hopelessness and despair. Although not immune from the calamity that was coming, they were immune from the hopelessness and despair because they had banked their hope on God and his Word. And when your hope is anchored in God and his Word, no matter what comes our way we are not swept away with the hopelessness of the world.

Those are the two things that were happening and that brings us to verses 11 to 15, Isaiah’s words, literally God’s words to the remnant.

Isaiah in many places in the book represents that faithful remnant…“For thus the LORD spoke to me with mighty power...” (Isaiah 8:11) Literally with the strength of his hand, “and [he] instructed me.”

The very first thing that we notice in the midst of God’s words to his faithful people is this. The source of peace in tumultuous times is the Word of the Lord. Notice clearly “Yahweh spoke to me with his strong arm or his strong hand upon me.”

For Isaiah the most important thing was not what Ahaz was saying nor the political courts of Assyria. The important thing For Isaiah was what God was saying. And so Isaiah takes tremendous comfort that God’s mouth has spoken and his hand was present with power.

By the way, in the Old Testament, often times God’s mouth and God’s hand or arm actually come together as a metaphor to mean what God has promised with his words he will fulfill with his power. And so there is a certitude that the people of God had that when the mouth of the Lord has spoken the hand of the Lord will fulfill what he has said. And so right there it is the Word of the Lord coming with power that sustains and strengthens Isaiah and the remnant in the midst of the tumultuous times. And what we see in the Old Testament is time and time again, it is the Word of the Lord that delivers his people not from calamity, necessarily, but from despair. And it is the Word of the Lord that comes and gives his people stability in the midst of difficult days.

And so Isaiah would say later in that book that God’s Word never returns void. It always accomplishes what he sends it out to accomplish. (Isaiah 55:11) And then he could turn around and he could say, “To this one I will look who is humble and contrite of heart and him who trembles at my Word.” (Isaiah 66:2) Not trembles at the Word of the politicians, not trembles at the Word of the spin doctors, not trembles at the Word of the New York Times or the Jerusalem Post or whatever else you may be reading. It is those who tremble at the word of the Lord that God looks upon with favor.

And so the instruction that God gives to his people is this. “Cling to my Word. Hope in my promise. Deliverance from despair and hopelessness comes not through a party, not through politics, but through my sovereign Word.”

Now that Word is going to come to Isaiah and the remnant in three parts of instruction…

1st instruction for tumultuous times – Separation:

The Word says, not to walk in the way of this people saying, “You are not to say, ‘It is a conspiracy!’ In regard to all that this people call a conspiracy, And you are not to fear what they fear or be in dread of it.” (Isaiah 8:12)

The very first thing that God says to his people on the brink of this Assyrian crisis is, “Be different. Be separate. First of all, don’t walk in their way.”

What does Isaiah mean? What does God mean? He is talking about the entirety of their lifestyle. Don’t think their thoughts after them. Don’t imbibe their ideas. Don’t embrace their priorities. Don’t think through their own world view. You don’t think. You don’t live. You don’t conduct yourself like they conduct themselves.

And then he says, “Don’t’ call a conspiracy what they call a conspiracy.” Now the conspiracy here that God is talking about is probably what the people of Israel were saying about Isaiah and his disciples. The conspiracy probably went something like this... Since Isaiah and his Word centered disciples are not on board with Ahaz’ pro Assyrian policies, what is really happening is that there is an unpatriotic conspiracy going on with these people.

Isaiah and his followers by saying, “Don’t go with Ahaz, don’t trust the Assyrians, don’t buy in to these policies,” they are being un Israelite. The slur: they are conspirators. “They are trying to overthrow the good of this country. They are unpatriotic. They don’t care about the things that they should care about. They are not driven by securing our national security and prosperity. They are driven by different priorities. They think differently than we do. You know what? It is a big conspiracy.”

And what God says to his people is very simple: Don’t assess the way that they assess. Do not waiver from the past of radical Word centered faith because they say to you that you are unpatriotic and even treasonous.

Understand this. If you are not willing to go with the status quo—red or blue—people will think that you are unpatriotic. If you aren’t driven by the things that drive everybody else, people will question your commitment.

God says to his people, “You don’t assess the way they assess. You don’t think the way that they think and you don’t live the way that they live.” And then he turns around and this is the most powerful statement of all. “And you don’t fear what they fear.”

Don’t fear what they fear. Don’t be in dread of what they are in dread of. Listen to me. Just as it was in the eighth century BC in Israel, so it is in the 21st century America for those who are so politicized and secularized that that encompasses their entire world’s view.

Fear had gripped that nation and once again what God calls for is a separation of his people. He calls them not to give in to the spirit of the age. He calls them not to be afraid of what everybody else is afraid of. He calls them not to be in dread of what the politicized, secularized crowd is in dread of.

Such fear is a sign that the people were clinging to the things of this life far too closely. God says, “You are not to fear what they fear.”

God’s purposes do not begin and end with the United States of America.

2nd instruction in tumultuous times – Sanctification:

It is Yahweh of hosts himself whom you shall sanctify or make holy. Now the idea of make holy is really not the idea of making God holy because God already is holy. The idea is as captured in the NAS and others to regard him as holy or to honor him as holy. So there is a separation. You don’t think the way they think. You don’t live the way they live. You don’t assess the way they assess. You don’t fear what they fear. But there is something that you must do and that is that you need to regard God as holy. In this context, to sanctify Yahweh of hosts, hosts significant, contextually sensitive name for God, Yahweh of hosts. The Assyrians have an army. Egypt has an army. Israel has an army, but the God that we are to sanctify is Yahweh of hosts, Yahweh of the armies of heaven.

And so you sanctify him by looking upon him as the holy, sovereign Lord, the one who has all supreme holy power. Therefore if you sanctify Yahweh of hosts what does that mean? That we will live a life of giving him glory by living in obedient fear. In other words, they are not to think like they think. They are not to fear what they fear, but rather what are they to do? They are to live life, they are to walk with an unswerving obedience to the sovereign Lord’s Word. They are to honor God as the one who is set apart from all others.

Brothers and sisters, you know this as well as I do. We are not supposed to fear men. We are to fear God alone. When we set him apart in our affections so that his greatness and glory eclipses everything else, then all other avenues of rescue and redemption pale in significance to the holy Lord of Israel. And that is what we are called to do. To set him apart is to put him in the highest place. To set him apart is to have the greatest value upon him.

And then it says, “He is your fear. He is your dread.”

Do not lose sight of this truth. The remnant is not fearless. They just know who they are to fear. And because they fear Yahweh, they do not need to fear anyone or anything else. Knowing that the Lord is the holy King, he is sovereign and in control, that compels our godly fear... so that we do not fear what the world fears, but we fear God alone.

This is a struggle right now because people are consumed with what ifs. And they are afraid of the what ifs. And God says, “Don’t be afraid of the what ifs. Fear the one who is sovereign over the what ifs. Fear the one who is in control of the what ifs. Fear the one who is enthroned over the rulers of the nations.”

3rd instruction for tumultuous times – Protection:

Notice it says, verse 14, “Then He shall become a sanctuary.” That is you honor God as holy. He is your fear. He is your dread. He becomes you sanctuary. So you move from separation to sanctification to protection. The one who fears the Lord and honors him as holy has God as a sanctuary and a safe place, not protection from the calamity, but protection from hopeless and despair.

To dwell in the sanctuary of God is to be near to God and to know God and to draw near to the love of God and to be secured that this God is good and he does good no matter what comes. And so those who trust in God, believing his promises and obeying his Word, they end up finding him to be a sanctuary. They end up finding him to be a refuge and a safe place. But not everybody has that benefit from God.

Notice very clearly Isaiah spends far more time on those who don’t than those who do…

“But to both the houses of Israel, a stone to strike and a rock to stumble over, And a snare and a trap for the Inhabitants of Jerusalem. Many will stumble over them, Then they will fall and be broken; They will even be snared and caught.”

Relevant, applicable? You had better believe it. Why? Because those who in troubled times put their confidence in men and put their confidence in nations and put their confidence in alliances and policies and parties, these are the ones who will be terrified and so to ignore God and not to fear him, not to honor him as holy is not to have a sanctuary.

To ignore him is actually to stumble over him. To look elsewhere for help is to be snared by him. To resist him is to be broken by him. And so here is what Isaiah is telling us. He is either your safety or he is your undoing. And if you are going to look to party and policies and politics and all the rest to be your salvation, then you cannot look to God. God will not be a co Savior with anyone. And if you will not choose God as your sanctuary, you will not have a sanctuary. And, in fact, that God who has established himself as a sanctuary will end up being a rock that rolls right over you and destroys you, red or blue.

How you respond to God as holy, how you respond to God as sovereign Lord will determine what he is for you.

Now, you need to understand very carefully. The Bible is addressing us for times like these and worse. And so the call is for us to be clear headed, straight thinking, sober minded people for the purpose of prayer. Why? Because the end of all things is at hand. And it has been that way for 2000 years and therefore God calls us to a clear mindedness, a sobriety.

I challenge you this week to wake up every morning and confess, “Lord, you alone are holy. You alone are sovereign. There is none to rival you. You alone are my fear. I therefore will not be afraid of what others fear. You are my sanctuary and I put my trust in you, period.

If you’d like to read or listen to Pastor Brian’s sermon in it’s entirety you can find it at

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