Have you ever wondered how difficult it must have been to be a prophet? I am certain the position was not one of glamour. The prophets we read in scripture were often passing along messages from God regarding their disobedience, disrespect, and distrust of God. Some, namely Jonah, was called to go to a city filled with those we would call his enemy. It is no wonder he decided to run in the opposite direction. I would like to think that I would have followed God’s call wholeheartedly. I would like to think that I would not have been in the least bit scared. Wishful thinking? Maybe…
I think about Isaiah. Inspired by God, Isaiah boldly spoke on behalf of God to the people of his day. The message of his prophetic work seems clear: trust in God and in God’s saving power. In a world where many, if not most, were bent on idol worship Isaiah presented a message of warning. Rather than trusting in human alliances, rather than trusting in manmade gods or idols, Isaiah called the people to put their trust in the Lord, the King of Israel, the Lord of Hosts. The work of Isaiah gave the people, and us, a clear picture of who our God is. He is the God we can trust. He is the One who formed us. He made us. He is the Creator of all things. This is juxtaposed with the idols created by human hands. They have no power. They have to be carried around by humans. They cannot save. But Isaiah’s God, our God, he carries us. What a powerful message. What an incredible statement to a world filled with idolatry. I am sure this message was challenging to present…even more challenging to hear. But Isaiah fulfilled the purpose of a prophet, i.e. to speak for God. No doubt this was difficult, requiring great confidence, courage and trust in God.
What would you have done if you were given the task of speaking for God? What if the message you were given to share to the world stood in the face of everything society held in reverence? What would you do? Suppose you were one of the spies sent into Canaan. Suppose you searched the land with the others and found it to indeed be flowing with milk and honey. Suppose you saw the wonderful fruit of the land. Suppose you saw the people. Suppose fear swept over you. What would you do? As the story reveals, the majority of the spies allow fear to dictate their decision. Two, Caleb and Joshua, were willing to stand firm in their faith that God would bring about victory for them, even though they seemed as grasshoppers in the eyes of the enemy.
Unfortunately, many in the church operate from a posture of fear. We have all been called by God to share the message of Christ the world around us. But fear often hijacks our attempts to accomplish God’s will. Why is it that we allow this to happen? For some, there is a fear of not knowing enough to answer someone’s questions. For others, they simply fear the one-on-one interaction. Some are afraid they will say something that drives a person away from God. Still others are afraid of failure. Fear takes control of our minds and drives our actions – insert Jonah’s story here.
Why are we so reluctant to fully trust in God? Why does fear have so much control over us? My hope is that we will remember the mighty works of God, understanding he is still the same powerful God. We cannot allow ourselves to be overcome with fear to the point of failing to do his will. We are all called to speak for God in the midst of a hostile world. Thankfully, the message of God through Isaiah rings clear and true, even today.
“But now thus says the Lord, he who created you…he who formed you… ‘Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior…you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you…’” (Isaiah 43:1-4).