Sunday, December 12, 2010

Nontraditional Advent: Isaiah 17-21 - Trusting in Chariots (or whatever else you have on hand)

I am a puzzle solver.  I rarely get out jigsaw puzzles, which tend to take up space and make a mess.  I prefer Sudoku.  Or Mahjong.  Crossword puzzles are good too, although I don't do them very often and so I'm a little rusty.

Essentially, you have all these little pieces of something that don't make sense, and you examine them and put them together using the clues you've got.  And the more you figure out, the more sense it makes until finally you have a coherent whole.

Ah.  That's a great moment.

I approach writing like that.  I've got multiple ideas, but in order to write something that someone might want to read, I need to piece those ideas together to make sense, to form images and ideas in the imagination of the reader.  Teaching is like that.

Life is like that.  And yes, I tend to approach life like a giant logic problem. I want to analyze each situation and determine the best course to take in order to produce the best results.

Actually, this is a pretty useful skill, and I'm grateful God made me like this.  The problem is that I think and analyze first and talk to God second.  (Sometimes it's not even second.)  God wants me to be completely dependent on him because if I'm trusting in our own abilities, I'm not trusting in his power and might.  Except maybe as a backup.

And although for me it's my analysis and critical thinking skills, but for some people it's something else.  Duane used to trust in his strength and his ability to work harder than anyone else.  Yes, when skinny Duane was a UPS man, he used to carry two 80-pound boxes up to doors.  It took too long to get out the dolly.  And then he blew out both shoulders and had trouble lifting a coffee cup.

God wants us to trust him.  Completely.
He wants us to depend on him and not chariots.

King David sings, "Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God!"

After all, chariots break down and horses get tired, but God is faithful and never grows weary.

Isaiah declares, "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" (Isaiah 31:1).

Why is it that we try to figure things out first, try to push through and do things ourselves first, and then, when we falter, we ask God for help?

Or maybe we succeed, and we start thinking we're really something special.  We learn to rely on our skills, whatever those are, instead of on the Lord.   And God will let be for a while, but ultimately, ultimately, he will assume his rightful place in our lives.

And in that day, that day when the world falls down around us and all our best efforts fail, "men will look to their Maker and turn their eyes to the Holy One of Israel" (Isaiah 17:7).  They won't look to the things they've made, the idols they've created.  They will ask God for help.

And of course this passage speaks to a future date, when all men will turn to God and call on his name after a time of destruction, but I believe it offers a pattern for us today, one that we see elsewhere in Scripture.

Psalm 146 issues a similar warning, "Don't put your trust in princes, in mortal men, who cannot save.  When their spirit departs, they return to the ground; on that very day their plans come to nothing" (v. 4).

You'll be blessed when your help comes from the Lord God, when you hope in him and trust him instead of your own resources.

The Lord made everything and remains faithful.  He upholds the cause of the oppressed and gives food to the hungry.  He sets prisoners free and gives sight to the blind.  He lifts up those who are bowed down and loves the righteous.  He watches over those who feel alienated, who don't belong for one reason or another, and he sustains the fatherless and widows.  (Psalm 146:5-9, paraphrased)

Turn to God.  Trust him.  Depend on him.  
Don't trust in chariots or horses or whatever else you've got on hand.  
Only God can save you.

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