Thursday, November 19, 2009

Between two hard places, clinging to the Rock

We've been reading the book of Isaiah in our small group bible study over the last couple of years and are about half way through it. We're a group that's been together for the last 18 years, so when we meet for bible study we often answer about five questions from the study guide, taking our time and delving deep. And then other times, we just talk if we didn't all get the lesson done, or if something important has happened in our lives.

Last week we weren't able to meet, so I've had a couple of weeks to mull over the lesson. We are reading in Isaiah 36 and 37 about how the Assyrians sent an emissary to King Hezekiah offering "peace." From the south, there is an offer of "aid" from the Egyptians. Both offers get quotation marks around them because they come with strings attached. I'd say that the king was between a rock and a hard place, but from a Christian perspective, it's very evident that he's between two hard places and is clinging to the Rock.

I've been thinking about what the Assyrian captain of the guard said and the reaction to it. He speaks in a language that all can understand, seeking to seduce them with offers them land and food, neatly weaving lies with truth. The aid from the Egyptians can't be counted upon (true). That when the Assyrians conquered a variety of other kingdoms, the "gods" of those kingdoms didn't save them (again, true). And then, oh so smoothly, he slips in the idea that Hezekiah's God won't save his people either - blithely equating the LORD to these other "gods." Whoa, Nellie.

In response, the people remain silent. The king and his men tear their clothes in mourning over the blasphemy. King Hezekiah goes to the house of the Lord and prays, acknowledging God as the Creator of heaven and earth and laying out his concerns. And, we hear from Isaiah, God has Hezekiah's back. He causes a rumor to arise that diverts the war machine of Assyria elsewhere. Sennacherib, King of Assyria, dies by the sword when two of his sons kill him while he is in the temple of his "god."

These passages are not only reminding me how to pray in general, but to grieve over blasphemy. Not to shake my head and to be snippy about it, which I'm really good at, but to mourn. Then their example tells me to bring that sorrow to God and let Him deal with it. Seeing that, when faced with the blasphemy of the Assyrian Captain, King Hezekiah's men didn't respond directly to him at all, but went to God instead.

I understand addressing blasphemy from those who claim Christianity. It is a fine balancing act to tell the truth in love while leaving no room for question that the statements or the behavior is unacceptable, and that, left unchecked, blasphemy has severe consequences.

But here we see someone who doesn't believe insulting God, and the response of the believers is silence, mourning and prayer. I'm no theologian, but it strikes me as a good pattern to follow.

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