I preached about “A Father’s Hope” this past Sunday. Drawing from Isaiah chapters 7-9, I discussed how Isaiah’s sons participated in his ministry and became part of his message. As Isaiah proclaimed his message, he noted that he and his sons were signs from the Lord to a nation where “the heart of the people shook as the trees of the forest shake before the wind” (Isaiah 7:2). Fear permeated his society and his peers were prone to believe conspiracy theories. As they sought to untangle these theories and find the truth, they reached out to mediums, fortune tellers, and foreign religious ideologies for answers to their questions. Isaiah asks in horror, “Should not a nation enquire of their God?” He warned earlier,
“Do not call conspiracy all that this people calls conspiracy, and do not fear what they fear, nor be in dread, but the Lord of hosts, him you shall honor as holy. Let him be your fear, and let him be your dread” (Isaiah 8:13-14).
He specifically had warned King Ahaz, “Be firm in faith, or you will not be firm at all” (Isaiah 7:9). He directed his people to listen to the teaching and to the testimony – the oral and written message of God-when they seek for answers rather than trusting in political ideologies or fortune tellers.
Isaiah confirmed one fear: There will be consequences for past sin. However, he assures them that a faithful remnant will survive and that “God is with us.” He proclaimed these messages through boys’ names; at least two of the boys are Isaiah’s sons. Isaiah’s hope is in the Lord; his sons’ names testify to that hope and will remind them that God provides.
Like Isaiah and his contemporaries, we live in tumultuous times. We need to hear Isaiah’s warning to flee from conspiracy theories and to enquire of the Lord, while grounding our hope in his word. We need to pray for our children even as we equip them with values and faith that will sustain them and an example that will inspire them in the worst of times. We need to pray, but we need to trust as we cry for help that God is with us and he will provide.
God, we profess faith that you love us. We want to believe that you are our friend. Sometimes we want to domesticate you, to believe that you will do as we wish and tolerate all that we desire. We put you in a metaphorical box where we can deceive ourselves into believing that we control you. We forget the awe of being in your presence, the dread of being in the hands of the living God. Various ideologies tempt us with an appeal to our lusts or our hatreds. We want to define our faith and sense of reality within their definitions, rather than building our sense of right and wrong on what you have revealed. Help us to remember that despite your dreadfulness, you are for us and are with us. Give us discernment so that we are not deceived by the Sirens of our society or frightened by false stories. Renew our hope in this time when the hearts of people shake as trees in the wind. In Jesus’ name, amen.