by Kevin Pauley
Asserting in pride and in arrogance of heart: “The bricks have fallen down, but we will rebuild with smooth stones; the sycamores have been cut down, but we will replace them with cedars." Therefore the LORD raises against them adversaries – Isaiah 9:9b-11a
On September 12,2001, Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle stood before the Senate and gave a speech decrying the 9/11 terrorist attack which included an unfortunate quote from Isaiah 9:10. Like many, he failed to note the context of that verse. It is actually a judgment on bravado!
Around 700 BC, the people of Israel had fallen away from God, forcing Him to bring judgment against them. Their pro-Assyrian king had been assassinated and replaced by an anti-Assyrian tool (2 Kings 15:22-26). They were under pressure from Syria and the Philistines to join an anti-Assyrian alliance. Calamity followed calamity and allies became enemies in a dizzying whirl of betrayal. But instead of humbly realizing that God was trying to bring them back into the fold, they arrogantly pronounced that come what may, they would rise from the ashes.
To laugh off the facts with false bravado may put heart into an audience. But to stubbornly refuse to face what the symptoms imply is foolishness. Nothing then can avert judgment. For a church to boldly claim good health when no one is joining and they have a bad reputation in the community is ludicrous. They should ask “Why are we in such straits?” and then change! To put on a brave front in the face of mounting terrorism is hubris. We need to ask “Why do they hate us?”A marriage that soldiers on through a succession of fights and long silences without counseling is a marriage that is doomed to failure, whether the couple actually divorces or not!
If you are not at peace with God and men, you need to ask yourself why. If your life has been a succession of dismal failures, or has been characterized by a “cut and run” doctrine, you need to stop and determine the reason.
First, get a reality check from a wise person. Candidly discuss your life with your counselor and see if patterns emerge (James 5:16). Second, compare your thought patterns, your philosophies and metaphysical outlook with the Scriptures. There is a way that SEEMS right, but that leads to destruction (Proverbs 14:12). See if you are actually on the right path. Third, spend time quietly asking God to examine you and see if there is any wicked way in you (Psalm 139:23-24).
These three elements comprise a spiritual hat-trick: submission to wise counselors, submission to the scriptures and submission to the leading of the Holy Spirit. Don’t stubbornly continue in self-destructive habits. Follow the Master Who was Himself submissive to the will of the Father (Philippians 2:5-11). The scriptures are clear – the path of submission is the path to ultimate victory.
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Kevin Pauley is a pastor and writer. He lives in Illinois with his wife, Lynn, their five children and two dogs. His internet address is Berea.
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