Remember last week when I said the divided kingdom of Israel was focusing on themselves and THEIR desires and the Assyrians were going to come and light up their world. Well, today the Assyrians have arrived. And they’re going to take over and light up their world one way or the other. One clarification, the Assyrians trash both the northern kingdom of Israel AND the southern kingdom of Judah. The northern tribes eventually disappear but the southern kingdom comes back to Judah, only to be trashed again by the Babylonians a couple hundred years later, more or less. I mashed those events together a little bit last week and wanted to clear that up. Bottom line, focused on themselves, the Assyrians have come in and are about clean their clock.
The king of Assyria is a wily one, isn’t he? He shows up with his army that has been marauding the entire middle eastern region as he expands his kingdom. Then he has the gall to tell the people of Judah, through his messenger, that they don’t need to listen to King Hezekiah telling them to trust God. Do not let Hezekiah mislead you by saying, The Lord will save us. Instead, trust me, come to me he says. Do not let Hezekiah mislead you by saying, The Lord will save us. Instead, you can keep all your good stuff he says. Do not let Hezekiah mislead you by saying, The Lord will save us. Instead, once I take you to my country you’ll have good stuff there, too he says. Do not let Hezekiah mislead you by saying, The Lord will save us. Instead, don’t worry yourselves that I crushed all the other countries and lands that tried to stand up to me he says. Do not let Hezekiah mislead you by saying, The Lord will save us. Trust me, he says.
It’s the classic paradox that we face time and time again. Do we trust what the world is telling us, a world that has some of the brightest minds working it’s ad campaigns? Do we trust what the world is telling us with access to media and interwebs paying top dollar to get our attention? Do we trust what the world is telling us knowing that we are the product rather than the customer? Or do we trust God, the God that created us and has been with us and loved us every moment of our lives? Do we trust God, the God that speaks to us in the Bible, through prayer, through generosity, through service, and through worship? Do we trust the God that have saved us through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins. Or do we take the seemingly comfortable and easy route of the culture that surrounds us?
I think this is yet another pointed reminder what happens if our trust and reliance on God comes into question. We’ve heard it many times this year but when the Bible addresses something frequently there is a reason for that. God wants us to know something and God wants our trust. What happens if we don’t trust God? Chaos ensues. Violence erupts. We’re carted off to another nation. It’s almost as though Isaiah knew something about humanity and in fact, as a prophet Isaiah is precisely telling us something God wants us to know.
And what God wants us to know, and really own it because we probably already know it, is to trust God. Don’t fall for the false promises of wonderful things thrown out by greedy kings and marketing campaigns. Don’t fall for the sweet words of false promise and the spin controlled narrative with slick graphics and fonts. Don’t fall for the things that feel and taste good but never seem to satisfy. Trust me, says God.
It’s hard to do sometimes. We’re intentionally drawn into the ways of the world that draw us away from God, in spite of our desire not to do so. I mean really, who of us here has said, “Ooh! Ooh! I want to be drawn away from God!” We even have this as part of our baptism liturgy when I ask you, “People of God: I ask you to reject sin, profess your faith in Christ, and confess the faith of the church. Do you renounce the devil and all the forces that defy God, the powers of this world that rebel against God, and the ways of sin that draw you from God? If so respond, I do, and so all you respond: I do.
And yet we get drawn into the ways of the world instead of the ways of God. Oh, not overtly. I don’t think any of us are out doing anything illegal. It’s a lot more subtle than that. It’s more that we get drawn away from our worship life. Our prayer life. The ways we connect with God. That’s the real danger. The subtle ways that culture and society with sweet words invite us to defy God, encourage us to rebel against God and delight in drawing us from God.
We are our own best defense in this process. Not that we have the strength to overcome evil by ourselves. We don’t. Instead we merely surrender ourselves to God and let the power of the Holy Spirit overcome evil. That’s one of the things the Holy Spirit does. She takes the things we don’t have the strength or will to accomplish and makes it happen. It takes trust and that isn’t easy.
But it can be done. This week give some thought to our what we say in baptism. Be aware of the ways that you are invited to defy God. Be cognizant of how you are encouraged to rebel against God. Know how you are being drawn away from God. Then do something about it. Lift up a prayer. Thank God for all that God has done. Then trust the power of the Holy Spirit. Trust me.