The Ahaz Effect

This isn’t how I wanted to begin the spiritual dialogue on my blog. I wanted to begin with sharing some tools that have helped me grow in my faith over the last year, and my love for the Church, and some great books of spiritual formation. Instead, I can’t believe that like every blogger that’s not taking pictures of beautiful rooms or plates of pretty food, I’m writing about the presidential election.

But this is not a political post. It’s distinctly a spiritual one, because something very dramatic is happening to the Church in America right now, and it’s breaking my heart. Not only is the country split down the middle between political candidates, but it’s fracturing the Church as well in a most damaging way.

Earlier this year, I felt very drawn to study the book of Isaiah. Admittedly, I was incredibly intimidated by Isaiah, and really had only breezed through a reading of it once before. But I felt drawn to it party because it was so intimidating, and I wanted to delve deep into it’s significance as it’s THE most quoted of all the prophetic books. I see now that God was drawing my attention to this section of Scripture because it speaks so very aptly to today. Isaiah himself could be standing in the middle of Times Square spouting his original words, and it would make perfect sense to the climate in America today. To be honest, it also spoke very specifically to me personally in some areas where I wasn’t fully trusting God, so I’m as guilty as anyone.

The year is approximately 740 B.C. The godly King Uzziah of Judah has died, and Isaiah is commissioned as a prophet. Judah is already getting a scolding from the Lord, with reproachful statements like, “How the faithful city has become a whore!” (1:21). God isn’t mincing words for His people, but He’s giving them fair warning. Sprinkled with hints of future hope, the Lord still calls out Judah for greed, gluttony, and pride. The plight of the poor is ignored, and corruption is in the courts. Jotham becomes king, and is somewhat godly, but he only lasts about 5 years. Then Ahaz becomes king. On top of Judah’s internal moral disintegration, the king of Israel decides to attack Judah. Assyria has threatened to attack Israel & Syria, so Israel has called to Ahaz for help, with the double-sided threat to attack Judah if Ahaz refuses to help Israel. Isaiah encourages Ahaz to trust in the Lord to protect Judah. He says, “Take heed, be quiet, do not fear, and do not let your heart be faint…If you do not stand firm in faith, you shall not stand at all.” Isaiah tells Ahaz to ask God to confirm this promise, but in pride, Ahaz says he will not put the Lord to the test – meaning, Ahaz plans to handle things for himself. Rather than stay entirely out of the fray and trust God, Ahaz decides to ally himself with Assyria since they are far scarier than Israel.

Isaiah boldly tells the king, “Is it too little for you to weary mortals, that you weary my God also?” Then Isaiah pronounces a judgement on Judah because of Ahaz – instead of being attacked by Jotham of Israel, God will have Assyria turn on Ahaz, and Judah will be subject to Assyria and have to pay tribute. Judah was still suffering under this unbearable system when the good King Hezekiah took the throne. Several other countries under Assyrian rule decided to revolt, and Hezekiah panicked. He foolishly allied himself with Egypt against Assyria. But Sennacherib of Assyria went on a campaign of terror, and Jerusalem barely escaped being leveled because Hezekiah turned again to Isaiah and listened to the Lord. A pitiful remnant preserved Judah for another hundred years until Nebuchadnezzar conquered Assyria and took the rest of Judah captive for 70 years. No wonder Isaiah is an intimidating book: there’s a ridiculous amount of historical background going on amidst poetic prophecies of promises and curses!

And all of this turmoil was because of fear – Israel feared one nation, so they allied themselves with another unholy nation rather than trusting in God’s protection. Starting to sound familiar? It’s the Ahaz Effect all over again.

We have two of the worst presidential candidates in American history. Very few individuals seem to be totally on-board with either candidate because both Hillary & Trump are reprehensible people in their private and professional lives. But what do we see the population doing? Allying themselves with one horrible candidate because they’re afraid of the other horrible candidate. Nowhere is this more disappointing and disgusting than within the Church. I am far more concerned about the state of the Church right now than the state of America. Christians, both pastors and lay-persons alike, are flocking to a side because they either fear the integrity of one candidate, or they fear the policies of another. Everyone knows they are choosing between the lesser of two evils, and yet, they don’t seem to recognize that there’s always a third choice. I’m not even talking about third party options – I’m talking about the option to “Take heed, be quiet, do not fear, and do not let your heart be faint…If you do not stand firm in faith, you shall not stand at all.” I’m talking about the option to literally do NOTHING except trust God. I’m talking about not making a choice between the king of Israel or the king of Assyria, or Trump or Clinton. I’m talking about choosing to trust a God who has parted Red Seas, who changed the heart of Saul, King James, Gorbachev and YOU. I’m saying that instead of voting in fear, we can, in faith, NOT vote, without sullying our consciences with the unilateral decisions made by the next president. We could stay above the fray and let God deal with the heart of whoever becomes president as we pray unceasingly for him or her. THAT is the Christian’s true civic duty. It’s not voting or campaigning or supporting a political party – it’s to live the Gospel in every day life, and trusting God with everything beyond our control.

With the selection of current candidates, it’s pretty obvious to the non-delusional that there is no GOOD choice between the two individuals. The choice then is between choosing Man or choosing God. If you vote primarily out of fear of one of the two, you’re choosing Man’s way. So what will it be? Will we ally ourselves with political parties or with Christ? Will our nation be America, or will it be the Church? Will it be fear, or faith? Because it most certainly cannot be both.

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