I Will Trust and Not Be Afraid

I have had the privilege for the last year to be preaching consecutively through the book of Isaiah in the evening services of the congregation where I serve. It has been a joy and a challenge. Isaiah is the Mount Everest of the prophets and to scale its heights is breathtaking. Isaiah himself had a breathtaking experience when he saw the Lord “high and lifted up” in the heavenly temple in Isaiah 6:1-8. Immediately after that mountain top experience, Isaiah was told that he would be sent to preach to a people who would not receive him with joy, but would be unable to hear or understand him. What a challenging call.

Isaiah was called to serve as God’s prophet in the days when the Assyrian Empire was breathing down the necks of the northern and southern kingdoms. Assyria would eventually carry off the northern kingdom of Israel. It would never be heard from again. Assyria threatened the existence of the southern kingdom of Judah too. What’s more, God spoke through Isaiah to inform the disobedient, idolatrous people of God that they had better keep their eyes on Babylon. Assyria is a clear and present danger for sure. But Babylon would be the real problem. Isaiah addressed questions about God’s providence. How could God be caring for his people when he allowed foreign nations to come and trounce them?

God would be faithful to his covenant with Israel. However, she would undergo a period of punishment and discipline. Assyria and Babylon were not autonomous empires (as they themselves and some Israelites thought) but were under the providential governance of the Holy One of Israel (see how God refers to the Medo-Persian Cyrus as his “anointed” in Isaiah 45:1). To recognize, as a child of God through faith in Christ, that God is in providential control of all history is not to say that life for the saints will be a cakewalk. Biblical and church history should give the lie to such naivete. Many OT and NT saints have wrestled with the inner workings of God’s providence and how that relates to the people of God and to individual saints. Sometimes it does not look like the Holy One of Israel is at large and in charge.

As Christians we are called upon to put our ultimate trust in the Lord and not in anything or anyone created nor in our circumstances. That is idolatry. Whenever we put our trust in something other than God we are playing with fire. Isaiah understood the challenge well. He had the job of telling his fellow countrymen that they would undergo, in the days ahead, an exile, and then a return. First, the Israelites of Isaiah’s day were under the immediate threat of Sennacherib and his Assyrian hordes and now the prophet was telling them they would have to be on the lookout from the Babylonians too! “Lord, I thought you were in control?!”

Our trust in the Lord is tested as gold in the fire when all history is ganging up on us. God seems distant and the heavens are brass. But God is not really distant at all. He is arranging the chess pieces so that he will win the game. There really is no doubt about the outcome. At least there is no doubt when the facts are looked at in the cold light of day. But while joy may come in the morning, weeping lasts for the night. The question is, how can we maintain trust in the Lord when the world seems to be falling down around our ears? Isaiah offers us some help. In Isaiah 12:1-6, the prophet sings a song in the night:

You will say in that day:
"I will give thanks to you, O Lord,
for though you were angry with me,
your anger turned away,
that you might comfort me.
"Behold, God is my salvation;
I will trust, and will not be afraid;
for the Lord God is my strength and my song,
and he has become my salvation."

With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. And you will say in that day:

"Give thanks to the Lord,
call upon his name,
make known his deeds among the peoples,
proclaim that his name is exalted.
"Sing praises to the Lord, for he has done gloriously;
let this be made known in all the earth.
Shout, and sing for joy, O inhabitant of Zion,
for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel."

In the midst of trial, tragedy, and tribulation, by grace, you can trust in the Lord because he has turned away his anger. How so? Was not Israel disobedient, idolatrous, and sinful? Indeed! To understand trust in the midst of tragedy you must jump ahead to Isaiah 53 where we are told that the Lord’s Servant would take upon himself God’s wrath. Israel could experience a new exodus (which is what the departure from exile in Babylon was) because another had borne Israel’s griefs. We also experience an exodus from the slavery of sin through the wrath-bearing work of the Suffering Servant Jesus Christ. God is providential governor over all creation, but the Creator is also our Redeemer. Trust in the Lord and do not be afraid!

Jeffrey C. Waddington (Ph.D., Westminster Theological Seminary) is stated supply at Knox Orthodox Presbyterian Church.  He also serves as a panelist at Christ the Center and East of Eden and is the secretary of the board of the Reformed Forum.  Additionally he serves as an articles editor for the Confessional Presbyterian Journal.

Jeffrey Waddington