Where would your head and heart be at if a never seen before military force appeared on your doorstep tomorrow? Considering that scenario, how would you respond if a man or woman of God were to say, “Trust in God for your salvation,” in response to that event? Or imagine that Mexico and the USA were to turn against us in Canada because we wouldn’t stand with them in a military matter, and as they were about to come against us, that man or woman of God said something like, “Just rest. God is going to deal with the two of them for you.” Would you find yourself at rest? What might your reaction to the word of the Lord be? Where might you really put your trust in for salvation? Even if you said God was your salvation, would your actions betray your words? This, I believe, is a small glimpse of what was happening to the people of Judah at the time Isaiah was speaking and writing his prophecies.
As I read through Isaiah, over and over again salvation stood out as one of the big themes of the text. Trusting in God for that salvation is a major repeated idea throughout the book. In the case of Isaiah’s audience, that need for salvation and the challenge of putting their trust in God for salvation, was very tangibly real. I write this post not facing any imminent threats to my health or well-being (except those caused by self-inflicted dietary choices!), so to speak of needing salvation in the terms the original audience faced, I am disconnected from their experience. The northern nation of Syria and the northern Hebrew kingdom of Israel where in alliance against Judah, and even when that threat dissolved, the greater threat of the empire of Assyria, a military power like no one had ever seen, showed up on their doorstep. This context certainly is not the only aspect of salvation offered in Isaiah, but I feel that facing such a sense of trust in one’s physical circumstances is different from the emotional and mental salvation and trust I have experienced in my life. Throughout Isaiah, God speaks of how salvation is in Him alone and that takes on a different meaning when the biggest army ever seen is camped outside your city. How tempting and excusable it would be to say in that moment you trust in the Lord for salvation, while making your walls thicker and taller. While stockpiling a little extra of the essentials. While sitting down to talk with someone who carries a bigger stick than your enemy. God, however, leaves no room for anything but complete trust in Him alone for salvation. When Hezekiah exhibits this trust in the Lord alone, the reader sees God save him (Isaiah 36-37); when Hezekiah fails to trust God, the Lord guarantees exile will come (Isaiah 39).
After studying to teach Isaiah I am left with the question: Do I trust Jesus for salvation in every area of my life? Honestly, some areas are easier than others. I am saved from past sin and the effects of sin in my life: no problem – I pretty clearly can’t be my own savior there. I am saved from the just wrath of God that will come on humanity for our rebellion: yep, I am sure only Jesus can save me from that. But what about the areas of external discipline I need to move away from the struggles I face daily? Do I trust that the direction of the Holy Spirit is the best for me? What about salvation in the broken emotional places in my own life and in my relationships with others? Do I trust in Jesus to save those close to me who live in rebellion to Him? Do my actions betray my stated trust in Jesus to save those I care about that have not turned to Him for their salvation? Or what about the oppressed, downtrodden, and marginalized people in the world; who will be the their savior? Do I trust Jesus to save them, or do I trust in humanitarian efforts that may or may not be motivated by the love of Christ and the truth of the Gospel? Certainly, we can be agents used by God to deliver people, whether through proclaiming the Gospel or doing that which brings about social transformation, but the challenge is in discovering where the roots of our hope for salvation are planted. I am striving to enter into a rest in knowing it is Jesus who is the Savior, and not the institution of the church, or YWAM, or my government, and especially not me. Jesus longs for us to find freedom and rest in that realization: salvation comes through Him and Him alone.