Often I wind up doing pre-packaged Bible studies because life is so busy or I’m so involved in community group or ladies’ Bible studies at church that use the pre-packaged studies. Don’t get me wrong; there’s nothing wrong with many of these studies, and often they even go through a book of the Bible sequentially. But, all those studies mean that I don’t often sit down with my Bible and a stack of commentaries to work through a book of the Bible on my own. This summer, I started working my way through Isaiah, which was perhaps an ambitious return to this type of study given its 66 chapters.
Tonight I was reminded though of how rewarding this type of study can be as I watched chapter 7 unfold before me. At first glance, chapter 7 is…. well, it’s boring. There I said it. Yes, that section of the Bible is boring (at first glance). But, once I understood what was going on, I understood that a pretty cool lesson lurked beneath the surface. I’ll summarize in very simplified, non-hermeneutic style.
Verses 1-6 – Israel and Syria gang up on Ahaz king of Judah in an attempt to get him to join their alliance against Assyria (who are very bad dudes).
Verse 7 – Isaiah tells Ahaz to shake off the advances of Israel and Syria because they won’t amount to anything.
Verse 9 – Isaiah also tells Ahaz if he doesn’t trust God, God’s not going to let Ahaz survive as a thriving king.
Verse 10-12 – God offers to give Ahaz a sign of assurance. Uh, hello? Did anyone just catch that. God rarely is a fan of offering outright signs of assurance; he generally asks for a bolder faith, but he’s willing to give a sign in this instance. However, Ahaz turns the sign down (with the maturity of a conniving 5 year old) and runs to make Assyria his ally.
Verse 17-25 – Lo and behold, Assyria becomes the razor that shaves Judah (which had it not been for some quality time with my commentaries, I would have missed the fact that this means the bad dudes from Assyria leave Judah without a single shred of dignity).
So, it turns out the chapter 7 isn’t so boring after all. It’s a pretty colorful illustration about a gut instinct gone wrong; it’s a reminder that when I’m not sure what to trust or who to turn to, God’s clear promises are the best places to ground my decision making tree before I start to try to finagle the action plan that seems most apt to keep me in the driver’s seat.