What do you do when the floor drops out from under you? When you are shaken to your very core? When you can't understand what is going on in and around you and nothing makes sense? The only sure thing is confusion. And confusion at its most extreme leads to panic. Have you ever felt like this? Maybe you've experienced the sudden death of a close family member or friend. Maybe you've been diagnosed with a terminal illness. Or maybe the incident that led to this feeling state was somewhat self-inflicted: reckless driving leading to an accident causing severe injury, shared needles leading to HIV, unpaid debt and careless spending leading to bankruptcy or eviction. Perhaps, like me, you experienced something you can't even really explain. You just know your sense of self, the world, and others has been deeply affected.
We live in a world full of sin. I sin and so do all the people around me. I'd guess all the people not around me are in the same boat too. Because this world is full of sin, this world is also full of trials and sorrows. Sometimes we can see the role we play in bringing about trials and sorrows in our own lives. Sometimes we can attribute trials and sorrows in our lives to others we know. And sometimes—sometimes things just happen.
Isaiah 28:2 and 15–18 reads,
Behold, the Lord has a mighty and strong one. Like a storm of hail, a destroying storm, and like a storm of mighty waters overflowing, he will cast them down to the earth with his hand…. “Because you have said, ‘We have made a covenant with death, and with Sheol are we in agreement. When the overflowing scourge passes through, it won’t come to us; for we have made lies our refuge, and we have hidden ourselves under falsehood.’” Therefore thus says the Lord Yahweh, “Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious cornerstone of a sure foundation. He who believes shall not act hastily. I will make justice the measuring line, and righteousness the plumb line. The hail will sweep away the refuge of lies, and the waters will overflow the hiding place. Your covenant with death shall be annulled, and your agreement with Sheol shall not stand. When the overflowing scourge passes through, then you will be trampled down by it….” (WEB)
This passage hooked my interest when I read it the other night before going to sleep. There are many things that could be said about these verses. But what sparked my interest was the many parallels I saw in these verses, all of which evoke anxiety.
- The “storm of hail, a destroying storm” in verse 2 parallels the “hail [that] will sweep away” in verse 17.
- The “mighty waters overflowing” in verse 2 parallels the “waters [that] will overflow” in verse 17.
- Verses 15 and 18 both contain the phrase “covenant with death.”
- Verse 15 quotes Israelites as saying, “with Sheol are we in agreement”; verse 18 also mentions an “agreement with Sheol.”
- Verses 15 and 18 both discuss an event when an “overflowing scourge passes through.”
- Verse 15 contains the phrase “lies our refuge” which parallels the “refuge of lies” spoken of in verse 17.
- The phrase “we have hidden ourselves” in verse 15 parallels the “hiding place” in verse 17.
It sounds like God's people are about to be in the midst of some terrifying situations. Can you imagine their confusion and fear when a (metaphorical?) flood sweeps them away and hail damages all they own? What will they think when the “scourge” whips through? They hid themselves from death and the grave by seeking safety and shelter in lies, looking for security where there was none. How alarming would it be, then, to all of a sudden face life-threatening storms and trials? And even if they survived, what would be left? Would they even recognize where they were? What would they do? How could they go on?
Couched between the corresponding depictions of severe storms, death, and false structures of protection is a beautiful image of hope, stability, and strength. God speaks of a foundation he will lay, starting with a tried and tested stone. Isaiah 28:17 reads, “I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious cornerstone of a sure foundation. He who believes shall not act hastily.” Those who have a sure foundation can withstand the storms. They will suffer in the storm, like everyone else, but confusion and panic will not overtake them. They will not have to scramble to seek shelter or solid ground to stand on when the hail falls and the floods rise. For those of us who build our lives on and trust in falsehoods, our protective structures will fall when the storms come. And confusion and panic will set in. But if we let him, God can use the storms in our lives to sweep away and overflow all the lies that keep us from safety and stability. It is my prayer that I allow God to sweep away the falsehoods I have taken comfort in and to use the cleared landscape to dig deep and allow him to lay that sure foundation in me.
Scripture quoted from the World English Bible. The World English Bible is in the Public Domain. That means that it is not copyrighted. See copyright information here: https://www.biblegateway.com/versions/World-English-Bible-WEB/#copy.