It is a confrontation between a prophet and a king. In chapter 7 of Isaiah, the future of the nation is threatened by the combined armies of Aram and Israel. According to the text, the heart of King Ahaz of Judah and those of his court officials shook like trees of a forest in a wind storm.
The prophet Isaiah makes a bold statement to the king in this moment of national crisis. “If you do not stand firm in faith, you shall not stand at all” (Isa. 7.9).
I wonder how we unpack the meaning of these words in our own time. The threats we face are different in nature; terrorist violence, environmental destruction, growing inequities, water and food insecurity, the massive movement of refugees, along with a loss of confidence in governments and international institutions.
I propose that standing firm in the faith requires a stubborn commitment and a determined missional engagement based on a few basic principles:
- God establishes his rule in the chaos and messiness of the world.
- Justice will ultimately triumph over evil.
- Truth will triumph over lies, political rhetoric, and calculated propaganda.
- Mercy and love will triumph over hatred, individual self-interest, and fear.
- God continues to call people to bear witness to his kingdom and to bring healing to the wounded places of the world.
This week my friend Gary Nelson is in Lebanon for board meetings of the Arab Baptist Theological Seminary, The principal, Elie Haddad and his wife Mireille, fled Lebanon as refugees. As professionals in Canada, they received God’s call to return to the Middle East to help train emerging leaders. The students come from countries like Libya, Sudan, Algeria, and Egypt. Like Elie and Mireille,they go back to their homelands as pastors and church leaders to serve God’s rule in challenging contexts. I am humbled by the ways they exemplify We could learn from these young men the meaning of standing firm in faith.