September 17: Focus and Fear
September 17, 2016
TODAY'S BIBLE READING:
This section begins with wonderful promises for God’s people—“I will pour my Spirit upon your offspring” (44:3)—in the context of which the instruction to “Fear not” (44:2, 8) makes sense. How often it is that we fear because we do not focus! We fear the results of some eventuality because we have lost focus on the promises of God! We fear the effects of some calamity because we have lost focus on the face of God! We fear the impact of some decision because we have lost focus on the Word of God! We fear the vagaries of fate because we have lost focus on the power of the Spirit of God!
In order to remove our fears, we must first regain focus. Take a moment to think through, write down, and externalize what God has promised you. What in these verses can you claim as your own? Take a moment to think through and write down who God is to regain focus on God himself. What in these verses can you refocus upon as the nature of God that means you have no need of fear? “I am the first and the last; besides me there is no god. Who is like me? Let him proclaim it” (44:6-7).
“Fear not, nor be afraid; have I not told you from of old and declared it? And you are my witnesses! Is there a God besides me? There is no Rock; I know not any.” (Isaiah 44:8)
With this focus in place, we can almost laugh at the ridiculousness of idols, as Isaiah does from verses 9 and following. The making of physical idols is absurd, and it is little more absurd to make idols out of ambition or money or fame. Will fame save you when you have cancer? Will you care how much money you have made on your deathbed? Will success matter to you—how many hours you spent in the office—when you are dying from a work-induced heart attack? It is ridiculous to live by such idols.
But not only is it ridiculous, it is damaging in the here and now, too. It is “feeding on ashes” (44:20). That is, it does not satisfy. There is an ache within. As Augustine put it in his Confessions, “Our hearts are restless until they find rest in Thee.” “A deluded heart has led him astray” (44:20). It leads to confusion, wandering, and a lack of purpose, mission, and vision. There is a sense of hopelessness and pointlessness—what is it all about? Why am I doing all this? These are signs of idolatry—fundamental and foundational disappointment and disillusion, confusion, and aimlessness. Do you have those signs? Are you worshipping the idol of success or fame or family or fortune? Refocus on God and you will then “Fear not”!
Isaiah 45 pulls back the curtain on the extraordinary sovereignty of God. He can even use a pagan dictator, Cyrus, to fulfill his purposes (45:1). How great is our God! No evil is so great that it cannot be turned to his glory and our good (see Romans 8:18-39).
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Josh Moody (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is the senior pastor of College Church in Wheaton, IL., president and founder of God Centered Life Ministries, and author of several books including How the Bible Can Change Your Life and John 1-12 For You.
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