Summary: We can be set adrift amid a sea of relativism by our own choice, or be anchored in the Truth. God will be for us either a stepping stone or stumbling block...either our hiding place or a bolder blocking our way.
Where do you get your news? From TV, radio, newspapers, the internet, your telephone? Where do you get truth? According to Isaiah, a lot of people would rather believe fanciful theories than facts. More and more people make their own truth. Isaiah cautions us not to believe everything we hear; what sounds like conspiracy isn’t. A recent sociological study finds that people who follow conspiracy theories are insecure; they feel special by what they deem hidden knowledge, which are mostly unfounded explanations of what is really going on. That’s the point of verse 12. How do we explain what life is all about? What's our source of wisdom? There are many conflicting worldviews. Some people prefer exotic explanations. In an age of arbitrary values, we need to seek and follow the truth.
Everyone has a worldview, whether they realize it or not. They’ve constructed a set of beliefs by which they understand life. They have a view of God, or of no God. They have a view of self, some concept of the meaning of life, and a set of values. These are either based on personal preferences or divine revelation. People use their values to justify their decisions; beliefs determine behavior. Many people rely on luck, fate, superstition, or intellectual options that lead to self-trust and ultimately despair, as they see the failure of human thinking to offer purpose and satisfying answers.
In context, the “conspiracies” Isaiah refers to may involve Israel seeking alliances with and foreign aid from pagan nations (which sounds like a sheep getting a loan from a wolf)…and rumors of war with the Northern Kingdom. The lesson is that we ought not accept at face value all the rumors we hear. Let’s consider the source and appraise every political and personal opinion by whether it is right, not popular.
How does Isaiah respond to these concerns of the people? He refers to those with little faith and calmly says, “Do not fear what they fear.” All around us people fear the future--they worry about money, their health they have great anxiety over world events, and yet the most often repeated directive in Scripture (114 times) is two simple words: “fear not”. God can take us from fear to faith. It’s been said, “Fear knocked on the door…Faith opened it; and no one was there.” If we’re trusting the One who holds the last minute, we need not fear the next minute. C.S. Lewis observed, “Though there is much to be puzzled about, there is nothing to be worried about.” We have nothing to fear when we embrace God’s truth.
Isaiah warns us not to replace God with competing ideologies—verse 13. Faith needs to remain our steering wheel. If we’re not discerning, we may highly regard views that replace God in critical thinking. We may “hallow” secular thinkers, yet God is the only One who is truly holy, which is a comfort in our uncertain, often fearful world. There are many competing philosophies in our world, and many dangerous ideas. Think of the people who’ve influenced you the most. They could be authors, teachers, friends…are they trusted people of faith?
We’re also told to fear God (still in verse 13)…The fear of God is the one fear that removes all others. We have a clear choice: to fear God or to fear everything else; to trust Him or to trust nothing. Chesterton urged, “We need to recover the sense of religious fear, so that it may be overcome by religious hope.” We tremble at the thought of God--with fear, love, and longing.
Isaiah then makes his central point—in verses 14-15: God will be for us either a stepping stone or stumbling block…either our Hiding Place or a Boulder blocking our way. We need to guard against getting side-tracked by secular notions. We need to maintain a biblically-informed focus. We have a choice: we can be set adrift amid a sea of relativism, or be anchored in the Truth. One scholar suggests that large stones were placed in pathways as a warning to travelers…we ignore them at our own peril.
Jesus spoke similar words when He warned that if we’re not careful, we may build our house on shifting sand (Mt 7:24); we need to build our lives upon the bedrock of truth. And Peter, who quotes this passage from Isaiah in his first epistle, warns that people stumble because they choose to reject the Cornerstone and His message (I Pet 2:7-8).
For people of faith, God is our Rock of refuge…for others, He’s a stone in the road to stumble over. God remains in place as an unavoidable fact of life. We will encounter Him one way or another. For those who trust Him, He’s what holds all things in place. Those who ignore God find life unraveling, falling apart with no fix in sight. Or they attempt to repair the damage with anything but God. Yet He is our stability and salvation.