Get Used To It

We don’t like to be inconvenienced. Well, it is more than that really. We expect life to be fair. And we want a God who will orchestrate everything to our liking and wealth and well-being. Well? Don’t we? So, if there is a message in the Bible that says, “Hey, life is hard, get used to it” we want to tweak it to mean something else. Surely, Jesus meant the opposite when he said that if we follow him we will be hated; persecuted; crucified; die. Well, surely he meant, instead, that we will have a good job, a good marriage, a reliable vehicle, a nice house, and a just country. That is the message we want; that we are willing to live; that we are more than happy to pay for. Ah, but life is hard, all full of thistles and difficulties. And Jesus said that happiness can be found within the difficult. Not because God whisked away the hard. We may not like this message, but it is the only message that breathes life.

Isaiah 7:17-25 is an oracle all about God orchestrated difficult times. The previous oracles were encouragements to stay the course. Don’t rebel against Assyria. Don’t allow those pesky kings, Pekah and Rezin, to coerce you into sedition. You may grow weary of it, but it is important to remember that Ahaz is not a godly king. Pekah and Rezin were allowed to invade in the first place because of his horrible actions. So, if Ahaz obeys God and remains a vassal kingdom of Assyria, that doesn’t mean life will be easy. No. Yahweh is bringing on him, his people, and on his father’s house (which most likely refers to the house of David) such days that haven’t been seen since the days when Solomon died and the northern kingdom broke away from Judah. And what is God bringing? The king of Assyria. Isaiah’s audience needed to understand that Yahweh was responsible for Assyria’s presence in their lives. Now, that is a hard pill to swallow. So, the message? Get used to it.

And Judah lies between two major powers: Assyria and Egypt. Yahweh will whistle for the fly from the end of the rivers of Egypt. The fly may be a reference to the Ethiopian Pharaoh Pi, who founded the 25th Dynasty. The Blue Nile ends in Ethiopia. Why he is called a fly, we do not know. But swarms of flies are troublesome. Pi fought battles with Assyria in Palestine around 720 or 714 B.C. Assyria was apparently famous for its bees. Even though there is a late document that tells us that the Assyrian beekeepers hissed or whistled to call their bees, this hardly can be applied to flies. Bees are used as a figure for war in Deuteronomy 1:44 and Psalm 118:12. The point is that it is Yahweh who calls these pests to rest and settle in Palestine. Wars and occupation will be their reality. Get used to it.

And the King of Assyria will hire mercenaries to humiliate Judah. Being shaved was a sign of humiliation. They may be hired by Assyria, but it is Adonai (the lord or master) who is orchestrating it all. It will happen in that day that the once thriving city will be reduced to herder culture. Sometimes eating curds and is a sign of plenty, but here it is a sign of reduction of populace. It may also represent a change in diet. Curds was not a city-dweller’s normal food, but it will be what is available to them. When I was a child in my parents’ home we ate a lot of eggs and beans. Not because that was the food of choice of Americans, but because it was cheap.

Cultivated and thriving vineyards will become dominated by briars and thorns; a place fit for wild game. Hunters will show up. You know, because of the wild animals. Oxen and sheep will trample the ground. Picture the once cultivated terraced hills brimming with choice vineyards. These hills are now overrun with thorns. Once ox tenders and shepherds would have avoided these vineyards. But now it doesn’t matter. Times are hard. And they will continue to be hard. And the message of God here was not, “but don’t worry, I will make your life easy.” Nope. It was, “Get used to it. This will be your reality for a while.”

For most of us, life is hard. Being a Christian is not about being whisked away from hardship. I know, it is a clinging theology. But it is a bad theology that only sells in an affluent country. God is a rock to stand on in the midst of the storm. He is not an easy chair. He is a fortress to take refuge in from the assault of life. And as he walks with us in the valley of deep darkness, we can find joy even in that valley. But we live in a broken world where countries still attack other countries; where parents abuse their children; where insults are lobbed like hand grenades. Get used to it. And take refuge in God.