I am not a conspiracy theorist, but I do believe there are conspiracies out there. I just don’t see them everywhere. And there is an important truth about conspiracies. Not all conspiracies are bad. Oh, to be sure, plenty are. Evil forces will join forces and lay traps in an attempt to advance their own means. They conspire against others because they hate or because they care more about themselves. But there are good conspiracies as well. No really! It is the parents who work diligently to get their children to make better choices. They may use things like manipulation and trickery, but the goal is not for themselves. It is for the benefit of their children. Sometimes law enforcement works this way. They may lay traps in order to catch a culprit, but they are working for the benefit of the community they work and live in. And truth be told, they are also working for the benefit of the culprit as well. You know, when it is done correctly. Bunch of conspirators.
In Isaiah 8:11-15 the people are told to view Yahweh as a conspirator. And what kind of conspirator he is in their lives is completely up to them. Isaiah begins this oracle by emphasizing that it was the message given to him from Yahweh was actually the mighty hand of God. The message will be difficult for them to accept. Isaiah and they need to trust in Yahweh’s hand of power. So, Yahweh warned Isaiah not to walk in the path of this people. “This people” probably takes us back to verse 6. If so, it refers to Israel. Israel is walking in rebellion. They are not accepting the gently flowing waters of Yahweh. They are seeking the torrential alliance with Pekah, their king, and Rezin, the king of Aram. Even though God is asking them to live as a vassal kingdom under Assyria, they are rising up against the path of peace. They wanted things to work like they did in the days of the judges and early on with the kings: God rises up a powerful leader and deals with invading forces. But that is not Yahweh’s plan right now.
Isaiah is not to say “A conspiracy!” to all that this people calls or names a conspiracy. They may feel as if the whole world is conspiring against them. They are afraid of Assyria. They are afraid of Aram. The people of Judah are afraid of Israel. They tremble in fear concerning so many things. Maybe they saw lurking things lurking in every shadow. In all of this fear mongering, they are not fearing Yahweh. And it is Yahweh of Armies that they should be regarding as sanctified; set apart; holy. He should be their fear. He should be their trembling. And ironically, if they would fear Yahweh, if they would see him conspiring on their behalf, then, well, then, he would fall out as a sanctuary to them. He would become their sacred place.
But they don’t fear Yahweh. So, instead of a sacred place, he will become a stone against which they strike their feet. He will become a rock cliff over which they trip. And this is true for both houses: Israel and Judah. He will be like a snare used to trap birds. He will be like bait. The inhabitants of Jerusalem will be baited and snared. And all because they viewed the conspiracy all the wrong way round. They focused their attention on Assyria. They saw Aram and Israel joining forces to rise up against them. And through it all, they forgot to turn their attention toward Yahweh of Armies. Yahweh, who was conspiring for them; who desperately desired to be a sacred place in their reality.
Because of their failure to see the conspiracy of God, many will stumble. The word used in verse 15 is different than that used in verse 14. It means to stumble, to totter, to fail in strength. Both are about the result of coming up against the stone; the Holy God. They will fall and be shattered to pieces. Their strength will fail and they will totter to the ground. God is a rock you can either stand on or be shattered against. Israel will fall and Judah will be decimated with only Jerusalem left unaffected. This is God’s doing. But he is doing it for them. He is conspiring on their behalf. And before we complain about his methods, we may need to try to grasp the alternative: Yahweh could give up on them altogether. He could leave them alone without any discipline. That may sound nice, but it is worse actually.
I believe that Almighty God is still conspiring on our behalf. This may be painful sometimes. We may even feel as if we are being shattered to pieces. But the alternative is a god who doesn’t care; a god who leaves you to your own devices. I have lived long enough to see what that brings and it isn’t pretty. I pray then: “Conspire on God. Become my sacred place. Help me not to stumble over you. Help me to fear you and to tremble in your presence. Help me to trust in your mighty hand.” Amen. Shalom.