The difference between submitting to authority and leaning on authority

“In that day the remnant of Israel and the survivors of the house of Jacob will no more lean on him who struck them, but will lean on the Lord, the Holy One of Israel, in truth. -Isaiah 10:20.”

I’ve been reading through Isaiah with the #IsaiahChristmas community the past few days.  One thing is really sticking with me: there’s a big difference between submitting to authority and leaning on authority.

In Isaiah 10 God through Isaiah announces his judgements on Assyria, a government and people he used to purify his people.  But now he’s telling his people not to be afraid of them because he’s going to come down on the Assyrians for being so arrogant.  They may have been the tool God used to chastise them, but they weren’t God.  They were a tool in God’s hand.  That is all.  The tool wasn’t going to get away with boasting over the One who designed it.

“Shall the axe boast over him who hews with it,
or the saw magnify itself against him who wields it?
As if a rod should wield him who lifts it,
or as if a staff should lift him who is not wood!” -Isaiah 10:15

The Assyrians were used by God to deal with his people and their idolatrous ways.  He let his people have who they were leaning on: the Assyrians.  They apparently wanted to be like them.  They feared these guys Rezin and Remaliah, because they were powerful.  They seemed to have desired to be like these guys who would put hooks in their captives noses.  They saw all that oppressive power, feared it, and wanted to be like it.  Israel wasn’t satisfied with God’s good, gentle authoritative rule over them.  They wanted the imposing power of the nations they feared.

“Because this people has refused the waters of Shiloah that flow gently, and rejoice over Rezin and the son of Remaliah, therefore, behold, the Lord is bringing up against them the waters of the River, mighty and many, the king of Assyria and all his glory. And it will rise over all its channels and go over all its banks…” – Isaiah 8:6-7

God had gentle, good waters for them, but they wanted the powerful, influential rivers of Assyria. So he let them have it.  He let them have what they were leaning on, what they feared, what they trusted to hold them up.  There, propped up under the abusive hand of Assyria they felt the distinct difference between the gentle ways of God with his people and the abusive was of world rulers.  There, God tore down what Israel was leaning on.

And there, weak and few, Israel again began to lean on their good God and no longer on their lust for influence of power.

“In that day the remnant of Israel and the survivors of the house of Jacob will no more lean on him who struck them, but will lean on the Lord, the Holy One of Israel, in truth.” Isaiah 10:20

I so identify with this whole story.  Isaiah testifies to me of my love of men’s praise and desire to be influential with influential people. I lean on men.  This is me naturally.  Sinfully.  But Jesus is in me.  In Isaiah I see how he has dealt with me these 24 years, letting the man I leaned on fall time and time again, so that I would see where my trust was lying and how unreliable man is.

In my case, it’s my marriage.  But it could be the government.  Or a boss.  Or a teacher.  Or anyone or thing that I trust, lean on, to support me and fulfill me. In every case, God will not let his people continue with such a false hope and betraying trust.  He will use the very thing we trust against us to cause us to see how much we’re trusting in it.  And then, if that person, or government of situation abuses it’s position as a tool in God’s hand, God will deal with them.  He is not letting our “functional saviors” fail for our failure.  He’s letting them fail for our good.

In any case, whether it be a marriage, or a political party or government or employer…  God has instructed us to submit to people in positions of leadership- husbands, police officers, governors, presidents, teachers, etc.  But submitting to those people or institutions is not the same as leaning on them.  In fact, submitting to them means they’re leaning on us.  And if we’re leaning on Christ as being God’s own children, then we can endure whatever comes our way through their opposition or difficult personalities or injustices.  We can endure, even resist while we serve and do good, leaning on our good God who will deal with the people in authority.

The coming hope of Israel in Isaiah is our hope also.  Christ is our hope.  And his yoke is light.  We can come under it and suffer and come out risen and perfected and made new. We can rest in God’s good ways.  But if we rest on those in authority, we will be stricken by their failure to be what only God can be.

Good and Severe

“Safe? Don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.” — Mr. Beaver (The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis, Ch. 8)

My life has changed so much in the last year. It seems God has led me into the “valley of the shadow of death.”

Today as I sat crying out to the Lord, longing for His salvation in my situation; longing for His right ways in my life, God renewed in me a desire to continue to speak out the encouragement He’s given me, and to not stop just because I’m surrounded by pain and rejection.

So here’s what I wanted to share:

Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God… -Romans 11:22 NKJV

Goodness and severity. Two things that don’t seem to go together in my mind. But I find a strange fascination and comfort in believing that the Creator of the Universe, my Savior, and Lover of my soul is both good and severe.

I don’t appeal to just a “nice guy” when I desperately cry out to God in my messed up life. I appeal to the severe One who controls all things; who led me into the situation I’m in. For, “He guides me… even when I walk through the darkest valley.” (Psalm 23:4) And “{He} prepares a feast for me in the presence of my enemies.” (Psalm 23:5)

I might not want God to be severe, but when facing desperate need, the only One who can really save me is the severe One who led me to that path of desperation in the first place.

If a judge lays down a heavy judgement against me, I might turn and plead to my nice neighbor until I’m blue in the face, but he isn’t the one who laid such a severe penalty on me. He might be nice, yet he can’t help me get out of the situation I find myself in. However, if I appeal to the severe judge, I appeal to the only one who can really do anything about my situation. And if out of His utter goodness He chooses to pay the judgement Himself, to take it away from me, I have been saved from that judgement indeed!

I’m glad God is good and severe. I need Him to be both. I fear His severity, yet I can’t complain against it because He’s so purely good. I know if ever He is severe with me, He’s doing it in total goodness and for my good. And if He is severe with me I also treasure His goodness all the more. I can appeal to the goodness of the only One who can do anything about my desperate life.

Psalm 130:

A Song of Ascents.

Out of the depths I have cried to You, O LORD; Lord, hear my voice! Let Your ears be attentive To the voice of my supplications. If You, LORD, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But [there is] forgiveness with You, That You may be feared. I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, And in His word I do hope. My soul
[waits] for the Lord More than those who watch for the morning– [Yes, more than] those who watch for the morning. {Oh Sheila}, hope in the LORD; For with the LORD [there is] mercy, And with Him [is] abundant redemption. And He shall redeem {Sheila} From all {her}iniquities. (personal application added by me)

“The LORD kills and makes alive; He brings down to the grave and brings up. The LORD makes poor and makes rich; He brings low and lifts up. He raises the poor from the dust [And] lifts the beggar from the ash heap, To set [them] among princes And make them inherit the throne of glory. “For the pillars of the earth [are] the LORD’s, And He has set the world upon them.” – 1 Samuel 2:6-8 NKJV

Oh LORD, only You have every right to be severe. Only You can truly do good without any false motives or selfishness. Only with You is there real salvation and forgiveness. Only with You is there real deliverance and life! I boldly run to You King of the Universe! Let Your goodness be known in my life!

Isaiah 51:3