Candidate’s Seminar Devotions: The Story Before… (Part 4)
From Faithful to Faithless (and back)
The book of Isaiah opens with these words, “The vision concerning Judah and Jerusalem that Isaiah son of Amoz saw during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, kings of Judah.”
Even before we get into the vision itself and well before we get into Isaiah’s calling in chapter 6, we have this list of four kings. Their stories read like soap operas (Chronicles 26-32). They are all over the place.
Uzziah did fairly well for a while, until 2 Chronicles 16:16 records that “… after Uzziah became powerful, his pride led to his downfall.” His son Jotham succeeded him as king and “…grew powerful because he walked steadfastly before the Lord his God.” (2 Chron. 27:6) Tragically, it turns around again with his son, Ahaz, who “did not do what was right in the eyes of the Lord. 2 He followed the ways of the kings of Israel and also made idols for worshiping the Baals. 3 He burned sacrifices in the Valley of Ben Hinnom and sacrificed his children in the fire, engaging in the detestable practices of the nations the Lord had driven out before the Israelites. 4 He offered sacrifices and burned incense at the high places, on the hilltops and under every spreading tree.” (2 Chron. 28:1-4) It gets worse before it gets better. After the death of Ahaz, his son Hezekiah turns it back around again in spectacular fashion in 2 Chronicles chapters 29-32.
Faithful to faithless to faithful to faithless to faithful. This is the landscape of leadership into which God plants Isaiah. It’s not a golden age of successful ministry. It’s not a consistently growing community that gets it. He’s not called to minister to people with the best intentions who are always doing their best. He’s called to speak into the dim light of pride. He’s called to call out idolatry. He’s called to remind the nearly dead of what life used to look like. And some of them get it.
It’s easy to get swept up in the seasons of encountering the faithless. It’s easy to look around and wonder what went wrong. It’s easy to let that get to us. It’s just as easy to stay busy and get lost in the seasons of faithful. It’s easy to miss what God is doing around us as we minister to others, so much so that it all runs together.
Like those kings, we can be all over the place. Our lives are varied and scattered. So as you make final preparations for this weekend, as you pack your bags and climb into a car, as you travel from wherever with whomever, as you arrive and check in and walk into a gymnasium turned sanctuary, take care not to miss what God is doing. Whether you’re coming from a place of struggle or a place of blessing, notice it and surrender it. You may wrestle with pride or keeping God at the center, notice it and surrender it. You may be in a storm and need peace. You may be peace for someone in a storm. You may need a word from God through someone or you may be a word from God for someone.
Isaiah was brought into the presence of God at a specific time for a specific reason to accomplish specific things. This is a specific time for you, too.
Isaiah was brought into the presence of God at a specific time for a specific reason to accomplish specific things. This is a specific time for you, too. God has a specific reason for you and specific things to accomplish with, in and through you. Enjoy and embrace these moments amidst a community of faith and with a faithful God.
The scriptures are very honest about obedience and disobedience. They hold accountable people like Uzziah who fell to his own pride and Ahaz who “did not do what was right in the eyes of the Lord.” This is important for us to notice. Firstly, so that we can honestly and humbly appraise ourselves, and second to show us that ministry is rarely an ideal atmosphere. As you journal, consider the areas of your life that need more honesty and humility. Then consider how you can stay faithful during difficult seasons.
Pray for your journey. Pray for your travels and your companions. Pray for the friends you will meet and those you will make. Pray for the unfolding of God’s cosmic story in your life. Pray about those things you have been struggling with. Pray for your relationships and for yourself. Be honest. Be humble. Be holy.