“For so spoke Jehovah unto me in the being strong of the hand (of God impelling me) and dissuaded (disciplined) me from going in the way of this people, saying, ‘Do not call conspiracy (treason) everything which this people shall call conspiracy (treason), and its fear fear ye not, nor be awed (by their line). Jehovah Tsebhaoth himself sanctify ye, as He (is) your fear, and He your terror” (v. 11-13).
The picture in v. 11 is that of a father, who, by his hand, seizes his fickle, unresponsive child so as to compel him, for his own good, to obey. Children are just naturally inclined to imitate anything violent and wicked. They do not see lurking dangers as their parents do. They are not able to distinguish clearly and quickly right and wrong in a sound, mature way. Hence their need for constant instruction and guidance. Some wrongs are hidden by “the plausible cloak of public opinion,” so that many are brought “to adopt an established custom as if the will of the people had the force of a law to authorize their corruptions.” This affects children so that they are liable to become addicted to the “Well, everybody is doing it” defense mechanism. Everybody’s doing it doesn’t make it right. We are not concerned with the question, Is it popular? but with the question, Is it right? But it is often surmised that if wrong gets to be prevailing, then it must be right. Evil and wrong are in this world in epidemic proportions. But an epidemic of small pox, for example, does not make the disease desirable or socially acceptable, but rather all the more dreadful! Men, in the natural sense, see these things readily enough. Why are they unable to see them as they apply spiritually? Any dead fish can float belly up downstream; it takes a live fish to swim against the current.
Isaiah himself had been disciplined and well taught in truth, righteousness, and godliness, that he might teach the more forcefully and effectually. One who teaches and preaches out of rich personal experience and from the heart is most likely to reach the hearts of his disciples. So the prophet says, The Lord instructed me, disciplined me, and so dissuaded me from going in the way of this apostatizing people. They go astray, trusting in ungodly alliances and seeking counsel from spirit-mediums. To do this is to fall into a Deistic denial of the providence of God. Many are dissatisfied with God’s providence and have long since given up trusting in it. They want something more (but certainly not more up-to-date). So they turn to the occult, to such pseudonymous sciences, as spiritism, astrology, witchcraft, Satan worship, clairvoyance, extra-sensory perception and para-psychology, the latest form of necromancy. A few years ago the high priests of the science hierarchy showed nothing but utter contempt for all this evil nonsense as infantilistic superstitious animism. Now they themselves are dabbling in and dallying with everything occult.
“Do not call conspiracy everything this people call conspiracy.” Remember Athaliah at the inauguration of the boy king Joash. She cried, Treason! Treason! (II Chron. 23:l3). She had made this motion, but was not seconded, as it was not treason, but reformation and justice. God commands His prophets and His saints not to be swayed by the false policy of crying treason or conspiracy against them. Jeremiah, for example, had preached that the nation must surrender to the inflooding enemy, that doing so they would be spared, while resistance would result in their destruction. But the officers of state despised this as treason and put Jeremiah into a miry dungeon for what they deemed capital crime. Amos, too, was charged with conspiracy by the apostate priesthood (Amos 7:10-13). So Isaiah and his disciples might expect to suffer. All these prophets were branded as conspirators against the state and its cherished, but corrupt foreign policy. For they opposed appeal for foreign aid, advocating instead absolute dependence upon the Lord. But to that faithless element, in the cases referred to, this was surely treason. When the prophets called upon the theocracy to act theocratically, they were accused of conspiracy (E. J. Young). When the true Church calls upon the churches in the world to stick to their one exclusive calling to conduct only ecclesiastical matters in an ecclesiastical manner, it is branded as obscurantist, obstructionist, and troublemaking.
“Neither fear ye their fear.” Do not fear the terror of this people who think all is lost if they do not have the Assyrians for their allies. There is nothing to fear from those two kings, who are no more than the two butts of smoking firebrands. The kingdom of Judah can not fail, until Shiloh come, until Immanuel be born of a virgin in His own land. Today, so many believe our nation would be helpless without the United Nations connection we have, although there is very little, if any, advantage to show for our alliance. Our nation looks more to such alliances than it does to the Lord, being more like Ahaz than Isaiah. Some in the nation like to frighten themselves, and others, with warnings of plots and conspiracies they are always forecasting. It becomes an amusement, with every occurring evil, to look for evidence of a plot and to cry out, Conspiracy! Not that there is no great deal of treason within the professing church. Just recall the Remonstrants within the Reformed Churches of the Netherlands. But the point is, Do not be afraid: the Lord will preserve His remnant!
We do not need some sort of fetish of neo-science to ward off earthly dangers or to exorcize unearthly demons. For the Lord of hosts himself is your holy fear. Do not fear what these dabblers in deviltry fear. Have a reverential fear of Jehovah, in which you sanctify the Lord God in your hearts in faith and love. This means that you regard and treat Him as holy. King Saul, in going to a spiritist, a medium, regarded God as vile, like the whole filthy business of the occult. But He is the Holy One, the God of hosts, of the hosts of the armies of men, of the myriads of angels and of Satanic forces. But if there is no fear of God before men’s eyes, they will tremble continually with inordinate alarm. The revival of witchcraft and Satanism is evidence enough that they who have to do with this dark, offensive slime no longer know the true God, no longer believe in His holiness. Perplexed and confused, they torture themselves with their mind- and soul-destroying iniquities, in which they do not sanctify the Lord in their hearts, but instead, devote themselves to every loathsome abomination. They have, in effect, altered the glory of the incorruptible God into an image of corrupt man, and to images of birds, quadrupeds, and reptiles. They make the living God a dead idol. Doing so, they forsake the only haven of safety and protection. So they, the fearful and the unbelieving, suffer troubled minds, shattered nerves, chronic phobias, and wretched uneasiness as God’s just judgment on their denials and insults to Himself and His holy Being. Hear what He says to the redeemed of the Lord: “I even I, am He that comforteth you: who art thou, that thou shouldest be afraid of a man that shall die, and of the son of man who shall be made as grass, and forgettest the Lord thy Maker, that hath stretched forth the heavens, and laid the foundations of the earth; and ‘hast feared continually every day because of the fury of the oppressor, as if he were ready to destroy? and where is the fury of the oppressor?” (Isaiah 51:12-13).
Such as go to the occult for their religion, comfort, and guidance, God has given over to a reprobate mind (Rom. 1:28), and it is all a sign that God has forsaken them. Comfort there is not from that source, neither from, above nor from beneath (Isaiah 8:21, 22), for they knock at the gates of hell to find a friend and get benevolent advice. The danger of the occult is God’s abandonment, to be left to Satan, to be taken captive at his will. Strange, how the perverted mind seeks counsel other than from God, that is, from the Devil, God’s rival! As Milton makes that fallen angel say, If I fail with heaven, I will succeed with hell. But a holy fear of God over all, blessed forever, is proof of the grace of God’s covenant, and leaves the covenant member in perfect peace with the strength of quietness and confidence.
This holy, gracious fear of the Lord is especially the Old Testament way of expressing the whole of godliness. It does not merely express one Christian virtue; it expresses also worship of God, love for Him, motivation to please Him, avoidance of all evil, and diligently to walk in holiness and righteousness all our days. So the fear of the Lord is the expression denoting the whole of true religion, the very atmosphere in which a Christian lives and breathes. Where there is religion, but no godly fear of Jehovah, there is no true religion. Godly fear consists in godly living, in knowing, loving, and living God’s perfect will. At the very center of it all, godly fear is depending on the precious blood and sacrifice of Christ Jesus as our only ground of confidence.
This one sacrifice was not enough for King Ahaz. A member of the Old Testament church, he apostatized to totally abandon the worship of God. He went off to worship when, where, and how he pleased. Drawn to the latest in cultured, aesthetic religion, he went to Damascus, where he thought he found it in a pagan altar. It was more of his idea of an altar, and he wanted one like it. The old-fashioned Davidic altar seemed abominable to him, and the abominations of the heathen seemed beautiful to him. So he became an independent. But he was not content simply to abandon the religion of Jehovah in favor of his neology. For he set About stamping out the worship of the Lord. He broke up the holy vessels of God’s house, extinguished the lamp of God in His temple and shut its doors. How much better to be able to say, “My knee shall bend to God, and God alone; but if my knee never bends to God, you may depend upon it, it will soon be bending when I do not want it to do so it will tremble before the face of man. If you fear God with a deep and powerful fear, you shall fear nobody else; you should be able to say before a fierce tyrant like Nebuchadnezzar, with the three holy children, ‘Be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.’ The fear of God is the death of every other fear. Like a mighty lion, it chases all other fears before it.” (C. H. Spurgeon).