What Would You Save?

Do you ever play the ‘what would I save in a fire’ game?

It’s closely related to the ‘what would I want with me on a desert island’ game.

If disaster was all around me, if I had to rely on what I could carry, what would I bring? Is there room for sentimentality or just practicality? (I’m going under the assumption here that you don’t need to carry your spouse or your children. Just stuff, no people. Does that help?)

Books? Jewelry? Equipment?

Letters? Love notes? Baby handprints?

What would you need to get you through a time when everything around you seems to be crashing and burning.

I think of this mainly between 2-5am when sleep alludes me. I wonder, ‘what do I really need and what could I do without?’ And I come to some conclusions and scenarios and generally work myself into a plan that hopefully never have to see come to fruition.

But what about when things spiritually start crashing and burning around us? What’s our plan? What will we rely on, what will we save, where will we go?

What will you do on the day of reckoning,
when disaster comes from afar?
To whom will you run for help?
Where will you leave your riches?
4 Nothing will remain but to cringe among the captives
or fall among the slain. Isaiah 10:3-4

God’s been leading me to read through the book of Isaiah. It’s probably my favourite book in the entire Bible. (Yes, I’m allowed to have a favourite. Lightning hasn’t struck me yet.) But even I can’t admit that the first part of Isaiah is totally encouraging.

I imagine myself in the position of the Israelites. Knowing that disaster is coming, seeing the armies in the distance, making escape plans, bargains, bribes and safeguards.

In the midst of the turmoil and fear, God asks the people ‘where will you go? What can you possibly bring that you think will be of any use to you.’

I’m like that in a crisis. My knee jerk reaction is to plan and scheme and gather resources around me to get me through. But the voice of God asks me ‘why these things? What do you think they will do for you that I can’t?’

The Israelites turned to stuff and powerful people and last resources but didn’t turn to the one thing that could help them.

They left God out of the equation.

Just like sometimes I leave God out of the equation.

What they missed in the thread of what God spoke through Isaiah is hope. They saw nothing but advancing armies and missed the word of God saying ‘you will have to live through this, but I will bring you through’.

In that day the remnant of Israel,
the survivors of Jacob,
will no longer rely on him
who struck them down
but will truly rely on the Lord,
the Holy One of Israel.
A remnant will return, a remnant of Jacob
will return to the Mighty God. Isaiah 10:21-22

In the midst of the turmoil of advancing armies, there is the promise of return.

In the midst of the turmoil of our sickness, our brokenness, our tarnished relationships, there is the promise of hope to those who rely on the Lord.

The Holy One of Israel looks at us and asks “what do you think you need that’s more important than the one who is going to bring you through?”.

As my mind is churning in the middle of my struggles, I need Him. I need to cling so tightly that there’s no room in my arms for anything else.

I’m not the one who’s going to do the saving. I’m going to be the saved.

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Are we afraid to test God?

I didn’t used to be a Gideon. I didn’t want to make spiritual waves, to make demands of God, to ask him to prove himself to me.

Because he’s GOD and the nature of our relationship was that my job was to chug along, doing what I thought he wanted, not making a scene.

Just being good, and good was good enough.

This was the same with my decision-making as well. I would pray, in a desultory way, about my decisions, and then let my brains and common sense make the decision.

There was no fleece, no inquiring of the Lord in new and unexpected ways. I functioned under the idea that if I prayed, ‘God, should I do x, y, z?’ and there was no firy writing on the wall or booming voice from heaven, then I could go along my merry way.

What a boring and lifeless way to do, well, life!

Because I didn’t have the courage to ask God for different things. To ask that he not only lead me, but show me. I didn’t realize that I could ask for more of and from God.

The Prophet Isaiah came to King Ahaz at a time when Ahaz was besieged from all angles. He was between a rock and a hard place, seeking God in the midst of the turmoil.

 Again the Lord spoke to Ahaz,  “Ask the Lord your God for a sign, whether in the deepest depths or in the highest heights.”

But Ahaz said, “I will not ask; I will not put the Lord to the test.”

Then Isaiah said, “Hear now, you house of David! Is it not enough to try the patience of humans? Will you try the patience of my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Isaiah 7:10-14a

In the midst of Ahaz’s troubles, in the midst of his questioning, God says to him “ask me for a sign’. And not just something small. God says ask Him anything, absolutely anything. Whatever sign you can think of or dream of, ask and I’ll show it to you.

But Ahaz is a good person and he doesn’t ask. Because we’re not supposed to test God.

How many times have we missed an opportunity because we weren’t willing to step out in faith and ask God to reassure us of his presence and guidance?

And is it really out of respect and reverence that we don’t ask, or is it because we aren’t willing to have God say no? We’re not willing to put ourselves out there and risk not receiving from God what we ask for.

Because what if we ask for a sign and He doesn’t answer?

What if we start being one of those people who ask God for a sign about everything?

But what if there’s some middle ground.

What if we start asking God to show us more of himself in order that our faith will be strengthened? Ask for a glimpse of him and the work of his hand so that we can see him in the everyday?

What if we started seeking, really seeking God’s wisdom and direction in our lives and asked for confirmation through a sign?

I’ve had times in my life when I’ve poured my heart out before God, asking him to change things, to see the impossible happen. And he’s given me a sign that he’s at work. In small ways, like a phone call, or in big ways, like the provision of a job who’s timing could only be heavenly.

But it’s not always the sign I expect. Sometimes I look back over a situation and am amazed at the way that God showed his hand at work. Through the work of others, the coming together of circumstances, the peace of his presence in the midst of turmoil.

It takes more courage for me to ask God to be visible in my life than it does for me to use common sense. Because God’s presence in my life requires something of me. I cannot be filled with God’s presence and come away unchanged.

I cannot see signs and the work of His hand without having to accept and acknowledge that my ways are not always his ways, and that I need to trust in the all-knowing, all-seeing God who does not always let me in on every one of his plans.

But He offers us a glimpse, doesn’t he. He offers us a part in the plan, a view of His glory.

But sometimes we need to ask for that glimpse. Because we get caught in the everyday and forget that God wants to reveal himself to us in big and small ways.

And we can choose to hide behind the veneer of respect and shy away from the unknown, or we can ask. Ask for a sign of his care for us, his movement. And God will reveal himself to us.

He revealed himself to Ahaz whether he wanted it or not. Because Ahaz needed the intervention of the Holy God. A reminder that it’s not all resting on him, but when Ahaz trusts and seeks the God of the Universe, he will find that God’s presence and fingerprints were all through Ahaz’s situation.
As He is with us and through us and our situations today.

God offers us the gift of seeing his presence. We just need to be brave enough to ask for it.