The Lord is exalted, for he dwells on high; he will fill Zion with justice and righteousness, and he will be the stability of your times, abundance of salvation, wisdom, and knowledge; the fear of the Lord is Zion’s treasure. (Isaiah 33:5-6 ESV)
Most people want stability. Most of us want a feeling of safety – a sense that we can count on other people, that our lives are somewhat predictable or manageable, and that we are safe. I know that I want these things. I want them so badly that I feel insecure, anxious, and heavy-hearted when I do not feel a sense of stability and safety. And at times of prolonged instability, I can even begin to feel an overwhelming sense of internal doom.
King Hezekiah Experienced Instability and an Overwhelming Sense of Doom
Although King Hezekiah had been a king of reform, primarily seeking to walk in the ways of God, God’s judgment on the persistent disobedience of His people came during His reign around 701 BC. Undoubtedly, King Hezekiah felt an overwhelming sense of doom when the Assyrian ruler Sennacherib lay siege to Jerusalem. Having sent the terrifying Assyrian troops under the leadership of a ruthless general, the Rabshakeh, ahead of him, Sennacherib promised sure destruction to Hezekiah. Moreover, the foul-mouthed general threatened the loyal Jewish citizens of Jerusalem with a painful and humiliating demise if they refused to acquiesce to his demands for their surrender. Hezekiah and the people had already seen neighboring Israelite communities fall to the evil empire. And the Judean King had already paid a massive tribute to the invaders in the hope that silver and gold would satiate the blood-thirsty tyrant and prevent him from destroying Jerusalem. But his attempt to appease the oncoming army was to no avail. Sennacherib had made up his mind. He wanted complete subjugation – not money. He would not stop until he had decimated God’s people.
Hezekiah faced a terrifying and tumultuous situation. For him, it likely felt like there was no way out of the mess in which he found himself. Unstable? Yes. Unforeseen times? Definitely. Anxiety, fear, and depression? More than a little, I am sure.
Isaiah Has a Word of Comfort for Those Who Live in Unstable Times
Isaiah the prophet had a word from the Lord for King Hezekiah. In his usual poetic and majestic style, Isaiah foretold the destruction that the LORD would bring upon the evil king and invading Assyrian armies. The LORD had decided that Sennacherib would receive his just desserts. The chosen people would be saved, and King Hezekiah would enjoy peace in the land once again. Indeed, Isaiah’s prophecy was fulfilled shortly after when Assyria was suddenly called away from the Jerusalem siege and a destroying angel decimated the Assyrian troops. As for King Sennacherib, he was killed by his sons while worshipping at fake-god-church back in his homeland before he could return to Jerusalem and finish his destructive work (2 Kings 18-19; 2 Chronicles 32; Isiah 33).
Life does not get much more unpredictable and unstable than it got for Hezekiah. Thankfully, the unpredictable circumstances in our lives are not usually as life-threatening and terrifying as those of Hezekiah’s day. Yet, instability is still a real cause of stress and anxiety. Sophisticated 21st-century American life is still full of unexpected and unwelcome changes – that bring many negative emotions.
Internal Turmoil Is the Natural Result of External Instability
All unexpected circumstances can produce anxiety, stress, and a feeling of insecurity or lack of safety. (Especially the circumstances that we feel are the result of our wrong doing.) But whatever the cause, internal turmoil is the natural result of external instability. A tumultuous storm at sea picks up the ocean floor and tosses it about, making the water murky, dark, and foreboding. So likewise, the unpredictable circumstances of life unsettle us and cause us to feel tossed around. In those times, every manner of worry seems to rise to the surface of our souls. We often feel entangled in emotional seaweed and in danger of drowning in the murky waters of instability.
But Isaiah’s prophecy was not only for Hezekiah and the people of Jerusalem. In Christ, the promise of the prophecy is for us as well. So the Apostle Paul wrote, “For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom we proclaimed among you, Silvanus and Timothy and I, was not Yes and No, but in him, it is always Yes. For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory” (2 Corinthians 1:19-20 ESV).
Therefore, we can learn from Isaiah and Hezekiah – just as we learn from the Apostles and New Testament prophesies. Amazingly, in Christ, we can even learn from a seventh-century siege of Jerusalem!
Listen to Isaiah’s prayer in the face of the unpredictable times that He lived in and the instability He faced.
God Is in Control
You see, Isaiah recognized that God was bigger than his circumstances. He rightly sought God for strength to endure each day. He pleaded with God for salvation, looking to God for deliverance, knowing that only God knows the beginning from the end. Isaiah knew that only the LORD could save him and his loved ones from the threatening destruction and Assyrian armies. Isaiah acknowledged what we all know deep in our souls to be true – only God is in control. Not Sennacherib. Not the Rabshakeh. Not the Assyrian armies. Not even king Hezekiah. He recognized that God alone was on the throne. Isaiah knew that he and all of Jerusalem were waiting in humble dependence on the LORD.
And what was the LORD’s response to Isaiah? What is His response to us when we acknowledge the Lord’s sovereignty? What does He say as we wait in humble dependence?
The LORD Is the Stability of Our Times
In the form of a prophetic oracle spoken to Hezekiah, the Lord essentially promises, “I will be the stability of your times.”
And this is the very word he prophetically speaks to you and me when we face our own Sennacheribs and Rabshakahs. When our lives feel uncontrollable, unpredictable, and unstable, the Lord says, “I will be the stability of your times.”
God wants us to know that He is stable. He is steady. He is the safe place to run to and find refuge in the face of the most incredible adversity. Big and small problems – He has them covered; He knows what we should do, how we should respond. Although life is not predictable and all our days are subject to unforeseen changes and difficulty, we can rely on God. We can trust Him to rescue us from the instability of our times. He is our strength every morning, the eternal source of our salvation, the giver of true wisdom and knowledge.
Essentially, because of what Christ has done for us on the cross, we can have peace because we can trust the LORD to be the stability of our times.