Rahab Sits Still, Jesus Rises, Dagon Falls

A Study of Isaiah 30

(Scripture references are from the New International Version.)

Isaiah 30:20

Although the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, your teachers will be hidden no more; with your own eyes you will see them.

Did you ever have any trouble with this verse? I used to skip right over any Scripture that I didn't understand. Then one time the Holy Spirit revealed to me the meaning of a verse that I had been memorizing for about eight weeks. It was such a revelation that it totally changed the way I approach confusing passages. Now I say, "Ah, another buried gem! Please help me dig it up, Jesus!" When He began mining with me in Isaiah 30 I became dazzled by the truths contained there for me. Maybe I can share some of them in a way that will help you unearth some treasures for your own life.

Jesus began teaching me from Isaiah 30 in the middle of one spring night a few years ago when I awoke anxious. I was anxious at that particular time because He had directed me to lead a neighborhood Bible study in the Gospel of John without any materials except for the insights He gave me the mornings of the studies, which were at one o’clock on Thursday afternoons. I knew that this was part of His process of teaching me how to be still and to trustingly wait on Him. Now He had already proven Himself faithful to provide the studies for several weeks, but I was very proficient at being anxious; I had had lots of practice over many years. Anxiety was my affliction and here it was afflicting me big time in the middle of the night. I was drinking that bitter water and gagging on it.

Maybe you can name an adversity and an affliction in your own life. Try mentally writing your adversity on the label of a loaf of moldy bread and your affliction on the label of a bottle of bitter water. Now picture yourself sitting down to a meal of this bread and water. Immediately you will notice that this bread is moldy and this water is bitter. If you're a sane person you're not going to enjoy your meal very much! What will it make you long for? Probably a good fresh loaf of bread and some good sweet water.

That's what the bread of adversity and the water of affliction do in our lives--they make us long for the Bread of Life and the Living Water, Jesus our Lord.

That night it seemed to me that verse 20 was giving me two ways to think about adversity and affliction in my life. Not only could I see them as moldy bread and bitter water, but also as my teachers. Before the days of the internet I had heard that because there is currently so much information a teacher's main job is to inform her students of where they can go to get the help and resources they need. That is what Professor Anxiety, my teacher, was doing that night. "Now, Lana, to find your answer go to Jesus."

Can you picture your affliction or adversity there with a mortarboard on and an outstretched finger pointing to Jesus? Professor... What is your teacher's name? Loneliness? Rejection? Jealousy? Rebellious children? Unloving husband? Unreasonable boss? Unfaithful friend? Keep that picture in your mind.

In Isaiah 30 the Lord was speaking through the prophet Isaiah to the Israelites-- specifically to a faction within King Hezekiah's court which advocated an alliance with Egypt as the way to keep the Assyrian army at bay. The Israelites, then, had an affliction and adversity teacher called "Professor Threat of War" pointing them to their God.

Of course we have to admit that just as the Israelites didn't always take kindly to the moldy bread or bitter water or tough teachers that the Lord put in their lives, neither do we. Verses 1and 2 tell us what they did.

"Woe to the obstinate children," declares the Lord, "to those who carry out plans that are not mine, forming an alliance, but not by my Spirit, who go down to Egypt without consulting Me; who look for help to Pharaoh’s protection, to Egypt’s shade for refuge."

If we are honest we have to admit that the plan of forming a strong alliance seems like a good idea. If the United States were threatened with war, wouldn’t it make sense for us to line up some strong allies? Well, not if that idea didn’t come from the Lord.

What about us? What do we do? Often we say, "Yuck! That bread is moldy! That water is bitter! But I don't feel like obeying that teacher! What was Jesus thinking of to give me a teacher like that? I have my own plan though. I can just run back to Egypt. (Egypt in the Bible represents the world’s system. Moses physically led the Israelites out of Egypt; Jesus spiritually led us out of the world’s system.) I can come up with my own way of dealing with this." We, too, fail to consult our Lord.

An oracle concerning the animals of the Negev: "Through a land of hardship and distress, of lions and lionesses, of adders and darting snakes, the envoys carry their riches on donkeys’ backs, their treasures on the humps of camels, to that unprofitable nation." (Is.30:6)

So we pack up our treasures, just as the Israelites did. "Let's see, here's that sapphire of peace that Jesus gave me, and this pearl of wisdom and my ruby of joy. Oh, yes, and here’s this diamond of security." We load them in a pack, hoist it onto our backs and take off on foot away from Jesus, a route comparable to traveling through the Sudan. No way will our treasures make it to Egypt with us.

Egypt, then, is my plan of action. My personal plan of action in response to my Professor Anxiety was to fall back on the "Lana method" of planning things. This involved cleaning the house first--I had to have an organized environment in which to work, you know!--then allow for large quantities of time during which I could read and take notes on voluminous amounts of material, draw up an outline, arrange and re-arrange my index cards, get it all on the word processor making sure all Roman numerals lined up, practice, time it, (pant, pant!)

What have you tried? Turning your calendar into a mob scene of appointments and responsibilities? Reading every self-help book on the shelves? Using your TV for constant companionship? Withdrawing from people? Becoming indispensable at your church? Whipping yourself into shape? Furiously climbing the ladder of success?

Know what happens when we hang out in the shadow of Egypt? Picture yourself on a winter day. You're taking a walk in the sunshine and then your route leads you alongside a tall building that casts a long shadow. Br-r-r, you're cold there. That's what happens in Egypt--in doing those world things, your heart gets cold. The Son doesn't shine there.

But Pharaoh’s protection will be to your shame. Egypt’s shade will bring you disgrace. (v.3)

...everyone will be put to shame because of a people useless to them, who bring neither help nor advantage, but only shame and disgrace. (v.5)

...whose help is utterly useless. (v.7)

Ah, life in Egypt--treasure-less and cold. Have we come to the point we’re willing to acknowledge that our plan isn’t working? In verses 3, 5, and 7 the Lord gives us some descriptive adjectives for our worldly plans: shame-producing, humiliation-producing, confusion-producing, disgrace-producing, worthless, of no purpose. "Therefore," He says, "I have called her (Egypt/ the world/ our plans) Rahab Who Sits Still" (Amplified)/ "Rahab Who Does Nothing" (NIV).

What deserves to be named "Rahab" in your life? What is your plan to get your life in shape?

Rahab the Daytimer?

Rahab the Reputation?

Rahab the Bible Study?

Rahab the Diet?

Rahab the _____________? Fill in the blank.

That spring night I started to recognize that this particular Rahab in my life was "Rahab the Planner and Perfectionist." And she was worthless to me. She did nothing truly positive for me. She sat still and left me cold.

These are rebellious people, deceitful children, children unwilling to listen to the Lord’s instruction. They say to the seers, "See no more visions!" and to the prophets, "Give us no more visions of what is right! Tell us pleasant things, prophesy illusions. Leave this way, get off this path, and stop confronting us with the Holy One of Israel!" (vs. 9-11)

So here is the fork in the road. Do I insist on keeping Rahab in my life or do I choose to do things God's way? Isaiah tells us in verses 9-11 what the Israelites did. We can say, "Hey! Get-outa-my-face. What do you mean I can't find fulfillment in being a good parent, in having a successful career, in depending on my education, in making a contribution to my church, in planning and being a perfectionist? These are good things! Jesus should be helping me achieve my goals, not giving me such a hard time."

Therefore, this is what the Holy One of Israel says: "Because you have rejected this message, relied on oppression and depended on deceit, this sin will become for you like a high wall, cracked and bulging, that collapses suddenly, in an instant. It will break in pieces like pottery, shattered so mercilessly that among its pieces not a fragment will be found for taking coals from a hearth or scooping water out of a cistern." (vs.12-14)

We need not think for a minute that Jesus is going to leave us wandering around down in Egypt indefinitely. He knows that what we are doing will ultimately collapse and leave us cold (no coals from a hearth) and thirsty (no water from a cistern).

 

You said, "No, we will flee on horses," Therefore you will flee! You said, "We will ride off on swift horses." Therefore your pursuers will be swift! A thousand will flee at the threat of one; at the threat of five you will all flee away, till you are left like a flagstaff on a mountaintop, like a banner on a hill." (vs.16-17)

It can be hard for us to see our Rahab as sin. As these verses indicate, the Israelites apparently had some trouble with it. A flagstaff on a mountaintop is pretty obvious; a banner on a hill is very exposed. Our enemy won't have much trouble targeting us there, will he? He can tell when we're depending on something--anything--other than Jesus. Here are some questions we can ask ourselves to see if that is actually what we are doing:

Is this making me more dependent on Jesus, or more independent of Him?

Is this making me love Jesus more, or just making me feel better about myself?

If this fell apart, would I fall apart, or would I continue to know security in Jesus?

How does this affect others? Are they thinking I’m great, or are they thinking God is great?

Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; He rises to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for Him! O people of Zion, who live in Jerusalem, you will weep no more. How gracious He will be when you cry for help! As soon as He hears, He will answer you." (vs.18-19)

Here is what the Lord is doing all this time--not throwing up His hands in frustration but straining toward us. I picture Him poised on the edge of His throne, His hands on its arms pushing Himself up, longing for any indication that we will run back to Him, longing for us to cry out for Him--not for His assistance to help us make our own plan work, but for Him.

This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says: "In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength..." (v.15)

He spells it all out for us--how we can be saved from the emptiness and ache; how we can know strength rather than this awful weakness. Cry out to Me, He says. Repent of your plans, turn back from that path, and lean on the everlasting arms--the only place to be trusted and the only place where quietness is possible. Can you see yourself there with Him--leaning on His arm, looking up into His eyes?

To the Israelites the Lord finished verse 15 by saying, "...but you would have none of it." You know, they were really big into idols. For some reason they always thought that the current idol was somehow going to be able to help them out. Some soul-searching for us, then. What is your current, or maybe, as was true in my case, your "from way back when" idol? What would devastate you if it were no longer there in your life tomorrow? Or maybe your idol has already been removed from your life, but you feel like an amputee does, still feeling the phantom limb and the overwhelming longing for it to be part of you again. Do you recognize Rahab, your idol?

You do know, don't you, that if you have received Jesus into your heart He has set up His kingdom in you and it's no joint custody set-up--He's the King and there can be no other. In I Samuel 5:1-4 we are shown what happens when an idol tries to share the residence of the King of Kings.

After the Philistines had captured the ark of God, they took it from Ebenezer to Ashdod. Then they carried the ark into Dagon’s temple and set it beside Dagon. When the people of Ashdod rose early the next day, there was Dagon, fallen on his face on the ground before the ark of the Lord! They took Dagon and put him back in his place. But the following morning when they rose, there was Dagon, fallen on his face on the ground before the ark of the Lord! His head and hands had been broken off and were lying on the threshold; only his body remained.

In Isaiah 30: 21 God says, "Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way’ walk in it.’" Are you hearing that voice yet? Do you hear Him saying, "This is the way--toward Me--walk in it. Don't turn to the right, that path leads away from Me. And no Plan B’s; that path to the left? That path leads away from Me, too. "

I heard His voice that night telling me that my Rahab of Planning and Perfectionism had to go. For all those years I had held onto her because she looked kind of good to me. But my Professor Anxiety had shown me she was good for nothing. So I gave her a push. "Then you will defile your idols overlaid with silver and your images covered with gold; you will throw them away like a menstrual cloth and say to them, ‘Away with you!’"(Is.30:22) Later that day I went to a friend's study-ministry group. When they prayed I found myself falling forward, just like Dagon in the Scripture God had given me in the middle of the night! Every ounce of my excited self knew that this was verification from the Lord to me that this idol had indeed fallen. As I lay there in the presence of the Lord the words "Be gone!" welled up within me--words I had forgotten were the final words in verse 22 in my Amplified Bible, the one I had been using during those early morning hours.

It's the best--having Jesus as our only King, the only one calling the shots. I rejoice in those sufferings: the bread of adversity, the water of affliction. I am grateful for Professor Anxiety. I'm so thankful that Rahab had a name and that Jesus didn't let me remain blind to her presence. I'm amazed that she fell and that what I thought was just the way I was, wasn't.

You need to know that Rahab has tried to crawl back into the throne room of my heart a few times. But she doesn’t have the power she had before and I am quicker to recognize her schemes. The more I reject her, the weaker she becomes.

Now it’s your turn. If you've named your Professor, recognized your Rahab, and heard Jesus' voice behind you, are you ready to say to your Rahab, "Be gone!" If you are, there will be another step. "He will also send you rain for the seed you sow in the ground, and the food that comes from the land will be rich and plentiful...when the Lord binds up the bruises of His people and heals the wounds He inflicted" (vs.23, 26b).

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