In the UK there have been lots of items for sale with variations on the war-time slogan ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’
This morning’s service looked at some advice Isaiah gave in Is 7:4: ‘Be careful, keep calm and don’t be afraid.’
Isaiah’s words came at a time of great crisis for Judah. Their king, Ahaz, did not follow God’s ways (2 Chron 28:1-4) and not only did they face battles against Israel, they faced Israel’s alliance against an even bigger enemy, Aram. (Is 7:2) Judah was ‘shaken, as the trees of the forest are shaken by the wind’ (Is 7:2), but even this defeat did not persuade Ahaz to seek God (he simply offered sacrifices to the gods of Aram too! (2 Chron 28:22-23)) This was a time of crisis, and God sent Isaiah to speak to Ahaz, urging him to seek a sign (Is 7:1-7), something he continually refused to do with pious-sounding responses that could not actually hide his disobedience.
Sometimes our lives are devastated by circumstances and our faith can be shaken. But Isaiah reminds us that ‘if you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all.’ (Is 7:9) When catastrophes come, we can despair. We can try to sort the situation out ourselves (as Ahaz did.) But Isaiah urges Ahaz not to fear what others fear but simply to fear God. (Is 8:11-13)
God’s advice is to be careful: we are urged to put a hedge around our hearts so that the enemy cannot invade. He tells us to be calm: Jesus embodied calm and serenity as he spoke to the waves (Mark 4:39) to calm the storm. When there is disquiet, distress and dismay, we need to be calm, slowing down and reminding ourselves of God’s truth, allowing His peace to guard our hearts and minds (Phil 4:7). Even in fearful times, Jesus promises us His peace (Jn 14:27). He tells us not to allow our hearts to be troubled, showing us there is a choice. Instead of the agitation of stirred-up emotions, He wants to bring us to a place of peaceful serenity.
God also tells us not to be afraid. We are often fearful because situations are out of our control, but we have a God who is always in control and therefore we need not bow to the problem but bow only to the God who can sort all problems (Is 8:12-13). 2 Cor 4:14-18 urges us not to lose heart, for we serve an awesome, great God (Ps 104:1).
We need to respond differently to the world when calamities hit us, for we have a great God who is working on our behalf. (Rom 8:28)