Current Challenge from Doug Knox.
WAITING FOR UTOPIA
In the past months, the US Supreme Court—supposedly conservative after the Trump appointments—passed two motions that shocked the evangelical world. The first, Bostock v. Clayton County, occurred on June 15, when the court gave new latitude to gay rights. Their ruling reinterpreted the meaning of employment discrimination “because of …sex.” In the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the basis for the ruling, “sex” meant gender. But we are not in Kansas anymore. The court expanded the meaning to cover the contemporary mayhem over sexual orientation, sexual identity, and sex change. The ruling has the potential to eclipse the First Amendment right to freedom of religious practice in hiring situations. The second ruling was June Medical Services LLC v. Russo and came on June 29. The court struck down a Louisiana law requiring physicians who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a local hospital because concern for patient safety restricted a woman’s right to make unrestricted choice. (Oyez LII Supreme Court Resources, Justia Supreme Court Center, 2019-2020 Term, https://www.oyez.org/cases/2019, accessed July 3, 2020.) From a legal standpoint, the cases stand as testaments to judicial activism. When the court reinterprets its own past decisions and then forces their interpretations on the people without relying on congressional legislation, they overstep their authority.
Looking for Utopia
For we who believe in a biblical understanding of the meaning of life, gender, marriage, and family, the decisions mark a radical departure from of the most fundamental truths in Scripture. When we step back, we must realize that both the political right and the left harbor utopian visions, and each side is desperate to hammer its vision into the cultural reality. Many political conservatives, including myself, held great hope for Mr. Trump’s court appointees to right the injustices that have become incased in our legal system. These two decisions shattered our utopian hope.
Not the First Time
I want to look at the biblical perspective, however. We are not the first nation to wonder what the future might bring. If we look in Isaiah 8, The Assyrian Empire, which has grown into the first military superpower in biblical history, threatens to advance on Judah. They are a terrorist nation. Isaiah the prophet affirms the danger. Like a flooded river, Assyria “will sweep on into Judah, it will overflow and pass on, reaching even to the neck, and its outspread wings will fill the breadth of your land, O Immanuel” (Isaiah 8:8). God’s people are about to feel like they are drowning in terror.
A Personal Message for Isaiah
Amid the alarm, the LORD breaks through to Isaiah with a personal message. Isaiah summarizes his experience this way. “For the LORD spoke thus to me with his strong hand upon me, and warned me not to walk in the way of this people …” (Isaiah 8:11). This is not the typical Old Testament “Thus says the LORD” message that Isaiah is to take to the people. It is a message for Isaiah himself. Notice how he describes his experience. “The LORD spoke thus to me with his strong hand upon me, and warned me…”
Looking beyond the Immediate to See the Eternal
What exactly did God tell Isaiah? His message is a two-part call to see the situation differently than the rest of the people. He is to look beyond the immediate and see the eternal. The message unfolds in four sections that stand symmetrically against each other.
Isaiah 8:11-15 (ESV)
12 “Do not call conspiracy all that this people calls conspiracy, and do not fear what they fear, nor be in dread.
13 But the LORD of hosts, him you shall honor as holy. Let him be your fear, and let him be your dread.
14 And he will become a sanctuary and a stone of offense and a rock of stumbling to both houses of Israel, a trap and a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem.
15 And many shall stumble on it. They shall fall and be broken; they shall be snared and taken.”
A Call and a Warning
The use of words in this message is masterful. Verses 12-13 call Isaiah to think about the situation from a whole new perspective. Where the people cowered in fear and dread of conspiracy (verse 12) Isaiah must direct his fear and dread toward the LORD (verse 13). This deliberate reversal of thinking is the only way that he or anyone else will survive being consumed by conspiracy theories. Verses 14-15 record a second reversal, this one more ironic. Mixed results are certain to occur among Isaiah’s people. On the one hand, the LORD will become a sanctuary to those who fear him. Unfortunately, these will be few. For the majority, the LORD will become a stone of offense, a rock of stumbling, a trap, and a snare (verse 14). In verse 15, the destructive terminology piles up like a multiple car crash on an interstate. Many will stumble, fall, be broken, be snared, and be taken.
What This Mean for Us
The moral to this story is simple. We are engaged in cultural warfare. We need to think, to vote, and to educate as many as we can on our nation’s history and the direction it is heading. We need to pray that God will raise up Christians who have the wisdom to confront evil in high places. We also need to realize that human agency alone is unable to save us. If we look for that, we will be disappointed. From God’s eternal perspective, humanity falls into the conspiracy category. Salvation will not come by any president, legislative body, or judicial branch. Finally, we need to temper our expectations. Regardless of whether we fear God or the conspiracy, crises will continue to occur. Kingdoms will topple. Our favorite human saviors will disappoint.
Only the Lord, whose understanding is infinite, rules over human history. For that reason, we need to discipline our thinking. When we fear the Lord first, the latest human conspiratorial promises lose their power to mesmerize us. We do not have to grieve when utopia fails to appear.