The Fear of the Lord is the Foundation of Wisdom

Isaiah is the book containing the oracles of Isaiah, the son of Amoz, who was called by God in the year in which king Uzziah died (Is. 6:1; 740 BC) and those given by his disciples during and after the Babylonian exile, possibly as late as 520 BC As Prof. Roy Gane, the principal contributor of this quarter’s SS lessons, points out, there is a gap of 150 years between the historical references in Chapters 1 to 39 and Chapters 40 to 66 (Lesson 8, p.161; While pointing out the length of time covered by the circumstances of the various oracles, he does not draw the logical conclusion to this fact). Besides the length of time in which the oracles were at home, it must also be noticed that the text has several problematic sequences and interruptions. For example, the appearance of Leviathan, the fleeing, twisting serpent and the dragon of the sea (Is. 27:1) is a distraction, and the announcement that in 65 years the 10 tribes of the kingdom of Israel would vanish is an inaccurate editorial interruption (Is. 7:8).

Several hands were involved in the writing of the book as events followed their course.  The final editors knew that after the return of the people from exile, a son of David was not on the throne of an independent nation. The promise made to David and “his house” was, therefore, prominent in their minds (2 Sam. 7:8–16). Jerusalem had received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins. Her iniquity had been pardoned (Is. 40:2). The claim is that The Mighty One of Israel, who forms light and creates darkness, who makes weal and creates woe, is the Lord. He is behind all these things (Is. 45:7). He is the only true God. All the others are just idols of wood and stone (Is. 44:9–20; 45:5–7; 46:6). The main agenda of Isaiah is to show that the Holy One of Israel, who severely punished His people, is also the faithful Redeemer (the nearest of kin) who will restore the fortunes of Israel (Is. 43:14) and of a descendant of David (Is. 9:7).

All the prophets presupposed that God is a God of justice. In His world retributive justice works.  “If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land; but if you refuse and rebel, you shall be devoured by the sword” (Is. 1:19–20). “Tell the righteous that it shall be well with them, for they shall eat the fruit of their deeds. Woe to the wicked! It shall be ill with him, for what his hands have done shall be done to him” (Is. 3:10). Isaiah sees the Exile, first announced in 5:13, as a demonstration that what God predicts comes to pass. The promised punishment had taken place; therefore, the full re-establishment of the throne of David was guaranteed. Expectations were high that the return of the exiles to the land, made possible by Cyrus, the anointed of the Lord (Is. 45:1), was the beginning of the restoration of an even more glorious Promised Land for the benefit of all nations (Is. 2:1–4; Mic. 4:1–4). Retributive justice works.

To understand the lesson for this week, Chapters 7 and 8 must be taken together, as well as the whole of Isaiah. The narrative says that Isaiah and his son She’-ar-jush’ub (“a remnant shall return,” the name tells it all) had been sent to tell Ahaz, the grandson of Uzziah, “Take heed, be quiet, do not fear, and do not let your heart be faint because of these two smoldering stumps of firebrands” (Is. 7:4). Pekah, the king of Israel, had asked help from Razin, the king of Syria, to conquer the kingdom of Judah, and thus rule over all the territories of the kingdom of David. God tells Ahaz that the plan of Pekah and his ally “shall not stand, and it shall not come to pass” (Is. 7:7). God’s plan is for a son of David to rule in Jerusalem, and the kings of Israel belonged to several warring dynasties. God is telling Ahaz to trust in Him. As a self-fulfilling prophecy, God’s urging comes from a negative perspective: “If you will not believe, surely you shall not be established” (Is. 7:9). To help Ahaz to trust God, Isaiah adds, “Ask a sign of the Lord our God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven” (Is. 7:10). Ahaz rejects the invitation, and God is upset because He has been snubbed. So, God turns the tables and gives a sign to Ahaz. While the sign Ahaz was supposed to ask would have brought about a confirmation of God’s power to protect him, the sign God gives Ahaz brings to light how He sees those who keep solemn assemblies (Is. 1:12–14), grind the face of the poor (Is. 3:15), take bribes to deprive the innocent of his right (Is. 5:23), and trust on the help of Assyria to flourish. The sign God gives is: “a young woman shall conceive and bear a son and shall call his name Immanuel (Is. 7:14). In other words, a girl will lose her virginity and the son of an unknown father is the sign of Ahab’s misconception of reality. He and the people see themselves as Immanuel. They think they have God on their side. But God is against them. As a result of their lack of faith, the inhabitants of Judah will live like nomads following a minimal herd (a young cow and two sheep) eating fermented milk and wild honey. The land where they are afraid of their two northern neighbors will become a field of ruins (Is. 7:21–23).

To Immanuel, the people who say to themselves “God is with us” but fear Syria and the northern kingdom of Israel, God gives a pointed message: they have refused to live from the “the waters of Shiloah that flow gently [the water of the Gihon spring was what made possible to live on Mount Zion], and melt in fear before Razin and the son of Remaliah (Pekah); therefore, behold, the Lord is bringing up against them the waters of the River (Euphrates), mighty and many . . . and it will sweep on into Judah, it will overflow and pass on, . . . and . . . will fill the breadth of your land, O Immanuel” (Is. 8:5–8). God had given Ahaz the opportunity to request a sign of His power within the whole universe, from the depths of Sheol to the highest heaven. Ahaz’s dis-belief, as he was warned, brought about his dis-establishment. His lip service to God was called to account. “Take counsel together, but it will come to nought; speak a word, but it will not stand,” The claim that God is with them is denied by their behavior. God is against them (Is. 8:10). Clearly the son born of that girl in not worthy to be called “Immanuel.”

Under the circumstances, God gives Isaiah specific advice, “Do not call conspiracy all that this people call conspiracy, and do not fear what they fear, nor be in dread” (Is. 8:12). The text gives no details as to what is described as conspiracies but makes clear that conspiracy theories are based on misplaced fears. In fear of an invasion from his neighbors, apparently Ahaz had been seeking help from Assyria on the basis of conspiracy theories. That those who pretend to have God on their side concoct conspiracy theories based on lies is a fact supported by much historical evidence. Conspiracy theories work on people who fear what they do not control. 

Unfortunately, the recent history of the United States has made the power of such theories quite evident. For the last five years, Alex Jones’s InfoWars.com has been dishing out one conspiracy theory after another, and their effectiveness among Christians has been harvested by the president of the nation. After the Congress of the United States on January 6, 2021 certified the voting of the Electoral College, in spite of a deadly insurgency instigated by the president to prevent Congress from voting, 66% of the members of the president’s party still believe that the November 6, 2020 presidential election was rigged. Representatives in Congress are now being sanctioned for making accusations based on proven misinformation. Conspiracy theories based on lies are the tool used by those who manipulate the fears of people.            

It is a painful embarrassment to admit that the growth of the Adventist Church has benefited from the propagation of conspiracy theories whose reliability is being discredited by history. Members of the church are seduced by charlatans who abuse their misplaced fears to exercise power over them either to ride their megalomaniac dreams and/or benefit financially. David Koresh and his Mount Carmel followers and Christopher Hudson and readers of The Forerunner Chronicles are the most prominent examples, but they are not alone. Members of the church regularly give evidence that conspiracy theories work. The popularity of conspiracy theories among us do not support claims of being a messianic people, of being Immanuel.

Fear is a natural and legitimate sentiment. Exploiting the fear of others with conspiracy theories to support one’s own purposes is the utter rejection of the commandment to love your neighbor. God concludes His advice to Isaiah with the words, “But the Lord of Hosts, him you shall regard as holy; let him be your fear, and let him be your dread. And he will become a sanctuary, and a stone of offense, and a rock of stumbling to both houses of Israel” (Is, 8:13–14). The sad reality was that both the Kingdom of Israel in the North and the Kingdom of Judah in the South had become corroded by hypocrisy. violence, injustice, and the popularity of conspiracy theories. Isaiah gives good reasons for fearing The Mighty One of Israel. According to him, God can be a vengeful, angry terrorist whose wrath and fury causes havoc (Is. 1:24; 2:21; 5:25; 10:5). Given the ambiguity of fear, the ultimate question is, What or Whom do you fear? The way to resist the allure of conspiracy theories is to test the “facts” used to support it. In the age of “information” overload, Wisdom calls for a sober assessment of the reality in which we live and who merits our fear. The message of Isaiah is clear: The people who have their fears misplaced and are seduced by those promoting themselves pretending to have God on their side prove that conspiracy theories work. Those who fear the Lord of Hosts testify that retributive justice works, as Isaiah clearly does.

All biblical quotations are from the RSV.

Herold Weiss is professor emeritus of Religious Studies at Saint Mary's College, Notre Dame, IN. His latest book is The End of the Scroll: Biblical Apocalyptic Trajectories.

Photo by Rodolfo Quirós from Pexels

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/11007

The title of the Sabbath School lesson (Number 4) and the excellent comment that Herold Weiss makes on it forces us to reflect on the issue of whether God is severe, punishing and even destroying peoples in the name of his justice.
Professor Weiss makes a comment that illustrates a contradiction.
“All the prophets presupposed that God is a God of justice. In His world de el retributive justice works. “If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land; but if you refuse and rebel, you shall be devoured by the sword ”(Is. 1: 19–20). Tell the righteous that it shall be well with them, for they shall eat the fruit of their deeds. Woe to the wicked! It shall be ill with him, for what his hands have done shall be done to him ”(Is. 3:10). Isaiah sees the Exile, first announced in 5:13, as a demonstration that what God predicts comes to pass. The promised punishment had taken place; therefore, the full re-establishment of the throne of David was guaranteed "
On the other hand, Dr. Roy Gane, author of the Sabbath School lesson, explains that Isaiah’s message is: “We have nothing to fear when we fear God.” God warned Isaiah not to fear what his people feared, but to fear him (Isa. 8:12, 13).
Dr Gane says that the true fear of God means that “you recognize him as the supreme Power of the Universe.” Whether you love it or not, that fear overcomes any other fear. If he’s on your side, no one else can touch you without his permission. If you are against him because you have rebelled against him, you can run away, but you cannot hide!
Did you understand the contradiction?
The lesson is talking about a God who is not to be feared, but must be loved in the context that you fear him because you know and respect the power of that person and the limits of the relationship. The moment you are not on his side … he punishes you, similar to what a controlling and abusive man would do to his wife!
That is a wrong vision of God and it is supported by prophets, who, despite being inspired by God, were human beings and their words could be wrong and even contaminated with sin and their particular beliefs. They were inspired by God but in themselves they were not inerrant or ineffable. None of them were. They were imperfect human beings.
The Bible in the Old Testament presents a sexist, adulterous, xenophobic people, who even believed in racism towards other nations. God never had to do with it and that behavior was not in any way inspired by God.
God never had anything to do with it and that behavior was not in any way inspired by God. The only thing he wanted and wants is for man to relate to HIM, love him, adore him, connect with his love and love our neighbor, because whoever loves God loves his neighbor and vice versa.
So we have particularly in the old covenant a distorted view of God, which we sadly carry away in our Sabbath school lessons.
It was so distorted that our prophets and later the teachers of the law, the scribes, the Pharisees and the legalists of the time transmitted the paradigm that God punished with a rod (the rod of God’s wrath) by “stages or a once". A God who “allowed” the people of Judah and Israel to “experience some results” of his folly so that they could “understand” what they were doing and “have a chance to make a better decision.” If that people persisted in their folly and did not act before the calls of the prophets, they would withdraw their protection, because God “could not do anything else.” Read Isaiah 9: 8-10: 2 and Lesson Number 5: Prince of Peace
The consequences that the peoples of Israel and Juda received from neighboring nations: invasions particularly from Syria and Assyria, are not consequences of a punishment from God. They are the natural consequences of the unilateral actions of men who had no relationship or connection with God. By not having that connection with God, they made wrong decisions and had consequences. It was the result of his actions, not of God’s punishment. When we separate ourselves from God we immediately receive the consequences, for separating ourselves from God. The consequence is not because HE punishes us. It is that we have come out of his covering, his protection, his grace.
Where is free will in all of this?
I was a Sabbath School Teacher and I remember we always said the same thing. As a matter of fact this comment appears in Lesson Number 5: Prince of Peace.
“God made human beings free (it was necessary; otherwise, we could never truly love him), and freedom implies the choice to do evil. He gave us that personal freedom "
However, if we think for ourselves and allow the Holy Spirit to reveal to us the true nature of God, we realize that that personal freedom in the old covenant is interpreted as being conditional on our doing what he wants, expressed in the law and what the If we do prophets otherwise we will experience the rod of God’s wrath.
At the end of that lesson Number 5 there is a sentence, I assume it was written by Dr Gane that powerfully catches my attention and that clearly illustrates the contradiction:
“Free will is wonderful; we couldn’t be human without it. However, woe to those who misuse it!
That vision of God is not the vision of Jesus. In fact Jesus came to earth among other things to vindicate the character of the Father, which had been distorted by a religious system that presented him as if he were an abusive man. The men had projected their particular vision of who God was. They projected their own beliefs, values, and prejudices of the time, and made a false human doctrine of the character of God.
That is why when Philip says to the Master (John 14: 8-10):
8 Lord, show us the Father and we will be satisfied.
9 Jesus answered: Philip, have I been with you all this time, and you still don’t know who I am? Those who have seen me have seen the Father! So how do you ask me to show you the Father? 10 Don’t you believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I speak are not mine, but my Father, who lives in me, does his work through me.
Philip’s question arises in the context that God was feared, panicked, and frightened and Jesus came to earth, among other things, to vindicate that character and to show the contradiction that the legalists have taught the people that it is necessary to fear God.
That is why in 1 John 4:18 the Master says:
“In love there is no fear, but perfect love casts out fear; because fear carries with it punishment. Whence he who fears, he has not been perfected in love ”.

Regarding conspiracies Pastor Heiss would like to make a comment: Telling an Adventist not to believe in conspiracies is like telling Donald Trump not to believe in the “Deep State.”
That’s what I thought when I heard a well-known Latin American pastor, alleged facilitator of the Sabbath School lesson, say on You Tube (explaining Isaiah’s quote about conspiracies) that “we don’t have to worry about conspiracies, because conspiracies they are already here ”” He then said: “” the new world order is here… there is no conspiracy… the government conspiracy, they already have us under control and they know everything we do over the phone ”

The required questions are:
Why did this respected Pastor make this interpretation of Isaiah 8: 12-13?
“Why are our people so vulnerable to these things, particularly to the message of the conservative political and religious right?”
Why did some brethren sympathize with the KKK, to the extent of being members of its chapters at Adventist universities and being leaders in them?
Why has the information that some of our white pastors were also friends of the local KKK remained partially hidden?
What made Texas Adventist David Koresh drag dozens of brothers with his distorted and conspiracy theories.
What might motivate Pastor Christopher Hudson to distribute copies of The Great Controversy with his supporters on 1/6/2021? Why did station 3 ABN refuse to remove Pastor Hudson from its programming?
What was in the minds of Adventist Christians who, motivated by Steve Bannon, Roger Stone or Michael Flynn, marched, were and participated in the insurrection of 1/6/2021?
Why do many Christians, including Adventists, see the former president of the United States appointed by God to save the United States of America? Save from what?
Why did these brothers put aside, the spiritual connection with Jesus and give free rein to the darkest passions, emotions and feelings, which contradict the teachings of the Great Master Jesus, that we are the salt of the earth, the light, and love of neighbor?

I’m afraid the answers have to do with our identity. That identity that is born from the Bible, the prophecies of Daniel, the eschatology of Revelation, the message of the 3 angels, the present truth, and the influence of Ellen White, in topics such as Sunday law, persecution, the cosmic conflict between the good and evil, the remnant, the sanctuary.

That identity is being distorted, it is hurting us, and it takes us away from the true Jesus.
Since the codification of our doctrines in 1980, the emphasis in the Church (particularly in the Churches with a legalistic majority) has been on eschatology that speaks of 666, the antichrist, persecution, the mark of the beast, satan and less in the connection with Jesus, his truths, the spiritual harmony produced by the restoration of my character by Jesus under the direction of the Holy Spirit, and in the repentance of our Laodicean condition.

The result is preaching by pastors or Church leaders that emphasize and appeal to fear, the demonology of postmodernism, the imminence of prophecies, the end of the world, the creation and existence of a new world order that will annul the republican government in the United States, its democratic and civil liberties, will abolish the Sabbath, enforce Sunday law, and go after us.

So it should not surprise us that this theology in many minds causes fear of the future, and an anger that motivates us to be susceptible to the manipulation of believing that we must defend a former president because he is the one chosen by God to save the United States and religious freedom.

Recently my wife and I had a heated discussion in the parking lot of the Church with a guest pastor (retired) who said in the sermon “that Satan has it with the Adventist Church and that the low attendance at churches (due to the pandemic) it is the product of a shaking caused by satan “For this pastor and so he said angrily and shouting:” the world, the governments are enraged with the Adventist Church and they are going to persecute us. "

It mattered little to the pastor that we explained to him that the absence could be the product of the Church itself, which had driven them away with its message out of context in the 21st century and / or because of a poor connection of those brothers, with Jesus.

However, the most important thing was not the theological discussion, it was the fact that a different point of view provoked frustration, indignation and anger.

If that is the “gospel” that we are going to take to the Churches or to missionary work, we are losing sight of Christ’s message of peace and harmony towards all human beings without distinction of race, national origin, sexual orientation.

We are losing sight of the fact that the word of Jesus convinces, converts to peace, to Shalom, without anger.

That wrong emphasis leads us to a message that takes us away from love of neighbor and will direct us to the dark areas of conspiracies, to anger (as happened to the pastor) to schizophrenia that we lived on 6/1/2021 already following men with false appearances of godliness, false prophets and Antichrists.

2 Likes

we like to trivialize and debate the word FEAR - didn’t LUCIFER trivialize this in heaven and also with EVE ?
without FEAR eve ate

THO spectrum writers embrace FEAR

2 different articles but work together

Isa 8:20 “To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.”

But in this information glut age, who will look? If folks have their minds made up before all the fact are in, will they be inspired to look and live like those who looked at the brass serpent on the pole in Moses Day? Or will they assume that they have the truth and refuse to look and live?

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