Yesterday I started reading through Isaiah. I had no plan, I just literally flipped my Bible open and started reading somewhere in chapter 5, and then got hooked so I decided to go back to the beginning and read through. This morning as I read through chapter 7 something hit me in a brick like fashion.
To lay the background, King Ahaz was awaiting a battle that he was afraid of. He was worried and fearful. God sent Isaiah to tell him not to fear, that the battle would not happen – if Ahaz had a faith that stood firm. It was all dependent on that. But what did Ahaz do?
“Later the Lord sent this message to King Ahaz: “Ask the Lord your God for a sign of confirmation, Ahaz. Make it as difficult as you want – as high as heaven or as deep as the place of the dead. But the king refused. “No,” he said, “I will not test the Lord like that.” Then Isaiah said, “Listen well, you royal family of David! Isn’t it enough to exhaust human patience? Must you exhaust the patience of my God as well?” Is. 7:10-13
Ahaz, in an effort to appear more spiritual, refused to ask God – essentially to put him to the test.
Even though God told him to do it.
“Ask the Lord your God for a sign of confirmation, Ahaz.”
God wanted Ahaz to have faith that God could prove his faithfulness. Prove his provision. Prove his care and that his promises were true.
This got me thinking this morning about how often we don’t ask God for things. How often do we tell ourselves that it’s not “spiritual” to ask. That asking shows a lack of faith in general? Do we feel ashamed to ask for specific things? Do we feel that maybe just in the asking, we’re being selfish or not trusting God’s provision for us?
But, God, right here says the opposite. He said ASK. And not just ask, but ask me to prove myself to you.
More than that though, he told Ahaz to ask him for the impossible. Not just something small, but something that would seem impossible in the eyes of man.
“Make it as difficult as you want – as high as heaven or as deep as the place of the dead.”
As high as heaven.
As deep as the place of the dead.
Those are some pretty big parameters. How often do we limit God in what we ask for? I think the whole concept of asking him to prove himself is a hard one to wrap my brain around, but if I’m truly honest, it feels even less “right” to say, “Okay God, time for you to show up, and I’m not talking in little ways. I bet you can’t do this…”
But that’s what God told Ahaz to do. Let me prove myself. You just name it. As big as you can think. Let me show myself to you.
We are sitting in this place of watching and waiting on the move to the new land. This past weekend the engineer came to look at our current site to do an assessment. While here he also went with Chris to look at the piece of land we want to buy. We were very happy when, after doing the rough measurements it came out much bigger than we had anticipated. Our current place is 17 centimes, and the new place is 27. (Don’t ask me what a centime is in reference to acres or anything like that. I couldn’t tell you!). He said we’d find water easily because the water table is good, we have a view, and most of all that the price being asked is right on which means we won’t wast time with negotiations.
It feels scary. It feels overwhelming. This thing that we’ve talked about is sitting right there, waiting for us to move forward. Chris and I have had many conversations about what all is involved, buildings, the process, the money… all of it. There have been times where Chris has said, “I’m not ready to talk about those details yet, it’s too mind boggling.”
We’re looking at this project, and our estimates and feeling a slight sense of panic because it’s going to come with a big price tag, and we don’t have a bank account full of money. But we know this is right. We had to cut back our work week from 5 days to 3, and one of our first priorities is to get back up to full production, but we know we need to move forward on the property purchase etc as soon as we can. We’ve been communicating with our donors about all this and praying that God will provide for our needs, as he always has. I can literally say, that the mission has never been lacking when it comes to crunch time. Chris remembers days when he wasn’t sure if the rent money would be there, and by the time the check had to be dropped off it was in the bank account. I remember back in 2008 when we had finished the first floor of the building we’re in now and had walls up on the second. We had everything in place to pour the roof of the second level, but we were down to our last few thousand dollars. Did we pour the roof so we wouldn’t have to pay rent on the supports for another month, or did we hold off and focus on paying our staff year end bonuses. We prayed and talked and finally decided that we had to move forward with the roof pour. Three days later we had over $100,000 in donations come in. Those moments are humbling.
After reading this today, and mulling it over on the school drive it wouldn’t leave me alone. I wondered how often we limit God? How often do we hesitate to ask, or feel that we’re breaking some sort of Christian rule if we do? The words “testing” and “God” feel like they shouldn’t go in the same sentence, that there’s something blasphemous if they do. I mean, do we act like we’re asking, but deep down we’re actually limiting how much we ask for? Am I sinning if I don’t walk in true faithfulness? If I’m afraid to ask God for what seems impossible?
Except God told Ahaz to do just that. “Ask the Lord your God for a sign of confirmation…”
I shared my thoughts with Chris about this whole thing, and how I wondered if there were times where we tried to carry too much of the load, sincerely feeling like that was the right thing to do. Did we feel like it was better to exhaust every option on our own strength rather than asking boldly? What if we stared down this overwhelming issue of not having what we need financially to move forward – even though we know it’s what we’re supposed to do, even though we can see the project coming together, even though we can see the stages and the process?
What if, recognizing we still have a role to play and things that we must do to be responsible, we let go of some of the control?
What if we ignored common sense and stared it in the face and said, “Okay God, right now, for us, this is as high as the heavens and as deep as the place of the dead,”?
What if we believed that the God of the impossible wanted to show us that he truly was the God of the impossible?
What if we trusted that he would provide, not only for this overwhelming project, but also for the day to day needs of the mission and our staff?
I’ll tell you what it looks like.
After Chris and I finished talking we went about our morning. About an hour later I got an email from a donor in response to another question they had, but in it they said to expect a check in the mail with the hope that it might help us get back up to full production again soon.
It was a significant donation. It was enough to render Chris speechless when I told him.
“Ask the Lord your God for a sign of confirmation, Ahaz.”