Isaiah 8:6–8 (NKJV)
6 “Inasmuch as these people refused The waters of Shiloah that flow softly, And rejoice in Rezin and in Remaliah’s son;
7 Now therefore, behold, the Lord brings up over them The waters of the River, strong and mighty— The king of Assyria and all his glory; He will go up over all his channels And go over all his banks.
8 He will pass through Judah, He will overflow and pass over, He will reach up to the neck; And the stretching out of his wings Will fill the breadth of Your land, O Immanuel.
The nation of Judah was threatened by surrounding nations. They looked to make a treaty with Assyria to protect themselves and their way of life.
Isaiah was sent to warn them of the dangers of this path. This section begins in chapter 7, for the whole context.
But Judah’s king, Ahaz, did not believe Isaiah’s words. He would not trust in the Lord or the Lord’s covenant. He refused a sign, for his mind was already made up.
He would not rest in God’s promise and God’s provision. Instead, he would trust in human power, armies, wealth, kings and nations.
God’s promises and God’s instructions were like the gentle moving waters of Shiloah (later called “Siloam”, see John 9). Gentle water washes and refreshes. It quenches thirst and gives peace. Sitting quietly by a gentle spring of water calms the soul.
It is a beautiful metaphor for God’s promise of a redeemer. Immanuel, God with us! This promise cannot fail for who can stop the creator of heaven and earth from fulfilling his word?
If Ahaz had simply rested in God’s promise and learned to quiet his soul, he would not have sold himself and his nation into the hands of the Assyrian army. Assyria would not stop. They would destroy everything in their path and consume all who stood in their way.
They were like a huge, destructive flood, crushing everything in its path.
But Ahaz would not listen. From his day on, Israel would never be independent again. They would be subject to nation after nation up until Rome, when Jesus would set up his kingdom just as the prophets foretold.
But here is the point. When we refuse to listen to the gentle voice of the promise and the instructions of God, eventually God will use the Assyrian armies to get the attention of his people. God uses tyrants to call his people to repentance before it is too late.
When we refuse to heed the voice of the gentle waters, the waters of the destructive flood have their way of compelling us.
This brings me to another thing I’ve been thinking about. Cancel culture.
We used to call it “politically correct speech”. If you say the wrong words, the consequences can be dire. I just read of another minister kicked off Twitter because of his incorrect speech about gender dysphoria. He, of course, blames it on “persecuted for righteousness’ sake”, but I think the cause is deeper.
For decades we have accepted reviling speech against anyone we deem “enemies”. Whether it is the LGBTQ community, or liberal theologians, or people who support the wrong candidate, or those who speak out for social justice, or promote CRT, we (as the church) use the most degrading and hateful speech imaginable.
I guess we consider it fair game, because the objects of our derision are so “objectionable”. We justify it to ourselves by saying that these sorts of people will rob us of our place and our nation and we have to put a stop to it.
As a sideline, I know that reviling speech is prevalent on every side of political debate. But my whole life I have been a member of the conservative church and I voted Republican until 2016, so my great love and my great concern are for my own tribe.
Who am I to call out those who are outside of my experience and my knowledge? I will leave that to others.
Another side note, I know that not EVERYONE uses reviling speech against “enemies”, but I know that mostpeople sit silently and say by their inaction that this sort of communication is acceptable.
They might not agree with revilers and the language that they use, but they listen to their radio broadcasts, give money to their ministries, buy their books, read their blogs, vote them into office, and smile quietly to themselves at their silly “antics”.
And it is easy to forget how much God HATES reviling speech, contemptuous mocking, ridicule, name-calling and the hatred that so easily fills the heart.
God has spoken quietly to us with faithful preaching, gentle rebukes from the pulpits, the reading of scripture, the outpouring of the Spirit (aptly described in scripture as cleansing water) – and the church mocked, scoffed, and justified their speech as necessary for “culture warriors” in dangerous times.
We looked the other way as “pastors” reviled women with revolting and hateful words. We held our tongues as they scoffed at their neighbors and insulted opponents. We voted for politicians who “own the libs”. And we stood silently by as the church forgot that the LGBTQ community is also made up of image bearers of God.
We called those “pastors” wordsmiths, culture warriors, and passed around their words and shared their blogs tearing fellow humans to shreds with the most degrading language possible, because – we said to ourselves – we are at war for our place and our nation.
And forgot that God hates it.
22 “How long, you simple ones, will you love simplicity?
For scorners delight in their scorning,
And fools hate knowledge.
And we rejected the gentle waters of Shiloah.
So now we have the flood of Cancel Culture. God sends tyrants to gain the attention of those he loves, to bring them to repentance.
So I would make the following suggestion. Instead of railing against “cancel culture” as an enemy of righteousness, take it as an opportunity to correct your speech patterns.
Use words of life, and not death. Don’t join in angry scoffing and scorn against people you disagree with. Put off name-calling and ridicule. Learn to listen to others with an open mind.
View your neighbor with compassion instead of contempt. Turn off all who cause unrest and stir up strife. Pray for those who disagree with you. Look at your neighbors and coworkers NOT as commodities to be used to fill your empty places at church, but as human beings with their own thoughts, experiences, journeys, tragedies and pains that they carry with them.
And remember that the fruits of the Spirit are love, joy and peace…and there aren’t any laws against those things, nor can there be.
And also, please note that I am NOT saying that our spirit of cancel culture is a good thing. In many ways, it is exactly like the tyranny of the Assyrian king, and great injustices have been done. We also should do what we can to have compassion on those who have been brutally “canceled” and refuse to play those wicked games ourselves.
My only suggestion is that perhaps we view it as an opportunity to learn better ways of communicating ourselves and repent of those times we have used words to hurt and cancel others.
This, I believe, is a more biblical approach to the cruelty of tyranny.
My two bits.