“For the LORD spake thus to me with a strong hand, and instructed me that I should not walk in the way of this people, saying, Say ye not, A confederacy, to all them to whom this people shall say, A confederacy; neither fear ye their fear, nor be afraid. Sanctify the LORD of hosts himself; and let him be your fear, and let him be your dread.”
A few verses before this the LORD had promised that He would send the king of Assyria against Judah. Much had happened politically. The nation of Israel had been taken away by the Assyrians or would soon be. The people in Judah saw what was going on.
Now, the LORD spoke directly to Isaiah. God commanded him to not see things the way the people saw them. Herd mentality had overtaken the people in Judah, and they concluded, “a confederacy.” This word could be translated alliance, or conspiracy. The people in Judah saw everything going against them. The nations around them had fallen. Nations came from far away and carried away nations. Perhaps they had a sense that they were next.
The LORD told Isaiah that He was going to bring their enemies to Jerusalem. But God had a different perspective. Isaiah was told to not follow the people: he was not to say, “a confederacy”, as they did. He was told not to fear like the people feared. Isaiah was to see God in the events of life, no matter the political clouds. Verse 13 of this passage was the focus that Isaiah was to have: “Sanctify the LORD of hosts himself; and let him be your fear, and let him be your dread.”
To sanctify the LORD is to hold Him up, to hallow Him in our thinking, to purify Him in our heart. That is, to think nothing but the best of Him. When fearful events come upon us, we think to blame God, if not out loud, at least in our hearts. We rightly understand Him to be Almighty, and we also rightly understand that all matters are under His control. With these two proper concepts of God in mind, we jump to the wrong conclusion that difficulties should not happen to us. When they do, we wonder if either we have done something terribly wrong, or if God missed something. This is when and where sanctifying Him should happen.
An equally important aspect of God’s character is that He is good. No matter our situation, if we must remind ourselves every second of God’s goodness, we must do it. In Nahum 1:7 we read, “The LORD is good, a strong hold in the day of trouble: and He knoweth them that trust in Him.” Jesus told the rich young ruler, “Why callest thou me good? None is good, save one, that is, God.” (Luke 18:19). After Job endured great losses, losing all of his wealth and children in one day, in Job 1:20-22 we read, “Then Job arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground, and worshipped, and said, Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD. In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly.” Job sanctified the LORD in his heart. Though he was in great sorrow, he did not blame God for his losses. It would have been foolish to do so.
Isaiah was told by God that he should “…let Him be your fear, and let Him be your dread.” In the turmoil of his time, Isaiah was told by God to hold to Him. He was to trust God no matter what were the events, no matter what his eyes could see, no matter what the people were saying. God was in control, and He is Almighty.
The fear of God is the beginning of knowledge (Proverbs 1:7) and the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 9:10). In Psalm 46:1-3 the author states, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof.” In other words, the author would trust God, he would not fear, though the world around him collapsed. “…let Him be your fear, and let Him be your dread.”
Everyone that belongs to the LORD must sanctify the LORD. In Matthew 6:34, Jesus said, “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.”
The world is filled with fear over health and divisions. But we are not to think like the world, neither are we to talk like them. Believers on the LORD Jesus Christ are to let God be their fear, and let Him be our dread. When Jerusalem fell, Jeremiah said, in Lamentations 3:57, “Thou drewest near in the day that I called upon thee: thou saidst, Fear not.”
How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,
Is laid for your faith in His excellent Word!
What more can He say than to you He hath said,
You, who unto Jesus for refuge have fled?
Fear not, I am with thee, O be not dismayed,
For I am thy God and will still give thee aid;
I’ll strengthen and help thee, and cause thee to stand
Upheld by My righteous, omnipotent hand.
When through the deep waters I call thee to go,
The rivers of woe shall not thee overflow;
For I will be with thee, thy troubles to bless,
And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.
The soul that on Jesus has leaned for repose,
I will not, I will not desert to its foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I’ll never, no never, no never forsake. (John Rippon)