You’ve seen those movies, the ones where the cops are tightening the noose on the bad guys and the main bad guy says, “Look, we’ve got to get our stories straight.” He then proceeds to give his accomplices a uniform script, so that when questioned by the authorities their stories all sound the same. It’s when there are variations in the stories that the wall starts to crack, and you know how that movie ends.
Isaiah’s not a bad guy. In fact, he was one of the good ones. But there’s a similar kind of “let’s get the story straight” message that he provides for God’s people. He knew what the outsiders and the envoys and the reporters, if you will, would ask. In that moment Isaiah tells the people, say, “The Lord has founded Zion” (Isaiah 14:32). To vary from that message would cause their witness to crumble.
In Isaiah’s day, Zion was the refuge for God’s people. It was land, this tangible place that represented God’s presence and protection. In our day, there is no such land or mountain or city. We’d like to think so, though.
We often landmark places where we’ve experienced God’s goodness, felt a nearness of His presence, or received an answer to some vexing question. There is wisdom in that, no doubt. But should some outsider ask, it is important that we have our stories straight. We find our refuge in God alone. The refuge for God’s people today is God.
Now, does that sound like bumper sticker theology? You bet it does, and that kind of stuff often drives me bonkers because it reduces the grand mystery of the great and powerful God down to a handful of often shaky and hollow words. But I do believe there is bad bumper sticker theology, and then there is that which is good. The conciseness of the good kind actually enlarges the truth rather than diminishes it, for it allows room for our individual stories to fit beneath it. Sort of like the shade the branches of a single oak tree can provide on a sweltering day. More than one of us can enjoy that shade. In it we find shelter. It is a refuge.
The days of the Lenten season are often heavy, and sometimes quite dark. It is important in such times that when asked about our faith, we have our stories straight. We find our refuge in God, period.
Yes, we can see Easter on the horizon. Yes, we know how the movie ends.
Written by John Blase