Every day we wake we make decisions, from small decisions like what to wear, and whether or not to put cream in our coffee to large decisions that affect the course of our lives and the people around us. As an Episcopal Priest I seek God’s Wisdom and utilize the guidance of my vows, my Baptismal Covenant and the gift of my Spiritual Director at Mt. St. Mary’s House of Prayer. I also look to the prophetic voices around me who strengthen my obedience to the will of God. Fr. Johny Panamtham, SSP, Societ of St Paul says, “When our decisions affect the lives of others we must seek God’s wisdom and then be willing to follow through no matter how difficult they may be.” Giving up control, trusting and allowing God the space to work in our lives can often be difficult. We expect joy, we expect easy, but sometimes doing the right thing because it is the right thing to do, may feel scary or uncertain, anything but easy.
We live in such a noisy world. Many voices speak, speak loudly but how are we to determine the Wisdom of God? Fear, stress, earthly concerns often weigh us down. If I do X will I be able to my bills? If I say no, will have another opportunity? If I say yes, what does success look like? What does failure look like? So many words are spoken from outside opinions to our own inner conscious, determining where those voices come from is often the difference between our peace and our distress. Are those voices or opinions coming from our wounds, our fears, our hurts or sorrows, experiences or God? How are we to determine which it is?
Our lectionary this weekend addresses the prophetic word and our willingness to accept God’s wisdom in our noisy world. King Ahaz often referred to as the “puppet king” is a descendant of David. He finds himself in a difficult position. His kingdom, Judah, in the south was in danger from the kingdom to the north, Ephraim. In the scripture just preceeding our lectionary, God speaks to Isaiah and tells him to go to Ahaz and say, ” Be careful, keep calm and do not be afraid. Do not lose heart… remain firm in faith, seek God’s counsel and do not compromise with invading nations….” Obediant, Isaiah follows through, but the King is not willing to listen.
10 Again the Lord spoke to Ahaz, saying, 11 Ask a sign of the Lord your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven. 12 But Ahaz said, I will not ask, and I will not put the Lord to the test. 13 Then Isaiah[b] said: “Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary mortals, that you weary my God also? 14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman[c] is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel.[d] 15 He shall eat curds and honey by the time he knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good. 16 For before the child knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land before whose two kings you are in dread will be deserted.(NRSV)
Ahaz refused God’s help and instead tried to buy aid from the Assyrians using silver and Gold. This only brought more trouble, unrest and no peace. One may think that Ahaz was acting righteously by saying “I will not ask, I will not put my Lord to the test” but indeed it is God who asked Ahaz to ask him for a sign. Was his disobedience righteous? I think not. Ahaz was afraid of what God would say. He was afraid of how God would answer. How many times do we excuse what we know in our gut to be right? How many times do we try to rationalize what we know to be wrong in our hearts simply because we are afraid to let go and trust? Ahaz didn’t want to know the will of God, because God’s will may not have aligned with Ahaz.
Isaiah responded to Ahaz, “Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary mortals, that you weary my God also?” Expressing patience and pointing to promise, that one day love will come into this world and justice will reign. That one day the Son of God will be born whether or not Ahaz asks for a sign, the sign will be granted. Trust and hope in the Lord our God. Immanuel is to come and is all ready here. God is with us.
While Ahaz refused Joseph obeyed.
Imagine being Joseph. The young woman you are betrothed to comes to you and says she is pregnant. She tells you she is still a virgin, that the child to be born is God’s. Imagine what your response would be. Outrage? Feelings of betrayal? Mistrust? How can this be? Doubt? Joseph’s rational thinking must have told him to break it off, to leave, to let Mary go in fact he had planned to do so quietly.
18 Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah[a] took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. 20 But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: 23 “Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,(NRSV)
and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means, “God is with us.” 24 When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, 25 but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son;[b] and he named him Jesus.
Joseph obeyed the prophetic voice of the Angel who came to him. Can you imagine how difficult that was? Can you imagine what his family would have said? Can you imagine the looks from the people who knew them both? Can you imagine how community received them? Joseph did what was right in obeying God but certainly his obedience was not the easier softer way. It was the way and the path God set out before him, a holy path and Joseph was willing and able to say yes.
We make decisions each and every day of our lives, some big and some small. When our decisions affect the lives of many we are to seek the wisdom of God, listening to the prophetic voices and signs God sends our way. Ignoring the prophetic and seeking control of our own human desires only gets in the way of the work God would otherwise have us do and is doing in the world. As Christians we too must lift the prophetic voices in witness to God’s glory. Joseph having steadfast faith, trusted God and helped to usher in God’s love for the world through Jesus. Can you imagine what would have come of Mary if Joseph, like Ahaz disobeyed? What if Joseph went his own way instead of the way of the Lord? It’s unimaginable.
So how do we seek and obey the wisdom of God?
Pray, discern, find that quiet space in the home of your heart to listen to the voice that nags you deep inside, ask God for a sign, and allow yourself the space to recognize that sign when it comes. This is the work we do in Spiritual Direction, sorting through the outside noise and distractions that lead us away from God, to hear, listen, obey and trust, remaining steadfast in faith.
May the grace and love of God give you an awareness of God’s wisdom and strengthen you in your decisions.
Peace and Blessings,
One of my most favorite scenes of all time in any movie, “God’s trying to tell you something” from the Color Purple. When God is trying to tell you something, are you listening?