Do you remember the Benson & Hedges “The lengths you to go to for pleasure” ad campaign?
Before CVS quit smoking (kudos to you, CVS!) and the world woke up to lung cancer, there were countless billboards featuring people going to great and ridiculous lengths to “enjoy” a cigarette. I can still picture the vivid ad of men sitting on the wing of an airplane smoking with the caption, “Have you noticed all your smoking flights have been cancelled? For a great smoke just wing it.” There was another ad with men hanging out of sky-scrapers with the caption, “Have you noticed finding a place to smoke is the hardest part of your job? For a great smoke, put in for an office window.”
The absurd has a way of catching our eye and getting our attention.
God gives equally absurd images of the lengths that His children go to for security in Isaiah 30. This chapter portrays a proverbial conversation between and God and His people were resolved to head back to Egypt, the same nation from which He had gone to great lengths to free them.
“‘Woe to the rebellious children,’ declares the Lord, ‘who execute a plan, but not Mine, and make an alliance, but not of My Spirit…who proceed down to Egypt without consulting me to take refuge in the safety of the Pharaoh and to seek shelter in the shadow of Egypt…Through a land of distress and anguish, from where come lion and lines and viper and flying serpent, they carry their riches on the backs of young donkeys and their treasures on camels’ humps, to a people who cannot profit them; Even Egypt, whose help is vain and empty.” Isaiah 30:1-2 and 6-7.
The image would be comical if it were not so convicting: God’s people defiantly and desperately loading up their belongings to head directly into a dessert of danger to a nation and leader who would be of no help to them.
“For thus the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, has said, ‘In repentance and rest you will be saved, in quietness and trust is your strength,’ But you were not willing. And you said, ‘No, for we will flee on horses’.” Isaiah 30:15-16.
It’s as if God is pleading with His people, “Your only true hope for security is to trust me; yet, you continue to exposure yourselves to dangers in attempts to seek false security. Egypt may have chariot upon chariot, but they will neither profit you nor protect you. Stay with me, I am your great security.”
The picture God has poetically painted for us is just as ridiculous as the men moving to the wing of the airplane in order to smoke. It’s ridiculous, but it’s right on. We humans go to such great lengths looking for security. Some work 60+ hour weeks to the neglect of family and health in order to chase ephemeral financial security. Some move from relationship to relationship seeking an evasive emotional security. Some hang their identities upon ministry success or religious effort in an effort to maintain a sense of spiritual security.
We may be packing up and running in different directions, but we share a resolve to find security come hell or high water, exposing ourselves to pain and disappointment along the way. “If I could just get to this salary, if I could just get married, if I could just have children, if I could just be skinny, then I will be secure, I will be safe, I will be sheltered.”
Our senses and circumstances often loudly scream to us that to trust in God, to wait upon Him, to look to Him will leave us exposed and defenseless. However, we are most secure when we are exposed before Him, depending upon Him, resting in Him and His plans for us.
I love the way God responds to the great lengths to which His people are going in an effort to seek security in what seemed like the most obvious place, Egypt. In Isaiah 30:16-17, God essentially says, “Ride away on your swift horses; I’ll simply send swifter horses after you. I will lovingly pursue you until you are exposed enough to come back to Me, your only true and lasting refuge and hope for security.”
He will swiftly and effectively pursue His children when they defiantly or inadvertently find themselves loading up their camels to chase after false security. He will do this because His fatherly heart must show them His love, must bring them back to the only place of lasting security, Himself.
“Therefore the Lord longs to be gracious to you, and therefore He waits on high to have compassion on you. For the Lord is a God of justice; How blessed are all those who long for Him.” Isaiah 30:18.
When we find ourselves going to great lengths chasing false security, we can be assured that He will go to even greater lengths to show us the true security that can only be found in Him. I know this because He went to the greatest length, sending His son to be exposed and without refuge, that we would always be secure in Him.