Conditional blessings (Isaiah 8:12-14a)

12 “You are not to say, ‘It is a conspiracy!’
Regarding everything that this people call a conspiracy,
And you are not to fear what they fear or be in dread of it.
13 It is the Lord of armies whom you are to regard as holy.
And He shall be your fear,
And He shall be your dread.
14 
Then He will become a sanctuary. – Isaiah 8:12-14a

As we read Isaiah 8:12-14a, it becomes clear that the Lord is a sanctuary. He has always been a sanctuary and always will be a sanctuary. This is part of who He is. The question is, “Is the LORD your sanctuary?” And the answer to that question is, “It depends.” And so we encounter the idea of conditional blessings.

To be clear, for believers, all objective blessings of salvation are unconditionally given and sealed to the believer the moment the believer places their faith in the Lord Jesus. All these blessings depend only on God’s faithfulness and are conditioned only upon the sinner’s faith in Jesus. In the parable of the workers in the vineyard in Matthew 20, all the workers received a denarius regardless of how long they had worked in the vineyard, because they had all been hired by the master of the house.

But there are conditional blessings that accrue to the believer only when the conditions for those blessings are met. For example, in Psalm 1:3, we read of the blessings that will come to a certain man, but those blessings depend on the man not doing the wrong things (1:1) and also on him doing the right things (1:2). So, the Bible does contain conditional blessings, and here in this passage we encounter one of those blessings, the blessing of the Lord being our sanctuary. Would you have the Lord of hosts be your sanctuary? Would you receive the sanctuary blessings from the Lord? Then you must meet “the sanctuary conditions.”

We see, then, in Isaiah 8:12-14a that the Lord’s offer of His sanctuary is not automatically received. Rather, it comes to us “Then.” “THEN He will become a sanctuary (8:14a).” So, the LORD will become my sanctuary WHEN certain conditions are met.

This means that all believers do not experience the LORD in the same way, and it seems that this is because all believers do not seek the LORD in the same way or serve the LORD in the same way. All of God’s blessings are made potentially available to all those who have bowed the knee to the Lord Jesus, but the actual tasting of those blessings is reserved for those who meet the Lord’s “terms of blessing.” In the same way that the breathtaking grandeur of the Grand Canyon is experienced only by those who travel to that place in search of that grandeur, so the blessings of the LORD’s sanctuary are experienced only by those whose fear and dread is the LORD.

WHAT THE WORLD FEARS AND DREADS

The Lord commands us not to fear what this people fear or to be in dread of it (8:12). But what is it that this people fear, and what do they dread? They fear all the things that people without a sanctuary fear. There is no shelter and there is no refuge, so this people fear what all threatened people fear. That means they fear death and they fear getting old. They fear any sort of loss. They fear loneliness. They fear the future, and the unseen and unknown threats that the future may bring. They fear “conspiracy (8:12),” because they always feel insecure and distrustful about the schemes of others. They fear a lot of things.

What makes this situation worse is that the world’s fears only reinforce each other, so that their fears fester and increase. Because there is no sanctuary, there is no relief and no place to hide from the fears. What the world dreads cannot be defensed or defeated, so it only looms larger. For example, for the unbeliever, death cannot be defeated, and death cannot be defensed. It lurks out there in the future and the fear of death grows stronger as death draws inevitably nearer. Thus, when you fear something other than the LORD, your fears continually grow stronger.

WHAT THE BELIEVER FEARS AND DREADS

But when the LORD is the believer’s fear and the LORD is the believer’s dread, then the believer has gained a sanctuary. “He shall be your fear and He shall be your dread. Then He will become a sanctuary (Isaiah 8:13-14a).” Meeting the “sanctuary conditions” means that you receive the “sanctuary blessings.” When the LORD is your fear, then “ordinary” fears continually grow weaker. Psalm 34:4 says, “I sought the LORD, and He answered me, and delivered me from all my fears.” The psalmist was delivered from his fears not because all his threats had gone away, but because he trusted that the LORD his Champion was greater than all his fears. When the LORD is the believer’s fear and dread, then the believer experiences the peace that comes from entering the Lord’s sanctuary.

When we encounter a “conditional blessing” in the Scripture, we should search the passage diligently to find out what the conditions must be met to receive the blessing, and then earnestly strive to meet those conditions, while asking the Lord for strength and guidance.

SDG                 rmb                 12/8/2020