The presence of children in a family can lead to questions on just about anything, including one’s sanity. The common phrase “pulling your leg” came up at our dinner table recently, and a far-too-inquisitive little girl asked me how such a phrase came to be synonymous with teasing. Lacking both a good answer and a good joke, I diverted our conversation to other topics. (I’ve since learned that it has to do with an old way of robbing pedestrians in London—who knew?)
This is not uncommon, when I find myself rethinking the meaning or origin of phrases I’ve used for years. Sometimes these musings offer just an intellectual morsel, a mere take-it-or-leave-it appetizer. In contrast, when preparing a Bible study recently, I found myself considering a phrase of elemental importance, on the order of bread and water.
We’re studying the book of Isaiah, and here’s the setup. The Israelites had been admonished for making an alliance with the king of Aram/Syria. God, through Isaiah, took them to task for this in chapter 7. Ahaz (king of Judah) feared the coming Assyrian onslaught and wanted the protection that an alliance could offer. This approach, while practical, revealed Ahaz’s heart to be divided. He did not trust God to protect, guard, and take care of him and his people.
Fast forward to Isaiah 10. God describes how he will use Assyria to judge disobedient Israel (v.6) and will then turn his attention to proud, arrogant Assyria (vv.7,12–15). And in Isaiah 10:20 (ESV) we read this: “In that day the remnant of Israel and the survivors of the house of Jacob will no more lean on him who struck them, but will lean on the Lord, the Holy One of Israel, in truth.” The NASB uses “rely on” instead of “lean on.” This verse, properly and deeply considered, offers significant food for thought.
It seems to me that any true Christian would have to say that they “rely on” or “trust in” the Lord. To a Christian, this confession is basic and fundamental; it is like water admitting that it is wet. Let’s make it personal—in what sense do you trust in the Lord? The Christian might reply that they trust in God to forgive their sins and to call them son/daughter because of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. All very good indeed.
But Christians are called to trust in the Lord every day (Prov 3:5; 16:20; 29:25), not just as it relates to salvation. How do we know whether or not we’re doing this? This is where the ESV translation of Isaiah 10:20 paints a vivid, helpful picture for me.
Imagine that I am visiting you and as we talk I lean against the door jamb going into your living room. Once I really lean against it, committing my entire weight and balance to it, I’ve made a decision. I’ve decided that I trust the construction of your house, I trust that piece of wood not to break, I believe I am not about to fall to the floor. So, leaning on something is like resting your entire weight against it and trusting that you will not fall. Perhaps we can use this to flesh out our understanding of relying on God.
Trusting in God is, in one way, like putting your entire weight on him, believing that he will hold you up and will not let you fall.
Are you trusting in God, or in something else? Consider this thought experiment. If your money were taken away, would you fall? If so, you might be trusting in your money. If your friends were taken away, would you fall? If your health were taken away, would you fall? If your family/friends/job were taken away, would you fall? (By “fall,” I don’t only mean that you would suffer some loss or experience moderate grief. Would you be utterly undone? Would you be desperate, disheveled, without hope?)
Answering this question can help us to find our resting place, our security. What do we depend on? It is not enough for us to trust in Christ for our salvation (though that certainly is the starting point). We must trust in Him from beginning to end. This is not drudgery, this is life.