Isaiah 8:18-22

Don’t go to the religious rubbish dump to pick up your religion! Listen to God: Seek Him always and seek Him only. We should look to the living God for our answers (19). He is well able to speak to us (18). The people of Isaiah’s day did not need to turn to other religious practices to get their guidance. God had clearly spoken. However, they did not like what they heard. That is regularly the case. The demonic powers will often oblige you with more palatable messages in the short term. They will use the ‘sprat’ to catch the ‘mackerel’. But in the long run they intend to destroy (21, 22). They do not deliver what they appear to promise. They draw you close to them so that they can put a knife in your ribs.  (Note: the writer to the Hebrews applied verse 18 to Christ and His ”children,” His followers. They were a ‘sign’ to the New Testament Jews that the Lord was once again dwelling with His people.)

Stick fast to His Word (20; Ps.119:105): Here is the right way to test preaching; to measure the religious ideas and messages of others. ”When people tell you, ”Try out the fortunetellers. Consult the spiritualists. Why not tap into the spirit-world, get in touch with the dead?” Tell them, ”No, we’re going to study the Scriptures.” People who try the other ways get nowhere-a dead end!” The Message. People who do not ”speak according to this word” have no light to share with those who are in darkness.

Recognise the futility of false religion (21, 22): It will leave you ”Distressed and hungry” and angry and in ‘utter darkness”. In rejecting the truth of the Bible, it is fascinating and shocking to see what some people will turn to and believe. People are incurably religious. They have a ‘God-shaped hole’ in their hearts and must fill it with something. They do try to stuff it full of some pretty ludicrous things. But behind all false religion there are deceiving spirits, and in some forms of religious expression people are actually seeking to make contact with the spirit world. This is dangerous and expressly forbidden in the Bible (Lev.19:31; Deut.18:9-12)

”Frustrated and famished, they try one thing after another. When nothing works out they get angry, cursing first this god and then that one, Looking this way and that, up, down, and sideways – and seeing nothing. A blank wall, an empty hole. They end up in the dark with nothing.” The Message.  Empty religion has ultimately nothing to offer to empty people. It just leaves them feeling even more empty, and hungry!

In reading (21) I am reminded of a couple I met whilst doing ‘door-to-door’ work with my church in Wigan. We were attempting to meet people where they were and engage them in conversation about Jesus. One night a husband and wife came to a particular door. They were both spiritists. While she was gentle and kind, he was livid. He was so angry. In fact I would say he was ”enraged” (21). But they were willing to talk and we spoke to them more than once. What that man got from his religion was not attractive. Although his wife wore more of the form of an ‘angel of light’, tragically they were both lost in the darkness. I trust something we said may have encouraged them into the light, but I have no way of knowing.

In these days there is a renewed interest in occult activity, especially among the young. Here is a solemn warning to steer clear of such deep, dark, demon-infested waters where people will surely be gobbled up and savaged or drown!

Prayer: Lord, in this dark world, and in these dangerous waters, I choose your Word as my constant navigation aid. Let me never stray from the sound of your voice.