Dr. John E. Johnson

Dr. John E. Johnson

A Centering Word for a Confused Age

Reading in Isaiah this morning, I was struck by the
timeliness of God’s Word. Isaiah is God’s prophet who has been given eyes to
see. What he sees is a culture that is clueless. He laments over a city where
people are dying everywhere. He sees a leadership that has completely
capitulated to the enemy. And yet, those in the city seem to live as if nothing
has happened. They are still in their nightclubs, out to their expensive
restaurants, and heading for the next party (22:2). They seem to live in denial.
There is no urgency on their part. They “dance and play and feast on meat and
wine for tomorrow we die.” (vs 13).

It’s not so for others. In the same city are those who realize
things are not right. They recognize there are tough days ahead. They can see
out unto the horizon, and what they see is that a tragedy of sorts is unfolding.
It is obvious that things are falling apart. There are enemies at the gate. And
so, their lives are full of hurry. They are running to the armory; they are
inspecting their walls of security; they are storing up for the future (vss
8-11). They are the realists. They are driven by urgency. Their lives are full
of activity, much of it well-meaning. People depend upon them and their

Our culture seems to be a similar composite of the two—complacent
and urgent hearts. On one hand, structures are falling apart, but hey, let’s
not lose sight of a good time. Reading the latest Sport’s Illustrated’ s exposé
of college football (“The Dirty Game”), one is reminded how far our own culture
has descended; how so many of our own cultural leaders have capitulated. In the
quest for the ring, college football programs at the highest level have become
largely about pay offs, academic misconduct, drugs, sexual favors for recruits,
and ruined lives. Once players are no longer useful, they are often discarded
and driven out to the streets where some are incarcerated, some battle drug
abuse, and others attempt suicide.

The real tragedy is to listen to sports radio that
responds with a collective yawn. So what? Sports is a business, and though it
is a dirty business in many places, the ultimate gain for such programs is a
national ranking. As disgusting as these practices are, you can move from the
mediocre to the elite. So don’t miss the key matchup next week. Party on!

To a culture that has no regard for repentance, Isaiah
responds with unnerving words for then and now: “Till the day you die, you will
never be forgiven for this sin” (22:14). These are deeply sobering words.

On the other side of our culture are also the urgent
hearts that write their articles and send their warnings and give a call to
action. Like Isaiah 22, there are those who run to the armory for weapons (it’s
imperative we have a strong national defense); we are called to inspect the
breaks (we dare not let our defenses down, never again experience a 9/11); we
are encouraged to store up for the future (diversify your investments; plan
ahead if the power goes out).

Most of us would like to identify with the urgent, the
activists, the prepared, and the vigilant. But Isaiah’s response to this part
of culture is just as indicting. After listing all that they do…”you run, you
inspect, you store up, you survey, and you build”, Isaiah writes, “But you
never ask for help from the One who
did all this. You never considered the One who planned this long ago” (22:11).

I step back from this text and thank God I am
not like the revelers who live as if there is no moral rot. But I also find
myself confronted by a prophetic Spirit that asks—“So have you asked for help?”
Wow, have I? Just how much am I relying on my own plans—my running, my inspecting,
my surveying, and my  building?
The word of God has a way of reaching into all of our hearts. I fear I am way
too impressed with my technologies, my to do lists, my strategies, my storing
up, and my preparations. There is really not a moment that does not invite me
to ask for help from the One who superintends over the whole course of history.


  • Robert Tuck
    5:25 AM, 17 September 2013

    Very thought provoking…I find myself realizing I’m not asking for help as I should. Is the end of your post complete?

  • sewcreative
    1:04 AM, 18 September 2013

    As always…I enjoyed your post very much. There are days when Lisa and I will call one another and ask, "Does anyone else sense something different? Does anyone else feel the very heartbeat of God trying to convey the importance of the hour..His need for His children to pursue Him more than ever?" There is a deep stirring within my heart that is inescapable, yet life itself moves on as usual. I do call out to Him….but more often than not, His voice is quickly drowned out by the people who fill up my busy days. I seem to walk between two worlds at times, His and mine. I do know however, that my meandering ways are coming to an end. They must or I will carelessly choose the urgent over the important…and that would be a huge mistake. So I pray like you John, "Father..help me… help me to not only hear You, but grant me also a heart that is willing to boldly obey You. Create in me a pure heart and renew a STEADFAST spirit within me. I am desperate for You."

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