Beware Tricky Religious Speech (Isaiah 36:7)

Isaiah 36:7 – But if you say to me, “We trust in the Lord our God,” is it not he whose high places and altars Hezekiah has removed, saying to Judah and to Jerusalem, “You shall worship before this altar”?

In our society today, many people use the word god to mean several different things. Oprah has a “god” about whom she talks. Many who claim Christ talk about god, but define him in ways that are contrary to the revelation of God in the holy scriptures. And many use religious language in such a way that Christians might have a genuine struggle knowing if the person to whom they are speaking really knows what he or she is talking about.

When Jerusalem was in danger from the attack of the Assyrians, the king of Assyria sent the Rabshakeh to attempt to convince the people of Judah to surrender their city. The whole point was to humiliate, deceive, or demoralize the people so that the Assyrians would not have to go through the trouble of the siege.

One of the tactics that the Rabshakeh tried to use is to convince the people of Judah that God was not on their side. He knew that King Hezekiah had commanded the removal of many of the high places that had been used for worship in ways that God had not commanded. Since the Rabshakeh only had in his mind the sort of commands made by the pagan gods of the other peoples around Israel, he assumed that the king had told the people to demolish places where God was genuinely worshipped.

In reality, the words of the Rabshakeh were exactly wrong. The high places were not commanded by God. In fact, the Lord had commanded that he be worshipped in Jerusalem at the temple, the place he chose for his worship to be performed. The high places were places where Israel had gone against the commands of God. The destruction of such places were Hezekiah’s acts of obedience to God, not acts of offending God.

One lesson that we should learn from this is to be very careful of the danger of being deceived by people using religious language. Politicians, philosophers, TV personalities, and people of almost any profession will sometimes resort to religious language to attempt to make their point, to be convincing, to show that they relate to the religious, or simply to sound spiritual. But just because a person says that he or she has faith, believes in a higher power, or even claims to be a Christian does not truly mean that the speaker really has the truth.

What shall we do? How do we defend ourselves against such tricky language? There is only one way, and that is to know God by knowing God’s word. God has revealed himself to us in his word. He has told us what he is like and what he expects. If a person claims Christianity or “God” in his or her speech, but the religion or standards that they set forth is inconsistent with or contrary to the revelation of God in the scriptures, such a person is not presenting truth. Either such a person is confused, deceived, or attempting to deceive; but such a person most assuredly does not present truth.

Take a warning from the words of the Rabshakeh. Lost persons will attempt to use religious language in order to deceive God’s people. The appropriate counter is to know the truth about God. The remedy is to know the Bible and to faithfully interpret it. God has revealed to us himself and his ways. He has not made this a subjective non-reality that is open for any number of variant interpretations. God has told us what he is like and what he demands; we must follow this teaching. We find God’s revelation in the Bible, and those who turn from the Bible, twist the Bible, or falsely interpret the Bible are not leading us to God, regardless of the religious language they use.