GOD is a SANCTUARY for BELIEVERS but a STUMBLING STONE for UNBELIEVERS: "For the Lord spoke thus to me with a strong hand, and instructed me that I should not walk in the way of this people, saying: 'Do not say, "A conspiracy," concerning all that this people call a conspiracy, nor be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled. The Lord of hosts, Him you shall hallow; let Him be your fear, and let Him be your dread. He will be as a sanctuary, but a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense to both the houses of Israel." (Isaiah 8:11-14)
In the midst of confusing messages from the people of Israel and Judah, God gives a powerful word to reassure His servant Isaiah that he should listen to His plan and not pay attention to the people around him. In fact, God assures Isaiah that He is very much active in the midst of all the events that are taking place, in spite of the fact that an enemy power is being used to judge His people. For the people of Israel and Judah, it would appear to be a conspiracy; but in fact, it was the pre-ordained plan of the Lord of hosts!
The prophetical word of God that Isaiah received can be broken up into two cycles: first, the people of Israel and Judah are commanded to believe and trust in Jehovah God or else, they would perish. This command was reinforced by Isaiah and his children, who would serve as signs to the world around them (vv. 12–18); and second, the people of Israel and Judah are commanded to walk in the light of Isaiah’s prophecies or they would be thrown into utter darkness in due time (8:19–9:1).
The people of Israel and Judah had considered Isaiah a traitor because he had said that King Ahab and his administration were wrong to rely on Assyria. These people had labeled Isaiah’s rejection of an alliance with Assyria as a dire conspiracy. These people had now developed a sense of paranoia, and they had refused to see God at work in their circumstances. In the light of this, Isaiah was instructed by Jehovah not to join with these people in their fear of a conspiracy forming against them, but to trust in Jehovah God alone. God would be as a sanctuary to all those who rely and trust in Him, but the very same God would be a stone of stumbling to everyone else who reject Him and His word!
So, the true believers in Jehovah were not to fear, but to sanctify the Lord of hosts as He would be a sanctuary to those who would put their trust in Him. On the other hand, He would be both a ‘stone of stumbling’ and a ‘rock of offence’ to all those who reject Him. The ‘stone of stumbling’ and the ‘rock of offense’ refer to Jesus Christ through many references in both the Old and New Testament (see Ps. 118:22; Luke 20:17, 18; Rom. 9:33). All the people of this world who refuse to take refuge in the salvation offered through Jesus Christ will one day stumble and fall in their unbelief!
Today, let us remember that God is a sanctuary for believers, but a stone of stumbling for unbelievers! If we fear God, we need not fear the threats of people. Let us make Jesus Christ the Lord of our lives, and He will take care of all our fears (1 Pet. 3:13–17). Jesus Christ is the stone of refuge for His people, but a snare for those who reject Him!