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I’ve had a reoccurring nightmare for much of my 50 years of ministry. The scene involved a very large crowd assembled to hear me preach. The music was excellent and the spirit was high. When it came time for the sermon, I was in my underwear and frantically couldn’t find my pants.
That was usually the time when I woke up, grateful to only be dreaming.
Isaiah was not as fortunate as me. He was commanded by God to walk around in a loincloth for three years in an attempt to call people back to their relationship with God.
World intrigue and rebellion were taking place in Isaiah’s day. Assyria remained the predominant superpower. Babylon, Egypt, and other smaller nations were at war with Assyria. Israel considered aligning with these countries against Assyria.
A “Sign” Prophet
At times, God’s prophets didn’t use words to convey guidance. Instead, they demonstrated God’s message through dramatic actions.
Amid the revolt against Assyria, “the Lord had spoken to Isaiah son of Amoz, saying, ‘Go, and loose the sackcloth from your loins and take your sandals off your feet,’ and he had done so, walking naked and barefoot” (Isaiah 20.2)
Isaiah was well-known in Jerusalem. He had access both to the king and the Temple priests. His “naked” presence probably included nothing more than a loincloth.
To fully appreciate the picture, imagine one of the leading ministers of our day arriving in Congress or the National Cathedral barefoot and in his boxers.
Isaiah spoke for God and interpreted this kind of behavior. Speaking for God, he said:
“Just as my servant Isaiah has walked naked and barefoot for three years as a sign and a portent against Egypt and Ethiopia,
“So shall the king of Assyria lead away the Egyptians as captives and the Ethiopians as exiles, both the young and the old, naked and barefoot, with buttocks uncovered, to the shame of Egypt” (Isaiah 20.3-4).
God so cares for the well-being of people that he uses prophets to tell them what to expect in the future.
Surely the Lord God does nothing,
without revealing his secret
to his servants the prophets. (Amos 3.7)
In the most dramatic way possible, Isaiah showed the people of Jerusalem what was about to happen to them.
One of the practices of war was to strip the conquered naked when they were led into captivity. This was the nations’ future.
Not for a day or two, but for a full three years, did Isaiah show the public what was in store for people who trusted their power and alliances with other nations rather than God.
How could Isaiah keep up this practice day after day? He never forgot the vision God granted him on the day he was called to be a prophet (see Isaiah 6). He lived in a willing response to the Holy One who had transformed his life.
How did the people respond to Isaiah’s sign-prophecy? Doubtless, some people responded with repentance.
Others probably believed Isaiah to be a fanatic or a fool. Their hearts were hardened to even this most dramatic proclamation of God’s will.
Pause with me for a minute and think. Has God given us any signs that should draw us back to a more faithful relationship with him? Has he shown us anything that should cause us to fervently pray for his mercy?
— What about COVID 19?
— What about the January 6 attack on Congress?
— What about conflict among nations and people in the United States?
— What about the number of deaths associated with drugs?
Is God speaking to us? Are we listening? Are we responding to his word?
Should these events call us to repentance and return to God? If not, what will it take to bring us back to him?
Faith in the Wrong Place
Like a broken record, Isaiah called his people away from false trust again and again. They trusted alliances with neighboring nations, idols, military planning, and the ability to survive a siege.
Even though they engaged in religious practices, they resisted a message that called them to trust in God. They refused to hear the word of the prophet, believing him to be either a fanatic or a fool.
The result would be the tragically failed trust in other nations. This was Isaiah’s word:
“And they shall be dismayed and confounded because of Ethiopia their hope and of Egypt their boast.
“In that day the inhabitants of this coastland will say, ‘See, this is what has happened to those in whom we hoped and to whom we fled for help and deliverance from the king of Assyria! And we, how shall we escape?'” (Isaiah 20.5-6).
Jesus a Sign-Prophet
What God did with Egypt and the other nations proved that the Hebrews’ God was God. The fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy demonstrated that fact.
Isaiah wasn’t the only prophet who used actions to show God’s reality.
To an unbelieving crowd, Jesus said, “For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so for three days and three nights the Son of Man will be in the heart of the earth” (Matthew 12.40).
Jesus was paraded through the streets of Jerusalem, where Isaiah had walked 700 years before. He was suspended on a cross for six hours, as he suffered for the sins of the world.
Once buried, he remained in the tomb for three days, until God raised him from the dead.
The sign of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection authenticate everything he said and did. Like Isaiah’s warning sign, Jesus’ was an act of God’s love. It was the most profound sign of God’s love possible.
Both Isaiah and Jesus call humans to faith in the One True God. This is God’s loving way of drawing us away from what is false to what is eternal and true.
About This Blog
Rudy Ross is an excellent student of Isaiah. Rudy and I have a video you can see on the Bob Spradling YouTube Chanel.
Rudy will bring a different dimension to Isaiah than what is in my blog. I hope you will check out and enjoy my interviews with him.
I am indebted to a book by Dr. John Oswalt on Isaiah for his insights into this powerful book.
If you have a prayer request, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or private message me on Facebook. The Maywood Baptist prayer team will pray for you.