Isaiah begins these chapters with indictments against Cush and Egypt, that their people and handiwork and idols will be brought to nothing as the sun dries up the river, the canals become foul, that fishermen and farmers will lament their misfortune.
Near the end of the nineteenth chapter, it is told that in the midst of Egypt will be an altar to the Lord and that soon after the demise of Egypt will be many peoples and cities within its borders that will recognize the authority of the Lord. They will worship Him, sacrifice to Him, and He will hear their prayers, mend their hearts and lands, and be near to them. There will be highways between Egypt and Assyria, both of which will bless the Lord and follow Him alongside His inheritance, Israel.
Isaiah then is told by the Lord to walk around naked for three years as a sign and a portent against the people of Egypt and Cush for their coming destruction, that their peoples would be taken captive and led away naked, no longer able to rescue themselves or others.
What follows next is the description of a fallen Babylon and Dumah, then an oracle concerning Jerusalem. The Lord had asked for weeping and mourning for the sins of the people, instead they continued to celebrate and feast and ignore the Lord who said that their sins would not be atoned for.
The Lord demands vivid imagery from His prophets, laying on their sides for hundreds of days on end, building small walls and enacting a siege, walking around naked – though it may seem strange to our sensibilities, the word of these prophets and their outrageous methods would have caught the attention of the people as a last-ditch way to get the people of Israel to actually listen.
The Lord has given His word along with signs, wonders, and a rich history of divine blessing and deliverance. His word is always among them and in their very DNA as a people, yet Israel and Judah continue to live like those around them, worshipping their gods and adopting their practices, even child sacrifice.
While this book might have long spells of doom and gloom, it is important to recognize that the large part of people for which these prophecies were intended had every chance to examine their behaviour and compare it to what the Lord expects of them. In the ancient Near East, your name and your tribe and your history were your identity. It meant so much more than our own nationality means to us today, so they all would have known even the roughest outline of who the Lord was and what He did for them and the rich tradition and relationship upon which Israel was founded.
With just the barest effort, they could have seen that their ways were evil and that the consequences were real and near, yet they stubbornly refused and rejected Him who saved them. The Lord’s holiness is real, and the positive and negative consequences of pleasing or offending Him are real too! To ask them to be anything else is to ask Him not to be who He is.
We all have those parts of our lives we know are rough around the edges. The pieces of our personalities, our minds, our habits that does not line up with God’s original plan. We like the Israelites have a real opportunity to examine ourselves against the Word of God every day and walk with our eyes wide open. The Lord does not demand perfection in order to be united with Him, however that is His goal for us and His work in us – to make us more and more into the perfect image of Jesus Christ. To be obedient is a choice that yields real fruit and has real consequences in our real lives. Do not be afraid to do a real search (see Psalm 139) and lay it all down at the foot of the cross each day! By doing this, we leave lots of room for Christ to work and invite Him into each part of our hearts and minds.
Application Question –
How would you like Christ to make you more like Himself? What sticks out the most? Do we feel confident that He is gentle and loving, even when He works evil out of us?
Lord, we thank you for the example of your prophets. We thank you that you are patient and kind and discipline your people out of love like a true Father. Please search us and know our hearts, find any offence, sin, or evil in us and help us surrender all these things to you in the mighty name of Jesus Christ. Amen!
Song - Goodness of God, Adoration Music
In 2023, each week's blog is a follow-up reflection written by the preceding Sunday’s preacher to dig deeper into the sermon topic and explore engaging discussion questions.