Monday, October 11, 2010

I'm glad I'm not a prophet

Through the Bible in 90 Days: Day 50

Read: Isaiah 14:1-28:29

Verse that stood out: At that time the LORD spoke through Isaiah son of Amoz. He said to him, "Take off the sackcloth from your body and the sandals from your feet." And he did so, going around stripped and barefoot - Isaiah 20:2

I've heard of imagining your audience in their underwear as a way to ease nerves before speaking to a large crowd. My guess is stripping down naked yourself has the opposite effect. And yet, that's exactly what God asked Isaiah to do as an acted out parable before the Israelites. In the same way that the prophet stripped bare, God would strip the mighty Egyptians bare by the hand of the Assyrians. Crazy stuff, no doubt. And a little difficult to figure out how this passage might apply to us today.

This naked prophet episode reminds us, however, that the prophet's main job was to speak to his day. Yes, his words live on in the pages of the scripture, but his main concern was to speak those words to his contemporaries. We so often think of prophecy as that which tells the future. But prophecy was as much about forthtelling as it was about foretelling. If we only look at the words of Isaiah in light of what he was predicting, we miss most of the message. Most of his words had to do with God's will and purpose for God's people in that day. Only a handful of the verses of this long book spoke of what God was going to do in the future. Even then, Isaiah spoke of the future so that his audience might know how to live today in light of that future time.

The Bible speaks in much the same way to us today. Yes, it tells us much about our futures, but it does so in order that we might live rightly today. We are to do justice, to love mercy, to walk humbly with God today, even if doing so gets us into a lot of trouble. We can have the courage to risk such actions not because we know exactly what will happen in the future, but because we trust that in the end, God will have the last say.

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