Isaiah 20

Exposed to the World.

“The Lord told Isaiah son of Amoz, ‘Take off the burlap you have been wearing, and remove your sandals.’ Isaiah did as he was told and walked around naked and barefoot.” ­– Isaiah 20:2 NLT

How far would you go to remain obedient and submissive to God? Are there times when you balk at what the Lord is telling you to do because it either doesn’t make sense or it seems a bit inconvenient? God’s will for us is not always logical and He rarely, if ever, wants to know our opinion as to whether it is something we feel like doing. He wants us to trust Him. He wants us to recognize that He has a very good reason for asking to do what He has commanded – or He never would have done so. Today’s reading is short, but the impact is powerful. Here is Isaiah, God’s prophet, who has been faithfully doing exactly what God has called him to do… tell the people of Israel of the coming judgment of God on themselves and the surrounding nations. Up to this point Isaiah has just had to use his voice and speak the words of God to the people of God. But now, God is going to ask him to do something that seems so illogical, even immoral. It just doesn’t make sense. God tells Isaiah to remove all his clothing and walk around naked – for three years – as a visual illustration of what was going to happen to the nations of Egypt and Ethiopia.

Can you imagine the humiliation? Can you begin to comprehend the amount of ridicule and abuse Isaiah had to put up with? It was hard enough just being God’s prophet. Now he was going to have to walk around stark naked for three years as a walking billboard shouting out the coming judgment of God on two pagan nations. But the amazing thing is that nowhere in this passage do you see Isaiah balk at the Lord’s command. He doesn’t argue, rationalize, or bargain with God. He simply does what he is told. No questions asked. No whining. No complaining. The point of this humiliating exercise was to teach the people of Israel and Judah a memorable lesson on putting your trust in something other than God. If you do, it will always leave you exposed, ashamed, and vulnerable. But the more striking message in this story for me is the steadfast and unfailing obedience of Isaiah. This amazing man did what the Lord asked him to do – immediately and obediently. He was God’s vessel to do with as He wished. Isaiah fully believed that God was trustworthy and had a perfectly good reason behind His seemingly illogical request. Obedience to God will not always be logical or necessarily enjoyable. It may seem humiliating from a human perspective. It may appear that God is being unfair or harsh. It would have been easy for Isaiah to ask God to choose another way. He could have argued that to expose himself like that would have been inappropriate. But Isaiah both feared and trusted God. He revered God to much to argue with Him. He loved God too much to doubt Him. He trusted God too much to disobey Him. So for three years Isaiah walked around naked as a living lesson for the people of God. Would I have done that? Would I be willing to do something I saw as humiliating and hurtful to my pride in order to remain obedient to God? Would I “expose” myself to ridicule and laughter for the sake of God? Would I be willing to strip myself of all pretense and the last little vestiges of self-worth and self-sufficiency to do what God wants me to do? These are hard questions to consider. Could God have gotten His point across another way? More than likely. But I think God’s request was as much for Isaiah as it was to illustrate a point to the people of Judah. Isaiah’s job is far from over. He has much more to do and say. Was he going to be faithful to his calling? According to this story, probably so.

Father, this is a hard one. I hate the idea of being exposed and left naked emotionally, let alone physically. Vulnerability is difficult – especially for those of us who are men. Isaiah was already wearing burlap, not exactly the clothing of success and significance. And You asked him to lose that as well. The last little remnant of his pride and protection of his esteem had to be dropped – leaving him exposed to the world. He was Your man – Your spokesperson. Everyone knew he worked for You. Everyone knew he represented You. And He was faithful. He was obedient. He was trustworthy. May I be that kind of man. May I let go of my pride and my need for respect and simply obey You – no matter the cost.  Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org