In Isaiah 20, a scene unfolds that must have been shocking – it certainly would cause a commotion today! Isaiah decided to walk around for 3 years “stripped and barefoot.” Some commentaries give a little dignity back to Isaiah with the suggestion that the Hebrew term meant that he was in his underwear. I’m not a Hebrew scholar, and there’s really no need to debate this here, so I’ll have to admit he may have been naked, or he may have been walking around in his underoos… but either way, it’s a little weird. Why on Earth would a prophet of God, tasked with delivering a message to the people of God, be out in public in either condition?
Simple answer: He obeyed. God specifically told Isaiah to strip down, ditch the Teva’s, and prepare for the scorn of pretty much everyone he’d encounter in the next 3 years.
It sort of reminds me of God’s request to Hosea: “Go and marry a prostitute…”
“Umm… Did I hear that right, God? Did you just say ‘prostitute’? You do know what those are, right? “
“Yeah, I know, Hosea, but I need to tell my people something and I want your help. Oh, and by the way, some of her children will be born to you from other men.”
“So Hosea married Gomer…” He actually obeyed! A completely unreasonable request by any man’s standards – to choose a woman who you KNOW will not be faithful to you. Yet, Hosea did exactly as God requested. We need to remember, this was the beginning of Hosea’s news delivery job for God – “When the Lord first began speaking to Israel through Hosea…” There was no precedent for this. Prophecy 101 at Jerusalem U. didn’t cover this kind of thing! There was no leadership model that showed Hosea how this was going to work out. Just a seemingly insane command!
I wonder when we began to think that all that God would ever request of us would make sense? We want to obey God when He tells us to “go to church” and show up for Sunday school… Even when He tells us to “love our neighbor” and be nice to the people in class. We like to obey when He asks us to give as much as we can comfortably give and to play fair. That stuff all makes sense to us.
But what about when He asks for it all? What about when Jesus tells us to eat his flesh and drink his blood? (Don’t worry, that sounded crazy in the first century, too.) What do we do when He asks us to give a car to a neighbor without one? When He asks us to fast in a way that means something more than ‘fish on Fridays’?
Why do we think every request God makes of us will make sense? I wonder what we miss (or the people we should be sharing light with miss) when rationality is a condition of our obedience – if we only obey God when it makes sense?
Prepare to be surprised! God has not called you to normal.