I remember the first time I read about Isaiah chapter 20 in some commentary or Bible Study notes.
“Isaiah went around naked, when?!” was pretty much my response.
I can’t recall if I’d read through the entirety of Isaiah at that point in time or not, but I certainly didn’t remember reading about the nakedness, or for that matter, hearing anyone mention it in a church service.
But that’s what God told him to do…
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.
Some may think that stripped doesn’t actually mean naked, but I think the mention of bare buttocks in verse 4 that Isaiah’s behaviour is symbolising, makes the matter clear.
Seriously, Isaiah is a man that had it rough. Some people believe the mention in Hebrews of someone being sawn in two is a reference to Isaiah.
Even if it wasn’t him, he still had to go about naked. That’s not an easy gig.
Apparently he did this for three years too, as a sign and portent against Egypt and Cush.
Portent is a word that doesn’t get enough air time. Perhaps because it has somewhat of a conflicting meaning, depending on context.
It can be a warning of a calamity or a reference to a wonderous thing.
That’s a confusing double entendre.
Yet, perhaps that’s fitting in the book of Isaiah because as I look through its pages with the hindsight of the New Testament I find messages that have a degree of fluidity to them.
My internal dialogue when reading goes something like:
This line could be interpreted as that. Or it could mean that… or perhaps even that.
‘That’ referring to some different element of the prophecy fulfilled in the New Testament.
God doesn’t change and his word is never null and void, but the more we explore it, the more depth we can discover. It is not that God’s word has changed, it’s just that we haven’t realised the details hidden within it.
As it says in Proverbs: It is the glory of God to conceal a matter.
When the prophecy is fulfilled and we look back, we can only then realise how much God actually revealed. Because of our human frailty we didn’t understand at the time. But once we do, we see how much glory he had all along, hidden in the mix.
Diamonds sparkling in the dust of our frailty.
Ever seeing but never perceiving.
Sounds like more of the rough gig that Isaiah was dealt.
It really was a rough trot that he had. Even without the nakedness factor.
The fact that he had to do all these things for a stubborn people who refused to listen to God’s word and ignore the surrounding threats, actually makes me more than just a little depressed.
Reading Isaiah is not a walk in the park. Sure, the man himself was walking around; but it was no Sunday picnic.
Would that we would hear Isaiah’s message even today and have soft hearts, listening ears and open eyes.
That God’s Church would not go astray.
Yours in sackcloth,