Thoughts on life and Scripture...

Sunday, June 12, 2016

No Shoes, No Clothes, No Idolatry?

In your time of need, where do you look for help first? When faced with difficulties or a need, who is the person you go to first? The truth is we often look to people or to ourselves first. We have idols that seem more able to save than the Lord God. But as we will see in this post idols will always disappoint us, but our God is an ever present help in trouble.

It would be helpful as you read this post that you turn in your Bible to Isaiah 20. It is short chapter, but it is very instructive. The previous chapter explained the fall of the Egyptians. Egypt was a super power in this area of the world at the time and Israel and Judah often looked to Egypt for help in their wars with Assyria and later Babylon. In 711 B.C. the Assyrians attacked the Philistine city of Ashdod and captured it. During this battle, the word of the Lord came to Isaiah and it was no ordinary word. Isaiah was told to take off his clothes and sandals, and walk around in this condition for three years. Being a prophet was not easy. Often the prophets were called to do strange things like this. See the strange actions of Ezekiel. The way of a Christian can be filled with tasks and situations that are hard and humiliating. Like our Lord, we may become an object of scorn. Yet God has a purpose in it all for us and for those watching us. We are theaters that display the glory of God in jars of clay. This was true for Isaiah.

Now it is likely that Isaiah was not completely naked as that would violate good morals. Also the word naked doesn't necessarily means completely without clothes. He may not have walked around in this state all the time, but at times through out the span of three years. Exposing any part of your skin was a great shame in that culture. Can you imagine what people would say? Most would laugh and call him crazy. Others though may have asked why he was dressed like this. Then Isaiah would have an opportunity to explain why God wanted him to walk around partially naked. This living sign was a way to get people's attention to the word of God.

God's message was that just as Isaiah was walking barefoot and naked, so the Egyptians and Cushites would walk barefoot and naked as prisoners of war, led into exile by the Assyrians. The great super power Egypt and her close relative Cush would soon be defeated and humiliated before the terrible Assyrians.

 Why act out this sign at this time when Ashdod fell? It seems, like Judah, Ashdod and the Philistines relied on Egypt for military assistance. but in Ashdod's greatest need, Egypt failed to deliver her. Not only was Egypt unable to help her allies, one day she would be crushed in defeat as well. The lesson for Judah is very simple. Don't trust in Egypt to save you from your enemies. She can't help you. Your greatest enemy and  your greatest savior is the Lord. If you return to Him in repentance and obedience, then He will look upon you in favor. Only He can deliver you from the raging nations around you. Put all your hope and trust in the eternal and almighty God. But if you don't you will face the wrath of God, who will make you naked captives to a merciless foe.

So what about us? Do we have idols like Judah? How often do we look to man for help instead of God? When faced with a problem, do we trust our own wisdom and skill to get us out of the trouble? Or do we first pray to our God for help and wisdom? Maybe you think the only way for your loneliness and dissatisfaction to disappear would be to find that perfect person to get married to. Or if only you had children, your life would be great. Do we rely primarily on people to get us out of various troubles, or is our first reaction prayer? Do we look to good politicians to save our country? We often first try to solve our problems and dissatisfaction on our own or though others, and when our idols fails, then we turn to God for help.  I encourage you to try apply this further to your life.

Idolatry is a serious sin against God. When we sin by trusting in others rather than God, we are showing that we don't believe God is able or willing to help us. Our idolatry is a insult to the Holy One. Would it not parents be grieved if their little children went to their little foolish friends for help instead of them?  Thankfully if we repent of our idolatry, there is grace and forgiveness in Jesus Christ.

"Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help and rely on horses, who trust in chariots because they are many and in horseman because they are very strong, but do not look to the Holy One of Israel or consult the LORD!" 
Isaiah 31:1 


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