Friday, October 30, 2009
“Hear the word of the Lord Almighty: The time will surely come when everything in your palace, and all that your fathers have stored up until this day, will be carried off to Babylon. Your flesh and blood born to you will be taken away and become eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon,” Prophet Isaiah prophesied with a heavy heart. On the receiving end, King Hezekiah of Judah had mix feelings. On one hand, Hezekiah was sad that the dreaded judgment of God was inevitable but on the other hand, glad he would not be there to witness it. The days of the southern Kingdom were numbered and sins spiralling out of control.
Isaiah’s ministry started when King Uzziah died. The late Uzziah (or Azariah) was one of the most successful kings since King David took control of Israel. When God struck him with leprosy because of pride, Judah was badly shaken. While everyone was moaning over the death of Uzziah, Isaiah’s eyes got hold of a different king in a vision. And all eyes should be on Isaiah’s heavenly King of kings, rather than on any earthly kings. The holy and glorious God shook Isaiah to his core and awakened him to a new task. His call was to be a prophet to his own obstinate nation and to the nations of the world.
The prophet’s early days of ministry were filled with rage of backslidden kings of Israel and Judah manipulating each other politically for survival and power. Further adding to the anguish to God was the entanglement with idolatrous nations of Aram, Assyria and Egypt. Even on the onset of Isaiah’s call, he prophesied of destruction and exile! And the damning reports of perpetual sins of the northern kingdom from his peers, Hosea and Amos confirmed the worst.
Right before Isaiah’s eyes, God strengthened the evil and brutal nation of Assyria instead of prospering his beloved Israel or Judah. God would bring to pass what he had said by all means, both judgment and promises. The names of Isaiah’s two sons had superbly illustrated that truth. His first, Shear-Jashub, “A remnant will return”, and the second, Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz, “Quick to the plunder” were God’s restoration and judgment in one statement. These signs were like power points accompanied the declaration of the prophet. The remnant theology was again brought to the forefront of a nation soon to be taken into exile.
The Lord’s anger burned against the northern kingdom and the resurgent Assyria did a Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz! The nation had not seen such devastation since its formation during Joshua’s days! Prophet Isaiah was swift in turning towards Judah, the diminishing light of a godly nation. Next to the conquering Assyria stood Babylon, another power that would be raised up by God for his purposes.
This time, Isaiah warned his fellow southerners to watch out, fresh from the background of destruction and humiliation of their northern neighbours. King Hezekiah knew about the gathering storm from Babylon. Although Hezekiah witnessed a miracle from God in defeating King Sennacherib from Assyria and a prolonging of his life by fifteen years, he wasn’t strong enough to change Judah from sliding further away from Yahweh.
As most prophets did, Isaiah prophesied against all foreign nations especially Assyria and Babylon where they were directly involved in the punishment of Israel. When both of these nations overcame their enemies, they would take pride in their prowess and gloat over all defeated foes, often giving glory to their worthless idols. No prophets would believe that any other so-called gods could be more powerful than Yahweh, the King of all kings! The God who controlled all nations would not stand idle and watch his name being laughed at. If these nations could open their eyes to see that it was Yahweh that strengthened their position and power! They were just instruments! How could clay speak against its potter! “Watch out you guys, Israel’s God will send another to destroy you,” Isaiah declared.
As the prophet’s ministry progressed, he saw the future plan of God. His heart must have calmed a great deal when he saw Cyrus, a king that would come and fulfill the remnant theology. More than that, Isaiah knew of God’s plan right up to the end of days! Where God would eventually lead Israel to complete victory under the coming anointed Messiah.
The main consolation for the man of God was the promised of a King in the lineage of King David. Not just any ordinary kings who blew hot and cold but instead, the King of kings would always reign with righteousness and justice. Emmanuel, or “God with us”, Root and Stump of Jesse, or simply the Servant were some of the names associating with the coming Messiah. He would be filled with the Holy Spirit to overflowing, doing great miraculous works for the glory of God. He envisioned a day that the Messiah would lead Israel to its greatest heights. Peace and prosperity would be the order of the day. How Isaiah longed for that day! How every righteous and right minded godly person would long for that!
Isaiah proclaimed with confidence and gladness, “Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost.” The invitation of God was clear! His love for the world would never die. “Seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near. Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts. Let him turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on him, and to our God, for he will freely pardon,” the prophet challenged everyone who desired to hear and hear good.
What would Prophet Isaiah say to us if he were to be alive today?
1. Trust in the Lord rather than putting your trust anywhere else.
2. Do not be proud just because God uses you to do His work.
3. God is in control over all the nations of the earth.
4. Nothing that happens in this world that God is unaware or suprised.
5. Your future is in God's hand and this solid rock foundation will never be shaken.
Next: Prophet Nahum