Wednesday, November 14, 2012

One woman's journey through the book of Isaiah...Part I

I've always loved the beautiful images in the book of Isaiah.  Who can forget the passage about how those who wait upon the Lord will rise up on eagles wings or the lovely descriptions of Jesus as Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, and so on?  Yet, I'd like to read and study it on a deeper level.

Now, I'm no Bible scholar mind you, and I wouldn't presume to teach the book of Isaiah in any authoritative way.  However, I am finding some insights that are meaningful to me, and I'd like to share them.  I hope you will enjoy these thoughts, too.  Since it's difficult to cover a book this deep in a few blog posts, I hope you will undertake your own study of Isaiah.

I am in awe of the vision that Isaiah saw when he took up his commission to preach to the people of Israel:

In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another:
“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty;
    the whole earth is full of his glory.”
At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.  From Chapter Six

Isn't that breathtaking?  I've always loved that.  What I didn't realize until doing further study was that this was written during a time when Israel's and, perhaps, Isaiah's hopes had been dashed.  King Uzziah was, with the exception of Jehoshaphat, the most prosperous king of Judah and of the house of David since Solomon.  He was faithful to the Lord for most of his long reign.  He was mighty in battle.  There was hope in the land that the former days of glory would be fully restored under his leadership. 

However, Uzziah became proud, became unfaithful to God, and offered incense when only the priests should have done so.  He was struck with leprosy and was removed from rule.

On top of that, the culture was turning away from the Lord to sin. (Isaiah Chapters 1-5)  People were going through the motions of worshiping the Lord, but without living righteously before him.  Their worship services and their sacrifices were hollow. 

Many were selfish, and they overlooked the needs of the poor, the defenseless, the widows, and the orphans.  The nation was trying to combine the worship of the Lord with superstitions from the east.  Corrupt officials were taking bribes.  The princes had thieves as companions. Leaders were misleading the people.  The wealthy were exploiting the poor, drinking too much, too self-indulgent, prideful, and without concern for the Lord. The women were arrogant, consumed with materialism and finery, and wanton.  It got to the point that people were confused about what was good and what was evil.

It was in the year that Uzziah died, and with him the dreams his kingship had awakened in the people, that Isaiah saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up.   The throne of Judah wasn't doing well.  The religious leaders were also letting the people down.   However, God's throne is permanent and unshakable.  He is King over all kings, Lord over all nations, cultures, and governments.  Our ultimate hope is not in earthly people or circumstance, but in God's loving and just interaction with our fallen world.  Our citizenship is in heaven, and we live by its principles of righteousness, peace, and love.  Sometimes, it takes the dashing of our earthly dreams to point us to the glory that will never fail.     

What's the lesson for me? 

Are our current politics unstable?  Is our country divided along political lines?  Was our recent election a bitter contest?  Jesus is Lord and Savior.
Is our economy wavering?  Jesus is Lord and Savior.
Have my personal hopes in people or in earthly things been dashed?  Jesus is Lord and Savior.
Am I getting older?  Jesus is Lord and Savior.
Are there issues among my brothers and sisters in the Lord that I need to deal with?  Jesus is Lord and Savior.
Are parts of our culture turning away from God and toward sin?  Jesus is Lord and Savior.
Is there injustice in our land?  Jesus is Lord and Savior.
Do people make up their own religion, as the Israelite did, by mixing a little something here and a superstition there with a smattering of the real truth?   Jesus is Lord and Savior.
Do I need to identify and repent of sin in my life?  Jesus is Lord and Savior.

After God revealed his glory and his kingship to Isaiah, Isaiah was strengthened to go into ministry to his people.  The people sorely needed someone who cared -- someone authentic, someone who would love them and who would proclaim the truth to them.  Only after Isaiah had encountered the Lord was he ready for this mission.