One Year Bible
Old Testament passage for Sunday, September 15, 2013: Isaiah 19:1-21:17
1 In the year that Tartan came to Ashdod, when Sargon the king of Assyria sent him, and he fought against Ashdod and took it, 2 at the same time the Lord spoke by Isaiah the son of Amoz, saying, “Go, and remove the sackcloth from your body, and take your sandals off your feet.” And he did so, walking naked and barefoot. 3 Then the Lord said, “Just as My servant Isaiah has walked naked and barefoot three years for a sign and a wonder against Egypt and Ethiopia, 4 so shall the king of Assyria lead away the Egyptians as prisoners and the Ethiopians as captives, young and old, naked and barefoot, with their buttocks uncovered, to the shame of Egypt. Isaiah 20:1-4 (NKJV)
Old Testament prophets could at times be really strange dudes. It actually becomes a bit hard to understand. They were used by God to deliver His word, but at times He also called them to DEMONSTRATE His prophetic word.
Isaiah was told to do a PROPHETIC ACT. By definition, a prophetic act is an action that accompanies and illustrates the word of the Lord. The prophet would DO something as an outward illustration to bring maximum impact. It is also conceivable that at times the prophetic act is PART of the prophecy. Under the anointing of the Holy Spirit, the prophetic act releases the power of God to enact His Word.
I have gone on prayer journeys to lands where Christianity is outlawed. There we deposited Bibles or Scripture portions into hidden places or walls. This was done as a prophetic act in prayer believing for the impact of the Word of God in that foreign land. I have observed Holy Communion inside pagan temples proclaiming the power of Jesus' sacrifice against the darkness of idol-worship. These would be considered prophetic actions.
But, these Old Testament prophets took this to a whole new level! Hosea was told to marry a prostitute as an illustration of how God still loved Israel (Hos. 1:2). Ezekiel was instructed to lay on his side for 390 days, then lay on the other side for 40 more (Ez. 4:4-6). Jeremiah was commanded to wear an ox's yoke around his neck (Jer. 27:1-2). Isaiah was perhaps the most dramatic. God said walk around naked for three years!
Incidentally, most commentators agree that the Hebrew allows some latitude in meaning. Naked may not mean total birthday suit, but may mean everything but a loincloth.
What would you do if someone came to your church claiming God told them to walk around naked as an illustration of America's sins? Honestly, I would think he was a few fries short of a Happy Meal. I would pat him on the back while signaling for back-up.
I do not know how to process these extreme Old Testament prophetic acts. If done today they would be weird. I simply accept them as the way God operated in that era.
And it makes me really glad I live in the New Testament, under the full revelation of Jesus!