Walk of Shame

WALKING WITH GOD. No.35

1 Kings 14:27,28 So King Rehoboam made bronze shields to replace them and assigned these to the commanders of the guard on duty at the entrance to the royal palace. Whenever the king went to the LORD ‘s temple, the guards bore the shields, and afterward they returned them to the guardroom”

Perhaps one of the world’s greatest deceptions, being played out on a daily basis, is the deception that says, “I’m all right.” when in fact the individual knows deep down that they are not ‘all right’. The life that is being played out to the surrounding observers, family, friends or workmates, does everything it can to portray someone who is happy and in control. Life really begins when we face the truth, “I’m not all right, and I need help!” Until we come to that point, we are in fact living a life of shame. Something deep in us tells us that what we have is second best, or that we have failed, or that we need to try harder, or whatever else our past demands.

Rehoboam was king of Judah and Benjamin, a reign he had inherited from his father, Solomon. Under Solomon the nation had been great but as the years passed Solomon drifted away from the Lord and, as we’ve seen previously, the Lord took ten of the tribes from his son so that Rehoboam is left with only Judah and Benjamin. And then we read these awful words of indictment of Judah : “Judah did evil in the eyes of the LORD. By the sins they committed they stirred up his jealous anger more than their fathers had done. They also set up for themselves high places, sacred stones and Asherah poles on every high hill and under every spreading tree. There were even male shrine prostitutes in the land; the people engaged in all the detestable practices of the nations the LORD had driven out before the Israelites.(1 Kings 14:22-24) and Rehoboam did nothing about it!

What we next read is, In the fifth year of King Rehoboam, Shishak king of Egypt attacked Jerusalem. He carried off the treasures of the temple of the LORD and the treasures of the royal palace. He took everything, including all the gold shields Solomon had made.(v.25,26). The king of Egypt was the Lord’s way of disciplining Rehoboam and Judah; it was a humbling process. We see this sort of thing again and again in the life of Judah or Israel. While they remained close to the Lord they were secure and had peace and freedom from attack from their neighbours. When they turned from the Lord, He allowed or sent their neighbours to attack them, as a means of bringing them back to Himself, exactly in accordance with the Law (Deut 28:25)

But Rehoboam is like so many of us. He wants to carry on as normal and pretend everything is all right, so we read, “So King Rehoboam made bronze shields to replace them and assigned these to the commanders of the guard on duty at the entrance to the royal palace.” (v.27) but bronze is not gold. Solomon had made these incredible solid gold shields for ceremonial purposes. They symbolized the wealth and prosperity that his wisdom had brought. Now an enemy was taken them and so Rehoboam, trying to maintain a semblance of normality, replaces them with bronze shields, because bronze is all he has left! Every time Rehoboam goes to the Temple, the guard takes the bronze ceremonial shields to accompany him. This is almost the equivalent of our Queen going to the State Opening of Parliament in a horse and cart because an enemy had taken her state coaches! This trip to the Temple is thus a walk of shame.

These shields are a constant reminder to Rehoboam of what they have lost. They didn’t have to carry shields but if they didn’t that would make it even worse, even more obvious what has happened, and so, to try and make things look normal, they carry these bronze shields. If you didn’t know any better bronze shields probably looked quite good and perhaps the next generation thought they were great – but they were not gold! Oh yes, then next generation may have come to accept them and think they were good, but Rehoboam knew the truth. He knew this was a walk of shame, he remembered the gleam of the wonderful solid gold shields of his father’s reign.

Gold or bronze? What are you living with? The Christian life is supposed to be gold. Gold represents holiness, purity, goodness, all the attributes of the Lord’s presence. That is what is supposed to be in our lives, but in its absence, like we’ve seen previously with Jeroboam, we provide substitutes to try to pretend everything is ‘all right’. Years later Jeremiah brought this accusation from the Lord, “They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.” (Jer 2:13). It was an accusation that said you have provided substitutes for Me, substitutes that are not up to the job! That’s the truth. No substitute can ever replace the reality of the Lord’s presence. That is what we need. Accept no substitutes!

21. Hope Restated

MEDITATIONS IN ISAIAH – No.21

Isa 10:24,25 “O my people who live in Zion , do not be afraid of the Assyrians, who beat you with a rod and lift up a club against you, as Egypt did. Very soon my anger against you will end and my wrath will be directed to their destruction.”

The thing about Isaiah is that it is repetitious. There are a lot of warnings to either Israel or Judah , but there are also a lot of references to future hope. We have seen again and again (and we do need to keep on repeating it until we really understand and take it in) that it is not the Lord’s intention to destroy Israel/Judah completely. He simply wants to restore them to a place of blessing where, living in relationship with Him, they can receive all of His guidance and His goodness. The only trouble is that because He has given us free will He will not override that free will while we are on the earth. Thus if people have set their hearts to resist Him the only thing He is left being able to do is remove them from the picture and we become witnesses to their deaths. However we have also observed the bigger picture: that we all have to die sometime and there is an eternity to be faced after the very short time here upon earth. We also noted that the fact that, even the righteous (imperfect as they are) who remain here and are not destroyed by God for their sin, live by an act of His mercy and grace, but that is something that few of us realise.

It is in the light of all this that we face the challenge of Isaiah. The Lord has called this people into being to be recipients of His blessing and goodness, so that they can be a light to the rest of the world and that many others can come to know Him and similarly receive all of His goodness. But there is this stubbornness in many of them which refuses Him and is determined to go their own way. They ignore their history, ignore all the good things that God has done for them and ignore all His promises of blessing. Thus they reveal their foolishness, for it can be described as nothing less than that. All the while there is the minority who do remain faithful to the Lord and do reveal Him to others, but their testimony is being blocked by the majority. Thus we come to the words in the back part of chapter 10. A remnant, the righteous ones, will return to the Lord (10:21,22) and to them comes our verses above. The Lord’s anger against Israel will soon come to an end, for He will have completed His task of purging the nation, and so His focus will then be on dealing with Assyria.

Perhaps we need to briefly note something about the Lord’s ‘anger’ which is referred to again and again. For us as human beings, when we envisage an angry person we tend to see someone who has lost their temper and is releasing unrestrained hostility on another person. It is a violent emotional expression. When we come to consider the Lord, however, He never loses control. He is utterly in control. Nothing surprises Him for He is never caught out because He knows what is coming. He is never frustrated and doesn’t express anger as an expression of frustration, because He can do all things. Anger, in respect of the Lord, is distinct displeasure that is always directed against wilful sin. In every case where it is expressed, the object of the Lord’s anger should have known better and the anger is directed against that wilfulness.

Scholars suggest that when Jesus was at Lazarus’s tomb when he wept, there was also a dimension of anger against sin involved, that had brought about Lazarus’s premature death and the anguish for his sisters. Our anger has self as its origin; God’s anger has the sin of mankind which spoils or mars humanity as its origin. God’s anger in Isaiah is His displeasure against the sin of the majority that stops the minority being who they are designed to be. God’s anger or wrath is a cool, calm and collected emotion that is determined to remedy a wrong situation. It is perhaps better described as a determination rather than an emotion, although there is an emotional dimension to it. However, we will better understand it if we focus on the Lord’s set determination to bring His people through into a good place where they will, indeed, be the light to the world that He designed them to be.

Isaiah is communicating to a visual people, who do better with pictures than with mere words, and so we find this visual language to convey the end outcomes. When he speaks of what the Lord will do with Assyria he says, “The LORD Almighty will lash them with a whip, as when he struck down Midian at the rock of Oreb.” (10:26a) which just means, He will destroy Assyria in the same way He did Midian through Gideon, “and he will raise his staff over the waters, as he did in Egypt.” (10:26b) which means He will decree over them their destruction as He did over Pharaoh coming out of Egypt. In the verses that follow, Isaiah describes the oncoming Assyrian army getter closer and closer to Jerusalem (10:28-32), but then the Lord will cut them down (10:33,34). Much of Israel and Judah have been lopped down by this enemy in the hand of the Lord, so that only the faithful remnant will be left, and it is in the face of this picture, that Isaiah brings a further amazing picture of the Coming One in chapter eleven, but we’ll leave that until the next meditation.

Here again we have seen the outworking of the Lord’s disciplinary action in respect of this willfully disobedient foolish people. It is a controlled action and one only brought after plenty of warnings and plenty of time for consideration, and it is an action that clears away the disobedient while maintaining the faithful remnant. Fearfully awesome? Yes! But encouraging by hope? Yes, definitely! In the face of apparent impending disaster, this is very encouraging for those who are faithful and who remain strong in their belief in the Lord.

11. A Righteous God

MEDITATIONS IN ISAIAH – No.11

Isa 5:16 But the LORD Almighty will be exalted by his justice, and the holy God will show himself holy by his righteousness

If you want to be blessed and encouraged, there are certain areas of the Bible that do that very obviously. This is not one of them. Within parts of the Bible there is scripture that needs very carefully looking at. In these first five chapters of Isaiah we find words that are largely of condemnation. We don’t like being told off; we don’t like having our faults exposed, and so it is possible that we might have negative responses to these chapters for that reason – though we may not like to acknowledge that. In these meditations so far we have sought to face the uncomfortable truth, that here we find Jerusalem and Judah exposed and God’s warnings of what will happen if they do not change. It is not pleasant or comfortable reading. Yet, all Scripture is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.” (2 Tim 3:16).

Before we look at the detail of where we have got to, let’s ask what, in general, these chapters tell us. Well, I believe they scream loudly to us that God has standards, design-rules I have called them, that reflect the way He has designed us to work best. He made those design-rules known to Israel through Moses and they accepted them. Unfortunately they failed to keep them but their failure was more that they failed to be faithful to God, and then failure to keep the rules followed. Godlessness always comes before unrighteousness. Now part of the equation was that God wanted Israel to be a light to the rest of the world, to reveal Him to the rest of the world, and reveal His desire to draw people back from sin (godlessness and unrighteousness) and re-establish them in a relationship with Him, out of which they could order their lives according to His design rules and receive His blessing.

When Israel turned from Him, this meant that, being known as God’s people, they would now be conveying a very confused and distorted picture of the Lord, and therefore the Lord had to draw them back to Himself and His ways for them, that the rest of the world might receive a true picture of Him. For those reasons the Lord acts against Israel in such a way as designed to remove the wrong elements and at the same time preserve the right elements, while at the same time giving more people opportunity to turn from the wrong to the right. That is what these chapters are all about!

Thus in the ‘song’ that Isaiah wrote, we find a picture of the Lord removing the security from the nation (5:5) and leaving it barren (5:6) and just in case they were slow in understanding he clearly identifies the vineyard as God’s people (5:7).

From verse 8 to verse 23 we find a series of ‘woes’. These are expressions of distress about Judah’s state and what will happen to them. They are materialistic (v.8), carousers forgetting the Lord (v.11,12), who rejoice in sin, deceit and wickedness and decry the law of the Lord (v.18,19), who distort and reverse the truth (v.20), who think they are smart (v.21), who are big drinkers (v.22), and who distort justice (v.23). Tragically they are exactly the same as seen in so much Western society today. These do not portray the Lord’s people as He has designed them to be, and so he will take action against them.

We see that He will bring down their fine houses which they use to boost their image and their ego (v.9), bring down their crops, which is their source of wealth (v.10), allow an enemy to come in and wreak havoc (v.13,14,26-30) so that their pride will be humbled (v.15). If this is the only way that He can bring this people to their senses, He will do it for the sake of the rest of the world. That is what our reading of wider Scripture tells us is behind this.

Now when our home or car has been broken into, we demand that the police do something about it. We want them to catch the offender and punish him. That is justice and we expect it, yet when many of us read of the Lord dealing with Judah, we suddenly take on different standards. How terrible this is, the hypocrites say. Excuse me? Surely what we have been considering and reading about is simply justice. Yes, these people have “rejected the law of the LORD Almighty and spurned the word of the Holy One of Israel.” (v.24) and although some of us aren’t bothered by that, we would be bothered by the outworking of that as far as it concerns human rights abuses: “he looked for justice, but saw bloodshed; for righteousness, but heard cries of distress.” (v.7) and those “who acquit the guilty for a bribe, but deny justice to the innocent.” (v.23). THAT is how they spurned God’s design rules, and any civilized person should agree that that outcome was bad – criminal in fact!

Justice demands that this people be dealt with. God is dealing with them. At the end of it all of these injustices are removed, all these human rights abuses are ended. At the end of it, there is peace and right living in the land. It has been purged of the evil, the wickedness and the deceit for which it had been known previously. When that happens the world may look on and wonder and realise that THIS God is different from any idol they have worshipped. This God is the One who designed the world, and passed on to His people the rules for living that conformed to that design, and He even enforced it, so that goodness and peace should return to it. It is only the foolish or the petty who quibble against this outcome and if you don’t like it, one might ask, have you got a better way that would produce that good outcome from this messy state?


(Because these particular meditations are rather on the heavy or serious side, we will pause up for a week or so and come back to them after we’ve had a ‘New Testament break’.)

5. Promise of Peace

MEDITATIONS IN ISAIAH – No.5

Isa 2:2,4 In the last days…. He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.

Suppose you have a bad back and go and see a specialist and he says, “Yes, you’ll need weekly massage and then strenuous exercise before this gets better.” You accept that as normal. Or perhaps you go to the dentist and he says, “I’m afraid you have some decay and I have to do a number of fillings.” Again you accept that you are going to have to go through a period of discomfort before, eventually, you come to a good place.

Our trouble, often, when we read books of the Bible like Isaiah, is that we get bogged down with the negative diagnosis and the painful ‘treatment’ and tend to forget that always the Lord is seeking to bring His people through to a good end. In chapter one we had a lot of painful diagnosis of Israel’s state but now as we enter the second chapter we see that the Lord is aiming for something quite specific. Yes, there is violence at the present as nation rises against nation and the sin of mankind is expressed at a national level, but God is aiming for something beyond that.

Note first that this is what Isaiah saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.” (v.1) This was the land and this was the city that so often went through turmoil as other nations invaded in their ‘down’ times. So much for the location; next the timing: “In the last days”. (v.2a). The ‘last days’ tends to refer in Scripture to an end time period when God winds up all that is at the present and brings in something new. That is obvious in what follows. “the mountain of the LORD’s temple will be established as chief among the mountains.” (v.2b). Jerusalem was sited on seven hills; not very big hills admittedly but hills nevertheless.

The very first time Jerusalem was referred to as a ‘mountain’ was in respect of Abraham where he went to sacrifice Isaac: “So Abraham called that place The LORD Will Provide. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the LORD it will be provided.” (Gen 22:14). We believe this location was what became to be Jerusalem because we find, “Then Solomon began to build the temple of the LORD in Jerusalem on Mount Moriah.” (2 Chron 3:1). Later Zechariah was to prophesy, “Then Jerusalem will be called the City of Truth, and the mountain of the LORD Almighty will be called the Holy Mountain.” (Zech 8:3). Perhaps ‘mountain’ is used to refer to a high place, a place where God dwells above all humans, reflecting something of the Sinai experience (see Ex 19). Mountain may also, perhaps, refer to ideologies of the world. Whichever it is, the picture is clear – the Lord’s dwelling place will be the chief or supreme of all such places that mankind might look to.

Thus, although Jerusalem, the dwelling place of God in the Old Testament period, was now in a weak and vulnerable position, a prey to invading forces, that is only a temporary state. Ultimately it will become the focal point for the world. Now whether that focal point is the place of the Cross of Christ which establishes the Christian faith, or something else, time will tell. But the end is clear: the Lord will reign and people will come to Him: “Many peoples will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.” (v.3). There will be a heart desiring for the Lord and His ways, so people will seek Him. This suggests an end-time revival, bigger than anything the world has known, where large numbers of the world are drawn to the Lord.

But then it is as a result of that, that we come to our verse above: “He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.” (v.4). Do you see this? Because people come to the Lord, there will be peace! It is peace because they submit to the Lord and His blessing comes to them. The apostle Paul understood this when he wrote: “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by men.” (Rom 14:17,18). God’s rule brings righteousness, peace and joy in our lives. How different this is from the foolish ideas that the world has accepted from Satan: “The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the LORD and against his Anointed One. “Let us break their chains,” they say, “and throw off their fetters.” (Psa 2:2,3). Sin, stirred on by Satan, sees the Lord’s rule as hard, but in fact it is exactly the opposite. It brings peace and joy. Those are not characteristics of a hard life!

Oh the folly of sin! How it distorts our thinking! It makes God out to be a hard and harsh God, but in fact, He is the exact opposite. Sin looks at Scripture through a twisted lens and so the truth is distorted. It picks on the corrective parts and sees them in the worst possible light. It fails to see the love and goodness of God shining through in the midst of man’s stupidity. Check it out in yourself. How do you (honestly!) view the Old Testament? Do you feel God is hard? Do you focus on judgment or can you see the restrained, corrective, gentle hand of a loving God shining through, even in the words of a prophet who struggles with the folly of his own people?

3. Religious Wrongs

MEDITATIONS IN ISAIAH – No.3

Isa 1:10 Hear the word of the LORD, you rulers of Sodom; listen to the law of our God, you people of Gomorrah!

Isaiah has just compared Judah to Sodom and Gomorrah, so now he calls them by those two names, the inference being that morally they were similar. He tells them to hear and take note of God’s word and His law. In this case they are one and the same thing. The Lord is having to speak to Judah about their behaviour and therefore He is referring to things which come under the category of His law. Now I have already referred to the Law as God’s design-rules for Israel. Essentially, they call Israel to live lives that are in line with the way God has designed us to ‘work’ best. This is very basic teaching and yet one which is so often forgotten. When the Lord created the earth, and us on it, it was ‘very good’ (Gen 1:31). He designed us to function in certain ways and when we function outside those parameters, our lives break down, and we see this being worked out in the West in the early part of the twenty-first century.

Now there is a refinement to what we have said so far. The most crucial thing about the Law was that it was all about living in harmony with God as well as with our fellow human beings. Thus when the Lord introduces what we now call the Ten Commandments, we find Him saying, “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.” (Ex 20:2). He is reminding Israel that He is the God who has saved them and a God with whom they can having a living relationship, and that relationship is the all-important issue. Now this is important to understand because we next find the Lord criticising their religious habits. Their natural feelings were obviously, “Well as long as we do the things God told us to do in the Law, it will be all right,” and therefore once they did those things, they felt they could do what they liked in the rest of their lives, but what they then did indicated that the ‘religious things’ really didn’t come out of a relationship with the Lord, but as a pretence of a relationship. If they had a genuine relationship with the Lord, they could not have done some of the things they were doing. Bearing that in mind, let’s see what Isaiah says.

“The multitude of your sacrifices– what are they to me?” says the LORD. “I have more than enough of burnt offerings, of rams and the fat of fattened animals; I have no pleasure in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats. When you come to appear before me, who has asked this of you, this trampling of my courts? Stop bringing meaningless offerings! Your incense is detestable to me. New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations– I cannot bear your evil assemblies.” (1:11-13) i.e. why are you bringing all these sacrifices, why are you offering incense, why are you celebrating all these special days? The implication is that they are all meaningless. All of this religious ritual is meaningless! Indeed the Lord tells what He feels about them: “Your New Moon festivals and your appointed feasts my soul hates. They have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them.” (1:14) i.e. I intensely dislike these days that you call special.

Even more, He declares, “When you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide my eyes from you; even if you offer many prayers, I will not listen.” (1:15) What? God is saying He will take no notice of someone’s prayers? Why? “Your hands are full of blood.” (1:15c) Ah! There is injustice in the land! Now look at His instructions to them.

Wash and make yourselves clean. Take your evil deeds out of my sight! Stop doing wrong, learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow.” (1:16,17). They are polluted with sin and need to wash themselves. They need to get rid of these sins; they need to stop doing them. When you have a relationship with the Lord you CANNOT keep on sinning! The apostle John taught, “I write this to you so that you will not sin.” (1 Jn 2:1) and “No one who lives in him keeps on sinning.” (1 Jn 3:6) and “No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God.” (1 Jn 3:9). The apostle Paul taught, “We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?” (Rom 6:2) and, “count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.” (Rom 6:11) and, “You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.” (Rom 6:18). The New Testament writers confirmed what the Old Testament prophets declared: you cannot have a living relationship with the Lord and carry on sinning.

Thus Isaiah tells them to learn to do what is right. Our new lives involve us in learning what God’s will is: “be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Rom 12:2). This is to have a practical outworking; they are to work for justice, lift up those who are oppressed and care for orphans and widows. The apostle James reiterated this: “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” (Jas 1:27). God cares for all people, especially those who are vulnerable, and the church is to really look after these ones.

Do we see this? God wants to bring His blessing into our lives as a community, and therefore, as a community, we are to care for one another. When a community does this it creates security, a sense of goodness in living. That is this God of love’s intent, to bless us in community, so that we feel it is good to be part of it. That’s how it must have been in the early church as we read, “All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people.” (Acts 2:44-47). Is that how ‘church’ is for us? If not, we have something to work for!

1. The Challenge

(Today we start a fresh set of meditations as we take a break from Luke – we will come back to Luke later on.)

MEDITATIONS IN ISAIAH – No.1

Isa 1:1 The vision concerning Judah and Jerusalem that Isaiah son of Amoz saw during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, kings of Judah.

I approach this set of meditations more self-consciously that I have ever written before. This is going to be a challenge. I have read Isaiah a number of times, I have written a number of Bible studies from within it, and it’s an amazing book. However, over the past two years, I have been challenged by facing up to some of the more prominent atheists of the world who question the Old Testament and who say that it portrays an angry, vicious God who is totally different from the God portrayed in the New Testament. I confess that this has helpfully stirred me to challenge my thinking and my Bible reading, to see the God, who is described by the apostle John as ‘love’ (1 Jn 4:8,16), as the God of love in the Old Testament. That will be one of the key ideas I will be working on in these studies in Isaiah.

I am also going against the grain of some commentators in that I am going to assume that the book we call Isaiah was written by just one person and was not written by several people. My assumption is that if there are two or more phases of writing in this book, it is simply because Isaiah went through phases of understanding or revelation, as we all do. Again, as I tend to do with all these mediations, I am calling them meditations rather than studies because although there is a study element in them, I want to be wider ranging and verging on the devotional or personal. I may also range over broad swathes of a chapter at a time, and sometimes verse by verse.

This is first for my benefit and then for yours. I want to enjoy this book and enjoy writing about it, as I have so often enjoyed many other parts of Scripture. This is not a ‘hard’ exercise, but an enjoyable one! Yes, the subject matter of the first half of Isaiah especially, is about failure and destruction, yet let’s face it honestly, with the full revelation of Scripture, and see both the awfulness of sin and the wonder of the mercy and grace of God that is here revealed. (I’m not sure as I start this particular set whether we will cover the whole of Isaiah or just the early chapters.)

After the above introduction, telling us that Isaiah received revelation during the reigns of four kings, we find him – whoah! Hold on, we mustn’t go too fast. Look what that first verse says – The vision. Singular! The whole book comprises a panorama that affects Judah and Jerusalem. Yes, there are going to be a number of ‘oracles’ (e.g. 13:1. 15:1, 17:1 etc.) and there are going to be included a number of personal happenings involving Isaiah (e.g. Ch. 6,7,8, 20 etc.) but all of these things contribute to the big picture that involves the Lord and His people. Jerusalem was all important as it was the place God had established His ‘house’, the Temple, the place of encounter between God and His people. This whole book with its many facets and styles, which have confused so many commentators, is actually like a patchwork quilt, or a mosaic, or a collage, and it all contributes to the vision, the overall revelation from God for His people at that time, so we must see it all as a complete package. Yes, there are specific individual bits but we must recognise that they are just parts of the collage that make up the whole.

So, here he goes in chapter 1: Hear, O heavens! Listen, O earth! For the LORD has spoken.” (v.2a). Isaiah has caught a sense of God’s voice speaking. What has the Lord said? “I reared children and brought them up, but they have rebelled against me.” (v.2b). God speaks as a father whose children have rebelled against Him. Now something I have observed over the years is that we attribute to God feelings that we have, and so you can take the Lord’s words in different ways and with different feelings behind them, depending on how we view Him. Some people have a negative view of their father and so attribute negative attitudes to God. Now of course we’ll never know the complete truth until we get to heaven, but bear in mind the challenge that I spoke of earlier – that we learn to see God as the God of love who is the same in the Old Testament as He is in the New.

Listen to how He continues to illustrate what has happened: “The ox knows his master, the donkey his owner’s manger, but Israel does not know, my people do not understand.” (v.3). You can take that as a negative if you wish, but look at the description of Israel, “my people”. God is hurt, as a father is hurt by his children disregarding him, but God still speaks of them as my people. Yes, He is not casting them away simply because they turn from Him. In the West today it is common, when one partner in a marriage has been unfaithful, for the other partner to divorce. Separation comes so easily, but the Lord is not doing that. They are still His people, still His children, and so He wants to remedy the situation. Simply, His people do not understand. They are short sighted and cannot see the folly of what they have been doing. Now the Lord could have abandoned them, given them up and walked away and started afresh with a new group of people – but He didn’t! They may not be committed to Him but He is committed to them! That is love! Love can say some strong words, but it still hangs in there, it still remains committed.

There are a lot of chapters in Isaiah, a lot of words, so this is a lot of communication from God, sharing His vision about Israel. It is a vision that sees their past and the folly that has brought them to the present. It is also guidance and direction of how to deal with their present plight, so that they may be part of His future blessed people. It has warnings in it, to be sure, but it also holds out great hope. Let’s try to see as much as we can through this kaleidoscope of a book, and try and catch as much of the vision as we can, the overall picture of the revelation of God about His people. Only He sees truly, only He sees the reality of life, and so only He can share that reality. Let’s watch for it.