Read Isaiah 20
A Prophecy Against Egypt and Cush
20 In the year that the supreme commander, sent by Sargon king of Assyria, came to Ashdod and attacked and captured it— 2 at that time the Lord spoke through Isaiah son of Amoz. He said to him, “Take off the sackcloth from your body and the sandals from your feet.” And he did so, going around stripped and barefoot.
3 Then the Lord said, “Just as my servant Isaiah has gone stripped and barefoot for three years, as a sign and portent against Egypt and Cush, 4 so the king of Assyria will lead away stripped and barefoot the Egyptian captives and Cushite exiles, young and old, with buttocks bared—to Egypt’s shame. 5 Those who trusted in Cush and boasted in Egypt will be dismayed and put to shame. 6 In that day the people who live on this coast will say, ‘See what has happened to those we relied on, those we fled to for help and deliverance from the king of Assyria! How then can we escape?’”
Isaiah 20 is one of the shortest chapters in the Bible, and it is also notable for the oddity of God telling Isaiah to be naked while prophesying about Egypt and Ethiopia (Cush). But why would God ask him to do this? Why would Isaiah abide by preaching naked for three years?
In the year 711 BC, God spoke through Isaiah. Generally, Isaiah was simply delivering a verbal message from God. However, on this occasion God told Isaiah to provide a visual: “Take off the sackcloth from your body and the sandals from your feet” (v. 2). The Lord commanded Isaiah to walk naked and barefoot among the Jews for three years as a warning not to make the same mistake Ashdod made in trusting the Egyptians for protection. Those who depended on Egypt could no longer look to that nation for help, but instead should only depend on God.
It’s important for us to note that Isaiah wasn’t completely without clothing. Naked in this context means he only wore the inner garment customary in that day—sort of like underwear. The message here wasn’t to try and provoke controversy. It wasn’t even about nudity—it was about complete poverty and humiliation. This is Isaiah putting on humility for the sake of proving a point. Isaiah dressed in the same way the poorest and most destitute around him would dress.
God’s message to the Jews urges His people to trust fully in Him. God did not have to warn the people, but He allowed them to have three years of warning so that individuals could prepare and turn to the Lord. God wanted Israel to trust in Him and lean on Him, not on anyone else. Through this story, we can see God’s patience and grace in our own lives. While Isaiah’s ministry of preaching (almost) naked wasn’t in our time, it shows that God cares about his people, and He will use various means to communicate His message to His people. We just have to pay attention to what God is doing all around us.
- Has God ever asked you to do something you didn’t want to do because you were afraid of being humiliated? Did you listen to Him, or did you ignore Him out of fear of what others might think?
- Do you ever put your trust and hope in other people instead of relying on God?
- What are three things you can learn from the prophet Isaiah? Discuss them with your life group this week.
Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for Isaiah. Thank you for his life and his example of what it means to truly follow you. Sometimes I am scared to do things that I know would help further Your Kingdom out of my own insecurities and selfish desires. God, please forgive me for that. Help me to be more like Isaiah. Help me to lay it all at your feet and do only what You would have me do (no matter how embarrassed I may be). I know that You are what’s best, and your desires in my life are better than my own desires. Amen.
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5 thoughts on “Isaiah 20”
I’m noticing Isaiah’s response to God’s unusual request. No arguing, bargaining or self-pity, he just DID it. He was willing to be humiliated & scorned if it would cause the hearts of his people to turn away from false alliances & idols and return to the God of Jacob. Scripture in v3 tells that Isaiah walked around naked & barefoot for 3 years! Some days our stamina & strength are sorely lacking, and we need scripture hidden deep in our hearts to remind us who we serve and what our purpose is on earth. Acts 20:21 has been so impactful to me, “However, I consider my life worth nothing to me. My only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given to me; the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.”
“And he did so” and God protected him. Isaiah was given orders to take off his sackcloth and sandals for 3 years so he could show and help people know that God was for them. We are just asked to tell them about Christ, the great commission and cant speak. My time on this earth is growing shorter day by day. I can speak Jesus and follow through but it is up to each individual what they do with that choice. The evil one is seeking whom he may devour at all times BUT GOD has given us weapons to fight but it is up to us to wear and use those weapons. We are victorious due to what Christ has already accomplished for us on the cross. We are to fight the good fight by using the whole armor of God so that we can stand our ground and withstand the attacks of the enemy.
God Thank You for words to speak about You and Your Son. Thank You for standing firm and looking to You as I navigate this world. Help me to be better at showing, telling and loving people for Christ in Jesus name amen
To answer question 1: twice.
First time was 2 yrs ago. Total humiliation. I DID NOT want to commit to it. And I really didn’t even understand why I had to do it at the time. But as Ella pointed out, I wasn’t like Isaiah. God and I had a day full of me questioning His sanity and my own and wondering if I really heard from Him. I can say now it was a test for me. To prepare me for now, and what will be probably 3 years still. In all honesty, if I would have known it was going to take years to mature or come to pass like Isaiah, I don’t know if I would have done it. But I have seen His hand along the way. Slowly preparing me for that mission He sent me on.
Secondly, it would be commenting on here. It’s somewhat easier for me bc this is not my home church. But there are other fears still….it is public. If there is someone quenching the spirit by not sharing your thoughts—you’re being disobedient and missing out on God using you. Pray about it. I do every morning. Matthew 16:24
It’s one thing to serve in obedient humility for God…another to do so BEFORE him.
Years ago, I was struggling with an extremely difficult and painful situation with a close family member, and turned to my dear friend and mentor—our own Ella Snodgrass—who counseled me to do the following:
“Get somewhere private. Silence all distractions. Prepare yourself to listen to God. If you feel him prompting you to do something, then do it – even if it feels odd or silly. Don’t ask— just do.”
I will spare you the TMI particulars, but suffice it to say I had my own Isaiah moment. That morning, God asked me to bare more than (ahem) my soul.
And yes, it felt odd—so much so I rarely speak of it. And I’ve only felt instructed to respond to God in this peculiar way one other time since.
But it certainly wasn’t silly.
What greater intimacy is there than when we kneel in humble submission, totally exposed and completely vulnerable, to the one who sees us?
Lord, I thank you that you are our El Roi—“the God who sees.” Help me embrace the personal, intimate relationship you offer. Come find me in all my desert places, trusting you in humble vulnerability to meet my every need.
To God be the glory!
That was great advice, Ella. Thank you for sharing, Pam. It’s good to hear Isaiah moments. 🤗