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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