How far are you willing to go with God? Where do you draw the line when it comes to doing things His way? At what point do you dig your heels in and refuse to take one more step down the path of His choosing?
Before you answer, I think you’ll want to hear this story.
Tucked into the pages of Isaiah in the Old Testament are a few verses that demonstrate just how far God might ask you to go in response to His call on your life…
Isaiah was a prophet of God. His role was often to communicate the truths of God to the Israelite people, and much of what Isaiah ended up sharing wasn’t “good news.” Rather, God used Isaiah’s voice among the people to issue warnings to them about their choices as individuals and as a nation. Probably not a popular guy, Isaiah likely spoke to less than receptive audiences as God strategically placed him among those who needed to hear what He had to say.
You know how that goes, though, don’t you? How easily we tune out the voices that push us beyond our comfort zones. How quickly we turn and walk away from those whose message is not what we really wanted to hear today. How powerfully our personal filter systems work to edit out the words that we aren’t ready to hear, tying the hands of the prophets among us.
God isn’t surprised by our lack of interest. His hands are never tied.
Finding in Isaiah a boundless spirit of obedience, God made a statement without words that demanded the attention of Israel. God told Isaiah to:
‘Go, take off your clothes and sandals,’ and Isaiah did it, going about naked and barefoot… (Isaiah chapter 20)
For three years! Are you kidding me?! As a sign of events to come, God used His creative license to capture the attention of His people by exposing the prophet Isaiah to the elements of criticism and mockery – not to mention discomfort and embarrassment – for years.
God knew that there were some who would never listen to words, so He gave them an illustration to look at instead.
I have to think that Isaiah was not the kind of guy who took the wearing of clothing lightly, making this experience one that had to be initiated by God (though I’m sure there were some who just shook their heads, thinking he had gone overboard with the “God stuff”).
Let’s be completely honest… The lives of faith that we lead today are pretty darn safe compared to the risks Isaiah took to be obedient in the work that God prepared for him to do. You might argue that Isaiah was a prophet after all, and that the work of a prophet isn’t for everyone (and of course, you would be correct).
But until our small lives are exposed for what they really are, how can we hope to display the glory of our risen Savior as He really is?
Standing naked and barefoot in front of anyone is the surest way to bring us down to size; to humble us; to tell it like it really is. Only then, when others can clearly see that we aren’t “all that,” can we begin to represent the One who is “all that” and then some.
The good news here is that God doesn’t make a habit of leading His people into obedience through the physical act of undressing (huge sigh of relief!), but He does lead His people into obedience in ways that will stretch us, challenge us, and cause at least some discomfort inside of us.
If we aren’t being led by God to expose our humanity in ways that illuminate His divinity, I think we have to ask ourselves whether we’re being led by God at all.
There’s an old Amy Grant song that says:
“When the world begins to see you change, don’t expect them to applaud. Just keep your eyes on Him and tell yourself, “I’ve become the work of God.” (I Have Decided)
God may be leading you down a path of humility and risk that, to the watching world, may look a lot like insanity. But you will be in very good company there, whether God chooses to make you an open book or a comic book.
Either way, it’s out of your hands… you’ve become the work of God.