Week 7, July 14-20



Lesson Text:

Isaiah 20:1-4; Ezekiel 12:3-11; Jeremiah 16:1-9

Memory Verse
"Say, I am your sign: like as I have done, so shall it be done unto them: they shall remove and go into captivity"
Ezekiel 12:11

Key Terms

Abstention • the fact or practice of restraining oneself from indulging in something; abstinence.
Dignity • the state or quality of being worthy of honor or respect.
Pariah • a person who is rejected (from society or home), a castaway, an outcast.

Suggested Emphasis

Catherine Booth, co-founder of the Sal­vation Army with her husband William, was a prominent advocate for a woman's right to preach the gospel. But it was sur­prising to learn how timid she was until she made her own call to risk 'playing the fool' for the sake of the Lord. In January 1860 she was in the front row of a meeting where her husband was preaching. She watched as several dignitaries came to the podium to testify to the goodness of the Lord. Suddenly, she felt compelled by the Holy Spirit to do the same. At first, Catherine felt that she would rather die than speak. "And then the devil said, 'Be­sides, you are unprepared. You will look like a fool and you have nothing to say.' He over-reached himself for once—his words changed her mind and gave her courage. Catherine decided, 'I have not yet been willing to be a fool for Christ. Now I will be one.' God's will was done" (Hattersley, 1999, p. 113).

That night, Catherine didn't make a fool of herself; she inaugurated her public speaking career. But her initial trepidation to do what God told her is familiar to many of His servants. From the deliverer Moses to the apostle Peter, outstanding bible figures experienced a reticence to obey
God when their obedience meant risking their standing and security in the commu­nity. Among the most famous of these risk-takers were prophets of ancient Israel, many of whom had to yield their lives as practical demonstrations of God's words. They were often asked to behave as "fools for God." In this lesson, we have a brief survey of some of them.

Emphasis 1:

Isaiah Was Commanded to Go

"Naked and Barefoot"

At the height of the Assyrian persecution of the nation of Israel, the prophet Isaiah was called upon by God to illustrate the fate of Assyria's enemies. He was to proph­esy through actions rather than just words. Apparently, the prophet was already wear­ing the coarse linen worn by mourners. The Lord now instructed Isaiah to "take off the burlap you have been wearing, and remove your sandals" (Is. 20:2, N LT). The prophet was to go about "naked and barefoot," as a sign of complete humilia­tion. This probably meant being topless, with only a loin cloth; the attire forced upon slaves. It was how the conquerors treated male captives that they marched back to Assyria.

Isaiah voluntarily exhibited this indignity for three years, and then God fully explained what it symbolized. "Like as my servant Isaiah hath walked naked and barefoot three years fora sign and wonder upon Egypt and upon Ethiopia; so shall the king of Assyria lead away the Egyp­tians prisoners, and the Ethiopians cap­tives, young and old, naked and barefoot, even with their buttocks uncovered, to the shame of Egypt" (Is. 20:3,4).

Emphasis 2:

Ezekiel Dug a Hole in His House

The prophet Ezekiel was also called upon to model some irrational behavior in his day. In one instance, the Lord instructed him to dig a hole through the wall of his home and seemingly escape from his own house in the sight of his neighbors. Ezekiel was performing for his exile community, many of whom may still have connections with Judeans residing in the promised land. They would see the prophetic drama play out and presumably share the warn­ing with their friends in Judah. In effect, "when Ezekiel climbed out of the house through the hole, the knapsack on his back, he depicted the Jewish leaders se­cretly trying to flee from the city to save their lives" (Wiersbe, 2005, p. 58). As an actual example of this, the historical re­cord says that King Zedekiah attempted just such an escape when Jerusalem fell (2 Kings 25:4). Unfortunately for him, Zedekiah's flight was discovered by Nebuchadnezzar's men; he was tracked down in the plains of Jericho, his eyes were put out, and he was exiled to Babylon.

Emphasis 3:

Jeremiah Voluntarily Became a Pariah

Ezekiel's contemporary, Jeremiah, also had to sacrifice his public reputation. Jer­emiah endured social isolation in order to magnify the word of God. He was com­manded to live separated from mundane interests and pursuits as a continual re­minder to the nation that judgment was near. He could not marry and raise a fam­ily because newborn children in Jerusalem
were destined to suffer "grievous deaths" (Jer. 16:4). He was forbidden from attend­ing funerals because a day was coming that the dead would remain unburied and without memorial (Jer. 16:6). He had to decline wedding invitations to reinforce the prophecy that God would silence the "voice of gladness" in the land (Jer. 16:9).

Such abstention marked the prophet as an oddball. Weddings and funerals are shared rituals that create a type of social cohesion for our communities. Jeremiah's refusal to participate in these observanc­es would have been scandalous to his Jewish neighbors (Holladay, 1990). Of course, this severe isolation would also capture the populace's attention and lend credence to Jeremiah's prophecies. Like many of his fellow prophets, Jeremiah had to be ready to sacrifice his self-esteem and social standing to communicate the Word of the Lord effectively.

Missions Application Questions

Why did God have Isaiah remain" na­ked and barefoot" for three years?
What did Ezekiel's behavior signify about what would happen to the resi­dents of Jerusalem?
How would you respond if the Lord called you to severe isolation, like what Jeremiah endured?

World Missions Prayer Points

Let us pray to accept what God calls us to do regardless of how we look to others.
Let us pray for forgiveness when we have drawn back from obeying the leading of the Lord.

Copyright © Mims Chapel COGIC. All rights reserved.