June 6, 2017 • Life for Leaders
[A]t 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.
Isaiah 20 narrates a startling incident in the life of Isaiah. The Lord commanded him to take off his clothes and walk around naked. His nakedness was a sign to the Egyptians, the Ethiopians, and the Philistines of what would soon happen to them. The King of Assyria would triumph over them, taking them as prisoners. In the Ancient Near East, it was common for prisoners to be paraded without clothing in front of their captors as a sign of their shame. Such was in store for several of Israel’s neighbors.
For us, the unsettling part of this story is not the message Isaiah brings, but the way he brings it. We would be horrified if we had to walk around naked for three years. Our shame would be similar to that of Isaiah in his day. We wonder why God asked Isaiah to do such an embarrassing thing.
I’m not sure we can figure out God’s motivations here. But this much is clear: sometimes the Lord asks us to do hard things, things we find awkward, even embarrassing. For you, it probably won’t be three years of public nakedness. But it might be speaking of your faith with your colleagues, or admitting that you attend church regularly in a group of non-Christians, or confronting racial injustice in your workplace, or admitting that you need more sleep than you’re getting.
For me, I think of times when, as a preacher, I’ve felt that God wanted me to be open about my failures in life. Such emotional nakedness does not come easily for me. This has been one of the hardest things I’ve had to do as a Christian. To be sure, there is great joy in serving the Lord. But, sometimes, what God asks of us stretches us and challenges us.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
Have you ever known that God wanted you to do something that was scary to you, or embarrassing or vulnerable? How did you respond?
Where in your life, right now, do you find obedience to the Lord to be difficult?
Where might you be resisting him?
Gracious Lord, I must admit that this story makes me most uncomfortable. If you were to ask me what you asked of Isaiah, I don’t know what I’d do, honestly. Thank you, at any rate, for not asking me to walk around naked!
But I do think of times when you have led me to do something that I dread. Your call isn’t always easy, even though, in the end, I know that your yoke is the light and easy one. But sometimes what you ask of me is hard. It stretches me, challenges me, unsettles me.
And there are times, Lord, when I back away from your call. You know that. So forgive me, Lord, when I fail in my obedience. Help me to give all that I am to you, trusting you fully even when you ask me to do something that I really don’t want to do. Amen.
Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online commentary: Prayers about Work
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.
Wow, Mark! This is something I struggle with all of the time. It seems that, every week, almighty God asks me to do something I dread. This “something” is an abiding fear that I have no idea what it is, and it is buried deep.I hide it from myself. This has happened for many years, and it is so distressing because I wish to give everything in service and praise to our Lord. I’ve cried, fasted and prayed; I’ve tried writing about; I’ve implored,beseeched,Jesus. I’ve meditated, practiced reading scriptures and searching for an answer there. I’ve tried therapy. Nothing changes. So, perhaps, you could add me to your prayers. Thanks, Mark, God bless you always. Barbara
Thank you, Barbara, for your open-hearted response. Yes, I am praying for you and will continue to do so. Blessings to you. – Mark
Very powerful and challenging, Mark. I especially appreciate the question “Where in your life, right now, do you find obedience to the Lord to be difficult?” I am still holding that question before the Lord, waiting to see what area of my life he will shine his powerful, purifying light upon.
Thank you for this article. God told me to help some family members of mine. But by doing this it would cause problems with my family. He told me before i did it, that my family would not listen and be upset. They were and so was i but God told me to put my feelings to the side and just do it because its not about me.