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Word Pictures

Word pictures have always been stunning in their ability to take profound, and sometimes complicated, truths and make them stick in our brains. A friend of mine has a knack for mixing euphemisms together to create unforgettable mental snapshots. My favorite is “Don’t beat your head against a dead horse!” The original sayings, of course, were
• Don’t beat your head against a wall, and
• Don’t beat a dead horse.
Both of those are powerful visions that remind us to live by common sense and choose our battles well. When you mix them together, however, it creates an imaginary scene that never goes away.
It appears God has wired us to respond to word pictures because he uses them often to get his point across. In Isaiah 20, God is trying to get the attention of the nation of Israel to help them avoid calamity. They had been making poor choices which were setting them up for discipline. The current course of their life was going to result in calamity, exile and self-destruction. From a distance, everyone can see that it was going to turn out badly. They apparently were too close to the action to realize the danger they were. In fact, they had concluded everything was fine because the large nation of Egypt had offered their support. They thought, “We are safe because Egypt would never let anything happen to us.” They were emotionally attached to their own conclusions and were blinded to the consequences they were creating. In an attempt to refocus them, God paraded before them an unexpected sight.
God told the prophet, “’Take off the sackcloth from your body and the sandals from your feet.’ And he did so, going around stripped and barefoot.” Isaiah was one of the most prominent prophets in history. He was a man of God and was expected to act respectfully. It would have been shocking for them to see him walking around half-clothed and barefoot. From their perspective, it would have been inappropriate and scandalous. It would have been so unexpected and so vivid to them they would all notice and react in some way.
And that was exactly the point. God was attempting to wake them up and help them see that the choices of their lives could never succeed. After the word picture set in, God made it personal. “Just as my servant Isaiah has gone stripped and barefoot for three years, as a sign and portent against Egypt and Cush, 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.” (v. 3-4)
First, we have a prophet walking around semi-clothed and then we have the great and mighty Egyptians being led off with their “buttocks bared.” Not the kind of thing you expect to read in a “religious” book but the pictures are very effective.
As we travel through our lives today, we are going to be surprised by some picture of life. May God grant us the ability to respond correctly to them so we can see life as it really is rather than the way we “feel” it should be.

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One Response

  1. What a great reminder! Sometimes we forget to see “how it really is”!

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