Isaiah 2:22 Stop trusting in man,
who has but a breath in his nostrils.
Of what account is he?
The life of a prophet can be really rough. The contrast between the different things they perceive would tend to make them bipolar at least! This chapter is a good example. Verses 2-5 are dearly loved for being so comforting and encouraging, and have been set to music numerous times. However, from verse 6 on is a condemnation of the idolatry of Israel and a frightening warning of how it will be in the Day of the Lord. Today, Isaiah would be considered mentally imbalanced at best, and probably institutionalized. God, which is to say reality itself, is far bigger and more complex than we can grasp. As Bill Whittle likes to say, we don’t have the “mental horsepower” for the task. The only logical course is to walk in humility and obedience, trusting that God’s plans are indeed good, whatever our immediate circumstances might look like. (Jeremiah 29:11) The Bible doesn’t give us much detail of the life of Isaiah, but we have considerably more about Jeremiah, and Hosea’s personal life is laid out in painful detail. From what I’ve heard, modern prophets don’t have it much better! Speaking God’s words is a very high honor, but it can come at a huge cost. Reliable tradition tells us that Jeremiah was stoned to death in Egypt and Isaiah was sawed in two. Elijah famously suffered from suicidal depression. However, as I am fond of quoting, Paul has the last answer on that: “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” (2 Corinthians 4:17) When God shows us things we are to be faithful to share His truth as He directs, and we are indeed to be grateful for the privilege, but we are never to let such experiences puff us up. He is so much greater and higher than we are that any thought of personal pride is absurd. When we receive seemingly conflicting impressions, as even this chapter illustrates, we are to submit it to God and allow Him to show us how it all fits together. Prophets are a valuable and important gift to the Body of Christ, but they are not greater or higher than the other gifts listed in Ephesians 3:11, and all are given to serve, and not lord it over anyone or anything.
For many years I have said that Isaiah was the Old Testament character I would most like to emulate, because of his many visions of the coming Messiah. However, that’s a pretty risky goal! I have been used in prophecy, and I certainly desire and seek that all of my messages would be what the Lord is saying, but my major gifting is Teacher, and not Prophet. In a way that’s a relief! At the same time, my life is to be prophetic, in the sense that it should illustrate the character and faithfulness of God. My wife receives dreams from God and a friend has had waking visions, but I’m OK with having neither. My task is simply to be faithfully obedient, just as it is for every believer, whatever course God has mapped out for us.
Father, thank You for this reminder. As I continue to do various things for the last time, since I am retiring from secular teaching at the end of this school year, I am increasingly aware that You aren’t through with me, though I don’t know what the road will look like from next April. Help me not draw back from anything, or in any way be controlled by anxiety or fear, but rest, relax, and rejoice in You, just as You have told me to do, so that all of Your purposes for me may be fulfilled, on Your schedule for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!