Isaiah’s Discovery of Community Prophecy and His Abuse of Gentiles
Shortly after what must have been an intense meeting with God, Isaiah probably received a delegation of his fellow prophets. Hosea, Amos, Jonah, and Micah all came to offer their services, explaining to Isaiah that his prophecy would be far more effective if attempted in “community” – that is, if they could plan together and decide on a choice of language that Israelites of that period could understand. The community of prophets allowed that Isaiah’s powerful testimony in chapter 6 was effective but could certainly be improved. For example, no contemporary Israelite wanted to listen to one of his heroes agonizing about his unclean lips. Further Isaiah pushed credibility over the edge when he talked about a coal of fire being pressed to his lips only to bring cleansing.
And before all the holy seraphim, what did Isaiah mean when he said,
“Make the heart of this people dull,
and their ears heavy,
and shut their eyes,
lest they see with their eyes,
and hear with their ears,
and understand with their hearts,
and return and be healed.” (Isaiah 6:10)
Too much theology in one sermon. “Yes,” said Jonah, “we can help you be a lot less fishy!”
“Well,” opined Isaiah, “maybe you men could help with my next three sermons on the incarnation.” Modern auditors can read the results in chapters 7, 8, and 9. Isaiah shared a little of his idea, which he surely thought had its origin with God. “Hey,” offered Hosea, “we can jazz (oh, oh – is that anachronistic?) this up a bit if instead of mentioning Mrs. Isaiah, you would speak of her as the prophetess who will conceive a son. That should strike a favorable blow for women as preachers!”
“Yes,” suggested Amos, “and when you get to the incarnation, “unto us a child is born,” you could say that one of his names would be the everlasting Father. Whoever heard of a newborn being a father? That ought to stir them up pretty well.”
Now it was Jonah’s time. “I think that we have been discriminating about these Gentiles. I had a bad attitude about them, but a recent maritime experience brought me up short. I fear Nahum is going to be too rough on them so let me suggest this:
“In Galilee of the Gentiles,
The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light” (Isaiah 9:2)
Of course, preaching is hardly identical with prophecy, but they ought to be as closely related as humanly possible; and Jeremiah 1 gives us a reasonably good insight as to how prophecy transpired.
“Then the LORD put forth his hand and touched my mouth. And the LORD said unto me, Behold, I have put my words in thy mouth.
See, I have this day set thee over the nations and over the kingdoms, to root out, and to pull down, and to destroy, and to throw down, to build, and to plant.” (Jeremiah 1:9-10)
No harm is necessarily perpetrated by a preacher and his friends. No crime is dictated by a preacher and his books, his internet, or his family. But after all is studied and rehearsed, the need of churches and nations today is to hear from a man of God who has spent inordinate time walking with God and wrestling with the biblical text until, by the power of the Spirit of God, his thoughts are Biblein and ordained by God for the occasion.
To be a preacher, a spokesman for God, is an awesome assignment. One does not wonder that neither Jeremiah, Ezekiel, nor Daniel had a clue of what awaited them. They would have trembled for sure. But God never mentioned anything about a fish to Jonah or lions to Daniel, a musty cistern to Jeremiah or a battlefield strewn with the carcasses of Israelite solders to Ezekiel. He just said, “Do not be afraid of their faces.” Our preachers and pastors today are far too discerning to need anything other than a meeting with God and a word from God. And our contemporary prophets are far too limited than to bound into the pulpits armed with anything less than a sure word from God and an awareness of His presence.
Preaching will once again move us toward repentance when sermons abound with the presence of the living God and when social mandates take a backseat to the exposition of God’s Word. Meritorious preaching begins with men of God who spend sufficient time with God that the Lord becomes more than a theological concept.