So I was reading Isaiah last night and had to do a doubletake after reading chapter 20.
Isaiah 20:3-6 (NRSV)
3. Then the LORD said, “Just as my servant Isaiah has walked naked and barefoot for three years as a sign and a portent against Egypt and Ethiopia, 4. so shall the king of Assyria lead away the Egyptians as captives and the Ethiopians as exiles, both the young and the old, naked and barefoot, with buttocks uncovered, to the shame of Egypt. 5.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. 6.And they shall be afraid and ashamed of Ethiopia their expectation, and of Egypt their glory.
So I read it a few more times, in a few different translations, but there’s just no mistaking the fact that Isaiah ran around naked and barefoot for 3 YEARS!
I always thought Ezekiel 4 was the top-ranking item on the list of “crazy things the prophets were instructed to do to illustrate a point”, but I think this one might just be worse.
Then again, Ezekiel did have to lay on his right side for over a year, but the fact that he was baking cakes and eating meat leads me to believe he wasn’t laying on his side 24/7. I do believe that having to go naked and barefoot for 3 years beats that, even if Ezekiel did have to eat his bread baked over dung.
Could you imagine how much faith you would have to have to agree to that? Isaiah spent 3 years naked and barefoot at the request of God, and only wrote 6 verses about it, as if it was just a simple request that he carried out without a question.
Yes, things were different back then, but going naked was NOT acceptable. The entire point of the illustration was to show the shame that the nation of Egypt would face when led into captivity by Assyria. The last verse leads me to believe that the people became afraid and ashamed of Isaiah. I don’t think I could even imagine having that kind of faith.