Read the Bible in 2011 ◊ Week 1: Friday
“The proud look of man will be abased
And the loftiness of man will be humbled,
And the LORD alone will be exalted in that day….”
“The pride of man will be humbled
And the loftiness of men will be abased;
And the LORD alone will be exalted in that day,
But the idols will completely vanish.”
Isaiah 2:11, 17–18b
Friday’s Bible reading is Isaiah 1–6. As I was reading these chapters I noticed the recurring theme of pride I’ve seen this week in Romans 1–2, Genesis 1–3 and Psalm 1–2. Pride is our default setting. I’ve also repeatedly read of the inevitable consequences of pride: death and destruction.
When you read through the prophets, look first for what you can learn from the text itself, rather than being overwhelmed by what you don’t understand. This is true for any book of the Bible, but we need the reminder about the prophets because there is much we can readily understand from narrative history and reading the letters and we feel our gaps in knowledge more keenly when we turn to the prophets. Look first for what you can learn, and you will profit. The first time I read through the minor prophets, I don’t remember spending a lot of time with commentaries; I just read through the writings of the prophets. I acquired a greater understanding of knowledge of who God is even when I did not understand all of the circumstances of events.
When you watch someone’s actions, you learn about who that person is. You also gain knowledge of who a person is when you understand someone’s thoughts—whether through conversation or through writing. In the prophets you will read what God revealed to His prophets regarding His actions and His thoughts. You will also learn about people, and as you learn about people, obviously, you will learn about yourself.
Look for circumstances, character, conduct and consequences. Circumstances or times are usually fairly obvious to spot. Isaiah 1–6 has two references in it to the times: in Isaiah 1:1 the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah are mentioned; this is the time span of his vision. These were all kings of Judah, the Southern Kingdom that was form upon the split of the nation of Israel into two kingdoms upon the death of King Solomon (read 1 Kings 11–12 for background on the division). The Southern Kingdom, Judah, was ruled by rightful heirs, and the Northern Kingdom, Israel, was ruled by rebels. The Southern Kingdom had a mix of good kings and bad kings, while all of the rulers of Israel were bad (bad is putting it mildly!). Isaiah 6:1 refers to a specific circumstance, the year of King Uzziah’s death, at which time he saw the Lord upon a throne.
Character and conduct (deeds) are also easy to spot. Isaiah 1–5 reviews the rebellion of Judah against God and their wicked character and evil deeds. We don’t talk much about wickedness or evil today—they have become almost archaic words in a politically correct world in which the only thing intolerable is to declare that good and evil exist; the woes of Isaiah 5:18-23 give descriptions that certainly apply to our day:
“Woe to those who draw iniquity with cords of falsehood,
who draw sin as with cart ropes,
who say: “Let him be quick,
let him speed his work
that we may see it;
let the counsel of the Holy One of Israel draw near,
and let it come, that we may know it!”
Woe to those who call evil good
and good evil,
who put darkness for light
and light for darkness,
who put bitter for sweet
and sweet for bitter!
Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes,
and shrewd in their own sight!
Woe to those who are heroes at drinking wine,
and valiant men in mixing strong drink,
who acquit the guilty for a bribe,
and deprive the innocent of his right!”
Isaiah 5:18-23 (ESV)
There is also much to learn about God’s character in these chapters. His righteousness, longsuffering and patience; His hatred of hypocrisy and advocacy of those who have no defender; His judgment of sin and mercy; all are in evidence.
The consequences of evil deeds are clearly seen. Isaiah realizes this when he sees God in His glory and holiness and cries out:
And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!”
Isaiah 6:5 (ESV)
I found Isaiah’s words to be comforting and assuring. Because I am perfect? No. But I find God’s perfect character to be a bedrock; with Him, “…there is no variation or shifting shadow.” It’s reassuring to know there is absolute righteousness to be found—and found in God who is longsuffering and an advocate for those without a defender. Does this mean I have no fear of God or understanding of my own sin? No. In fact, reading the prophets will certainly impart an awe and fear of God as you read of His righteousness and power and judgment of sin—and they will certainly describe your sin and mine in detail as they describe the sins of their times. So why am I comforted and reassured as I read? Because I also know He is a merciful and forgiving God, for I know the truth of these words which the seraphim speaks to Isaiah:
“…your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.”
Isaiah 6:6b (ESV)
For those who acknowledge the reality of their sin in repentance and belief, God offers the reality of redemption.
Isaiah 42 Photograph: ChristianPhotos.net – Free High Resolution Photos for Christian Publications
ESV: English Standard Version
Original content: Copyright ©2011 Iwana Carpenter