And inscribe it on a scroll,
That it may serve in the time to come
As a witness forever.
For this is a rebellious people, false sons,
Sons who refuse to listen
To the instruction of the LORD;
Who say to the seers, "You must not see visions";
And to the prophets, "You must not prophesy to us what is right,
Speak to us pleasant words,
"Get out of the way, turn aside from the path,
Let us hear no more about the Holy One of Israel."
Therefore thus says the Holy One of Israel... (Isa 30:8-12).
With the current flood of evangelical manifestos, we have been considering what it means to stand and speak "prophetically," that is to bring the Word of God to the people of God with integrity. After some frustrated reflection, it eventually dawned on us that it may help to actually read a prophet. So, while reading through Isaiah, we noted especially the characteristics of Isaiah's prophetic ministry in Isaiah 30.
Ministering in Jerusalem during the Assyrian aggression, Isaiah particularly chastised Judah for their unholy alliance with Egypt (cf. chs. 28-35) and, therefore, adding "sin to sin" (30:1) by seeking the Egyptians rather than repenting and resting in their Lord (cf. 30:15). In such a context of sin and compromise, how does God's prophet respond?
By revealing sin (30:8-9). Isaiah is to write a visible witness to God's warning for the instruction of future generations (even us!). Sometimes, the prophet must just point to the lemmings as they leap over the cliff (cf. Isa 6:9-11) for it only confuses people as to the character of God to let public sin go unmentioned.
By refusing to compromise (30:10). Not that people explicitly love to live in falsehood, but they assume their actions to be the standard of righteousness, making God's truth intolerable. God's prophet, however, must bring God's Word to God's people, he does not survey God's people and then tell God His Word!
By receiving rejection (30:11). God's prophets received a lot of rejection (cf. Acts 7:52)! Isaiah even gave his life for his prophetic ministry (cf. Heb 11:37). There is a painful solitude in prophetic ministry, for the prophet who sees the Lord of glory, must also endure the blasphemy of His name.
By rendering judgment (30:12-17). Notice that Isaiah spoke the very thing his hearers refused, the word of the Holy One of Israel. The prophet's chief and singular concern is to stand with integrity and faithfulness before His Lord. Or as another "prophet" has written:
...the Prophet must obey God, though he should become the object of men’s hatred, and though his life should be in imminent danger. Here we ought to observe his steadfastness in dreading nothing, that he might obey God and fulfill his calling. He despised hatred, dislike, commotions, threatenings, false alarms, and immediate dangers, that he might boldly and fearlessly discharge the duties of his office. Copying his example, we ought to do this, if we wish to hear and follow God who calls us.While God's prophets are privileged to speak of His glory in redemption, they desert their post when they refuse to speak what God has spoken, regardless of the response. May the Lord help each one to stand prophetically in a day of compromise.
– John Calvin, Commentary on Isaiah, Vol. 2, p. 355