Publication: Pastoral Letter, November 2008
Dear Friend in Christ:
The older I get, the more difficult it is to change. Like many of you, I am a person of routine and habits. It is easy to live on automatic pilot and cruise control. The problem is, there are curves in the road, and we are approaching a sharp turn. If we do not change in certain ways, the results will be serious.
We are in an intense political season and have been for more than a year. Both major parties are speaking to us about change. Their prescriptions, however, are very different. One party is suggesting more government to deal with our issues; the other suggests more personal responsibility for our future. Whatever your political views, I believe that our greatest responsibility is to hear what the Lord is saying to us and obey.
The Lord has led me back to the prophets – and specifically, Isaiah – to remind me that in seasons of great change, He raises up prophets to give Divine guidance. Prophets typically understand the past, see the future, and address the present. They do so in the spirit of revelation and insight.
Prophets are not mere predictors or psychics. They are people of the Spirit who see in part and prophesy in part, and sometimes do not understand the full impact of their message. But they do understand the need and directions of change. Men like Noah, Moses, Elijah, Elisha, Isaiah, and Jeremiah stood at the narrow pass between the present and the future. We are there again and need prophetic leadership, and we need to be a prophetic people to the world.
The issues before us are much greater than the housing crisis, the stock market, and high gas prices. They are fundamentally spiritual in nature and revolve around our personal response to God and His word.
Let me be honest; I am conflicted about prophets.I have been both blessed and cursed by them – literally. Once, I was in a confrontation with a “prophet”, who possessed a gift of the “word of knowledge,” who said that I would not die a “natural death.”On other occasions, I was blessed to receive prophecies that were clear and true. And, I have witnessed other efforts at prophecy that ranged from “psychic to psychedelic.”
Recently, some Charismatic men of note gathered around a flamboyant “miracle worker” and put their approval upon him, only to discover a few days later that he was in a bad moral situation. Several years ago, a well known Charismatic figure was affecting lives and directions of people, even leaders in several nations, until it was discovered that he was gay. Then there was another case almost 40 years ago when many people left Florida because someone prophesied that a 100-foot tidal wave would cover the state. It didn’t happen. I could cite numerous other examples.
I hope you understand that I am not being cynical or critical, but pointing out my personal struggle with the need for the prophetic and my caution about this area (see Jeremiah 23:9-40). However, I love Isaiah because his message is time-tested and necessary for our direction in the days ahead.
If one can make such an evaluation, I would say Isaiah is the greatest of all prophets, though all true prophets deliver the great Word of God and serve the greatest cause. Their names are in the Bible because their words rang true to future generations, though they were often killed by their own(see Matthew 23:37-39). Our Lord said that how we receive true prophets had to change before He would return. We would have to bless them.
Isaiah lived and prophesied somewhere between 780 – 680 BC. He was called by God sometime before 740 and lived through the reigns of five different kings; only one or two were righteous. But Isaiah was consistent and spoke the truth to power.
Isaiah’s ministry occurred after Israel was geographically divided into the Northern Kingdom of Israel and the Southern Kingdom of Judah (Judah and Benjamin). The kingdoms were on separate courses; one would fall in his lifetime, the other would survive for the next hundred years. The difference
was how they responded.
Isaiah’s message was not parochial or narrow. He heard from the God of Heaven and spoke to the whole earth. And he spoke from Divine vision (see Isaiah 1:12).
His message addressed numerous issues, including:
- Forgetting where they came from
- Sin and iniquity
- Political and spiritual corruption
- Useless religion
- Injustice and oppression of the needy
- Rebellious men, women, and children
- Image without substance
- Calling evil good and vice versa
- Arrogance, drunkenness, and bribery
- The coming judgment
- The coming Messiah
- The weakness of the leadership
- False prophets who lied to the people
- Their rejection of God’s Word
- Empty words in God’s presence
- Lack of the fear of God
Isaiah’s message is typified in the names of his own sons: Shear-Jashub (a remnant shall return),and Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz (judgment is coming). Isaiah speaks in hope of a third son – the Son of God (see Isaiah 7:14; 9:6-7). These three sons are to be signs of judgment, restoration, and redemption. He speaks truthfully, fearlessly, compassionately, and prophetically.
The most striking thing about Isaiah is that He saw the Messiah from such a distance but with such clarity. Isaiah chapters 2, 7, 11, 42, 50, 53, 61, 65, and 66 give us some description of Jesus: His birth, His mission, His Cross, His salvation, and His reign. Isaiah’s descriptions of the Cross in Isaiah 50 and 53 are as vivid as the Gospels. His description of Jesus’ mission in Isaiah 61:1-3 is so vital that Jesus read them as His own personal statement.
In Isaiah 9, we get a description of Jesus as the child to be born, the Son to be given, who will govern. His name would be Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father – Prince of Peace. His government would endlessly increase; He would reign as the Son of David and establish the kingdom of judgment and justice eternally. He also tells us how all of this would come about – by the zeal of the Lord of Hosts.
It is not my purpose here to fully unpack this profound prophetic statement; rather, it is to simply state the prophetic accuracy of the prophet Isaiah and to motivate us to listen to all that He has to say to us in these days. As John the Revelator says, “The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy”(see Revelation 19:10). Without a doubt, Isaiah got into the spirit of prophesy! We do well to heed and get there ourselves.
Isaiah was given a clear mission; it is recorded in Isaiah 6: In the year good King Uzziah died, Isaiah was in the temple worshipping God. Several things are evident; Isaiah worshipped from a pure heart and sincere words – no hyperbole. Second, God regarded Isaiah’s worship as being contrary to most worship in Judah. God revealed Himself to Isaiah. Isaiah saw into heaven; the seraphim and their worship, the glory of God, and the awe heaven has for Him.
Then Isaiah saw himself – undone and unclean. He saw that the people of Israel were also undone and unclean, though Israel did not see what he saw (an awful burden to bear). Then his lips were cleansed with holy fire.
Next came the question from God, “Whom shall I send and who will go for us?” Isaiah said, “Here am I send me.”
So what was the mission? Go and tell this people, “Keep on hearing, but do not understand; keep on seeing, put do not perceive.” In other words, “preach the truth but realize they will not listen; do so until judgment comes, but I will have a remnant.” I would surmise that the mission is not to adjust the message but to declare that the people must change. And even if they do not, keep preaching the truth – a remnant will respond.
Isaiah chapters 1-35 deal primarily with judgment. Chapters 36-39 deal with history – what will happen. Chapters 40-66 deal more with comfort and hope. Chapter 40 begins, “Comfort my people.” Say that, “her warfare has ended; her iniquity is pardoned.” Then Isaiah speaks of John the Baptist who will come 700 years later preparing the way of the Lord.
He speaks of the Gospel, the coming of the Lord, the gathering of His people, and the Sovereignty of God. In spite of the difficulty of judgment, Israel and all who believe can take comfort in God’s purpose and plan. Isaiah goes on to describe the sufferings of Jesus, His atonement, and His reign. He declares Jesus’ mission to the poor, the hungry, the oppressed, and the anointing of the Spirit to enable Him to set captives free.
Isaiah fulfills the true prophetic purpose to motivate us toward change in righteousness, toward trust in God, and to survive transition in hope. His words echo over the millennia to find our ears, bring true worship, repentance, and send us on the mission of Christ to find the harvest_those who will hear.
In Deuteronomy 29:29, the great prophet Moses tells us that the secret things belong to God, but the words that are revealed belong to us that we may obey. God doesn’t tell us everything but He has told us some things – things we need to know and heed.
At the close of one service, I ministered to many people. When I came to one man, I spoke something that startled him. He waited until I had concluded all of the ministry, then came back to me and asked, “Did God tell you anything else about me?” He was nervous. “No,” I replied, “that was all; but, He told me that so that you would know that He knows everything.”
What we have heard from Isaiah should make us know that God knows everything. That should cause us to humble ourselves, repent, and volunteer for His purpose in the earth. It should cause us to be prepared for trial and hope for mercy, to seek justice and mercy for others, and to live the life of a Kingdom citizen while in this world. Remember, no one can do that for us. It is a personal matter that we be changed and become prophetic lights in a world of darkness. I pray that Isaiah can motivate us to change. The name “Isaiah” means, “Jehovah is salvation.” He still is.
Charles V. Simpson
P.S. Please continue to remember us this month in prayer and in giving. These
are difficult days in the global economy, but the needs and opportunities of ministry continue to challenge us, and we must not let up. Thank you for standing with us!
Scripture Reference: Isaiah, Matthew, Deuteronomy