The Layman's Bible

Biblical Interpretation from Someone with no Training in Biblical Interpretation

Strange Indeed

Isaiah is an interesting and confusing book.  In the past, when I’ve read through the Bible, I have had a lot of trouble understanding any of it.  I hear pastors preach from Isaiah all the time, though usually they focus on the same parts (I know because I highlight the verses I hear in sermons).  So this year as I approached Isaiah, I prayed a little extra hard for some understanding regarding this book of prophecy.

One of the things the Lord (through the Holy Spirit) reminded me when I read is that although whoever split the Bible up into chapters and verses meant well and did a pretty darn good job, the Bible did not originally come with any chapter notation.  The books of prophecy are frequently difficult to read because even a single chapter may contain many different entries from the prophet, and we’re not always sure where to split them up.  Take Isaiah 28 for example, my NIV Bible has it titled, “Woe to Ephraim,” but that’s not all it talks about.  Chapter 28 contains a popular sermon quote,

So this is what the Sovereign Lord says:
“See, I lay a stone in Zion,
A tested stone,
A precious cornerstone for a sure foundation;
The one who trusts will never be dismayed” (Isaiah 28:16).

Isaiah chapter 28 also has one of my favorite Bible passages about the Law of Moses,

“Who is it he is trying to teach?
To whom is he explaining his message?
To children weaned from their milk,
To those just taken from the breast?
For it is:
Do and do, do and do,
Rule on rule, rule on rule;
A little here, a little there.”
Very well then, with foreign lips and strange tongues
God will speak to this people,
To whom he said,
“This is the resting place, let the weary rest”;
And, “This is the place of repose”-
But they would not listen.
So then, the word of the Lord to them will become:
Do and do, do and do,
Rule on rule, rule on rule;
A little here, a little there-
So that they will go and fall backward,
Be injured and snared and captured (Isaiah 28:9-13).

Today, I am not going to focus on either of these passages from the same chapter.  If you keep reading past all of the well-known stuff, Isaiah 28 reveals an odd passage, that, as it turns out is an even odder prophecy,

The bed is too short to stretch out on,
The blanket too narrow to wrap around you.
The Lord will rise up as he did at Mount Perazim,
He will rouse himself as in the Valley of Gibeon-
To do his work, his strange work,
And perform his task, his alien task (Isaiah 28:20-21).

I don’t know about you, but I’ve never heard anyone use this one before.

To understand this passage better, we need to understand how prophecy works.  Often, when a prophet predicts and event, it is marked by a sign; that is, some sort of indicator that the prophecy is coming to pass.  For example, one of the most popular of Isaiah’s prophecies goes like this, “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14).  As we know, later this is the marker for when Christ first appears,

But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”- which means, “God with us.” (Matthew 1:20-23)

Strange Indeed (The Capture of Christ)Today’s prophecy also has a sign to mark something happening, “The bed is too short to stretch out on, the blanket too narrow to wrap around you” (Isaiah 28:20).  A blanket too short to wrap around one’s body?  Perhaps you did not know, but this actually happens in one of the strangest notes in the whole Gospel.  Only Mark’s version of the Gospel records the sign, “A young man, wearing nothing but a linen garment, was following Jesus.  When they seized him, he fled naked, leaving his garment behind” (Mark 14: 51-52).  Obviously if the man is able to quickly escape, the linen sheet he was wearing couldn’t have been on every well.  It should be noted, that when I curiously researched this short passage from Mark, most theologians suggest that the young man was an onlooker who couldn’t sleep that night and went out to see what was going on outside (wearing only his blanket).  Maybe his bed was too short to stretch out and sleep in.

So, we have our sign, what is the prophecy?  We read,

The Lord will rise up as he did at Mount Perazim,
He will rouse himself as in the Valley of Gibeon-
To do his work, his strange work,
And perform his task, his alien task (Isaiah 28:21).

Strange indeed.  The two battles indicated were likely those fought by David, who is the ancestor of Jesus.  But what is stranger is what the Lord was talking about through Isaiah.  You remember our naked running man passage?  Well, go up a few verses and you will find out just what it is he was running from;

Just as he was speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, appeared. With him was a crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests, the teachers of the law, and the elders.

Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: “The one I kiss is the man; arrest him and lead him away under guard.” Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, “Rabbi!” and kissed him. The men seized Jesus and arrested him. Then one of those standing near drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear.

“Am I leading a rebellion,” said Jesus, “that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me? Every day I was with you, teaching in the temple courts, and you did not arrest me. But the Scriptures must be fulfilled.” Then everyone deserted him and fled (Mark 14:43-50).

Our man whose sheet is too small is running because Jesus had just been arrested.  This short prophecy in Isaiah is about God’s oddball plan to redeem mankind.

Think about it, would any of us consider it normal that for us to get to heaven God would have to die, in the form of his son, in an agonizing and painful death, only to come back three days later?  When you consider it, us being made free through the crucifixion is borderline nonsensical.  That is probably why the writer of Hebrews spends so much ink explaining the sacrificial system.  But that’s our God, sometimes he does stuff that doesn’t make sense; sometimes he prophesizes about a naked man hundreds of years in advance.  “All this also comes from the Lord Almighty, wonderful in counsel and magnificent in wisdom” (Isaiah 28:29).  So, as strange as it may seem, just trust in God and believe in his son, and in this you will find salvation, hope, and everlasting life.

Rock on God!

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This entry was posted on August 10, 2013 by in Bible Stuff and tagged , , , , , , , , , , .
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