In ancient times because the written word was scarce, anything of importance either had to be written in stone, or passed along orally, which usually meant memorizing long passages of poetry or prose. Passages written in poetry were easier to remember, however it wasn’t rhyming poetry as we know it. It employed the use of parallelism and imagery. Parallelism is fascinating, but hard to pick out. I will be concentrating more on imagery during this study. Imagery helps us to visualize things and aids in memory retention. It also helps us to see beyond the face value; it broadens our focus and deepens our perspective. I think it is one of Isaiah’s most powerful tools. He puts before us an image or analogy that has meaning on many different levels and leaves it to us to draw out the application.
Isaiah starts right off in chapter one, laying an image before us. In Isaiah 1:5-6 he compares the house of Israel to a body: “Why should you be stricken anymore? Ye will revolt more and more: the whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint. From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it; but wounds, and bruises, and putrifying sores: they have not been closed, neither bound up, neither mollified with ointment.”
Here we have a body—a person—stricken from head to toe, “no soundness in it”; he’s rendered pretty much immobile. The whole head is sick. The head is kind of the control room for the rest of our body. I had a migraine once. It was the only one I have ever had (knocking on wood). I had to be in a dark room without any sound or movement whatsoever. It was the most miserable I have ever been. I couldn’t make any kind of rational decision, let alone even think. I had to have my husband come home from work, because I couldn’t care for my children. I just wanted to die and be let out of this misery! It didn’t matter that the rest of my body was ok, the headache did me in.
Moving along, Isaiah tells us that the heart is faint, it is diseased. I’ve never had a heart attack, but I hear they are very painful. I have had heart ache though. Great anguish, deep within me that I could find no relief from, it literally made me feel sick all over. It affected all my decisions and caused much distress in my life.
On top of it all, there are sores all over this body— putrifying sores that are in need of attention. Gross. I’ve had several ingrown toenails. They are disgusting to look at and painful to the touch. If I stubbed my toe or someone stepped on them the pain was almost unbearable. I had to have a couple of them cut out by a doctor. Even after they healed over, I would cringe and curl up my toes when someone would step too close to them.
So this person is in bad shape. Why? What brought him to that point?
If you go back to verse 2 it says, “I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against me.” This person was brought up and taught correctly, but rebelled. Why do children who are brought up in the light of the gospel rebel? It makes me think of when the Lord came to this continent and for two centuries following his visit the people were righteous. Then a new generation of children fell away. Why?
At the time I studied this chapter my mind had been caught up in thinking about the political scene in our country. The evangelical vote is a big deal these days and I had just read an article depicting how several candidates have hired political strategists specifically to help them attract the Christian voters. “Vain oblations...calling of assemblies” (vs. 13) were the phrases that popped out in this chapter. Rather than these politicians being true to what they believe, they want to know what rhetoric to use to “appeal” to the voters. The footnotes in verse 13 lead us to Matthew 15:9, “But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrine the commandments of men”.
I can’t pretend to understand the political world so this is not meant to be a political post, you’ll have to refer to someone else for that, but I think the words of Isaiah can make us aware of what to watch out for in the world today. Who are we following, who are we allowing to be our leaders? Who do we trust? Are we voting for politicians who are priniciple based, speaking truth, or ones who are “appealing” to us, telling us what we want to hear, whether it is true or not? What path are we going to be led down and what will be our state at the end of that path? Could it be that the Nephites began following after a different leader, trusting in the arm of the flesh?
We're not finished with chapter one yet, so be sure to check back in later for more musings.