"He said (to me, Isaiah), 'Go and tell this people: Be ever hearing, but never understanding; be ever seeing, but never perceiving. Make the heart of this people calloused; make their ears dull and close their eyes....' Then I said, 'For how long Lord?'" Isaiah 6:9-11(partial)
I have been reading through the book of Isaiah of late. It's not the easiest book to read, since it necessitates some knowledge of both redemptive and geographical history. There are alot of cities and nations mentioned in the book, and there is vast material on the promise of a Messiah - a Savior of Israel. Good thing too - because there are definitely some scenarios in this book that are difficult, and from which people will need saving.
I remember when I was in New Orleans taking one of my seminary courses on the Old Testament. My professor, himself an expert in the Old Testament (with specific arenas of expertise in the Wisdom literature of the Scripture), made the class very difficult for us. Very difficult. The volume of work was nearly beyond the capacity of a human, and the expectation of knowledge on the exams was beginning to surpass ridiculous. Finally, as the class was drawing to a close for the term, I understood why this was so. It was wrapped up in my professor's worldview of the Old Testament. When asked by a student to summarize the whole of the Old Testament, he simply replied, "Life is hard." Well now, that explains some things (but doesn't explain some others....like why I thought it funny to refer to myself as "Molech" for most of the term...).
As I am reading Isaiah, I can't help but come back to that simple statement of the Old Testament my professor gave us. It certainly seems to ring true for Isaiah. Being an Old Testament prophet had to be a hard job. You got asked to do all kinds of things that were seemingly weird, like, say, walking around the town naked for a long time. But you also had to basically have all the self-esteem and glory that you ever wanted thrown right out the window because if you were an OT prophet, you likely weren't going to be on Facebook or Twitter with a ton of "followers" (anybody else find the whole idea of wanting to amass followers of your every move on Twitter a bit...I don't know...awkward?...I digress...).
It would be hard to hear, like Isaiah did, that God wants you to go and be a voice for Him to the people - and, oh yeah, they aren't going to listen to you. So God says He wants Isaiah to help him close ears and shut eyes by the actual message Isaiah will be proclaiming from God. Sounds delightful doesn't it? Just what you signed up for when you thought about making a career move to "full-time Christian ministry."
At times, I wonder if I have done a disservice to those watching me in ministry by not letting them know how hard it can be sometimes, and that God doesn't promise us that our ministries will be easy. Comparable to Isaiah, I live in DisneyWorld in my ministry context. But not everyone who is called will always be in this type of ministry context. Some will be called to very difficult places and circumstances, others in less difficult ones. God makes no promises on the front end to us. He calls, and He expects us to respond in obedience. What He chooses to do with us to use us for His glory to be displayed in the world is up to Him. And even if we end up in what might be construed as an easier place, we never know what circumstances might come into play. And we don't know how God might want to leverage all of it for His glory.
I also thought about how God calls me to a place much like Isaiah sometimes (minus, I hope, the "walking around naked" thing..). God hasn't called me to make up a message for people - He has asked me to communicate what He has said. Obviously, in the contemporary world of the closed canon, we have a message from God to proclaim. But we need to be vessels that can carry the message with integrity. Isaiah wasn't perfect, and neither are you or I, but we have a responsibility before God to be people who so desire to hear the heart of God that we won't trade that which is best for that which may be only good.
Maybe not all OT prophets were loners...but they did know how to get alone with God. Maybe they all weren't without friends...but they did know that God would speak the truth to friend and enemy alike without fear. And maybe they weren't all in hard circumstances all the time...but they did know that circumstances were whatever they were - their responsibility was to hold out the heart of God for people.
There are some lessons in there somewhere for all of us...not just the prophets among us.