2nd June 2021

What is a prophet? That is a question that chapter 6 of Isaiah asks of us. In a vision, Isaiah heard God call for someone to speak to Israel on his behalf. “Here I am; send me!” responded Isaiah. But what was a prophet to do?

The first thing one might imagine a prophet would do is to predict the future. Isaiah did some of that. He spoke of future judgement that would befall the nation but also of hope after the punishment was done. Isaiah predicted a virgin birth and a suffering servant.

Secondly, a prophet has been described as someone who tells it like it really is. Such prophecy is a message from God that gives divine insight into the current situation. In chapter 1, Isaiah attributed the suffering of the nation to their failure to do good, seek justice, rescue the oppressed or defend the vulnerable. The prophet’s message was to motivate a change in behaviour.

But back to the commission that God gave to Isaiah: “Make the mind of this people dull… so that they may not… comprehend”. The prophet’s task was to speak in a way that no one understood his message! Not what we would expect of a prophet. But recall too that this is the reason Jesus gave for speaking in parables (Mark 4:12, quoting Isaiah 6:9).

What are we to make of this kind of incomprehensible prophecy? Perhaps it is there to look back upon in years to come. There are times God speaks to us before we are ready to hear. Let us not be slow to look back in order to listen.

Ian Waddington