There's a certain nightmare that I understand is relatively common among most people today. It's the one where you are suddenly naked in a public place and you have to run and hide or try to find clothes. I've had this dream on a number of occasions and it is positively terrifying. I don't want to be naked in public. There are laws against that kind of thing. There's just something about being unclothed that goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve hid themselves because they were ashamed at their nakedness. So when I read something like Isaiah chapter 20, where God commands the prophet to go naked and barefoot, I just don't know if I would have been able to obey. And the command wasn't for just an hour or a day. We learn from verse 3 of that chapter that Isaiah's nakedness lasted for three years! And why, do you ask, did God command this? It was because He was sending a visual message to Egypt and Cush that the king of Assyria was going to lead their people away naked and barefoot into captivity.
Yes, this three years of nakedness was a 'sermon' that Isaiah was preaching with his "buttocks uncovered". He signed up for this, remember? "Who will go for us?", God asked. "Here am I, send me!", Isaiah answered. We preachers and ministers have had a similar experience of a call and an answer. It's exciting to think that we could be a part of God's Kingdom - a tool in His omnipotent hands. We are ready to do whatever He commands us...as long as it fits with our expectations.
When I try to answer the question of whether I would obey the command to go around stark naked for three years, I think that I would have to hear an absolutely crystal clear divine voice accompanied by some sort of burning bush or something. I would certainly not do it if all I had was some kind of inner urging.
But what if it were written in the Bible that the pastor of Hoosier Prairie Baptist Church in Louisville, Illinois had to go naked for all of 2010? Well, first of all, if the Bible said that, everyone would know about it, and no one in their right mind would ever name a church "Hoosier Prairie Baptist Church" in Louisville, Illinois. And certainly no minister would ever accept the pastorate of such a church if there was any chance that he would still be there in 2010. But, that logic aside, would I obey the command? I don't know if I can answer that.
The reality is that the Bible is full of direct divine commands to God's people that we regularly ignore, even though they are of the utmost importance. We are commanded to deny ourselves, take up our crosses, and follow Christ daily, and yet very few Christians (at least in America) ever seem to really deny themselves very much. We are commanded to make disciples of all nations, boldly proclaim the gospel to all people, be loving to our enemies, confess our sins to one another, and a host of other things that we find very difficult to do on a daily basis.
And yet Isaiah obeyed this hard demand of the Lord. Disbedience and laxity has become so easy in our day. May we somehow reclaim the kind of obedient spirit that the old prophets had that would do anything that the Lord asked.