(Mike Tyson drawing, John Harding, graphite; www.art-works-australia.com)
**Though we aren’t introduced to the prophet Isaiah for another week (according to the Chronological Bible Reading Plan), I thought I might whet our appetites in preparation for this great book.**
I was in my car this morning listening to Mike & Mike in the Morning (ESPN Radio) as they interviewed Mike Tyson, former Heavyweight Champion of the World. The once-great fighter has a Broadway show debuting in late July called “Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth” directed by Academy Award-winner Spike Lee. The show has already made a successful run in Las Vegas. From what I can gather it is essentially a dialogical presentation of Tyson’s highs and lows. It’s part monologue, part Q&A with the audience. As Mike Greenberg questioned Tyson, trying to get a better sense of the tone of the show, he commented on how Tyson, much like Tiger Woods, has been a magnetic character – for better or worse; someone for whom the public has a seemingly bottomless reservoir of interest. He then asked, “How do you view yourself?” Without skipping a beat, Iron Mike responded, “I’m pretty flawed.” He went on to describe his brokenness with honesty and refreshing transparency, but there was little talk of redemption – or even needing to be redeemed.
God spoke through the prophet Isaiah and proclaimed, “Turn to Me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other” (45:22). The problem of sin is universal; Mike Tyson is not the only one who can truthfully confess, “I’m pretty flawed.” We’re all “pretty flawed.” And we need to be fixed. More accurately, we need to be rescued.
In reading for this post I came across Ray Ortlund, Jr.’s commentary on this masterful Old Testament book entitled, “Isaiah: God Saves Sinners.” This is what he writes at the very start:
God saves sinners. We don’t believe that. We bank our happiness on other things. But God says to us, “I’m better than you think. You’re worse than you think. Let’s get together.”
The prophet Isaiah wants to show us more of God and more of ourselves than we’ve ever seen before. He wants us to know what it means for us to be saved. Do we have the courage to listen? We might as well. Our friends disappoint us. Our own good intentions let us down. Sooner or later our very bodies will give out. But God has opened a way for us to swim eternally in the ocean of His love. Our part is to look beyond ourselves and stake everything on God, who alone saves sinners.
If you aren’t a Christian believer, I dare you to give Isaiah a hearing. God speaks through this prophet even today. How else can you explain the fact that after 2,700 years there is still a market for books on Isaiah? Why are you [reading] this book right now? God wants to speak to you through Isaiah. If you’re a new Christian, Isaiah offers you a God-centered confidence that can face anything. If you’re an experienced Christian, Isaiah will challenge you to trust God in new ways. And if you’re suffering, Isaiah will help you reach out and grasp God’s mighty hand on your behalf.
As a pastor, it’s not my job to protect people from the living God. My job is to bring people to God, and leave them there. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, the British minister, asked, “What is the chief end of preaching?” His answer was, “It is to give men and women a sense of God and His presence.” How did he attempt that?
His approach is habitually Isaianic: having surveyed man’s pretensions, his fancied greatness and adequacy, moral, religious, cultural, intellectual, he punctures them, humbling man and exposing weakness, futility and sin, in order then to exalt God as the only Savior.
All prophetic preaching takes that approach. If all you want is Christianity Lite, this book is not for you. But if your interest in God is sincere enough not to set preconditions, you may well find a sense of God here.
I do hope you enjoy reading Isaiah. It’s a fantastic piece of literature in which to meet Christ, get a taste for His identity, and wonder at the sovereignty of God in weaving the grand tapestry of redemption that is the story of Scripture. As always, please feel free to ask questions. You can either email me directly (firstname.lastname@example.org) or, if you’d like to start a broader conversation, you can post a public comment/question here on the blog. Thanks for reading.