Several years ago I had an awesome roommate friend named Misty. Misty and I were sitting in the living room watching TV and I wanted–no, needed–something from the kitchen. I’m sure it was a soda or snack or ice cream or something that wouldn’t take long to get, but I was feeling extraordinarily lazy at that particular moment. I asked Misty if she’d get it and, feeling lazy herself, she told me No. I waited a minute, then screamed and exclaimed, “There’s a spider on your chair! It’s right there!” She jumped up and spun around, looking for it. It didn’t exist. Oops. I said, “Oh, well, while you’re up, can you go get that from the kitchen?”
In case you’re wondering, she told me No again and sat back down on her principles. I still think it was a brilliant plan.
Now, there’s a lot to that story that has nothing to do with godliness. God isn’t lazy, he doesn’t lie about spiders in your chair (or anything, for that matter), and he definitely doesn’t need us to do anything for him. But what I’m realizing lately is sometimes God takes drastic measures to get our attention. Or, better said, he uses drastic circumstances to get our attention. He uses spiders in our chair to get us going.
If you’ve ever read Isaiah, you probably feel like I do, pretty lost and confused about the whole book. You’ll be reading along, and there’s a lot of doom and destruction prophesied, and every once in a while you come across a verse you’ve heard since you were in Sunday School class, and you get really excited, like you’ve hit some kind of mile marker. Then you find chapter 20, and “the Lord told Isaiah son of Amoz, ‘Take off the burlap you have been wearing, and remove your sandals.’ Isaiah did as he was told and walked around naked and barefoot.”
Um, awkward. Isaiah’s been prophesying to this person and that person and speaking God’s word and just generally having a great relationship with the Creator, and suddenly God pulls a fast one on him and tells him to get naked. And not just in front of his bathroom mirror. He walks around that way. So you feel a little self-conscious but keep reading and the next sentence says, “Then the Lord said, ‘My servant Isaiah has been walking around naked and barefoot for the last three years…’”
Firstly, how did we travel three years in between two verses?
Secondly, he’s been naked for three years? That had to be cold, that had to be uncomfortable, that sure as heck had to be awkward in conversations with the dude. I’m sorry, but if Isaiah and I are friends and I invite him to come play some Apples to Apples at our house and he shows up naked, we’re done. That’s a deal-breaker for my friends. Not to mention, Ronnie would probably give him a good beating for being naked in front of me, because that’s just not right.
Thirdly, how did Isaiah not even ask God why he was naked? Keep reading: “This is a sign–a symbol of the terrible troubles I will bring upon Egypt and Ethiopia. For the king of Assyria will take away the Egyptians and Ethiopians as prisoners. He will make them walk naked and barefoot, both young and old, their buttocks bared, to the shame of Egypt.” Up until that point, three years after Isaiah dropped his drawers, I think we can safely assume Isaiah didn’t know why he was naked. I feel like if God asked me to walk into the backyard naked I’d put up a fight. Or at least demand a reason. Not Isaiah. Maybe he was just really comfortable with nudity, who knows? I like to think he wasn’t, though. That God said, “Do this” and he did this, without question, without argument, and without hesitation.
I mean, I feel like God could have just said that whole thing about Assyria taking the E&Es captive and not put Isaiah through three years of nakedness, but God was making a point. Maybe he had to use something less than desirable to make that point, but that’s the method he chose, and who would Isaiah have been to question it?
When you read in Jeremiah you come across the same type of situation. For the most part, Jeremiah’s assignments were more family-friendly than Isaiah’s, with the exception of chapter 13 when God makes Jeremiah take off his underwear and hide it in some rocks. (How many of you just pulled out your Bibles to see if I was making that one up? I wasn’t.)
In chapter 18, God tells Jeremiah to go hang out with a potter and watch him work. The potter makes a jar that doesn’t quite look how he wanted, so he crushes it and starts over again. God says, “O Israel, can I not do to you as this potter has done to his clay? As the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand.”
In other places, Jeremiah had to go buy a jar and smash it in front of some people. He had to wear an ox yoke. Ezekiel had to lie on his side for 390 days and follow some weird high-carb diet. And each of these to prove a point. You would think God could just say, “Hey, here’s a new lesson. Go share it with everyone.” And, in fact, when you read through the books of the prophets, that’s mostly how it goes. So why did Isaiah and Jeremiah and others have to do something drastic? Why did they have to perform some action to make a point?
The answer, of course, is: I have no idea. But I think it’s because that’s what it took to get people’s attention, and even then it didn’t always go smoothly for the prophets or the people to whom they were prophesying.
There are so many lessons of obedience here. God tells me to invite someone to church, and I fight him kicking and screaming. He tells me to give a little extra to bless someone, and I start thinking of all the other uses I have for that money. And yet, reading all this, I should be thankful for such easy tasks. I don’t have to wear a yoke or eat only carbs or walk around naked (trust me, you should be thankful for that one too).
Go back to Isaiah, chapter six, verse eight:
“Then I heard the Lord asking, ‘Whom should I send as a messenger to this people? Who will go for us?’
I said, ‘Here I am. Send me.’”
You’ve heard that one before, right? Maybe you’ve even made that your own personal response to God. But do you mean it, really mean it, enough to speak the truth as boldly as Isaiah did? Enough to obey God instantly, dramatically, no matter how bizarre or personally shameful his commands may be?
This–obedience–wasn’t my point. But it’s a great reminder worth mentioning. My point, back from the beginning, is about our attention. God wants our attention, and if we’re claiming to hear him but really not listening at all, he’ll get our attention. Lately in my own life he’s used some less-than-desirable circumstances to show me where he wants me. It’s not like I wasn’t listening to him or wanting to be obedient to him. But sometimes I get so comfortable in my life that a big change is just not something I want. It’s easier to keep going in one direction, even if I feel increasingly unsettled. I knew God was wanting me to move on from my position at the church, but I just wasn’t ready to leave, because I was familiar with it. It was comfortable. Then he basically gave me the equivalent of “get naked and go for a walk.” Eek. It wasn’t fun. It wasn’t comfortable. And if I have to be honest, I’m still feeling pretty naked. But I’m beginning to see his point.
God uses object lessons all throughout the Bible, and we’re so quick to let them lie in the past. But we have to recognize he still uses them today. And sometimes, especially when we’ve been ignoring God on an issue, how that ends up looking is a lot like a spider in our chair. Maybe the spider is the issue and maybe it’s not. Maybe it’s just a catalyst to get you going, to get you moving, to get you listening.
If there’s something in your life that looks or feels like a spider in your chair, maybe God wants you to jump up and go get something from the kitchen. Ask him if that something is an object lesson, and ask him what to do about it. Who knows, you might end up naked for the next three years or hiding your underwear in a rock. And if that happens, you can’t come over to our house for game night, but I’ll be praying for you anyway. And I have complete faith God is going to use that to make a point in your life that will bear fruit as you become increasingly obedient to him.
Finally, in a rare moment of meta-blogging, I’m still working on this website but would love to hear your thoughts on the topic. Feel free to comment below and let us know what kinds of object lessons God’s been using in your life lately.