When I first trusted that Jesus’ death paid the penalty for my sins, I knew I should read the Bible to learn more about the One who gave His life for me. But the Bible didn’t make sense to me. The Old Testament (OT) seemed like a jumble of harsh rules and stories about a vengeful God. The New Testament (NT) seemed nicer—stories of Jesus and the early Church—but other passages seemed like Greek (pun intended).
I read children’s Bible stories to our daughters, then ages 5 and 3, and would then study those same Bible passages after they went to bed. It helped some, but what helped most was a study (now out of print) that explained the whole Bible as a single story from Genesis to Revelation. I learned to look for and find Jesus in the OT, marching resolutely toward His ultimate act of love—giving His life for me on the Cross.
Prophecy Still Confusing
Despite diligent study of Scripture, OT prophecy remains a tricky topic. During one of my hubby’s seminary classes, a professor suggested that even the prophets may have marveled at their own words. Using Isaiah as an example, this learned professor broached the possibility that Isaiah may have thought young Hezekiah was the Messiah of his prophecies. Perhaps that’s why he gave his daughter, Hephzibah, in marriage to Hezekiah. After all, didn’t Hezekiah fulfill many messianic prophecies?
“A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse [a descendant of David]…The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord.” Isaiah 11:1–2
But a few years later, Hezekiah made a treaty with Egypt and Cush, and Isaiah was commanded by the Lord to walk around barefoot and naked for three years, pronouncing judgment on the young king. Sort of ruined the Messiah idea. My husband’s professor said, “Even the prophet himself must have felt confused about God’s message.”
When God Doesn’t Make Sense
Later in Hezekiah’s life, he was stricken with a mortal illness, and Isaiah was commanded to pronounce the death sentence. Hezekiah turned his face toward the wall and cried out in despair.
“‘Remember, Lord, how I have walked before you faithfully and with wholehearted devotion and have done what is good in your eyes.’ And Hezekiah wept bitterly.” Isaiah 38:3
Even good King Hezekiah asked the age-old question, “Why, God?” No matter how holy, educated, and righteous someone is, complete understanding of God and His Word will always be beyond human reach. Why? Because God is infinite, and His Word is living and active—the same verse speaking one way today and tomorrow another.
The words on the page don’t change, but the Spirit adapts their meaning according to His perfect knowledge of our deepest need. Hezekiah needed an heir on David’s throne, so God gave him fifteen more years of life, during which time his wife, Hephzibah, gave birth to their son, Manasseh.
If God’s Word is difficult for you to understand, find a good Study Bible and learn the overarching story of redemption from Genesis 1 through Revelation 22. If God’s actions are puzzling, let the things you DO know about Him help you trust Him for the things you don’t know about Him. We can’t know everything, but we can always know more.
Gifted Bible teacher and award-winning author Mesu Andrews reaches into the pages of Biblical prophecy and Hebrew tradition to unearth a rags-to-royalty story of the devastated orphan, Ishma—meaning “desolation”—in Isaiah’s Daughter (Jan. 16, 2018, WaterBrook). At just 5 years old, Ishma’s life crumbles around her when Israelite soldiers violently kill her family and take her into captivity. Upon her release, the royal prophet Isaiah welcomes her into his home where she meets Prince Hezekiah (Hezi)—a boy who has also experienced great tragedy. Ishma and Hezi bond in their suffering, and as they grow in age, so does their love for each other. Aware of their developing relationship, Isaiah adopts Ishma as his daughter and presents her with a new name that will qualify her to marry royalty—Hephzibah (Zibah), meaning “delight of the Lord.” Hezi and Zibah marry, but after difficult times of barrenness, Assyrian aggression, disease and challenging prophecies from Isaiah, Zibah learns that loving her husband will require more of her than she ever imagined.
Want to know more about Mesu Andrews and Isaiah’s Daughter? Check out her other posts on these websites:
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