I listened to a fascinating discussion today on some of the chapters of Isaiah. It was good timing, because just this morning I was "reading" through some of it, feeling frustrated that I was merely reading words and not getting anything from it. I'm not talking about deeper understanding or allegory - I really felt like I was reading words that made no sense together. I'm sure it's a common feeling when reading this fascinating biblical book. The man was brilliant, eloquent, inspired of God and spiritually sophisticated. I feel like a 2 year old when I read much of his writings.
The discussion (with four scholars) was enlightening. As they went through and added some historical context, the images became so clear, I wondered how on earth I hadn't understood it before.
The most powerful image that stuck with me was about the idea of fighting a battle. One scholar noted how many hymns we have that are about going into battle, getting ready to fight, standing strong and going forward. The words of Isaiah did not mince the truth of the terrible battle being fought between good and evil in this life. He wrote words of action, inspiring readers to truly understand the importance and ferocity of the battle waging. I truly go out each day into a world that is fighting against everything I believe in.
And then came the caution: would I dare go out into battle unprepared and without armour? No soldier would even consider it, so why would I? Why would I step out into this world each day without the protection of prayer and God's word?
I had never considered it in this way before. I have always prayed and read the scriptures - generally when I can find a moment or two during the day. But for the first time I understood the importance of starting my day with these practices. The imagery of the battle came to life and I understood the reality of leaving my sanctuary that is my home and putting myself out there onto the battlefield. I better be prepared for what I will face.