This year Ready for the Road Ahead is taking on a new direction. It is one that follows the grand theme of sight in all aspects which runs throughout Scripture. My weekly writings will be excerpts from a book of the same name which should be published (Lord willing) later this year.
Sometimes when I find myself in a photographic slump I’ll play a little “game” I call, “One Year Ago Today”. I find a picture I’ve taken the year before and dabble with it, changing colors, adding textures or layers, or both and see what I come up with. On one particular day I landed on a shot I’d taken of some wildflowers and grasses on a small hill by our church. It was a truly boring picture and I wondered why I saved it even though the sky was a very nice blue. I began to play with the color and ended up turning the sunny day into an overcast one. After playing with some textures, merging two more shots with the first I ended up with an image of a little girl walking along a beach ready to collect shells. It reminded me of Andrew Wyeth’s painting “Christina’s World” although it was not anything near the caliber of the master! When I look at that picture now, I know it has individual layers, but the overall image has a unity to it that makes them one. And that is how I see the Lord working in both the layers of Isaiah’s prophecy and the layers of my life.
Isaiah’s ministry takes place at a critical juncture in the national life of Israel. King Uzziah has died after sitting on the throne for 52 years. In spite of some personal missteps, Uzziah had been a great leader. Who would succeed him and would they continue to serve the people wisely by following the ways of the Lord? A new layer was about to be added to the history of Israel. Sadly, Ahaz was the exact opposite of Uzziah. Isaiah arrives on the scene to declare that judgment is certain for the wayward king (Is. 7:17) but that there is also hope for the faithful because a future king will serve in faithfulness and with justice (Is. 11:1-5). These two themes of judgment and a restored kingdom under a descendant of David are viewed like slides in a projector. In many ways they appear to be in order but sometimes they seem mixed. At times they seem to have been fulfilled (such as when Babylon destroyed Jerusalem in 586 B. C.), but at other times (such as under the godly leadership of Hezekiah, Ahaz’s successor) the fulfillment seems to fall a little bit short. Hezekiah, like all the other kings before him died, which is a far cry from the eternal descendant of David who is promised in Is. 9:2-11. Not only did the prophet live during the reigns of three of Israel’s better-known kings (Is. 1:1; Uzziah-Is. 6:1, Ahaz- Is. 7:1-12, and Hezekiah- Is. 37:1-7), the Lord also revealed to him three distinct “servants” (Cyrus- Is. 44:28; 45:1, the nation of Israel- Is. 41:8-9; 44:1-3; 49:3, and the Servant of the Lord- 42:18-22; 49:5-6; 53:11) and the previously mentioned messages of judgment (Is. 2:12; 3:13, etc.) and restoration (Is. 40:1-2; 54:4-8; 61:1-9, etc.) given to the people of his day (which in turn is meant for us too). Like the phases we pass through in life, Isaiah notes that history, individuals or nations, and God’s unfailing character also pass through phases. Life, and particularly time, writes Isaiah, is layered.
Isaiah saw his world as a composite. It was made up of layers from the present, the not so distant future and a future farther off than he could imagine. Some of his layers we can see as we look over the course of Israel’s history. From the nation’s humble beginnings as a small family of wandering shepherds to a massive group of people who became a more unified nation while they wandered through the wilderness looking for a Promised Land, Isaiah sees each phase as a point along a journey which has a glorious end and whose purpose is to bring glory to the Lord (Is. 4:2; 60-62). While my photographic composite of “The Shell Seeker” is fictional, Israel’s is not.
It is not hard to see life in layers the older you get. It’s not so easy to see them when you’re younger. Like my “Shell Seeker” image, I consist of layers shaped and worked by my Creator to make a picture which brings Him glory just as Israel’s composite was meant to bring God glory (Is. 2:1-4). In fact every life, not just mine, is a composite with its own layers that tell a story (Eph. 2:8-10). Faith involves seeing all of those layers in your composite with a glorious end in view in the same fashion it was revealed to Isaiah regarding Israel (1 Cor. 13:12). So, while I may not be able to see all the layers at work in my life just yet, knowing the Lord is shaping my life that way is one of the best lessons I’ve learned about photography, faith and the art of seeing.
Ann H. LeFevre, M. Div.
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