The lectionary reading for July 13 intrigued me and confirms for any doubting Thomas that the Scripture is, indeed, the living word of God.
The reading for that day was taken from Isaiah 1:10-17. It is Prophet Isaiah’s vision of the Kingdom of Judah and the city of Jerusalem under the reign of kings Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah.
Some Biblical scholars have called Isaiah “the Shakespeare of the prophets” while others call him “St Paul of the Old Testament” because of the systematic commentary, clarity, power, sweeping scope and striking imagery in his book, which consists of 66 chapters.
The Holy Bible, by interesting coincidence, consists of 66 books, 39 in the Old Testament and 27 in the New Testament.
On a personal note, I have a grandson called Isaiah Acemah who is in elementary school, but growing pretty fast physically and spiritually.
The reading begins as follows: “Hear the word of the Lord, you rulers of Sodom, listen to the law of our God, you people of Gomorrah.” Isaiah 1:10 (NIV)
The reference to the rulers of two notoriously sinful cities of Sodom and Gomorrah is actually about the kings of Judah, which a thousand years later had degenerated into moral decadence. It was a classic case of history repeating itself and God could not tolerate it anymore.
Through Prophet Isaiah, God told the people of Israel to stop bringing Him sacrifices, to stop worship activities and stop praying. Instead of giving Him material offerings, God demands and prefers mercy, obedience and trust in Him, not religious activities and rituals from people who were living sinful lives. Isaiah continues in verses 15-17 as follows:
“When you spread out your hand in prayer, I will hide my eyes from you; even if you offer many prayers, I will not listen. Your hands are full of blood; wash and make yourselves clean. Take your evil deeds out of my sight! Stop doing wrong, learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow.”
The message contained in the above three verses is as powerful and pertinent for Uganda and African countries as it was for Judah. It’s an open secret that many Ugandans are praying daily and pleading with God to save our country from corruption, moral decadence, violence, impunity, injustice, witchcraft, nepotism, tribalism and tyranny.
I tell you, God hears and answers prayers. The Lord answers prayers at the appropriate time. God is sovereign and nobody can force Him to answer our prayers, however desperate the situation. We must learn to wait patiently, obey and trust God. Unlike African leaders, God is compassionate, merciful and reasonable.
The reading continues: “Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord… if you are willing and obedient, you will eat the best from the land, but if you resist and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”
If Prophet Isaiah lived in Uganda today, I believe he would give a similar warning to Ugandans, many of whom are frankly not any better than the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah. For a country whose national motto is “For God and My Country” , one expects a lot better from Ugandans than what sadly prevails in our country today.
Ugandans have many important lessons to learn from the book of Isaiah. The sooner Ugandans, individually and collectively, repent and show willingness to obey and trust God, the better for the future of our beloved country. May the Lord have mercy!
Mr Acemah is a political scientist and retired career diplomat.