The prophet Isaiah prophesied against Judah (Isa. 1:1) some seven hundred years before Christ. The northern kingdom of Israel fell in about 721 BC to Assyria because of their continued disobedience to God. The southern kingdom of Judah continued on for another one hundred and thirty five years and fell in 586 BC to Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, and for the same reason.
During this time between the fall of Israel and the fall of Judah, Isaiah was one of the prophets which strove to get Judah to turn back and faithfully serve God rather than face the prophesied captivity. Many are the figures that Isaiah, as well as the other prophets, used in their messages to the people, in order to get them to understand and heed the warnings. One such figure that we wish to give consideration to in this article is found in Isaiah 65:5. Isaiah wrote, “These are a smoke in my nose, a fire that burneth all the day”.
Now, even city folk know the result of smoke from a fire getting into your face, in your eyes and in your nose and throat. It burns our eyes and nose and chokes us that we cannot breathe. In other words it irritates us severely. When such smoke gets in our face, we naturally turn our faces away. This is just exactly what the picture painted by Isaiah was saying. Their deeds had been so grievous that God would turn His face from them and allow them to be taken into captivity by Babylon. Isaiah had previously written, “Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear: But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear” (Isa. 59:1-2).
There are simply some attitudes and actions that irritate God to the point that He will turn His face from us. The apostle Peter spoke of this saying, “For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil” (I Pet. 3:12). Sin in general separates us from God and there are manifold thousands of different sins that one can commit. However, there are several specific ones in the verses surrounding the statement of Isaiah concerning smoke in God’s nose, a few of which we will give consideration to.
First, Isaiah points to those who walk after their own thoughts (Isa. 65:2). One’s actions originate with one’s thoughts. Solomon said, “Keep thy heart with all diligence: for out of it are the issues of life” (Provb. 4:23). Jesus said, “For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies” (Matt. 15:19).
Following what we think to be right has long been revealed to be the wrong path. Isaiah told Judah, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isa. 55:8-9). The wise man stated, “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death” (Provb. 14:12). A couple of times in the book of Judges it is stated, “…every man did that which was right in his own eyes” (Judges 17:6, 21:25). It seems like far too many today are doing the same thing, thus becoming smoke in God’s nose.
Secondly, Isaiah speaks of those who would practice idolatry (Isa. 65:3). Though Israel was more prone to idolatry that Judah; both were often guilty of practicing idolatry with the gods of those around them. Though we today are not prone to bow down to man-made gods and idols such as Baal, Dagon or other such gods; we too are often guilty of idolatry. Paul wrote, “Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness” (Rom. 6:16).
Thus, that which we serve has become a god and to thus serve is idolatry. Many are the things, that though right and good when properly placed in our list of priorities, become the god’s of our idolatry when placed above the God of heaven. Many worship the god of the almighty dollar, the god of family or the god’s of pleasure, but all these when placed over obedience to God are but smoke in His nose.
Thirdly, Isaiah speaks of those who have defiled themselves with the unclean (Isa. 65:4). As Israel was admonished to keep themselves pure and clean, separating themselves from those things considered to be unclean, such as eating of swine, coming in contact with dead bodies or even marrying outside the nation of Israel, so we too can defile ourselves by joining in with that which is sinful.
Jesus once told His apostles, “Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you” (John 15:3). Peter tells us that as Christians, we are as Israel was in that we are a chosen and peculiar people (I Pet. 2:9) and thus a separated people. Paul wrote, “Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you” (II Cor. 6:17). Let us not become the hog or the dog (II Pet. 2:22) and be smoke in God’s nose. (Send any questions or comments to: firstname.lastname@example.org)
Robert Oliver is a long time columnist for The Sampson Independent.