How was it I was told by an Israeli the correct pronunciation for Isaiah is Ishaiah?
Note the ‘Ish,’ which we pronounce as ‘I.’
I was on a plane flying to Melbourne with ‘she who must be obeyed’ and sat next to a young Israeli backpacker and we yarned a bit.
It didn’t take me long to ascertain she was an Israeli.
As it happened I had been reading a book about King Hezekiah, his relationship with the prophet Isaiah, his banning of idol worship, the renovation of the temple and scrutiny of the priests.
The son of Ahaz, perhaps one of the worst kings of Israel, Hezekiah became one of the good kings
No, he wasn’t perfect, in fact he and Isaiah had words on more than one occasion but he came to believe in Yahweh when He set the sun back 10 degrees which led to massive changes within Judah.
In preparation for Sennacherib’s arrival, Hezekiah had the ‘broad wall’ built around the city, 8m high, 7m wide, parts of which still stand today.
He also had the Siloam tunnel built to bring water inside the city – it also still exists.
I remember being enthralled with the book about these two and how God extended Hezekiah’s life by 15 years.
Isaiah proved to be a great counsellor for his king and although they didn’t always agree, Hezekiah found what Isaiah prophesied soon came to be.
An Israeli backpacker
So, sitting next to an Israeli soon led me to talking about the book I was still reading.
I was immediately picked up on pronunciation but it became the catalyst for our conversation.
We talked about King Hezekiah – she’d never heard of him – and Isaiah the prophet who she had heard of but knew very little about.
I told her the basics of the story from the book, how Hezekiah had grown up with a father who was into worship of the pagan idol, Moloch, and who threw live children into a fire pit as part of his worship and was an altogether living evil.
Hezekiah himself was selected to go into the fire pit but was saved when his mother, Abi, anointed him with the blood of a salamander.
Later, Hezekiah married a lass said to have been the daughter of Isaiah, who had been an idol worshipper but he had already banned all pagan idols and brought the people back to worshipping the Living God, Jehovah.
Some time later, Hezekiah was told by Isaiah he had an idol worshipper in his household and this was why God had deserted him in the short-term.
He found the idol in his wife’s bedroom and was forced by his own law to have her thrown in prison.
I soon came to realise this lass knew little about the history of Israel and I picked up on Isaiah’s prediction concerning the birth of Immanuel (God With Us) some 700 or so years before the birth of Jesus.
Yes, she knew about Jesus, she knew about the orthodox Jews who didn’t recognise Him and had heard of the Messianic Jews (those who believe in Jesus as the Son of God).
Did she believe I asked?
Well, no, she had never been a religious person, life was for the living and she would worry about the afterlife when she was older.
I knew God had placed us together on this 90-minute flight for a reason but how do I proceed?
I knew I had to say something.
One of my fortes is being able to speak in front of crowds or a congregation but to an individual, I wasn’t so sure of myself.
The Word of God
Then, like a miracle, it flowed – not my words but His.
I started with Isaiah’s prophetic words about the birth of the Living God, how it came about and what Jesus did while on this earth, why He came and what He’s doing in His followers lives now.
She listened and said nothing.
We landed shortly afterwards and were soon separated but before we were, she thanked me for the story I’d told..
Did she believe?
I’ll never know but what I do know is, this lass walked off the plane knowing the truth about Jesus and what he’s done for us, each and every one of us.
It’s not up to us to know how God works, we only need to speak into someone’s life and let Him carry on the work.
John Skinner served as an infantry soldier in Vietnam then the Tasmanian Police before taking up the position of CEO of the Australian Rough Riders Association (professional rodeo based in Warwick Qld). Before retirement to his small farm, he was a photo-journalist for 25 years. He is married with 3 children and 7 grandchildren.