Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Reflections on Isaiah 40

    Isaiah 40 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. Our God has said: "Encourage my people! Give them comfort.
  2. Speak kindly to Jerusalem and announce: Your slavery is past; your punishment is over. I, the LORD, made you pay double for your sins."
  3. Someone is shouting: "Clear a path in the desert! Make a straight road for the LORD our God.
  4. Fill in the valleys; flatten every hill and mountain. Level the rough and rugged ground.
  5. Then the glory of the LORD will appear for all to see. The LORD has promised this!"
  6. Someone told me to shout, and I asked, "What should I shout?" We humans are merely grass, and we last no longer than wild flowers.
  7. At the LORD's command, flowers and grass disappear, and so do we.
  8. Flowers and grass fade away, but what our God has said will never change.
  9. There is good news for the city of Zion. Shout it as loud as you can from the highest mountain. Don't be afraid to shout to the towns of Judah, "Your God is here!"
  10. Look! The powerful LORD God is coming to rule with his mighty arm. He brings with him what he has taken in war, and he rewards his people.
  11. The LORD cares for his nation, just as shepherds care for their flocks. He carries the lambs in his arms, while gently leading the mother sheep.
  12. Did any of you measure the ocean by yourself or stretch out the sky with your own hands? Did you put the soil of the earth in a bucket or weigh the hills and mountains on balance scales?
  13. Has anyone told the LORD what he must do or given him advice?
  14. Did the LORD ask anyone to teach him wisdom and justice? Who gave him knowledge and understanding?
  15. To the LORD, all nations are merely a drop in a bucket or dust on balance scales; all of the islands are but a handful of sand.
  16. The cattle on Lebanon's mountains would not be enough to offer as a sacrifice to God, and the trees would not be enough for the fire.
  17. God thinks of the nations as far less than nothing.
  18. Who compares with God? Is anything like him?
  19. Is an idol at all like God? It is made of bronze with a thin layer of gold, and decorated with silver.
  20. Or special wood may be chosen because it doesn't rot-- then skilled hands take care to make an idol that won't fall on its face.
  21. Don't you know? Haven't you heard? Isn't it clear that God created the world?
  22. God is the one who rules the whole earth, and we that live here are merely insects. He spread out the heavens like a curtain or an open tent.
  23. God brings down rulers and turns them into nothing.
  24. They are like flowers freshly sprung up and starting to grow. But when God blows on them, they wilt and are carried off like straw in a storm.
  25. The holy God asks, "Who compares with me? Is anyone my equal?"
  26. Look at the evening sky! Who created the stars? Who gave them each a name? Who leads them like an army? The LORD is so powerful that none of the stars are ever missing.
  27. You people of Israel, say, "God pays no attention to us! He doesn't care if we are treated unjustly." But how can you say that?
  28. Don't you know? Haven't you heard? The LORD is the eternal God, Creator of the earth. He never gets weary or tired; his wisdom cannot be measured.
  29. The LORD gives strength to those who are weary.
  30. Even young people get tired, then stumble and fall.
  31. But those who trust the LORD will find new strength. They will be strong like eagles soaring upward on wings; they will walk and run without getting tired.

Beginning with this chapter Isaiah shifts from a theme of judgment to one of comfort for Judah. Jumping ahead nearly two centuries, he speaks of comfort for Judah when the judgment for her sin has been fulfilled and she has been pardoned. This speaks of the fulfillment of Judah's 70 year exile in Babylon. At the time of this prophecy, Assyria was Judah's threat. But God eliminated this threat and it was another 100 years before Babylon accomplished what Assyria threatened to do.

Following Isaiah's reference to Judah paying for her sin through servitude in Babylon, he speaks of preparing the way for the Lord. This is a reference to the coming Messiah. Ethically and spiritually, Judah needed to be smoothed out to prepare the way for the Lord to come. When the Lord comes, He will pay the penalty for sin instead of we ourselves, if, indeed, we will accept it.

Then Isaiah attempts to expand Judah's worldview. Their worldview was wrapped up in the power of nations and of idols. Which nation and which god was the most powerful? But God's message to them was that all humanity is as grass and flowers which quickly wither and fade. The nations are "like a drop in a bucket; they are conidered as a speck of dust on the scales." (40:15) And the other gods? They are crafted by the hands of craftsmen who use materials created by God. But the true God sits enthroned above the circle of the earth whose inhabitants appear to Him as grasshoppers. And, His word remains forever. It does not fade.

If Judah's reliance is in God, He will protect them as a shepherd, gently leading them, and will bring them His reward and His gifts. So the challenge to Judah is, "why do you assert: 'My way is hidden from the LORD, and my claim is ignored by my God'?" Has Judah not heard, "Yahweh is the everlasting God, the Creator of the whole earth. He never grows faint or weary; there is no limit to His understanding." If Judah will only trust in the Lord, He will "renew their strength; they will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not faint."

Monday, August 30, 2010

Reflections on Isaiah 39

    Isaiah 39 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. Merodach Baladan, the son of Baladan, was now king of Babylonia. And when he learned that Hezekiah was well, he sent messengers with letters and a gift for him.
  2. Hezekiah welcomed the messengers and showed them all the silver, the gold, the spices, and the fine oils that were in his storehouse. He even showed them where he kept his weapons. Nothing in his palace or in his entire kingdom was kept hidden from them.
  3. I asked Hezekiah, "Where did these men come from? What did they want?" "They came all the way from Babylonia," Hezekiah answered.
  4. "What did you show them?" I asked. Hezekiah answered, "I showed them everything in my kingdom."
  5. Then I told Hezekiah: I have a message for you from the LORD All-Powerful.
  6. One day everything you and your ancestors have stored up will be taken to Babylonia. The LORD has promised that nothing will be left.
  7. Some of your own sons will be taken to Babylonia, where they will be disgraced and made to serve in the king's palace.
  8. Hezekiah thought, "At least our nation will be at peace for a while." So he told me, "The message you brought from the LORD is good."

Hezekiah was a godly king which is evidenced in his reform efforts to bring Judah back to God and in the poem, of the previous chapter, that he wrote following his healing from a terminal illness. But in this chapter we get a further glimpse into his heart and see that he is not without pride or totally dependent on God. Who is it, though, that can claim to be totally without blemish?

Following Hezekiah's illness and miraculous recovery the king of Babylon sent an envoy with letters and a gift to Hezekiah on the premise of congratulating him on his recovery from illness. Why would Hezekiah show him everything in the palace and in the storehouses? This is not something a king would normally do with even an ally, and Babylon had never been an ally of Judah. One response would be the possibility of pride. In pride Hezekiah displayed all the wealth of his kingdom. Another response would be the possibility of courting Babylon as an ally. Maybe it was a combination of the two?

We have already read in chapter 21 how Isaiah denounced the leaders of Judah for considering Babylon as an ally against Assyria. But this visit by king Merodach-baladan's envoy is an opportunity placed in Hezekiah's lap that was too good to pass up. And it would be easy for Hezekiah to convince himself that the Lord had sent them for this purpose. For perspective, we need to remember that the siege by Assyria, described in chapters 36 & 37, happened after Hezekiah's illness and this visit by the Babylonian envoy. So Judah was still threatened by an attack from Assyria. In addition, the king of Babylon was under the Assryian yoke and looking for help to shake off that yoke. So this visit by king Merodach-baladan's envoy could well have been an opportunity to test the waters with Hezekiah about a possible alliance. In this case, Hezekiah may have displayed all of his wealth to the envoy as a means to encourage such an alliance and to show evidence of what Judah could bring to the table in such an alliance.

A third possibility for Hezekiah's actions is that he was being innocently naive. But we can quickly rule out this possibility based on the Lord's reaction to his actions. The Lord severly denounced his actions saying that it would be Babylon, not Assyria, that would defeat Judah and would take away everything that Hezekiah had just shown to the Babylonian envoy in his palace and storehouse. Plus, his descendants would be taken captive. Hezekiah pronounced this verdict as good, but lacked concern for the consequences since it would not occur in his lifetime.

I cannot indict Hezekiah without indicting myself. How often have I seemingly placed trust in the Lord in one area of my life or in one circumstance but conducted another area of my life or circumstance as if I didn't need the Lord?

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Reflections on Isaiah 38

    Isaiah 38 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. About this time, Hezekiah got sick and was almost dead. So I went in and told him, "The LORD says you won't ever get well. You are going to die, and so you had better start doing what needs to be done."
  2. Hezekiah turned toward the wall and prayed,
  3. "Don't forget that I have been faithful to you, LORD. I have obeyed you with all my heart, and I do whatever you say is right." After this, he cried hard.
  4. Then the LORD sent me
  5. with this message for Hezekiah: I am the LORD God, who was worshiped by your ancestor David. I heard you pray, and I saw you cry. I will let you live fifteen years more,
  6. while I protect you and your city from the king of Assyria.
  7. Now I will prove to you that I will keep my promise.
  8. Do you see the shadow made by the setting sun on the stairway built for King Ahaz? I will make the shadow go back ten steps. Then the shadow went back ten steps.
  9. This is what Hezekiah wrote after he got well:
  10. I thought I would die during my best years and stay as a prisoner forever in the world of the dead.
  11. I thought I would never again see you, my LORD, or any of the people who live on this earth.
  12. My life was taken from me like the tent that a shepherd pulls up and moves. You cut me off like thread from a weaver's loom; you make a wreck of me day and night.
  13. Until morning came, I thought you would crush my bones just like a hungry lion; both night and day you make a wreck of me.
  14. I cry like a swallow; I mourn like a dove. My eyes are red from looking to you, LORD. I am terribly abused. Please come and help me.
  15. There's nothing I can say in answer to you, since you are the one who has done this to me. My life has turned sour; I will limp until I die.
  16. Your words and your deeds bring life to everyone, including me. Please make me healthy and strong again.
  17. It was for my own good that I had such hard times. But your love protected me from doom in the deep pit, and you turned your eyes away from my sins.
  18. No one in the world of the dead can thank you or praise you; none of those in the deep pit can hope for you to show them how faithful you are.
  19. Only the living can thank you, as I am doing today. Each generation tells the next about your faithfulness.
  20. You, LORD, will save me, and every day that we live we will sing in your temple to the music of stringed instruments.
  21. I had told King Hezekiah's servants to put some mashed figs on the king's open sore, and he would get well.
  22. Then Hezekiah asked for proof that he would again worship in the LORD's temple.

The events of this chapter actually precede those of the previous two chapters. Hezekiah became terminally ill. He knew the illness was terminal because the prophet Isaiah told him what the Lord had said about it: "'Put your affairs in order, for you are about to die; you will not recover." Hezekiah was devastated by this message and turned his face to the wall and prayed that God would remember his faithfulness to Him. Then he "wept bitterly." (38:3) Soon afterward, Isaiah brought another message to the king from the Lord. The Lord said, "I have heard your prayer; I have seen your tears. Look, I am going to add 15 years to your life." Then he adds, "And I will deliver you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria; I will defend this city," one of our clues that Hezekiah's illness came before Assyria laid sieze to Jerusalem as described in the previous two chapters.

Then God promised Hezekiah a sign by which he would know that He would do what He said. He would make the sun's shadow go backward 10 steps on Ahaz's stairway, a sundial type devise. This is an amazing sign requiring the Creator of the universe to do what only the Creator could do - reverse the course of the sun or the earth. Such a sign would leave no doubt that the One who could work this miracle could easily provide healing for a terminal illness. We should note, however, the method of God's healing for Hezekiah. A fig poultice was applied to the afflicted skin which aided the healing. We should not presume the methods God will use for His miraculous work. In this case, He worked through the medicinal practices of the day as He still does today. The medicine would not have worked successfully without God's hand in the healing. But it was no less a miracle because medicine was involved.

Appropriately, Hezekiah praised God for his healing, which he did through a poem, and he made it known to his children and others that it was God who healed him. In his poem, Hezekiah acknowledges a truth we would all do well to acknowledge. He said, "Indeed, it was for my own welfare that I had such great bitterness." (38:17) We are not prone to respond to difficult circumstances without bitterness. Rather than recognizing the good that God might work from it, we focus only on the difficulty of the situation and the trauma it causses us emotionally. But as Romans 8:28 tells us, "We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God." God has a good intent for everything that happens, whether He causes it or simply allows it to happen. But it is our response to God and the situation that will determine whether or not God's intended good will come to pass. 

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Reflections on Isaiah 37

    Isaiah 37 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. As soon as Hezekiah heard the news, he tore off his clothes in sorrow and put on sackcloth. Then he went into the temple of the LORD.
  2. He told Prime Minister Eliakim, Assistant Prime Minister Shebna, and the senior priests to dress in sackcloth and tell me:
  3. Isaiah, these are difficult and disgraceful times. Our nation is like a woman too weak to give birth, when it's time for her baby to be born.
  4. Please pray for those of us who are left alive. The king of Assyria sent his army commander to insult the living God. Perhaps the LORD heard what he said and will do something, if you will pray.
  5. When these leaders came to me,
  6. I told them that the LORD had this message for Hezekiah: I am the LORD. Don't worry about the insulting things that have been said about me by these messengers from the king of Assyria.
  7. I will upset him with rumors about what's happening in his own country. He will go back, and there I will make him die a violent death.
  8. Meanwhile the commander of the Assyrian forces heard that his king had left the town of Lachish and was now attacking Libnah. So he went there.
  9. About this same time, the king of Assyria learned that King Tirhakah of Ethiopia was on his way to attack him. Then the king of Assyria sent some messengers with this note for Hezekiah:
  10. Don't trust your God or be fooled by his promise to defend Jerusalem against me.
  11. You have heard how we Assyrian kings have completely wiped out other nations. What makes you feel so safe?
  12. The Assyrian kings before me destroyed the towns of Gozan, Haran, Rezeph, and everyone from Eden who lived in Telassar. What good did their gods do them?
  13. The kings of Hamath, Arpad, Sepharvaim, Hena, and Ivvah have all disappeared.
  14. After Hezekiah had read the note from the king of Assyria, he took it to the temple and spread it out for the LORD to see.
  15. Then he prayed:
  16. LORD God All-Powerful of Israel, your throne is above the winged creatures. You created the heavens and the earth, and you alone rule the kingdoms of this world.
  17. Just look and see how Sennacherib has insulted you, the living God.
  18. It is true, our LORD, that Assyrian kings have turned nations into deserts.
  19. They destroyed the idols of wood and stone that the people of those nations had made and worshiped.
  20. But you are our LORD and our God! We ask you to keep us safe from the Assyrian king. Then everyone in every kingdom on earth will know that you are the only LORD.
  21. I went to Hezekiah and told him that the LORD God of Israel had said: Hezekiah, you prayed to me about King Sennacherib of Assyria. Now this is what I say to that king: The people of Jerusalem hate and make fun of you; they laugh behind your back.
  22. (SEE 37:21)
  23. Sennacherib, you cursed, shouted, and sneered at me, the holy God of Israel.
  24. You let your officials insult me, the Lord. And here is what you have said about yourself, "I led my chariots to the highest heights of Lebanon's mountains. I went deep into its forest, cutting down the best cedar and cypress trees.
  25. I dried up every stream in the land of Egypt, and I drank water from wells I had dug."
  26. Sennacherib, now listen to me, the LORD. I planned all of this long ago. And you don't even know that I alone am the one who decided that you would do these things. I let you make ruins of fortified cities.
  27. Their people became weak, terribly confused. They were like wild flowers or like tender young grass growing on a flat roof or like a field of grain before it matures.
  28. I know all about you, even how fiercely angry you are with me.
  29. I have seen your pride and the tremendous hatred you have for me. Now I will put a hook in your nose, a bit in your mouth, then I will send you back to where you came from.
  30. Hezekiah, I will tell you what's going to happen. This year you will eat crops that grow on their own, and the next year you will eat whatever springs up where those crops grew. But the third year, you will plant grain and vineyards, and you will eat what you harvest.
  31. Those who survive in Judah will be like a vine that puts down deep roots and bears fruit.
  32. I, the LORD All-Powerful, will see to it that some who live in Jerusalem will survive.
  33. I promise that the king of Assyria won't get into Jerusalem, or shoot an arrow into the city, or even surround it and prepare to attack.
  34. As surely as I am the LORD, he will return by the way he came and will never enter Jerusalem.
  35. I will protect it for the sake of my own honor and because of the promise I made to my servant David.
  36. The LORD sent an angel to the camp of the Assyrians, and he killed one hundred eighty-five thousand of them all in one night. The next morning, the camp was full of dead bodies.
  37. After this, King Sennacherib went back to Assyria and lived in the city of Nineveh.
  38. One day he was worshiping in the temple of his god Nisroch, when his sons, Adrammelech and Sharezer, killed him with their swords. They escaped to the land of Ararat, and his son Esarhaddon became king.

When Isaiah first prophecied that the Assyrians would come to destroy Judah, Ahaz was king of Judah. It was because of his lack of faith, described in chapter 7, that Isaiah prophecied of the Assyrian assault that would be coming, "The LORD will bring on you, your people, and the house of your father, such a time as has never been since Ephraim separated from Judah--the king of Assyria is coming." (7:17) Thirty-three years later when the Assyrians arrived, Hezekiah was king. He was a godly king who had already begun reform to turn Judah back to God. In previous chapters we have read much about God's anger at the godlessness of His people. Now we read in this chapter of His compassion and mercy when His people are responsive to Him.

Chapter 36 gave the account of the Assyrian army surrounding Jerusalem and the Rabshakeh's boasts to Jerusalem's leaders of Assyria's greatness and Judah's inability to defend herself against them. For that matter, of God's inability to defend Judah against Assyria. In this chapter we read of King Hezekiah tearing his clothes in distress when his envoy brought its report from the Rabshakeh. Then Hezekiah did something king Ahaz had been unwilling to do. He went to the house of the Lord to seek His help. In addition, He sent his envoy to the prophet Isaiah to ask him to pray for them.

Isaiah prayed and the Lord's response was not to be afraid. "Look! I am putting a spirit in him and he will hear a rumor and return to his own land, where I will cause him to fall by the sword." (37:7) The Lord Himself would take care of the king of Assyria who thought he was greater than God. The arrogance of this king comes through once again when he received the rumor and learned of his need to withdraw and return home. He sent a message to Hezekiah saying "Don't let your God, whom you trust, deceive you by saying that Jerusalem won't be handed over to the king of Assyria. Look, you have heard what the kings of Assyria have done to all the countries; they destroyed them completely. Will you be rescued?" (37:10-11) He didn't deny there was a God. He just thought this God to be ineffective against him.

But this God, whom he mocked, also had a message for him. In God's message to Sennacherib, He first raised the question, "Who have you raised your voice against and lifted your eyes in pride?" As for Sennacherib's boasting of his chariots and great accomplishments, God asks, "Have you not heard? I designed it long ago; I planned it in days gone by." All of Sennacherib's accomplishments came from God, the one he mocked as being impotent against him. Thus, God's further message to Sennacherib was that, "Because your raging against Me and your arrogance has reached My ears, I will put My hook in your nose and My bit in your mouth; I will make you go back the way you came." Sennacherib and all the nations would learn that God was the God of all people and not just the Israelites and that this God was not impotent as were the gods they worshiped.

Then God acted against Sennacherib and his great army that God had helped him assemble. An angel of the Lord went out and struck down 185,000 Assyrian soldiers. With this, Sennacherib had no choice but to return home. Twenty years after his return from the attempted assault against Judah, he was assassinated by his own sons. All of this occurred because King Hezekiah prayed to God "about Sennacherib king of Assyria." (37:21) We can do no better than to place every situation in God's hands. We are fortunate when the odds against us are overwhelming, for then we more readily recognize our need to turn to God and then gain the opportunity, as did Hezekiah, to see God do great things on our behalf.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Reflections on Isaiah 36

    Isaiah 36 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. Hezekiah had been king of Judah for fourteen years when King Sennacherib of Assyria invaded the country and captured every walled city
  2. except Jerusalem. The Assyrian king ordered his army commander to leave the city of Lachish and to take a large army to Jerusalem. The commander went there and stood on the road near the cloth makers' shops along the canal from the upper pool.
  3. Three of the king's highest officials came out of Jerusalem to meet him. One of them was Hilkiah's son Eliakim, who was the prime minister. The other two were Shebna, assistant to the prime minister, and Joah son of Asaph, keeper of the government records.
  4. The Assyrian commander told them: I have a message for Hezekiah from the great king of Assyria. Ask Hezekiah why he feels so sure of himself.
  5. Does he think he can plan and win a war with nothing but words? Who is going to help him, now that he has turned against the king of Assyria?
  6. Is he depending on Egypt and its king? That's the same as leaning on a broken stick, and it will go right through his hand.
  7. Is Hezekiah now depending on the LORD, your God? Didn't Hezekiah tear down all except one of the LORD's altars and places of worship? Didn't he tell the people of Jerusalem and Judah to worship at that one place?
  8. The king of Assyria wants to make a bet with you people! He will give you two thousand horses, if you have enough troops to ride them.
  9. How could you even defeat our lowest ranking officer, when you have to depend on Egypt for chariots and cavalry?
  10. Don't forget that it was the LORD who sent me here with orders to destroy your nation!
  11. Eliakim, Shebna, and Joah said, "Sir, we don't want the people listening from the city wall to understand what you are saying. So please speak to us in Aramaic instead of Hebrew."
  12. The Assyrian army commander answered, "My king sent me to speak to everyone, not just to you leaders. These people will soon have to eat their own body waste and drink their own urine! And so will the three of you!"
  13. Then, in a voice loud enough for everyone to hear, he shouted out in Hebrew: Listen to what the great king of Assyria says!
  14. Don't be fooled by Hezekiah. He can't save you.
  15. Don't trust him when he tells you that the LORD will protect you from the king of Assyria.
  16. Stop listening to Hezekiah. Pay attention to my king. Surrender to him. He will let you keep your own vineyards, fig trees, and cisterns
  17. for a while. Then he will come and take you away to a country just like yours, where you can plant vineyards and raise your own grain.
  18. Hezekiah claims the LORD will save you. But don't be fooled by him. Were any other gods able to defend their land against the king of Assyria?
  19. What happened to the gods of Hamath, Arpad, and Sepharvaim? Were the gods of Samaria able to protect their land against the Assyrian forces?
  20. None of these gods kept their people safe from the king of Assyria. Do you think the LORD, your God, can do any better?
  21. Eliakim, Shebna, and Joah had been warned by King Hezekiah not to answer the Assyrian commander. So they tore their clothes in sorrow and reported to Hezekiah everything the commander had said.
  22. (SEE 36:21)

Beginning with this chapter, events begin to unfold about which Isaiah has been prophesying in the previous chapters. The mighty Assryian army is now on Jerusalem's doorstep having already defeated 14 other cities of Judah on their march to the capital city. Isaiah prophesied that they would come. But he also prophesied that they would not be destroyed by the Assyrians. Neither the Assyrians nor the leaders in Jerusalem can see any possible way that Judah could defeat the Assyrian army. But, it is not against Judah that Assyria was fighting. Rather, it was God. And God will be the one to defeat them because of their arrogance.

The scene described in this chapter portrays the Assyrian army surrounding Jerusalem ready to attack. Sennacherib, king of Assyria, sent his commander, the Rabshakeh, out to Jerusalem's water conduit for talks with Judean leaders. The commander's purpose was as much to mock the Judeans as it was to make any diplomatic offers, though he did offer them what sounded to be pleasant conditions should they surrender. If they were to surrender, he told them, they would be taken to a land of prosperity. It was like telling someone they were to be taken to prison, but it was a nice prison. He also pointed out to them that they really had no other alternative. After all, on what could they base any hope for defeating the Assyrians? Not on their plans or military preparedness. These were mere words, said the Assyrian commander. Neither could they place their trust in Egypt to deliver them, for Egypt was only a "splintered reed of a staff" which would harm them rather than protect them. This was a point with which Isaiah would agree. Were they trusting in the Lord God? The commander didn't think so since Hezekiah had ordered the high places and altars to be removed. On this point, the commander was confused. The high places and altars Hezekiah ordered removed was part of his partial reform to do away with worship of other gods. But neither could it be said that Judah was depending greatly on God.

The intent of the Assyrian commander to frighten these negotiators accomplished its purpose. The three men sent by king Hezekiah to negotiate with the Assyrian commander were so frightened they feared mass panic by the people if they heard any more of the commander's words. Thus, they requested that he talk to them in Aramaic rather than Hebrew so the soldiers on the wall would not understand what was said. But he refused, saying he was sent to deliver his message to all the people of Jerusalem and not just these men. After all, shouldn't the men on the wall who were destined to "eat their excrement and drink their urine" also know of their fate? After further boasting by the Assyrian commander of all the other gods who were unable to protect their people against the Assyrians, Hezekiah's envoys returned without any reply to the Assyrian and reported to the king with torn clothing denoting their distress.

Against overwhelming odds, our hearts melt and we tremble at what appears to be our fate. What good is it to trust in God, we ask ourselves? What can He do against these odds? Besides, why would He help me, we ask? These are all natural questions to which there are no obvious answers, but on the other hand, what reason do we have NOT to trust God? Do we have any other viable choices against such overwhelming odds? Will it do any harm should we place our trust in God? Why do we insist on going it alone as if our worry, rather than giving our worry to God, will provide us some defense? When suggesting a person simply trust in God with their overwhelming situation, I often hear such things as "but I still have to live with the situation." What does that mean? Certainly one has to live with a situation, but why worry yourself to death in the process as if that would somehow make it better? Why not give that worry to God and then see what He wants to do with the situation and with you in the process?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Reflections on Isaiah 35

    Isaiah 35 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. Thirsty deserts will be glad; barren lands will celebrate and blossom with flowers.
  2. Deserts will bloom everywhere and sing joyful songs. They will be as majestic as Mount Lebanon, as glorious as Mount Carmel or Sharon Valley. Everyone will see the wonderful splendor of the LORD our God. *
  3. Here is a message for all who are weak, trembling, and worried:
  4. "Cheer up! Don't be afraid. Your God is coming to punish your enemies. God will take revenge on them and rescue you."
  5. The blind will see, and the ears of the deaf will be healed.
  6. Those who were lame will leap around like deer; tongues once silent will begin to shout. Water will rush through the desert.
  7. Scorching sand will turn into a lake, and thirsty ground will flow with fountains. Grass will grow in wetlands, where packs of wild dogs once made their home.
  8. A good road will be there, and it will be named "God's Sacred Highway." It will be for God's people; no one unfit to worship God will walk on that road. And no fools can travel on that highway.
  9. No lions or other wild animals will come near that road; only those the LORD has saved will travel there.
  10. The people the LORD has rescued will come back singing as they enter Zion. Happiness will be a crown they will always wear. They will celebrate and shout because all sorrows and worries will be gone far away.

In previous chapters Isaiah has painted a picture of the present reality for the Israelites. It was not a pretty picture for they had turned away from the Lord and Isaiah's task was to tell them of God's coming punishment. Thus it was not a picture the Israelites were willing to look at or accept as reality. It was not that Isaiah's understanding of reality for them was far-fetched, but their own denial of that reality that kept them from accepting the picture he had painted for them. They denied that they were doing anything wrong, and although they knew Assyia to be a threat, they denied that anything serious would become of it, furthermore denying that it was a situation they could not handle themselves through their own cunning and military prowess.

In this chapter Isaiah paints another picture. This one is of future reality. It is a beautiful picture portraying a rich fertile land in place of the dry arrid land they have always known. Not only will the land be transformed but the people living in it will also be transformed. No longer will there be those who are blind and deaf and lame or those with other maladies. The Lord will take away disease. Neither will there be evil or danger. There will be a road through this land called the Holy Way. Only the "ransomed of the Lord" (35:10) will walk on this road going to and from their worship of the Lord. Neither the unclean nor the fool nor vicious beasts will be found on this road. There will be great joy and gladness that will overtake the people who live in this land.

Isaiah encourages the people to accept this picture of future reality saying ,"Be strong; do not fear! Here is your God; vengeance is coming. God's retribution is coming; He will save you." (35:4) However, they cannot accept this picture without also accepting the picture of their present reality which is much less attractive. They must go through the present time of punishment to get to the future time of blessing. But if they are not willing to accept the one for what it is, neither will they be able to enjoy the other.  There must be repentance and forgiveness if they are to walk on that "Holy Way" and enjoy the blessings of the Lord.

Those who walk with the Lord will experience suffering, but it will only be for a short period of time. In contrast, those who do not walk with the Lord may experience prosperity, but it too will only be for a short period. 

Monday, August 23, 2010

Reflections on Isaiah 34

    Isaiah 34 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. Everyone of every nation, the entire earth, and all of its creatures, come here and listen!
  2. The LORD is terribly angry with the nations; he has condemned them to be slaughtered.
  3. Their dead bodies will be left to rot and stink; their blood will flow down the mountains.
  4. Each star will disappear-- the sky will roll up like a scroll. Everything in the sky will dry up and wilt like leaves on a vine or fruit on a tree.
  5. After the sword of the LORD has done what it wants to the skies above, it will come down on Edom, the nation that the LORD has doomed for destruction.
  6. The sword of the LORD is covered with blood from lambs and goats, together with fat from kidneys of rams. This is because the LORD will slaughter many people and make a sacrifice of them in the city of Bozrah and everywhere else in Edom.
  7. Edom's leaders are wild oxen. They are powerful bulls, but they will die with the others. Their country will be soaked with their blood, and its soil made fertile with their fat.
  8. The LORD has chosen the year and the day, when he will take revenge and come to Zion's defense.
  9. Edom's streams will turn into tar and its soil into sulfur-- then the whole country will go up in flames.
  10. It will burn night and day and never stop smoking. Edom will be a desert, generation after generation; no one will ever travel through that land.
  11. Owls, hawks, and wild animals will make it their home. God will leave it in ruins, merely a pile of rocks.
  12. Edom will be called "Kingdom of Nothing." Its rulers will also be nothing.
  13. Its palaces and fortresses will be covered with thorns; only wolves and ostriches will make their home there.
  14. Wildcats and hyenas will hunt together, demons will scream to demons, and creatures of the night will live among the ruins.
  15. Owls will nest there to raise their young among its shadows, while families of buzzards circle around.
  16. In The Book of the LORD you can search and find where it is written, "The LORD brought together all of his creatures by the power of his Spirit. Not one is missing."
  17. The LORD has decided where they each should live; they will be there forever, generation after generation.

In this chapter Isaiah refers to events that will occur during a time of tribulation prior to Christ's return and millenial reign. As we consider these events in relation to its context in Isaiah's prophecy we get a glimpse into God's covenantal relationship with Israel and His relationship in general with those who are His people. 

A total destruction of Edom is described here with Edom being representative of all nations. The reason for this destruction is given in verse 8 as "a time of paying back Edom for its hostility against Zion."  There is a difference between the description of this destruction from those describing Israel's destruction. Israel's destruction is never complete and there is always a note of hope concerning restoration. This destruction of Edom and the nations is final with no hope of restoration. The animals that inhabit the land after its destruction "will possess it forever; they will dwell in it from generation to generation." (34:17)

God deals differently with those who have turned to Him than with those who do not acknowledge Him. Especially those who persecute His people.  God's people may stray from Him at times and when they do He will bring calamity into their lives as discipline to draw them back to Himself. God's dealings of love and care and discipline toward His people also serves as a witness to those who do not acknowledge Him, as does His creation. But when they persist in rejecting Him, practicing evil lifestyles, and persecuting His people, He judges them, not as discipline to draw them back, but in final destruction without hope of restoration.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Reflections on Isaiah 33

    Isaiah 33 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. You defeated my people. Now you're in for trouble! You've never been destroyed, but you will be destroyed; you've never been betrayed, but you will be betrayed. When you have finished destroying and betraying, you will be destroyed and betrayed in return.
  2. Please, LORD, be kind to us! We depend on you. Make us strong each morning, and come to save us when we are in trouble.
  3. Nations scatter when you roar and show your greatness.
  4. We attack our enemies like swarms of locusts; we take everything that belongs to them.
  5. You, LORD, are above all others, and you live in the heavens. You have brought justice and fairness to Jerusalem;
  6. you are the foundation on which we stand today. You always save us and give true wisdom and knowledge. Nothing means more to us than obeying you.
  7. Listen! Our bravest soldiers are running through the streets, screaming for help. Our messengers hoped for peace, but came home crying.
  8. No one travels anymore; every road is empty. Treaties are broken, and no respect is shown to any who keep promises.
  9. Fields are dry and barren; Mount Lebanon wilts with shame. Sharon Valley is a desert; the forests of Bashan and Carmel have lost their leaves.
  10. But the LORD says, "Now I will do something and be greatly praised.
  11. Your deeds are straw that will be set on fire by your very own breath.
  12. You will be burned to ashes like thorns in a fire.
  13. Everyone, both far and near, come look at what I have done. See my mighty power!"
  14. Those terrible sinners on Mount Zion tremble as they ask in fear, "How can we possibly live where a raging fire never stops burning?"
  15. But there will be rewards for those who live right and tell the truth, for those who refuse to take money by force or accept bribes, for all who hate murder and violent crimes.
  16. They will live in a fortress high on a rocky cliff, where they will have food and plenty of water.
  17. With your own eyes you will see the glorious King; you will see his kingdom reaching far and wide.
  18. Then you will ask yourself, "Where are those officials who terrified us and forced us to pay such heavy taxes?"
  19. You will never again have to see the proud people who spoke a strange and foreign language you could not understand.
  20. Look to Mount Zion where we celebrate our religious festivals. You will see Jerusalem, secure as a tent with pegs that cannot be pulled up and fastened with ropes that can never be broken.
  21. Our wonderful LORD will be with us! There will be deep rivers and wide streams safe from enemy ships.
  22. The LORD is our judge and our ruler; the LORD is our king and will keep us safe.
  23. But your nation is a ship with its rigging loose, its mast shaky, and its sail not spread. Someday even you that are lame will take everything you want from your enemies.
  24. The LORD will forgive your sins, and none of you will say, "I feel sick."

Only those who fear the Lord can expect a life of fulfillment in which they find their needs fulfilled. Thus Isaiah's counsel to Judah is that "the fear of the Lord is Zion's treasure." (33:6) But this is not what Judah's has chosen. Rather than fearing the Lord she has turned to others for her security. Chapter 31 tells of Judah's attempt to form an alliance with Egypt and 2 Kings 18:13-16 tells of an attempt to bribe the Assyrians to call off their attack against them. Which of these occasions is referred to here by Isaiah is uncertain, but whichever it was, Judah's effort to find security other than in the Lord failed. The agreement with Egypt or Assyria was broken (33:8) and Judah is overtaken. The result is that "The land mourns and withers; Lebanon is ashamed and decayed. Sharon is like a desert; Bashan and Carmel shake off their leaves." (33:9) The Lord will move against them and they will become impotent. They will conceive chaff and give birth to stubble. Their breath will be a fire that consumes them. (33:11) Then the people of Judah would fear the Lord, but it would be a terrifying fear rather than one of respect and awe.

This is not the way things must be. There is another way. The people of Judah can choose to live righteously and speak rightly, refuse gain from extortion and not take bribes. They can choose to no longer listen to murderous plots or endorse evil. Its their choice. In so choosing, they can enjoy a life of peace and security and of beauty. Then the Lord would be for them rather than bringing judgment on them. Then the Lord would forgive their iniquity. All of this is the focus of verses 15-24. It contrasts the life that Judah was facing at the time of Isaiah's prophecy. It is an alternative for the nation if it so chooses.

We plot and scheme and strive and strain to pursue the desires that consume us only to find that they are unattainable, are unworth the pursuit, and that we have rejected the truly worthwhile pursuit which is the life of righteousness lived in obedience to God.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Reflections on Isaiah 32

    Isaiah 32 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. A king and his leaders will rule with justice.
  2. They will be a place of safety from stormy winds, a stream in the desert, and a rock that gives shade from the heat of the sun.
  3. Then everyone who has eyes will open them and see, and those who have ears will pay attention.
  4. All who are impatient will take time to think; everyone who stutters will talk clearly.
  5. Fools will no longer be highly respected, and crooks won't be given positions of honor.
  6. Fools talk foolishness. They always make plans to do sinful things, to lie about the LORD, to let the hungry starve, and to keep water from those who are thirsty.
  7. Cruel people tell lies-- they do evil things, and make cruel plans to destroy the poor and needy, even when they beg for justice.
  8. But helpful people can always be trusted to make helpful plans.
  9. Listen to what I say, you women who are carefree and careless!
  10. You may not have worries now, but in about a year, the grape harvest will fail, and you will tremble.
  11. Shake and shudder, you women without a care! Strip off your clothes-- put on sackcloth.
  12. Slap your breasts in sorrow because of what happened to the fruitful fields and vineyards,
  13. and to the happy homes in Jerusalem. The land of my people is covered with thorns.
  14. The palace will be deserted, the crowded city empty. Fortresses and towers will forever become playgrounds for wild donkeys and pastures for sheep.
  15. When the Spirit is given to us from heaven, deserts will become orchards thick as fertile forests.
  16. Honesty and justice will prosper there,
  17. and justice will produce lasting peace and security.
  18. You, the LORD's people, will live in peace, calm and secure,
  19. even if hailstones flatten forests and cities.
  20. You will have God's blessing, as you plant your crops beside streams, while your donkeys and cattle roam freely about.

We come to realize that until Christ reigns over the earth, the hope of righteousness and peace outlined in the first 8 verses of this chapter will not occur. Through his book Isaiah makes numerous references to the hope of a time when people obey God and act as they should toward each other. Some commentators try to identify a period in Israel's history following Isaiah's time when these hopes were fulfilled. But any period given consideration is only a partial portrayal of the hopes outlined by Isaiah. For Israel never really fully follows the Lord, and such a period as described in the first verses of this chapter can only be fulfilled when they fully follow the Lord. Thus we have to look to the millennial period, further out in the future, to see these hopes realized. In the meantime, as we individually make Christ Lord in our lives, we can experience much of what he describes but it cannot be complete as long as unrighteousness is rampant.

Verses 9-15 take us back to the period in which Isaiah was prophecying and he describes the people as complacent and overconfident. They are complacent about their spiritual condition and overconfident about escaping judgment. But their overconfidence would be shattered in "a little more than a year." It would begin with the failure of their grape crop leading to no harvest. Their wonderful vineyards, in which they had great delight, would become overgrown with thorns and briers. The city (of Jerusalem?) would be abandoned and the palace forsaken. All of this is most likely a reference to Jerusalem's destruction by Assyria which caused the failure of the grape crop and abandonment of the city and surrounding area which left the vineyards overgrown and the city deserted. This condition would last until "the Spirit from heaven is poured out on us." With this reference in verse 15, we are taken back to the millennial period when Christ will reign.

Under Christ's reign there will be righteousness among the people which will bring peace and a quiet confidence. Those who allow Christ to reign in their lives already recognize that any hope for world peace prior to Christ's millenial reign is naive. Those who speak of world peace in our time fail to recognize the connection between one's spiritual condition and obedience to God's teaching and the possibility for peace. They speak as if all that needs to happen is for world leaders to quit leading their nations to war. But the disposition of nations is determined by the disposition of its people, and even on an individual level they are unable to have peace with one another. Even those who speak loudly about world peace do not have peace with all others in their lives. Many do not even have peace within their own families. How can there be any expectation of world peace when people cannot have peace in their personal lives? Peace is not possible at any level until people submit themselves to the reign of Christ in their lives. And peace at all levels is not possible until all people submit to Christ's reign.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Reflections on Isaiah 31

    Isaiah 31 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. You are in for trouble if you go to Egypt for help, or if you depend on an army of chariots or a powerful cavalry. Instead you should depend on and trust the holy LORD God of Israel.
  2. The LORD isn't stupid! He does what he promises, and he can bring doom. If you are cruel yourself, or help those who are evil, you will be destroyed.
  3. The Egyptians are mere humans. They aren't God. Their horses are made of flesh; they can't live forever. When the LORD shows his power, he will destroy the Egyptians and all who depend on them. Together they will fall.
  4. The LORD All-Powerful said to me, "I will roar and attack like a fearless lion not frightened by the shouts of shepherds trying to protect their sheep. That's how I will come down and fight on Mount Zion.
  5. I, the LORD All-Powerful, will protect Jerusalem like a mother bird circling over her nest."
  6. People of Israel, come back! You have completely turned from the LORD.
  7. The time is coming when you will throw away your idols of silver and gold, made by your sinful hands.
  8. The Assyrians will be killed, but not by the swords of humans. Their young men will try to escape, but they will be captured and forced into slavery.
  9. Their fortress will fall when terror strikes; their army officers will be frightened and run from the battle. This is what the LORD has said, the LORD whose fiery furnace is built on Mount Zion.

As in chapter 30, this chapter has another woe against an alliance with Egypt. Though it had not yet taken place, there were some in Judah who were intent on such an alliance. So verse one states, "Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help and who depend on horses!" The obvious problem was that they were not depending on God, the "Holy One of Israel." By comparison, the Egyptians were only men, not God, and their horses were only flesh, and not spirit. Physical things are no match for spiritual things, and if Judah pursues this alliance, "the helper will stumble and the helped will fall." (31:3) So the alliance is detrimental to Egypt as well as to Judah. Besides, it is unnecessary. If Judah will rely on God, He will be as a lion on their behalf that is not terrified by the noise of those who try to run it off. Instead, He will fight for Judah and will protect Jerusalem, sparing it the coming destruction.

Then comes a plea for Judah to return to the One against whom she has rebelled. There will come a day, possibly at the Millenium, when Judah will reject her silver and gold idols and turn back to the Lord. The unstated question is, why wait until that day? Why not turn back to Him now and be spared, for Assyria will not fall by human sword, but by the sword of the Lord.

Our best source of help in time of difficulty is the one we most often have the greatest difficultly relying on.  Not that there is anything complicated about it, but because we find it so hard to simply wait on God. We feel that if we are not doing something about the situation nothing is being done, or we live by the unbiblical saying that, "God helps those who help themselves." If this saying were biblical, God would not be denouncing Judah for trying to help herself with an alliance with Egypt. Helping ourselves is not depending on God. It is depending on ourselves and hoping God will bless our plans. Depending on God may involve nothing more than waiting for His deliverance, or it may involve waiting until He shows us what we need to do. In the history of Israel when the nation was threatened by overwhelming odds, there were times when God told the leaders to do nothing only to watch what He was going to do. On other occasions He gave them specifici instructions as to what they were to do and then their meager actions were amplified by God's mighty actions and deliverance came. Whether we wait for God to bring the deliverance or wait for Him to give us our instructions for deliverance, depending on God involves waiting on Him, for waiting demonstrates our trust and reliance on Him. Yet waiting seems to be more difficult than many can handle.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Reflections on Isaiah 30

    Isaiah 30 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. This is the LORD's message for his rebellious people: "You follow your own plans instead of mine; you make treaties without asking me, and you keep on sinning.
  2. You trust Egypt for protection. So you refuse my advice and send messengers to Egypt to beg their king for help.
  3. You will be disappointed, completely disgraced for trusting Egypt.
  4. The king's power reaches from the city of Zoan as far south as Hanes.
  5. But Egypt can't protect you, and to trust that nation is useless and foolish.
  6. This is a message about the animals of the Southern Desert: You people carry treasures on donkeys and camels. You travel to a feeble nation through a troublesome desert filled with lions and flying fiery dragons.
  7. Egypt can't help you! That's why I call that nation a helpless monster.
  8. The LORD told me to write down his message for his people, so that it would be there forever.
  9. They have turned against the LORD and can't be trusted. They have refused his teaching
  10. and have said to his messengers and prophets: Don't tell us what God has shown you and don't preach the truth. Just say what we want to hear, even if it's false.
  11. Stop telling us what God has said! We don't want to hear any more about the holy God of Israel.
  12. Now this is the answer of the holy God of Israel: "You rejected my message, and you trust in violence and lies.
  13. This sin is like a crack that makes a high wall quickly crumble
  14. and shatter like a crushed bowl. There's not a piece left big enough to carry hot coals or to dip out water."
  15. The holy LORD God of Israel had told all of you, "I will keep you safe if you turn back to me and calm down. I will make you strong if you quietly trust me." Then you stubbornly
  16. said, "No! We will safely escape on speedy horses." But those who chase you will be even faster.
  17. As few as five of them, or even one, will be enough to chase a thousand of you. Finally, all that will be left will be a few survivors as lonely as a flag pole on a barren hill.
  18. The LORD God is waiting to show how kind he is and to have pity on you. The LORD always does right; he blesses those who trust him.
  19. People of Jerusalem, you don't need to cry anymore. The Lord is kind, and as soon as he hears your cries for help, he will come.
  20. The Lord has given you trouble and sorrow as your food and drink. But now you will again see the Lord, your teacher, and he will guide you.
  21. Whether you turn to the right or to the left, you will hear a voice saying, "This is the road! Now follow it."
  22. Then you will treat your idols of silver and gold like garbage; you will throw them away like filthy rags.
  23. The Lord will send rain to water the seeds you have planted--your fields will produce more crops than you need, and your cattle will graze in open pastures.
  24. Even the oxen and donkeys that plow your fields will be fed the finest grain.
  25. On that day people will be slaughtered and towers destroyed, but streams of water will flow from high hills and towering mountains.
  26. Then the LORD will bandage his people's injuries and heal the wounds he has caused. The moon will shine as bright as the sun, and the sun will shine seven times brighter than usual. It will be like the light of seven days all at once.
  27. The LORD is coming from far away with his fiery anger and thick clouds of smoke. His angry words flame up like a destructive fire;
  28. he breathes out a flood that comes up to the neck. He sifts the nations and destroys them. Then he puts a bridle in every foreigner's mouth and leads them to doom.
  29. The LORD's people will sing as they do when they celebrate a religious festival at night. The LORD is Israel's mighty rock, and his people will be as happy as they are when they follow the sound of flutes to the mountain where he is worshiped.
  30. The LORD will get furious. His fearsome voice will be heard, his arm will be seen ready to strike, and his anger will be like a destructive fire, followed by thunderstorms and hailstones.
  31. When the Assyrians hear the LORD's voice and see him striking with his iron rod, they will be terrified.
  32. He will attack them in battle, and each time he strikes them, it will be to the music of tambourines and harps.
  33. Long ago the LORD got a place ready for burning the body of the dead king. The place for the fire is deep and wide, the wood is piled high, and the LORD will start the fire by breathing out flaming sulfur.

It seems ironic that now as Israel faced the threat of the Assyrians she turns to her former oppressor, the Egyptians, and not to the God who led her out of that oppression by Egypt. Israel's Passover observance was a constant reminder of how God delivered Israel from the Egyptians, so it is not as if they no longer knew about that piece of history or were ignorant of God's deliverance. This is obstinate rebellion, and that is how Isaiah addressed the people, "Woe to the rebellious children!" (30:1) Israel had a way out of this dilemma and she refuses to avail herself of it. In fact, she seemed to go to great length to avoid availing herself of God's help. Israel planned to send an envoy on a difficult and hazardous journey to Egypt in an attempt to form an alliance that might save her from the Assyrians. But Isaiah tells them that this effort will be worthless. Egypt cannot help them for she is "Rahab Who Just Sits." Rahab, which means strength, was one of the names attached to Egypt in that period. Isaiah was saying, though, that it was a strength that could do nothing.

Isaiah points them, however, to where their strength truly lies. Their strength, he says, lies in returning and resting; in quiet confidence. (30:15) Their strength lies in doing nothing except to rely on God. That was it! How simple, and yet how difficult it seemed to be for them.  For the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel, has said: "You will be delivered by returning and resting; your strength will lie in quiet confidence. But you are not willing." And yet, are any of us much different?

For future reference, God had Isaiah write down all of this on a tablet. After judgement had come, God did not want the Israelites to forget why it happened or to deny that they had been forewarned. As Isaiah pointed out in the previous chapter, this tablet would do them no good in the present for they would deny that they could even read it. They did not want to hear any negative message of warning. They wanted to beleive that everything was good. Why is it so hard to trust God? We will do anything else but trust Him. The plan of the Israelites was to seek the help of Egypt and then as a back up plan to flee on horses if the worst happened. But Isaiah tells them this plan will not work either for those pursuing them will be faster than they.

The God they are avoiding, though, is waiting and anxious to show them mercy and compassion. He is a just God, and happy are those who wait patiently for Him. (30:18) The question may come to mind that if God is so compassionate, why doesn't He keep the threat of destruction away from them altogether?  It is a naive question, though, that fails to grasp all of the dynamics involved. Can there be true compassion if there is no alternative? Can there be true compassion if we have no choice in the matter? It is human nature to blame others for our bad choices, and often that 'other' is God. We always have available to us the choice of God's compassion, and often we fail to choose it. Then, having rejected God's compassion, we blame Him for the bad that results from our choice.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Reflections on Isaiah 29

    Isaiah 29 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. Jerusalem, city of David, the place of my altar, you are in for trouble! Celebrate your festivals year after year.
  2. I will still make you suffer, and your people will cry when I make an altar of you.
  3. I will surround you and prepare to attack from all sides.
  4. From deep in the earth, you will call out for help with only a faint whisper.
  5. Then your cruel enemies will suddenly be swept away like dust in a windstorm.
  6. I, the LORD All-Powerful, will come to your rescue with a thundering earthquake and a fiery whirlwind.
  7. Every brutal nation that attacks Jerusalem and makes it suffer will disappear like a dream when night is over.
  8. Those nations that attack Mount Zion will suffer from hunger and thirst. They will dream of food and drink but wake up weary and hungry and thirsty as ever.
  9. Be shocked and stunned, you prophets! Refuse to see. Get drunk and stagger, but not from wine.
  10. The LORD has made you drowsy; he put you into a deep sleep and covered your head.
  11. Now his message is like a sealed letter to you. Some of you say, "We can't read it, because it's sealed."
  12. Others say, "We can't read it, because we don't know how to read."
  13. The Lord has said: "These people praise me with their words, but they never really think about me. They worship me by repeating rules made up by humans.
  14. So once again I will do things that shock and amaze them, and I will destroy the wisdom of those who claim to know and understand."
  15. You are in for trouble, if you try to hide your plans from the LORD! Or if you think what you do in the dark can't be seen.
  16. You have it all backwards. A clay dish doesn't say to the potter, "You didn't make me. You don't even know how."
  17. Soon the forest of Lebanon will become a field with crops, thick as a forest.
  18. The deaf will be able to hear whatever is read to them; the blind will be freed from a life of darkness.
  19. The poor and the needy will celebrate and shout because of the LORD, the holy God of Israel.
  20. All who are cruel and arrogant will be gone forever. Those who live by crime will disappear,
  21. together with everyone who tells lies in court and keeps innocent people from getting a fair trial.
  22. The LORD who rescued Abraham has this to say about Jacob's descendants: "They will no longer be ashamed and disgraced.
  23. When they see how great I have made their nation, they will praise and honor me, the holy God of Israel.
  24. Everyone who is confused will understand, and all who have complained will obey my teaching."

The time of judgment was coming upon Judah when the Assyrians would lay siege to Jerusalem. Its destruction would seem inevitable and then God would miraculously deliver it (29:5-8). When God delivers the city, the horrors of that siege, the sight of the attackers surrounding the city, and the siege-works against the walls will seem as if it were merely "a dream, a vision in the night." (29:7)

But the threat of imminent destruction followed by an awesome deliverance by God does not turn the people of Judah back to God.  Instead, they were too spiritually insensitive to recognize the spiritual significance of God's deliverance. Rather, they continued to go through their rote worship of God. As verse 13 says, they honored God "with lip-service . . . and their worship consists of man-made rules learned by rote." So, God's further judgment was to completely blind them spiritually.  Thus, God would "confound these people with wonder after wonder," but "The wisdom of their wise men will vanish, and the understanding of the perceptive will be hidden." What happens here with Judah is indicative of what happens when one consistently turns from God. In the beginning it is a choice. We choose not to recognize God's hand in our lives or the world around us. But over time, as we continually make this choice, we then lose the ability to recognize God's activity in us or in our world. God may do "wonder after wonder" before our eyes, but we will be blind to His wonders.

In Judah's case, Isaiah illustrated their blindness by likening it to having written all of this on a sealed document and presenting it to them to read. But both those who could read and those who could not would refuse to read the document.  The excuse of those who could read would be that "It is sealed." Those who couldn't read would use that as their excuse. It was as if they didn't want to know the truths of Isaiah message to them. Therefore, since they refused to know, God took from them the ability to know.

Having refused to know or understand Isaiah's message to them, they then went about making their diabolical plans in secret as if God wouldn't know what they were doing. Isaiah likens this to clay in the hands of a potter that refuses to acknowledge the potter. Then Isaiah asks the question, "How can what is made say about its maker, 'He didn't make me'"? Or, he asks, "How can what is formed say about the one who formed it, 'He doesn't understand what he's doing'"? But that was what Judah was doing, and it is what many even now continually do. We act as if we are the judge of what is right or wrong, as if God must meet our criteria if He is to prove He exists. But whether we acknowledge God's existence or not, He exists, and those who refuse to acknowledge it have chosen ignorance over knowledge.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Reflections on Isaiah 28

    Isaiah 28 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. The city of Samaria above a fertile valley is in for trouble! Its leaders are drunkards, who stuff themselves with food and wine. But they will be like flowers that dry up and wilt.
  2. Only the Lord is strong and powerful! His mighty hand will strike them down with the force of a hailstorm or a mighty whirlwind or an overwhelming flood.
  3. Every drunkard in Ephraim takes pride in Samaria, but it will be crushed.
  4. Samaria above a fertile valley will quickly lose its glory. It will be gobbled down like the first ripe fig at harvest season.
  5. When this time comes, the LORD All-Powerful will be a glorious crown for his people who survive.
  6. He will see that justice rules and that his people are able to defend their cities.
  7. Priests and prophets stumble because they are drunk. Their minds are too confused to receive God's messages or give honest decisions.
  8. Their tables are covered, completely covered, with their stinking vomit.
  9. You drunken leaders are like babies! How can you possibly understand or teach the LORD's message?
  10. You don't even listen-- all you hear is senseless sound after senseless sound.
  11. So, the Lord will speak to his people in strange sounds and foreign languages.
  12. He promised you perfect peace and rest, but you refused to listen.
  13. Now his message to you will be senseless sound after senseless sound. Then you will fall backwards, injured and trapped.
  14. You rulers of Jerusalem do nothing but sneer; now you must listen to what the LORD says.
  15. Do you think you have an agreement with death and the world of the dead? Why do you trust in your lies to keep you safe from danger and the mighty flood?
  16. And so the LORD says, "I'm laying a firm foundation for the city of Zion. It's a valuable cornerstone proven to be trustworthy; no one who trusts it will ever be disappointed.
  17. Justice and fairness will be the measuring lines that help me build." Hailstones and floods will destroy and wash away your shelter of lies.
  18. Your agreement with death and the world of the dead will be broken. Then angry, roaring waves will sweep over you.
  19. Morning, noon, and night an overwhelming flood will wash you away. The terrible things that happen will teach you this lesson:
  20. Your bed is too short, your blanket too skimpy.
  21. The LORD will fiercely attack as he did at Mount Perazim and in Gibeon Valley. But this time the LORD will do something surprising, not what you expect.
  22. So you had better stop sneering or you will be in worse shape than ever before. I heard the LORD All-Powerful threaten the whole country with destruction.
  23. Pay close attention to what I am saying.
  24. Farmers don't just plow and break up the ground.
  25. When a field is ready, they scatter the seeds of dill and cumin; they plant the seeds of wheat and barley in the proper places.
  26. They learn this from their God.
  27. After dill and cumin have been harvested, the stalks are pounded, not run over with a wagon.
  28. Wheat and barley are pounded, but not beaten to pulp; they are run over with a wagon, but not ground to dust.
  29. This wonderful knowledge comes from the LORD All-Powerful, who has such great wisdom.

Isaiah lived in the southern kingdom of Judah and directed much of his prophecy to Judah, but in this chapter he includes the northern kingdom of Israel in his word of 'woe.' It is Israel that receives the attention in the opening verses of the chapter. The "crown of pride" or "majestic crown" (depending on the translation) was Samaria, Israel's royal city. The majesty of this city was fading and its people were depicted as drunkards. The Lord had in store for them a hail storm in the form of the Assyria army that would devastate the city. God's protection would be removed and Samaria would be like a ripe fig that could be picked and eaten by whomever discovered it before it could be harvested.

Verses 5-6 jump into the far future to when Christ will reign in Jerusalem. At that time it is the Lord who will be the "crown of beauty" and He will give them a spirit of justice and strength to turn back their enemies. But back in the present, even their priests and prophets are drunkards, getting drunk at banquets and vomiting all over the table. They mimicked Isaiah's message with the prattle of a child which might be translated "Da, da, da, da, blah, blah, blah, blah," as if that is what Isaiah is doing - prattling. In turn, Isaiah mimicked them as they did him then says they will go "stumbling backwards, to be broken, trapped, and captured."

The people of Judah are no different, though, and God had an Assyrian hailstorm prepared for them as well. They were depending on other gods to deliver them from this storm, thus they had "cut a deal with Death, and we have made an agreement with Sheol," a reference to Semitic mythology. But Isaiah tells them "Your deal with Death will be dissolved, and your agreement with Sheol will not last." Their trust is misplaced. It should be with the Lord God. Therefore, they will be trampled. Unless they experience terror, they will not understand what Isaiah is telling them. So terror they will have. And he cautions them not to mock what he says or they will experience even greater terror.

But then Isaiah inserts a word of compassion. Though Judah will suffer devastation, it will not be as great as it could be. A farmer crushes or threshes his crops to separate the grain from the chaff. But he does not treat each crop in the same way for the proper result cannot be accomplished by doing so. And so it will be with the Lord's 'threshing' of Judah. He will not over-thresh them. It will be just enough to separate the good grain from the chaff. So it is with God's love. It is not vindictive, but redemptive. He wants the best for His people and knows they can only have it through obedience to His instructions. When they stray from these instructions, He 'threshes' them so they might get back on track. Those who claim that a loving God would not do this do not understand love.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Reflections on Isaiah 27

    Isaiah 27 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. On that day, Leviathan, the sea monster, will squirm and try to escape, but the LORD will kill him with a cruel, sharp sword.
  2. At that time you must sing about a fruitful vineyard.
  3. I, the LORD, will protect it and always keep it watered. I will guard it day and night to keep it from harm.
  4. I am no longer angry. But if it produces thorns, I will go to war against it and burn it to the ground.
  5. Yet if the vineyard depends on me for protection, it will become my friend and be at peace with me.
  6. Someday Israel will take root like a vine. It will blossom and bear fruit that covers the earth.
  7. I, the LORD, didn't punish and kill the people of Israel as fiercely as I punished and killed their enemies.
  8. I carefully measured out Israel's punishment and sent the scorching heat to chase them far away.
  9. There's only one way that Israel's sin and guilt can be completely forgiven: They must crush the stones of every pagan altar and place of worship.
  10. Fortress cities are left like a desert where no one lives. Cattle walk through the ruins, stripping the trees bare.
  11. When broken branches fall to the ground, women pick them up to feed the fire. But these people are so stupid that the God who created them will show them no mercy.
  12. The time is coming when the LORD will shake the land between the Euphrates River and the border of Egypt, and one by one he will bring all of his people together.
  13. A loud trumpet will be heard. Then the people of Israel who were dragged away to Assyria and Egypt will return to worship the LORD on his holy mountain in Jerusalem.

In this chapter Isaiah is addressing the future restoration of Israel. The time period, though, is not clear. Is it the near future as with Israel's restoration after exile in Babylon or is it the far future restoration when Christ will reign? Her restoration will occur after God brings judgment on those He used to bring judgment on Israel. The Leviathan of verse one represents this judgment. Does the Leviathan represent Babylon or does it represent those nations in general that were instrumental in the destruction of Israel? There thought in both directions. In either case, the slaying of the monster is the slaying of Babylon or all these nations.

When God restores His people they will once again be a fruitful vineyard, though a caution is given that if they should produce thorns and briers instead of grapes God will again trample them. But is God's judgment on Israel the same as His judgment on those nations that struck Israel? The implied answer is no. His dealings with Israel is more measured than with the other nations. It has the distinction purpose of restoring her to the covenantal relationship God has had with her. When she is restored, Israel will be ready to renew the covenant with God and to destroy her idols as stated in verse 9: "Therefore Jacob's iniquity will be purged in this way, and the result of the removal of his sin will be this: when he makes all the altar stones like crushed bits of chalk, no Asherah poles or incense altars will remain standing."

Israel must discover, as we must discover, that the core of life is our relationship to God. Everything else is peripheral to that. Whatever else we might pursue is given meaning and is enjoyed to its fullest through our relationship with God. But we are prone to reverse this order. We try to make the core of life our own pursuits and make God peripheral to those pursuits. But with this order to life our pursuits lose their meaning and significance and fullest enjoyment. 

Monday, August 9, 2010

Reflections on Isaiah 26

    Isaiah 26 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. The time is coming when the people of Judah will sing this song: "Our city is protected. The LORD is our fortress, and he gives us victory.
  2. Open the city gates for a law-abiding nation that is faithful to God.
  3. The LORD gives perfect peace to those whose faith is firm.
  4. So always trust the LORD because he is forever our mighty rock.
  5. God has put down our enemies in their mountain city and rubbed it in the dirt.
  6. Now the poor and abused stomp all over that city."
  7. Our LORD, you always do right, and you make the path smooth for those who obey you.
  8. You are the one we trust to bring about justice; above all else we want your name to be honored.
  9. Throughout the night, my heart searches for you, because your decisions show everyone on this earth how to live right.
  10. Even when the wicked are treated with mercy in this land of justice, they do wrong and are blind to your glory, our LORD.
  11. Your hand is raised and ready to punish them, but they don't see it. Put them to shame! Show how much you care for us and throw them into the fire intended for your enemies.
  12. You will give us peace, LORD, because everything we have done was by your power.
  13. Others have ruled over us besides you, our LORD God, but we obey only you.
  14. Those enemies are now dead and can never live again. You have punished them-- they are destroyed, completely forgotten.
  15. Our nation has grown because of you, our LORD. We have more land than before, and you are honored.
  16. When you punished our people, they turned and prayed to you, our LORD.
  17. Because of what you did to us, we suffered like a woman about to give birth.
  18. But instead of having a child, our terrible pain produced only wind. We have won no victories, and we have no descendants to take over the earth.
  19. Your people will rise to life! Tell them to leave their graves and celebrate with shouts. You refresh the earth like morning dew; you give life to the dead.
  20. Go inside and lock the doors, my people. Hide there for a little while, until the LORD is no longer angry.
  21. The LORD will come out to punish everyone on earth for their sins. And when he does, those who did violent crimes will be known and punished.

In the midst of Isaiah's message of judgment on Israel and the surrounding nations, and with the threat of Assyrian invasion strong on the minds of the people of Judah comes this song of comfort for the land of Judah. It is a song that Judah would not be ready to sing in the day of Isaiah, but will sing "On that day." (26:1) When is that day? Some say it is when Judah is restored to the land while others say it is that period at the end of time when Christ will reign. In either case, it is beyond the lifetime of the people to whom Isaiah delivers his message. For these people this song gives a message of hope for the future plus a word of comfort for the present.

For the present travails they faced, the people of Judah could find comfort in knowing that the Lord "will keep in perfect peace the mind that is dependent on You, for it is trusting in You." This is one of my favorite verses in scripture. The truth this verse conveys to me promises me peace regardless of my circumstances. Inner tranquilty, which is the subject of this verse, is not dependent on outward peace in the environment around me. Nor is this tranquility dependent on the hope of outward peace soon to come. The truth this verse conveys is that inner tranquility is found only by trusting in the Lord. It is a trust that also involves a submission of our lives into the Lord's hands trusting that He will make our paths level and clear a straight path for us, as stated in verse 7. It is only by trusting our lives to the Lord that such inner tranquility can be found. It will not be found in life's circumstances such as wealth, family, prestige, outward peace, or whatever. It is found only in the Lord. Thus, Isaiah says "Our desire is for Your name and renown. "I long for You in the night; yes, my spirit within me diligently seeks You." (26:9)

Then Isaiah reveals the purpose of God's judgment. It is that "the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness." Furthermore, he says, "If the wicked is shown favor, he does not learn righteousness." (26:9-10) Though it might not be said of all judgment, God's judgment is redemptive. It is always intended to lead people - all people, both Jew and Gentile - to righteousness. The fact that this purpose is not always accomplished points to the foolish hearts of mankind who refuse to accept God's redemption.

If Judah were to trust in the Lord, He would establish peace for them, doing all the work for them as is pointed out in verse 12. Instead, they attempted to bring peace in their own efforts and Isaiah compared the result to a pregnant woman who goes through the pains of childbirth only to give "birth to wind." It was of no benefit. Peace did not result. So for the time being, the people of Judah are advised to "enter your rooms and close your doors behind you. Hide for a little while until the wrath has passed. For look, the LORD is coming from His place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity. The earth will reveal the blood shed on it and will no longer conceal her slain." (26:20-21)

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Reflections on Isaiah 25

    Isaiah 25 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. You, LORD, are my God! I will praise you for doing the wonderful things you had planned and promised since ancient times.
  2. You have destroyed the fortress of our enemies, leaving their city in ruins. Nothing in that foreign city will ever be rebuilt.
  3. Now strong and cruel nations will fear and honor you.
  4. You have been a place of safety for the poor and needy in times of trouble. Brutal enemies pounded us like a heavy rain or the heat of the sun at noon, but you were our shelter.
  5. Those wild foreigners struck like scorching desert heat. But you were like a cloud, protecting us from the sun. You kept our enemies from singing songs of victory.
  6. On this mountain the LORD All-Powerful will prepare for all nations a feast of the finest foods. Choice wines and the best meats will be served.
  7. Here the LORD will strip away the burial clothes that cover the nations.
  8. The LORD All-Powerful will destroy the power of death and wipe away all tears. No longer will his people be insulted everywhere. The LORD has spoken!
  9. At that time, people will say, "The LORD has saved us! Let's celebrate. We waited and hoped-- now our God is here."
  10. The powerful arm of the LORD will protect this mountain. The Moabites will be put down and trampled on like straw in a pit of manure.
  11. They will struggle to get out, but God will humiliate them no matter how hard they try.
  12. The walls of their fortresses will be knocked down and scattered in the dirt.

This chapter is in the section of Isaiah (chapters 24-27) known as Isaiah's apocalypse because it foreshadows a period toward the end of time when God will judge the whole earth and Christ will reign over the earth for 1,000 years. The previous chapter foreshadowed God's judgment during this future period and chapter 25 foreshadows Christ's reign. God's people are praising Him for His judgment of the wicked and for their deliverance. This is not a deliverance that is only for Israel, but for people from all nations who bow the knee to Christ and His reign.

During this period in time, there will be a reversal of fortunes. Those who depend on God will be helped and those who do not will be judged. The poor among God's people will no longer be destitute but will be provided what they need. As verse 4  describes, "You (God) have been a stronghold for the poor, a stronghold for the humble person in his distress, a refuge from the rain, a shade from the heat. When the breath of the violent is like rain against a wall, like heat in a dry land, You subdue the uproar of barbarians. "

The Lord's deliverance is pictured as a celebration feast of God's people, celebrating not only their deliverance but also the removal of the burial shroud or in other words, the removal of death, for God "will destroy death forever." (25:8) This removal of death not only removes the shadow that death places on life but will remove the sorrow of separation that death causes between the living and the dead.

So God's people rejoice saying, "Look, this is our God; we have waited for Him, and He has saved us. This is the LORD; we have waited for Him. Let us rejoice and be glad in His salvation." (25:9) In contrast there will be the trampling of the wicked, such as Moab, and their pride will be brought low will also their trickery.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

reflections on Isaiah 24

    Isaiah 24 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. The LORD is going to twist the earth out of shape and turn it into a desert. Everyone will be scattered,
  2. including ordinary people and priests, slaves and slave owners, buyers and sellers, lenders and borrowers, the rich and the poor.
  3. The earth will be stripped bare and left that way. This is what the LORD has promised.
  4. The earth wilts away; its mighty leaders melt to nothing.
  5. The earth is polluted because its people disobeyed the laws of God, breaking their agreement that was to last forever.
  6. The earth is under a curse; its people are dying out because of their sins.
  7. Grapevines have dried up: wine is almost gone-- mournful sounds are heard instead of joyful shouts.
  8. No one plays tambourines or stringed instruments; all noisy celebrating has come to an end.
  9. They no longer sing as they drink their wine, and it tastes sour.
  10. Towns are crushed and in chaos; houses are locked tight.
  11. Happy times have disappeared from the earth, and people shout in the streets, "We're out of wine!"
  12. Cities are destroyed; their gates are torn down.
  13. Nations will be stripped bare, like olive trees or vineyards after the harvest season.
  14. People in the west shout; they joyfully praise the majesty of the LORD.
  15. And so, everyone in the east and those on the islands should praise the LORD, the God of Israel.
  16. From all over the world songs of praise are heard for the God of justice. But I feel awful, terribly miserable. Can anyone be trusted? So many are treacherous!
  17. Terror, traps, and pits are waiting for everyone.
  18. If you are terrified and run, you will fall into a pit; if you crawl out of the pit, you will get caught in a trap. The sky has split apart like a window thrown open. The foundations of the earth have been shaken;
  19. the earth is shattered, ripped to pieces.
  20. It staggers and shakes like a drunkard or a hut in a windstorm. It is burdened down with sin; the earth will fall, never again to get up.
  21. On that day the LORD will punish the powers in the heavens and the kings of the earth.
  22. He will put them in a pit and keep them prisoner. Then later on, he will punish them.
  23. The moon and sun will both be embarrassed and ashamed. The LORD All-Powerful will rule on Mount Zion in Jerusalem, where he will show its rulers his wonderful glory.

The scope of God's judgment broadens beginning with chapter 24 and continuing through chapter 27. This section is known as “Isaiah’s apocalypse.” Beginning with chapter 13 Isaiah delivers a series of oracles, or burdensome sayings, against Israel and Judah and the surrounding nations. "Isaiah's apocalypse" expands the oracles to include the whole earth serving as a "backdrop for the Lord’s eventual judgment on the whole world." (The Bible Knowledge Commentary) 

The reason for this judgment on the earth's inhabitants is that they have polluted the earth. Whatever God may think of the ecological pollution of the earth by its inhabitants, His greater concern is the moral pollution. This judgment comes because the earth's inhabitants have "transgressed teachings, overstepped decrees, and broken the everlasting covenant." (24:5) The resulting curse from this pollution comes upon the earth as well as its inhabitants. Thus "The earth will be stripped completely bare and will be totally plundered." (24:3) The earth's inhabitants will be burned leaving only a few survivors. Revelry will cease as will the tambourines, jubilant noise, and joyful lyre. "All joy grows dark; earth's rejoicing goes into exile." (24:11) A godly remnant will survive and these will raise their voices to proclaim the "majesty of the Lord." (24:14) 

However, for the treacherous who act treacherously, terror will pursue them. They will flee the sound of one terror only to fall prey to another. Though they may escape the pit, they will be caught in a snare. The earth will quake, splitting open and staggering like a drunkard. Then the "host of heaven above and kings of the earth below" will be gathered like prisoners and confined to a dungeon. This host of heaven may refer to spiritual forces opposed to God. Then "the LORD of Hosts will reign as king on Mount Zion in Jerusalem, and He will display His glory in the presence of His elders." (24:23)

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Reflections on Isaiah 23

    Isaiah 23 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. This is a message from distant islands about the city of Tyre: Cry, you seagoing ships! Tyre and its houses lie in ruins.
  2. Mourn in silence, you shop owners of Sidon, you people on the coast. Your sailors crossed oceans, making your city rich.
  3. Your merchants sailed the seas, making you wealthy by trading with nation after nation. They brought back grain that grew along the Nile.
  4. Sidon, you are a mighty fortress built along the sea. But you will be disgraced like a married woman who never had children.
  5. When Egypt hears about Tyre, it will tremble.
  6. All of you along the coast had better cry and sail far across the ocean.
  7. Can this be the happy city that has stood for centuries? Its people have spread to distant lands;
  8. its merchants were kings honored all over the world. Who planned to destroy Tyre?
  9. The LORD All-Powerful planned it to bring shame and disgrace to those who are honored by everyone on earth.
  10. People of Tyre, your harbor is destroyed! You will have to become farmers just like the Egyptians.
  11. The LORD's hand has reached across the sea, upsetting the nations. He has given a command to destroy fortresses in the land of Canaan.
  12. The LORD has said to the people of Sidon, "Your celebrating is over-- you are crushed. Even if you escape to Cyprus, you won't find peace."
  13. Look what the Assyrians have done to Babylonia! They have attacked, destroying every palace in the land. Now wild animals live among the ruins.
  14. Not a fortress will be left standing, so tell all the seagoing ships to mourn.
  15. The city of Tyre will be forgotten for seventy years, which is the lifetime of a king. Then Tyre will be like that evil woman in the song:
  16. You're gone and forgotten, you evil woman! So strut through the town, singing and playing your favorite tune to be remembered again.
  17. At the end of those seventy years, the LORD will let Tyre get back into business. The city will be like a woman who sells her body to everyone of every nation on earth,
  18. but none of what is earned will be kept in the city. That money will belong to the LORD, and it will be used to buy more than enough food and good clothes for those who worship the LORD.

Tyre receives the next oracle delivered by Isaiah. Tyre, located on the seacoast, was a center of trade and commerce from regions all over the middle east. This oracle against Tyre is the ninth oracle thus far in Isaiah, and of these nine, all have this in common: The threat against them was Assyria, and God was behind the threat. He was bringing to judgment all of these places, including Judah and Israel. Why were they being judged? A reason is given in verse 9 of this chapter. "The LORD All-Powerful planned it to bring shame and disgrace to those who are honored by everyone on earth." In other oracles it is mentioned that the subjects of the oracle looked to other gods instead of God or depended on themselves and other people rather than on God. A truth that can be gained from this is that the object of our trust and reliance will at some point be tested. Unless this object of our trust is God, it will fail the test and we will be brought down in the process. All truth will at some time be made plain and the truths of God along with the falsehood of other objects of trust will all be revealed. 

Tyre was an affluent city and was honored by the merchants of the earth because of her trade and Tyre prided herself in all this as well. For the people of Tyre and the merchants of the earth who traded in Tyre, affluence was their god - the object of their trust and worship. But this god could not stand up to the test that the true God would bring against it. Once it failed the test, those who placed their trust in it would be lost and would have nothing. And so, places such as Egypt would be "in anguish over the news of Tyre." (23:5) Inhabitants of the coastland would wail in mourning over the news.

This scenario brings to mind the present economic situation in the United States and many places in the world. The US has known much affluence and many have placed their trust in this affluence. But the financial systems that have made this affluence possible are now being tested and are proving to be faulty. Many who have placed their trust in these financial systems are finding the object of their trust to be failing them and are lost and many are being brought down without any safety net to catch them. Those who place their trust in the Lord may also be hurt by the failure of these financial systems, but their trust is in the Lord, not in those systems. He is their safety net. He will provide beyond the failure of these financial systems.