January 23, 2015.
Daily Reading: Isaiah 12-17.
Background: Isaiah 6-11.
Concepts and Connections.
Praising the Lord for His steadfast love and salvation: After oracles of the coming destruction and captivity and oracles of the Messiah, the prophet’s words turn to praise and honor for the Great King, Almighty, Lord of hosts. There is salvation in His name, for He has turned back His anger and dealt with us gently. He has shown us His mercy and offered us His grace. For this we should praise Him, and we will indeed praise HIm. The prophet reminds us that man should put his full trust in the Lord, and through this submission to His will and power, we will have no need to be afraid. What a liberating experience the prophet calls for in this chapter! It is no wonder that praise flows out through his words, even to the ends of the earth. For we have a God who is worthy to be praised, the Holy One of Israel who sits in the midst of Zion. Let us trust fully in the Lord and not fear what man can do to us (see Psalm 56:11 and Hebrews 13:6).
1. The day of the Lord: This phrase is often used in the context of a coming destruction or visitation of the Lord. In prophecy, “the day of the Lord” sometimes has to do with an upcoming detrimental event, the coming Messiah or the end of times. Here it seems that the prophet is referring to the fall of the kingdom of Babylon after they had taken Judah into captivity. This coming overthrow of Babylon is also prophesied by the story of the hand writing on the wall in Daniel 5, where Daniel interprets the writing for King Belshazzar (of Babylon) as a message from God telling him that He had removed the kingdom from his hand and given it to another (see Daniel 5:24-28). Babylon was a prideful and wicked nation in the sight of the Lord, and for this He would overthrow them.
2. The Lord uses who He will to execute His will: The reason that Babylon had been able to take Judah captive was because God used them to punish His people for following after other gods. Babylon was simply an extension of God’s will which He used as He saw fit. The Lord will use whoever He wants, regardless of their righteousness, to execute His will. Babylon was not righteous, but God used them anyway. However, due to their unrighteousness and arrogance, God would also destroy them when the time came to it. As we have seen before, the Lord had taken the kingdom from Babylon and given it to another nation, the Medes and the Persians (see Daniel 3:1-7 for a prophecy of the 4 world kingdoms). This would be the immediate fulfillment of the prophecy, but not the ultimate fulfillment. As we have seen before, prophecy often has a double fulfillment, as is the case here. Babylon would indeed change hands, but eventually it would be completely destroyed as is talked about at the end of this chapter. History bears out the full and utter fulfillment of this prophecy, as Babylon went through a series of sacks throughout history and was laid desolate. The point is, the Lord will use who He will to execute His will and judgement.
Pride is a deadly sin: A major theme in this chapter is the oracle against the nation of Babylon. Notice what is cited most for their coming destruction: pride (see v. 11-14). Some would say this passage is concerning Satan’s sin of pride and fall from heaven, but the immediate context would seem to better suggest that the oracle is speaking of the pride of a nation that is leading towards it own destruction (see Proverbs 16:18). In Daniel 4, there is a great insight to how prideful the king of Babylon was, and what God did to humble king Nebuchadnezzar. The Lord made Nebuchadnezzar go mad and graze with the cattle of the field just as he was saying how great he was for building the mighty nation of Babylon. In Isaiah 14, the children of Israel are depicted as giving a taunt to Babylon after they are destroyed, showing the humility that was to come upon this once great nation. The lesson we can take from this is that God hates a prideful spirit (it is one of the seven “cardinal” sins, see Proverbs 6:16-19). If there were a list of the rank that God had for sins, pride would likely find itself near the top. Humble yourselves before the mighty hand of God, and He will lift you us (ref. I Peter 5:6, James 4:10).
Moab: The nation of Moab is descendant from Lot, Abraham’s nephew. In Genesis 19:37-38, we learn that Lot had two sons by an incestuous relationship with his two daughters (brought on by his daughters after they made him drunk) named Ben-Ammi and Moab, who became the fathers of two mighty and evil nations, the Ammonites and Moabites. The Moabites had become a thorn in the side of the Israelites, and the Lord gives this oracle to them as a warning of the coming destruction, though they don’t expect it.The oracle is a little different than the once concerning Babylon and the other nations in the previous chapters in that it seems to focus on the lament and sadness that will occur over the nation of Moab, whereas the other oracles spoke more about the nation’s actual destruction.
The wrath of God: It is quite popular in the Christian society today to focus on the steadfast love and mercy of God while foregoing His wrathful side. It is true that we serve a loving and merciful savior who has shown us unmeasurable grace. Yet, it would be a complete disservice to the Almighty to only focus on one of His wonderful attributes and ignore all the others that are revealed to us in scripture. There is a lot to be said about the wrath of God, as we can evidently see in these chapters which contain oracles of destruction. God is a righteous God, holy and true, who cannot be associated with sin. Because of this, He pours out His righteous judgment on the people who are not willing to repent and accept His grace. There were many nations in the Old Testament that received this wrath due to their iniquity and hardness of heart, but the Old Testament is not the only place where the wrath of God is seen. The New Testament too depicts both sides of God, His mercy and His righteousness, and we should not only focus on one or the other. God has revealed His characteristics to us for a reason, and we would be wise not to overlook such a glorious revelation. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the Almighty (see Hebrews 10:30, 12:29).
Forgetting God: The oracle concerning Damascus is not all that different from the other oracles that are found in this region of scripture. It would seem that God was keen on warning the nations of the wrath to come, perhaps giving them an opportunity to repent, as He did for the wicked city of Nineveh (see Jonah 3-4). Notice, however, the reason that Damascus would be destroyed: they had forgotten the God of their salvation (v. 10). Israel had gone after other gods, committing spiritual adultery and grieving God. They had forgotten their Maker, and for that they would be destroyed. However, just a few verses above this, it is said that after the destruction, man would look to his Maker, the Holy One of Israel, and no longer to the other gods which plagued their spirituality. The Lord our God is a jealous God (see Exodus 34:14) and will not accept man worshiping anything else besides Him, for there is no other god but the Lord. The lesson we should take from these oracles is the importance that God has placed on devotion to Him and not setting other things in His place, forming idols for ourselves. We do not have to worship a physical, carved idol to have something that we put in our heart above the place where God should be enthroned. We need to be careful that He reign in our highest seat and that we are walking in His will rather than our own. We must not forget God, lest the judgment that was to come upon these nations come upon us spiritually as well.
Tomorrow’s Reading: Matthew 5-7.
Do not give need to have an oracle given concerning you.