Tagged: Sennacherib

Isaiah 26: We Remember Your Name

Isaiah 26: Listen to an audio file

Isaiah 26: Download a worksheet for further study

Prologue

Where we are:

Part 1: Judgment

Part 2: Historical Interlude

Part 3: Salvation

Chapters 1-35

Chapters 36-39

Chapters 40-66

When this takes place:

Chapters 24-27 of Isaiah form a single prophecy. While it’s difficult to pinpoint the time in which it is given, it seems best to place it a short time before the attack by Sennacherib, king of Assyria, on Jerusalem in 701 B.C.

Key verse:

Isa. 26:13 – Lord, our God, other lords than You have ruled over us, but we remember Your name alone.

Quick summary:

In the context of chapters 24-27, Isaiah uses an analogy of the future destruction of all God’s enemies (chaps. 24-25) to urge the people of Judah to trust Him now (chaps. 26-27). Although God is using the Assyrians as the rod of His judgment against Judah, those who place their faith in the Lord and endure the childbirth-like pains of His correction (vv. 17-18) will rejoice in His salvation: “Yes, Lord, we wait for You in the path of Your judgments. Our desire is for Your name and renown” (v. 8).

Take note:

Some would argue there’s a contradiction in chapter 26. In verse 14 Isaiah declares that “the dead do not live, departed spirits do not rise up.” Then, in verse 19, he states that “your dead will live; their bodies will rise.” How can both be true? The Apologetics Study Bible explains: “This apparent conflict vanishes when the statements are placed in context. He [Isaiah] referred to past oppressors of Israel, the ‘wicked’ who act ‘unjustly’ (v. 10), the ‘other lords’ who had ruled over God’s people and whom God had already ‘visited and destroyed’ (vv. 13-14). These oppressors could no longer attack God’s people. The situation changed with verse 19; in the future God’s people who die will live … a person can have life after death. The fact that Elijah and Elisha brought to life two boys who had died (1 Kg 17:17-24; 2 Kg 4:18-37), and that a dead man came back to life when his body touched the bones of Elisha (2 Kg 13:20-21), indicates that individual resurrection from the dead was known and experienced long before the time of Isaiah” (pp 1024-25).

The Song of Judah (Isa. 26:1-6)

Although Jerusalem will be surrounded in Isaiah’s day, and vanquished a century later by the Babylonians, the day is coming when Israel’s remnant will sing of their glorious reversal of fortune as they enter the impregnable New Jerusalem. The humble will be exalted and the oppressors crushed. Because of Messiah’s presence there, the city figuratively is said to have salvation as its walls and ramparts (v. 1). While other nations will have places in the kingdom, believers in Israel will hold special positions.

The Lord promises perfect (genuine, complete) peace to those who trust Him – now, as well as in the Millennium (v. 3). The apostle Paul reminds us of this great truth in Phil. 4:7: “And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck write, “This availability of inner tranquility encourages believers to continue trusting the Lord (Isa. 26:4) because He is firm like a Rock … and He is eternal” (The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, S. 1:1074). For other Scriptures that describe the Lord as a Rock, see Ps. 73:26 (“strength” literally means rock); Isa. 17:10, 30:29, and 44:8.

“The Hebrew word for ‘peace’ (shalom) means much more than a cessation of war. It includes blessings such as wholeness, health, quietness of soul, preservation, and completeness. ‘What is your peace?’ is the way Jews often greet one another; and Isaiah’s reply would be, ‘My peace is from the Lord, for I trust wholly in Him!’ Paul’s counsel in Philippians 4:6-9 is based on Isaiah 26:3″ (Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Comforted, S. Is 26:1).

In contrast with the righteous who enter the city are the arrogant who “live in lofty places” (v. 5); the Lord will bring them down. Those who used their wealth and privilege to oppress the poor will be on the business end of God’s rod of justice. This does not mean that poverty itself is a virtue. Isaiah simply repeats an oft-repeated message that God has special concern for the poor who seek Him (Isa. 25:4; Matt. 11:5; Luke 4:18).

The Long Night of Waiting (Isa. 26:7-18)

Isaiah describes a level and straight path for the righteous, cleared by God Himself. “In the Yukon of old, one man was often sent ahead to ‘break trail’ for others or a dog sled. This passage reminds us that a righteous God has already broken trail for those who follow Him because they are committed to righteousness too” (Lawrence O. Richards, The Bible Readers Companion, electronic ed., S. 424). As a result, God’s redeemed “wait” for Him, “desire” His name and renown, “long” for Him in the night, and diligently “seek” Him in order to “learn righteousness” (vv. 8-9). What a dramatic change occurs in the hearts of men and women when they learn to trust God above all else.

The struggles of Judah returning to God are like the pains of childbirth. Isaiah writes that the nation is writhing in anguish beneath the punishing hand of God. Like a pregnant woman giving birth to wind, Judah experiences emptiness and defeat through its sinful acts. The Hebrew verb in verse 13 translated “ruled over” gives us the noun baal, the Canaanite storm god whose worship caused so much trouble in Israel. But the word also means “husband,” so the message is that God’s people were not faithful to Him, preferring to pursue their lust for idols. The same image is given in James 4:4: “Adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? So whoever wants to be the world’s friend becomes God’s enemy.” Even so, the Lord graciously carries His people through and keeps His covenant. For other comparisons of spiritual struggle to childbirth, see Isa. 13:8, 42:14; John 16:21; Gal. 4:19.
Isaiah’s comment about the dead tyrants who have troubled Judah (v. 14) do not contradict the doctrine of universal resurrection supplied in verse 19 and elsewhere in Scripture (see, for example, Job 19:25-27; Ps. 17:15; Dan. 12:1-3; John 5:28-29, 1 Cor. 15:50-58; 1 Thess. 4:13-18; Rev. 20:11-15). The prophet simply is emphasizing that the rulers who wrought so much terror and destruction on God’s people can no longer do them harm. Lawrence O. Richards comments in The Bible Readers Companion: “Storms of judgment may sweep over our earth. Wars may devastate, and disease may ravage. Famines may decimate the land, while starvation stalks our families. There are indeed dread fates that are to be feared. But these are not history’s last words! At the end of history – both the history of nations and the personal history of each individual – the shout of God’s promise echoes. ‘Your dead will live; their bodies will rise!’ What a truth to hold fast in troubled times” (S. 424).

Resurrection and Judgment (Isa. 26:19-21)

This is a most revealing Old Testament passage on future resurrection and judgment. While these verses focus on the resurrection of the just – the “first resurrection” of which John wrote in Rev. 20:5-6 – Daniel adds that the unjust also will be raised and that all people will experience eternal life or eternal shame (Dan. 12:2). What a comfort these words are to those experiencing warfare, captivity, injustice, and even death. The promise that God will raise all people one day and pronounce final judgment with absolute justice should spur fear in the hearts of the wicked as it does hope in the hearts of the righteous.

Although views differ on the order of events, the New Testament clearly teaches future resurrection and final judgment for all people:

  • Jesus often speaks of His return and final judgment. For example, in John 5:28-29 He says all people will be raised from the dead and experience either everlasting life or condemnation.
  • The apostle Paul writes in detail about the rapture (“catching up” / “snatching away”) of the church in 1 Cor. 15:50-58 and 1 Thess. 4:13-18, as well as judgment and reward for all believers (Rom. 14:10; 2 Cor. 5:10).
  • The apostle John refers several times to resurrection and final judgment in the book of Revelation. He alludes to the rapture by not mentioning the church from Rev. 4-18, chapters depicting the tribulation. He also speaks of the “first resurrection,” or resurrection of the just, in Rev. 20:5-6. And he writes in some detail about the raising of the wicked to stand before the great white throne, from which they are cast into hell (Rev. 20:11-15).

Verse 20 urges God’s people to “hide for a little while until the wrath has passed.” “When God is about to take vengeance on the ungodly, the saints shall be shut in by Him in a place of safety, as Noah and his family were in the days of the flood (Ge 7:16), and as Israel was commanded not to go out of doors on the night of the slaying of the Egyptian first-born (Ex 12:22, 23; Ps 31:20; 83:3). The saints are calmly and confidently to await the issue (Ex 14:13, 14)” (Robert Jamieson, A.R. Fausset, David Brown, A Commentary, Critical and Explanatory, on the Old and New Testaments,  S. Is 26:20).

Finally, verse 21 gives Judah the assurance that God will deal with her oppressors – Assyria in the near term and Babylon in the long term. Even more, this verse previews the glorious appearing of the Messiah one day to execute judgment upon the earth’s wicked (see Rev. 19:11-21).

Closing Thought

Commenting on the phrase in verse 21, “The earth will reveal the blood shed on it and will no longer conceal her slain,” Matthew Henry writes: “Secret murders, and other secret wickednesses, shall be discovered, sooner or later. And the slain which the earth has long covered she shall no longer cover, but they shall be produced as evidence against the murderers. The voice of Abel’s blood cries from the earth, Gen. 9:10, 11; Job 20:27. Those sins which seemed to be buried in oblivion will be called to mind, and called over again, when the day of reckoning comes. Let God’s people therefore wait awhile with patience, for behold the Judge stands before the door” (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged in One Volume, S. Is 26:20).

Copyright 2009 by Rob Phillips

Isaiah 25: He Will Destroy Death Forever

Isaiah 25: Listen to an audio file (4.26.09)

Download a worksheet on Isaiah 25 for further study

Prologue

Where we are:

Part 1: Judgment

Part 2: Historical Interlude

Part 3: Salvation

Chapters 1-35

Chapters 36-39

Chapters 40-66

When this takes place:

Isaiah 24-27 forms a single prophecy. While it’s difficult to pinpoint the time in which it is given, it seems best to place it a short time before the attack by Sennacherib, king of Assyria, on Jerusalem in 701 B.C.

Key verse:

Isa. 25:8 – He will destroy death forever. The Lord God will wipe away the tears from every face and remove His people’s disgrace from the whole earth, for the Lord has spoken.

Quick summary:

Speaking in the first person, Isaiah describes conditions when Messiah’s kingdom is established on earth. “This wonderful twenty-fifth chapter is a song, a song of three stanzas,” writes J. Vernon McGee. The first stanza (vv. 1-5) is praise to God for deliverance from all enemies. The second stanza (vv. 6-8) is praise for provision for present needs. And the third stanza (vv. 9-12) is praise in anticipation of future joys (Isaiah: Volume 1, pp. 175-178).

Take note:

New Testament writers Paul and John quote from this chapter as they anticipate the return of the Lord. Paul borrows from Isa. 25:8 when he writes about our future resurrection and glorification, “Death has been swallowed up in victory” (1 Cor. 15:54). And John, looking toward the day when believers will fellowship face-to-face with Christ, also quotes from verse 8: “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes” (Rev. 21:4).

Deliverance from Enemies (Isa. 25:1-5)

While there could be some immediate or near-term fulfillment in this song of thanksgiving, it’s probably best to view Isaiah’s praise through the longer lens of the establishment of God’s kingdom on earth. At that time all the enemies of God and His people will be humbled and there will be a dramatic reversal of fortune for the remnant that has suffered poverty, captivity and persecution. Isaiah’s confessional song expresses a personal choice to identify with the name and deeds of God. Claiming “Lord, You are my God,” Isaiah states his commitment to a personal relationship with the Creator and Judge of all. In a melodic way, the prophet declares the wonderful truth that God is personal, knowable, just and faithful.

Isaiah provides at least three reasons God’s people are to be thankful:

  • God is faithful to His plan. “Although Judah was being attacked by Assyria, the people could rest assured that what God has said about the future will happen exactly as predicted. Believers today can have the same confidence. Nothing is outside the plan or power of God; no evil or circumstances will interfere with God’s accomplishment of his will for his people” (Gary V. Smith, The New American Commentary, Isaiah 1-39, p. 430).
  • God will defeat His enemies. The identification of “the city” in verse 2 has been interpreted in a variety of ways, from a Moabite city (see v. 10) to Babylon. But perhaps it’s best to view this term as symbolic rather than specific, assuring us that even the best-defended walled cities – the seats of power and influence – will fall beneath the mighty hand of God.
  • God is a refuge to the weak. Isaiah uses two analogies to illustrate this truth. First, the Lord will be like a shelter that protects people from the scorching sun and the driving rain. That is, He will make sure the oppressive forces of evil will not overtake them. Second, He will be like the shade of a cloud that subdues the heat. Although wicked and barbarous people will always oppose God and His people, the Lord will restrain their evil as a cloud gives relief from the heat of the sun.

If chapters 24-25 are spoken just before Sannacherib’s attack on Jerusalem, Isaiah’s song of thanksgiving is an inspiration to those about to face a withering siege on their capital city. “Although this prophecy did not promise them deliverance from Assyrian oppression or victory in their present battle, it reminded them that everything happens according to God’s plan, that their God can do miraculous wonders to save his people, that God is a refuge in times of trouble, and that ultimately God will win the victory over all ruthless peoples” (Smith, p. 431).

Provision for Present Needs (Isa. 25:6-8)

When Messiah reigns, there will be a joyous celebration of His rule by people from around the world. As other passages in Isaiah confirm, Jews and Gentiles from every tribe and nation will gather to enjoy the abundance of the King’s provision (cf. Isa. 2:2-3; 14:1-2; 19:18-25; 45:20-25; 49:22; 60:1-22; 66:18-21). This feast is similar to what David envisions when God finally rules the earth (Ps. 22:25-31). The image of prosperity and fruitfulness stand in stark contrast to earthly conditions in Isaiah 24.

Besides all this, verses 7-8 tell us God is going to do even more. He will destroy death, wipe away tears from every face, and remove His people’s disgrace:

  • The burial “shroud” could be understood in two ways: first, as the covering for a dead body; and second, as a shroud that mourners place over their heads (see 2 Sam. 15:30). In either case, Isaiah sees a day when death is destroyed and there is no longer any need to fear death or to mourn the loss of loved ones. More than 700 years later, the apostle Paul looks forward to the same thing: “The last enemy to be abolished is death” (1 Cor. 15:26). Once the enemies of God in heaven and on earth are judged, the Lord will purge His creation of sin and its effects (2 Peter 3:10-13).
  • In addition, God promises the complete removal of tears – not just tears of mourning, but of sadness, pain, loneliness, oppression, injustice and all other kinds of loss. Since God is the Provider and Comforter, everyone will be happy and safe.
  • Finally, the Lord will “remove His people’s disgrace from the whole earth.” This is more than a promise to Israel, for at this point in human history all people are God’s people. The reproach His followers have suffered for their faith will be taken away and their sacrifices for the sake of the kingdom well compensated. The enemies of God and His people have been brought to justice in God’s court, found guilty and punished (see Rev. 20:11-15).

Anticipation of Future Joys (Isa. 25:9-12)

On that day, when the believing remnant is delivered and Messiah rules as King over the entire earth, the saved ones will rejoice in the Lord and reaffirm their trust in Him. For those in Isaiah’s day, they would see the miraculous hand of God in delivering Jerusalem from the Assyrians as He strikes dead 185,000 enemy soldiers. If God can deliver a city from certain destruction, He can – and will – deliver His people all around the world from the rampant wickedness of the last days.

Isaiah refers to Moab as representative of those who oppose God and will be destroyed. Moab lies east of Israel across the Dead Sea and is a constant enemy of God’s people. “Israel and Judah had many altercations with Moab, that was known for her pride (v.11; cf. 16:6). She felt that the works of her hands and her cleverness would protect her, but it would not. Moab – and all God’s enemies – will be totally destroyed, trampled, and brought down … low (cf. 26:5) to the very dust. Only God’s people, in Israel and other nations, will enjoy God’s time of prosperity and blessing” (John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, S. 1:1074).

Warren Wiersbe adds: “The imagery here is quite graphic: The Moabites are compared to straw trampled so deeply into manure that the people have to swim through the manure to get out! While the Jews are enjoying a feast of good things, the Moabites are trying to escape from the excrement of the animals the Jews are devouring! Moab was always known for its pride (16:6ff); but God will bring them low along with all the other nations that exalt themselves, exploit others, and refuse to submit to the Lord” (Be Comforted, S. Is 25:1).

Closing Thought

Matthew Henry writes, “There is no fortress impregnable to Omnipotence, no fort so high but the arm of the Lord can overtop it and bring it down. This destruction of Moab is typical of Christ’s victory over death (spoken of v. 8), his spoiling principalities and powers in his cross (Col. 2:15), his pulling down Satan’s strong-holds by the preaching of his gospel (2 Co. 10:4), and his reigning till all his enemies be made his footstool, Ps. 110:1″ (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged in One Volume, S. Is 25:9).

Isaiah 24: The Earth Mourns and Withers

Listen to “The Earth Mourns and Withers” (4.19.09)

Worksheet for Isaiah 24

Chart: The Tribulation and the Millennium – 4 Views

Prologue

Where we are:

Part 1: Judgment

Part 2: Historical Interlude

Part 3: Salvation

Chapters 1-35

Chapters 36-39

Chapters 40-66

When this takes place:

Isaiah 24-27 forms a single prophecy. While it’s difficult to pinpoint the time in which it is given, it seems best to place it a short time before the attack by Sennacherib, king of Assyria, on Jerusalem in 701 B.C.

Key verses:

Isa. 24:21-22 – On that day the Lord will punish the host of heaven above and kings of the earth below. They will be gathered together like prisoners in a pit. They will be confined to a dungeon; after many days they will be punished.

Quick summary:

This section of Isaiah begins with an end-times perspective explaining how the Lord will judge the whole world and set up His kingdom on earth (Isa. 24:1-3, 19-23). “These prophecies reveal how God will finally deal with the rebellious nations of chaps. 13-23 so that he can bring an end to the pride and violent sinfulness that has polluted the earth. God will destroy the wicked and establish peace on the earth, and then the holy people who remain will worship God alone and sing songs to exalt him” (Gary V. Smith, The New American Commentary: Isaiah 1-39, p. 405). Because of their description of the Tribulation and Millennium, chapters 24-27 are known as “Isaiah’s apocalypse.”

Take note:

Notice Isaiah’s description of end-time events that are reinforced in New Testament prophecies. For example, the earth will be stripped completely bare and its inhabitants scattered (vv. 1-3; cf. Rev. 8:6 – 9:21), and the sun and moon will darken in preparation for the full revelation of Messiah’s kingdom (v. 23; cf. Matt. 24:29-30; Rev. 21:23).

The Tribulation (Isa. 24:1-13, 16b-22)

While the immediate context of this chapter may refer to the Assyrian invasion of Judah, or to the Babylonian captivity that will occur more than 100 years later, it seems to have its ultimate fulfillment in the Great Tribulation yet to come. H.L. Willmington offers the following observations:

A. The Great Tribulationwhat it is (24:1-4, 6-13, 16b-22)

1.   God himself will lay waste to the entire earth (24:1): The earth will become a great wasteland, and the people will be scattered.

2.    All people and fallen angels will be judged (24:2-4, 21-22): No one will be spared from God’s wrath, and the fallen angels will be put in prison.

3.   Very few will survive (24:6): A curse will consume the earth and its people, who will be destroyed by fire.

4.   Happiness will no longer exist (24:7-13): All joy in life will be gone.

5.   Evil and treachery will be everywhere (24:16b-18): People possessed by sheer terror will flee from one danger only to be confronted with something even more horrifying.

6.   The earth will stagger like a drunkard (24:19-20): It will fall and collapse like a tent, unable to rise again because of the weight of its sins.

B. The Great Tribulationwhy it occurs (24:5): Humanity has twisted the laws of God and has broken his holy commands (The Outline Bible, S. Is 24:5).

Isaiah uses the word “earth” 16 times in this chapter to emphasize the global impact of God’s intervention in human affairs, wielding judgment and exalting His glory. No stratum of society is spared and no portion of the earth escapes unscathed. The reason for God’s plundering of the earth is provided in verse 5: “The earth is polluted by its inhabitants, for they have transgressed teachings, overstepped decrees, and broken the everlasting covenant.” That covenant “probably refers not to the Abrahamic or Mosaic Covenants but to the covenant people implicitly had with God to obey His Word. Right from the very beginning mankind refused to live according to God’s Word (Gen. 2:16-17; 3:1-6; cf. Hosea 6:7). And throughout history people have refused to obey God’s revelation” (John F. Walvoord, Roy B. Zuck, The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, S. 1:1072). Robert B. Hughes and Carl J. Laney add, “The ‘everlasting covenant’ must refer to the moral law of God revealed in his word and written in man’s heart (cf. Rom. 2:14-15)” (Tyndale Concise Bible Dictionary, S 263).

It cannot be emphasized too strongly that God is the one wreaking havoc on the earth. While people are responsible for their sinful actions, and these actions often produce great hardship for the perpetrators and for others in the process, the Lord of Hosts clearly is demonstrating His holiness and power in events that otherwise might be interpreted as a scorched-earth policy. After all, if God created the present heavens and earth out of chaos (Gen. 1:2) and judged the earth by water in the great flood (Gen. 6-9), He has every right to judge mankind’s sin in the latter days by reintroducing chaos to the created order. Ultimately, He will purge the heavens and earth of the last vestiges of sin by fire and create new heavens and a new earth (2 Peter 3:5-13; Rev. 21-22). Even the imagery of Isaiah in verse 18 harkens back to the flood: “For the windows are opened from above, and the foundations of the earth are shaken” (cf. Gen. 7:11).

Matthew Henry summarizes well:

The Lord that made the earth, and made it fruitful and beautiful, for the service and comfort of man, now makes it empty and waste (v. 1), for its Creator is and will be its Judge; he has an incontestable right to pass sentence upon it and an irresistible power to execute that sentence. It is the Lord that has spoken this word, and he will do the work (v. 3); it is his curse that has devoured the earth (v. 6), the general curse which sin brought upon the ground for man’s sake (Gen. 3:17), and all the particular curses which families and countries bring upon themselves by their enormous wickedness. See the power of God’s curse, how it makes all empty and lays all waste; those whom he curses are cursed indeed (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged in One Volume, S. Is 24:1).

One final note should be made before moving on. Isaiah writes that the Lord will punish “the host of heaven above and the kings of the earth below” (v. 21). The “host of heaven” may refer to the spiritual forces opposed to God, specifically Satan and demons. The “kings of the earth below” no doubt are the earthly political forces facing God’s judgment. “Those powers in the heavens and on the earth will become like cattle when the Lord herds them together and places them like prisoners . . . in a dungeon. Their punishment after many days refers to the great white throne judgment after the Millennium when all the unrighteous will have to stand before God and be judged for their evil deeds and lack of faith in Him (Rev. 20:11-15)” (The Bible Knowledge Commentary, S. 1:1072).

The Promised Kingdom (Isa. 24:14-16a, 23)

A few will escape these terrible judgments, just as a few olives or grapes may be gleaned after the harvest (v. 13). The survivors will rejoice, raising their voices in songs of praise that may be heard from “the ends of the earth” (v. 16). This singing seems to come out of the scattered remnant, which in the light of the gospel may be seen as Jews and Gentiles alike (cf. John 11:52). “Out of this terrible devastation … will come the glorious light of Christ in his millennial kingdom (24:23; see 60:19-20; Rev. 21:23; 22:5)” (Willmington’s Bible Handbook, S. 365). If the sun and moon are to lose their luster in comparison with the Messiah, what a surpassing vision of glory awaits all who trust in Him (see Rev. 21:22-27).

It’s important to keep in mind that the concept of a remnant is central to Isaiah’s teaching (see Isa. 1:9; 10:20-22; 11:11, 16; 14:22, 30). The believing remnant will view the earth’s devastation as the righteous act of a holy God; it will not be viewed in the way the people of Isaiah’s day see the Assyrian invasion – as cruel and unjust punishment. Those who receive Christ by faith today may joyfully anticipate His future physical and visible manifestation of power, glory and holiness.

Closing Thought

Matthew Henry writes: “Those who through grace can glory in tribulation ought to glorify God in tribulation, and give him thanks for their comforts, which abound as their afflictions do abound. We must in every fire, even the hottest, in every isle, even the remotest, keep up our good thoughts of God. When, though he slay us, yet we trust in him-when, though for his sake we are killed all the day long, yet none of these things move us-then we glorify the Lord in the fires” (S. Is 24:13).

Copyright 2009 by Rob Phillips

Isaiah 22: What’s the Matter with You?

Listen to an audio file (3.29.09)

Download a worksheet for further study

Prologue

Where we are:

Part 1: Judgment

Part 2: Historical Interlude

Part 3: Salvation

Chapters 1-35

Chapters 36-39

Chapters 40-66

When this takes place:

This oracle against Jerusalem is offered during the reign of Hezekiah and speaks both to the imminent invasion by the Assyrians and the future destruction by the Babylonians more than 100 years in the future.

Key verses:

Isa. 22:12-13 – On that day the Lord God of Hosts called for weeping, for wailing, for shaven heads, and for the wearing of sackcloth. But look: joy and gladness, butchering of cattle, slaughtering of sheep, eating of meat, and drinking of wine — “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die!”

Quick summary:

Warren W. Wiersbe writes, “The people of Judah were behaving like their pagan neighbors, so it was only right that Isaiah should include them in the list of nations God would judge. Yes, in His mercy, the Lord would deliver Jerusalem from the Assyrian army; but He would not deliver them from Babylon. Isaiah pointed out two particular sins that would cause Judah to decline and ultimately go into Captivity in Babylon … [t]he unbelief of the people … [and] the unfaithfulness of the leaders” (Be Comforted, An Old Testament Study, S. Is 22:1).

Take note:

The “Valley of Vision” is a reference to Jerusalem, which even though located on Mt. Moriah is situated in a valley surrounded by higher hills (Ps. 125:2; Isa. 2:3; Jer. 21:13). The Valley of Kidron runs between two hills east of Jerusalem, the seat of divine revelation. Jerome calls it “the nursery of prophets.” From this city God reveals Himself to, and through, the prophet Isaiah. “The point seems to be that Jerusalem has received message after message (i.e., ‘vision’) from God and yet failed to really hear” (Lawrence O. Richards, The Bible Readers Companion, electronic ed., S. 422).

The Valley of Vision (Isa. 22:1-14)

While some portions of this passage refer to the Assyrian invasion in Hezekiah’s day (see Isa. 36-37; 2 Kings 18-19; 2 Chron. 32), the primary emphasis is on the Babylonian conquest of Jerusalem in 586 B.C. Isaiah provides a stark contrast between Jerusalem’s gaiety and its grim future (vv. 2a, 13). Possibly, the prophet refers to the celebration that will take place when Assyria’s Sennacherib retreats (see Isa. 37:37); to Judah’s overconfidence in Jerusalem’s defenses; or to the escapism that reveals the moral bankruptcy of Jerusalem’s citizens as they face inevitable destruction. In any case, their philosophy is, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die” (v. 13b; cf. 1 Cor. 15:32).

Rather than partake in the revelry on the rooftops, Isaiah descends into the valley, where he sees people dying, not from battle wounds, but from starvation and disease (v. 2). He sees the nation’s leaders running for their lives as the invading hoards descend on the capital city (vv. 3-7; 2 Kings 25:1-10). The people do what they can to brace themselves for a long siege, collecting armor, fortifying the walls, and securing a supply of water, but their efforts will come to naught as the Lord “remove[s] the defenses of Judah” (vv. 8-11). Longer term, many will find themselves mired in an entitlement mentality, thinking, “Just as God delivered us from the Assyrians, He must also save us from the Babylonians. After all, we’re His chosen people.” Quite the contrary, the Lord will use the pagan Babylonians as His rod of judgment against the eat-drink-and-be-merry citizens of Judah.

“The people did everything but trust the Lord,” writes Warren Wiersbe. “Instead of feasting, they should have been fasting, weeping, putting on sackcloth, and pulling out their hair in grief (v. 12; Ezra 9:3; James 4:8-10). God had sent the nation many prophets to warn them, but the people would not listen. Now it was too late; their sins could not be forgiven because their hearts were hard. Judah would go into captivity, and God’s word to Isaiah would be fulfilled (Isa. 6:9-13)” (Be Comforted, S. Is 22:1).

A Warning to Shebna (Isa. 22:15-25)

There might be hope for Judah if the leaders would call the people to repentance, but too many leaders like Shebna have only themselves in mind. Shebna is identified as a steward in charge of the king’s palace. He may be Hezekiah’s chief administrator or prime minister who carries out the will of the king; if so, he is second in command and deeply involved in mounting defenses against Sennacherib’s military forces.

Isaiah is sent to Shebna, who is more concerned with building a monumental tomb for himself and acquiring chariots than he is with honoring the king and serving his country. Likely, he sides with the pro-Egypt party in Judah. Isaiah’s question cuts to chase: “What are you doing here?” (the construction site of his tomb). The young steward’s actions belie his wicked heart, and Isaiah informs him that the Lord is about to shake him violently (v. 17). “God judged Shebna by demoting him (he became ‘secretary’ according to 36:3, NIV), disgracing him, and deporting him. Eventually he was thrown ‘like a ball’ (22:18) into a far country (Assyria?), where he died. He could not have an expensive funeral and be buried in his elaborate tomb” (Be Comforted, S. Is 22:1).

Isaiah predicts that Eliakim will replace Shebna, and apparently Isa. 36:3 shows the fulfillment of this prophecy. Eliakim will be like a father to the people, “a throne of honor for his father’s house” (v. 23). The “key” in verse 22 is a symbol of authority that a steward has over the house. Jesus makes reference to this when he tells Peter He will give him “the keys of the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 16:19). The New Manners and Customs of the Bible provides some interesting insight into the references to keys by Isaiah and Jesus:

The idea contained in both these passages is expressed in Isaiah 9:6, where it is said of the Messiah: “the government will be on his shoulders.” The word keys is used figuratively again when Jesus says to Peter: “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven” (Matthew 16:19)…. Matthew 16:18 has caused considerable controversy, but verse 19 has been even more fiercely debated. Nothing in either verse, however, suggests the possibility that Peter or any of the apostles were given authority to forgive sins. The words bind and loose are rabbinic terms meaning to forbid and to permit. Keys were the symbol of knowledge or the fruit of the scribal or teaching office…. The use of those keys-knowledge of the gospel-would build the church. Peter did precisely this at Pentecost (Acts 2:14), at Samaria (Acts 8:14), and for Cornelius the Gentile (Acts 10). Phillip did it at Samaria (Acts 8:5), and Paul did it throughout all of Asia (Acts 19:10). To say that only Peter had the keys to heaven would give the power of salvation to Peter and not to the gospel: “the gospel … is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile” (Romans 1:16) (S. 355).

Another illustration is given to us in the “peg” in verse 23. This is not, as some might think, a reference to a wooden tent peg that is driven into the ground. Rather, Isaiah compares Eliakim to a peg that is driven into the wall to hold up kitchen utensils or other items. However, if the people trust wholly in Eliakim, rather than in God, they will be disappointed, for the weight of their burdens will shear off the peg and all that hangs upon it will fall. Some commentators believe Eliakim’s advancement results in corruption of his family, eventually leading to a fall, while others see Eliakim as a type of Christ, the latter of which would take all mankind’s burdens upon Himself (see Isa. 53:4-6). In any case, Isaiah’s message is consistently clear: Trust God.

Closing Thought

Gary V. Smith comments: “Leaders who fail to lead people to depend on God will not last; instead, God will raise up true servants (22:20) who care for others, like a father cares for his children (22:21). God will firmly establish them and give them great opportunities for service and influence (22:22). Nevertheless, people are not the basis for a secure future in any organization; God is the only truly dependable resource for hope” (The New American Commentary: Isaiah 1-39, p. 394).

Copyright 2009 by Rob Phillips

Isaiah 16: An Object of Contempt

Listen to an audio file (2.8.09)

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Prologue

Where we are:

Part 1: Judgment

Part 2: Historical Interlude

Part 3: Salvation

Chapters 1-35

Chapters 36-39

Chapters 40-66

When this takes place:

Chapter 16 is a continuation of the prophecy against Moab that begins in chapter 15. It likely takes place during the reign of Hezekiah when the Assyrians are trying to gain control of the countries around Judah; however, some scholars place this earlier, about three years prior to Assyria’s invasion in 732 B.C.

Key verse:

Isa. 16:14  And now the Lord says, “In three years, as a hired worker counts years, Moab’s splendor will become an object of contempt, in spite of a very large population. And those who are left will be few and weak.”

Quick summary:

Arriving in Edom, the Moabite refugees should turn to God through their neighbor Israel, but in pride they refuse to do so. As a result, the fruitfulness of their land will cease.

Take note:

Isaiah provides a three-year time frame for fulfillment of this prophecy. Whether this is Sennacherib’s invasion in 701 B.C. or an earlier invasion is not clear. However, Isaiah’s listeners throughout Judah and Moab are able to see the fulfillment of his prophecy and confirm that he is speaking the word of the Lord. If the short-term prophecies come to pass, Isaiah’s credibility is enhanced as he foretells Judah’s judgment, the virgin birth of the Messiah, and the Messiah’s reign on the throne of David.

The Plea of Moab (Isa. 16:1-5)

The one place the Assyrians cannot conquer is Jerusalem, although they have tried (see Isa. 36-37). But rather than flee to Mt. Zion, the Moabite refugees flee south to the fords of the Arnon River and the rock city of Sela (Petra) in Edom. From there, they send a request for asylum to the king of Judah, along with sheep as a form of tribute (see 2 Kings 3:4).

Isaiah is not impressed with their plea. He calls the Moabites extortionists, spoilers and oppressors, and says the nation is destined to be destroyed. Why so harsh? Because the Moabites want Judah’s protection but not Judah’s God. Verse 5 is messianic, pointing to the day when the Messiah will sit on the throne of David and reign in righteousness and mercy. 

The Pride of Moab (Isa. 16:6-14)

Warren Wiersbe’s comments on these verses are instructive:

We can understand the pride of a city like Babylon (14:12-14), but what did the tiny nation of Moab have to boast about? Their pride kept them from submitting to Judah, and this led to their defeat. Their boasting would turn into wailing and their songs into funeral dirges. Moab would become like a vineyard trampled down and a fruitful field left unharvested. Isaiah 16:9-11 describes the prophet’s grief-and the Lord’s grief-over the destruction of Moab. “I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked” (Ezek. 33:11). Isaiah could have rejoiced at the destruction of an old enemy, but instead, he wept (Prov. 24:17-18)” (Be Comforted, S. Is 15:1).

Moab’s pride (v. 6) is perhaps best understood in light of her idolatry (v. 12). Although on the run from the Assyrians and facing certain defeat, the Moabites reject Israel’s God and cling instead to the idol Chemosh on Mt. Nebo. There, Isaiah points out, the Moabites will become fatigued with burdensome and empty rituals, and their prayers will not prevail.

Chemosh is the national god of the Moabites, known as the destroyer, subduer, or fish-god. In Scripture, the Moabites are called the “people of Chemosh” (Num. 21:29; Jer. 48:7, 13, 46). Solomon, under the influence of his idolatrous wives, introduced the Israelites to the worship of Chemosh. He built a high place in the mount before Jerusalem (1 Kings 11:7), but Josiah abolished this idolatrous worship (2 Kings 23:13).

The Moabites have always had close ties with Israel (see Gen. 19:30-38; Ruth 4:10, 18-22) but oppose them spiritually and politically (see Num. 25; Judges 3:12-14; 1 Sam. 14:47; 2 Sam. 8:2, 11-12; 2 Kings 3). The Lord makes it clear that her day of reckoning will come within three years. Whether Assyria’s invasion in 732 B.C. or 701 B.C. is in view – it is difficult to set this chapter specifically in either time frame – most people who hear this prophecy live to see it fulfilled and learn that the God of Israel, unlike the idol Chemosh, is true and trustworthy.

Final Thought

The prophecy concerning Moab makes several key theological points, according to Gary V. Smith: “First, God controls what is happening to all the people on earth and he understands why they wail and suffer pain and ruin…. Second, God’s message and his relationship with people is one of identification with the pain of the sufferer (15:5; 16:9)…. Third, God warns people about the future and then confronts them with their errors (particularly pride) for two reasons: (a) so that they will have some comprehension of why they will suffer (16:6), and (b) so that they will have an opportunity to choose a different path” (New American Commentary: Isaiah 1-39, p. 338).

Copyright 2009 by Rob Phillips