February 8


Isaiah 21-24

We are in The Prophetic Stream in the book of Isaiah. We are reading from the New King James Version this week. Isaiah is still pronouncing judgments against the neighbors of Judah, a man named Shebna, Jerusalem and ultimately the earth.

Heavenly Father, You warn and warn and warn and still there will be a scary amount of people who don’t come to you but strive onward into a tornado field with their hapless survival plans.  Jesus, YOU ARE our shield and refuge. Where can we go and where can we run but into your arms and into your presence? We thank you for being a God who has reached out to us and made the way plain and made it known to all of us. Help us to be faithful. Help us to be true. Help us to follow your words and not seek our own way. We thank you for your care and your provision in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Isaiah keeps it coming as he talks in these chapters.  It is ca. 720-710 B.C. .  There is much talk these days about safe places, safe houses, safe zones, getting comfort, cushy surroundings, la-la-blah.  Isaiah is scorching onward and he is making it rather clear that there is no safe place.  He has scorched the entire local known world and in today’s reading he talks apocalyptically about the whole world in our final chapter today.

21 – In chapter 21, we start with the fall of Babylon. Desert by the Sea is the opening phrase or reference today.  This is Babylon.  The builders of Babylon would go on to construct an intricate canal system, waterways, and irrigation complex and infrastructure of gardens in the city that were a wonder of the ancient world.  Isaiah is talking of the fall of all this happening in 539 B.C. when Cyrus storms in.  And Isaiah is not dropping it about Babylon going down…remember they aren’t even prominent yet and he’s denouncing Babylon here as he did in chapters 13-14.  Isaiah can see it, hear it, feel it.  It will be hub-bub-bigtime news and the world will shudder at the news that Babylon is going to be shattered.  The trauma continues as Edom has serious trouble coming their way too.  Dumah is Edom, btw.  Don’t be frustrated by this.  North Americans call Dallas “Big D”, NY is “The Big Apple”, Chicago is “The Windy City”.  Seir was the prominent city of Edom.  Verse 12 is telling, “Morning is coming, but also the night.”  That doesn’t sound good as their future has forever gone dark.  This Arabian region is the land between Edom and Babylon.  The Assyrians invaded this place in 715 B.C. so this prophecy is written 714 B.C. as Isaiah declares that all these Arabian cities will be mostly all killed off.  And these prophecies are given by the LORD God of Israel.  It stands to reason that if the truth and prophecy about all these other nations comes from Israel’s God, perhaps they should come to Israel hat in hand and be asking what the God of Israel asks of them since he knows their fate.  Just a thought.  This Arabian region was trounced through by Assyria 6-7 years after they had sacked Israel/northern kingdom (722-721 B.C.).

22 – The prophecy against Jerusalem is stinging and astonishing.  Isaiah tells the leaders, “You fled when they (the enemy) were not near, but in your fleeing, you ran TO them.”  This isn’t smart.  Residents of Jerusalem seem a bit crazed and touched in the head right about now.  Jerusalem is where the LORD has shown up for you for centuries, why are they not calling on Him?  Yes, the enemy is bearing down on you…and you are making all your calculations?  Why?  Yes, planning is good, but did the Exodus require any planning on your part?  No, God led and did it all.  This is a time to come to God and seek Him for shelter.  But Jerusalem is a ho-down party of feasting and slobbering down the wine like a convict’s death-row dinner the night before the gallows.  They will not mourn but instead are thinking they are going to die regardless so may as well go out “loaded” and with a full belly.  This strangely testifies to God’s theology: he saves us because of His goodness – not ours.  The Shebna and Eliakim section is better understood when you also read Isaiah 36 & II Kings 18:17ff.  This makes the Isaiah 22 passage more understandable.  Shebna was the faithless manager of the Temple that instigated the reckless party atmosphere.  

In fact, this is  the only oracle that Isaiah spoke against a man, this Shebna, who was the palace steward. His primary focus was to carve out this expensive tomb or sepulcher as it says in this passage out of solid rock, which was usually reserved for royalty.

Now a steward is kind of like the Royal CFO and that position gave him the opportunity to skim enough money off the top of whatever taxes were collected to be able to afford this luxury. So his focus is entirely on himself, not on the nation of Israel and certainly not on what God has to say on the nation of Israel. So this guy is not sitting in a very good place. God of course is completely aware of his plan and in this passage, he sentences him to die in this faraway land and he would never use the pricey tomb that he made.

Jerusalem will be spared in the 681 B.C. siege when Assyria dies, but the 586 B.C. event [Babylon’s burning of Jerusalem] will come.  Thus the illustration of ‘the peg’ that holds for a while.

23 – Tyre was the region from which the Phoenicians hailed. Sidon was north of Tyre.  Jezebel came from here.  Baal worship was rampant here.  They were a seafaring people and trade thrived.  So 150 years after Jezebel & Ahab, and Elijah’s countering ministry that made a mockery of the false god of this area, Isaiah is talking of a great judgment that is to fall on Trye.  The Nile is mentioned twice because grain from Egypt was marketed heavily through Tyre.  Notice that Tyre was a party – hearty town; could we say, ‘like Vegas’?  Well Tyre will have an Assyrian invasion and the people who would go to Tyre for revelry will bemoan the siege too.  Maybe they used to say, “what happens in Tyre…just…keeps happening in Tyre.”  God knows.  Tyre will be laid waste and desolate for Her restoration will not be a gracious victory as she rises again to continue her ‘whoring’.  She will have a lucrative career again, but the Lord will arrange for the cash to be transferred to God’s people.  Yes, again in history, the wicked will be storing up and God will move the money to the right people for the right reason.  Assyria laid siege to Tyre four different times in a 60-61 year period between 724 and 663 B.C  Isaiah was alive for the first three of these.  So as is seen many other times in history, Tyre pays and is going to keep paying for its commercializing, pedaling if you will, the paganism that is sternly warned against in the Bible.

24 – After an 11-chapter-tour of prophesying “the dirty lowdown” that each people would experience, guess who is next in Isaiah’s litany?  The whole world and all the people.  Heavens, this is rough stuff.  The dried up and languishing state of the disobedient.  No joy, no merriment, no music.  “The city” is in ruins!  It sounds like they all are!  

This chapter appears to break with the near future from Isaiah’s perspective to a distant future. The Earth is on trial because of the inhabitants and what they have done and there is no escape. Think of just about every apocalyptic movie you’ve seen about the end of the world and there is an element paralleled in this passage.

This chapter is worse than any evening news. Where should we place our hope in the midst of such a terrifying pronouncement?

Ezekiel 38 talks of an earthquake that topples every wall… Did God say every wall?  He said every wall.  Wow.  It seems that worship of God is the only safe activity to be engaged in; vv. 14-16.  There’s no place to flee: terror, betrayal, cascades falling on earth, ground torn and shredded.  Again, there is no safe place.  God’s punishment is being leveled prior to God coming to reign.  The signs of this will be unmistakable and everywhere.  When is all this that Isaiah is talking about?  You can reference Matthew 24; Jesus talking ca. 700 years later.  There is also II Peter 3:7-13; Peter talking about 67 A.D.  And Revelation 20; John talking 95-96 A.D. -800 years after Isaiah.  This is all terribly intense prophecy.  Those who are to walk through these days will not experience a moment of enjoyment, not one moment from beginning to the end of this trial.  And it seems that most are not going to survive.  It’s safe and smart to say that it is paramount that we spend our lives living on His side of the Law that He has prescribed for us to follow.  

Our hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.
I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus name
On Christ the solid rock, I stand all other ground is sinking sand.
All other ground is sinking sand.

Perhaps, you know that song, it’s one of my favorites. Hallelujah!

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