THE BOOK OF ISAIAH
A Fearful Judgment by Invasion
Isaiah 12-13 4/28/13 SCC
Here is an excerpt from the journal of Luke ‘Strider’ Jordan attempting to hike the longest trail in America: the North Country Trail 4600 miles long. Tue. April 23 Trail Day 028 Miles hiked: 17
With much struggle I make it back to the other side of the blowdown where that last blaze is clearly visible. I get my snowshoes out again to put them back on so I can walk around the lake and to my horror they have frozen. They will not fit back on my feet until they thaw. Panic starts to set in now, it's getting dark, I have only a half hour left to get around this lake and find the trail but without snowshoes it will take much longer. I decide to start heading back the way I came and look for a place to camp. I sink in almost every step loosing my balance several times, and finally I take a nose dive. I'm down, face in the snow, trying to get up. I bring my hand around to brace me, it falls through the snow, I try my other hand, it falls through, now my knee, same thing. I finally escape by rolling over on my side and using my poles for support I manage to get back on my feet. I take another step, posthole and fall again, catching myself with my hands. I lay there for a few seconds, and the tears start to flow. "Why is this happening? This isn't fair. I've dreamed about this trek for three years and now I have the worst conditions imaginable. Why is there still two and a half feet of snow in late April? I can't take this anymore!" All these thoughts run through my head as I struggle to regain my balance. It's almost dark now, the temperature is dropping and I am soaking wet.
Let me suggest that this is often where God often takes us. To the place where we have exhausted all of our options and resources at have none left. Just like Luke, desperate, we look for help, His help when we should have pursued that all along. Our greatest difficulty is that we believe our need is partial when it is total. God wants to break our pride and increase our humility. God says so in our passage.
In the series of 10 oracles from Isaiah 13-23 we will see that Israel occupies the central place in God’s plans, and the surrounding nations are vulnerable. An oracle is a ‘burden’ meaning it was a weighty or burdensome type of message to deliver. They are announcements of doom on these nations, but they are also announcements of salvation for Israel if she would trust in the Lord. Here we have an oracle delivered by Isaiah about Babylon an empire that came into its own about a century after Isaiah’s time. Now we would expect that Isaiah would rail against Assyria since it was the most threatening enemy in his day and since he referred to it many times in earlier chapters. When the prophet lived and wrote, Babylon was a real entity within Assyria, but Isaiah used it to represent all the nations in that area that shared its traits. Behind Assyria Isaiah saw the spirit of Babel, which he condemned here. Yet this is also a prophecy against real Babylon.
Babylon would deserve God’s wrath for the city has historically been a rallying point of anti-God activity. From the very beginning in Genesis 11 this city had been characterized by rebellion against the God of heaven. Over the centuries it was viewed as a place of hatred against the God of Israel. Even in the Tribulation to come it will be the center of hatred against God of the Bible in Revelation 17-18. So the city, it’s inhabitants, and it’s demeanor remains the same until the end. Verse 1 introduces this oracle as one about Babylon, that ancient city, which was delivered by God’s prophet, Isaiah.
GOD ‘S JUDGMENT WILL RUTHLESSLY DESTROY THE PROUD AND ARROGANT 2-16
What is true for Babylon the city, is also foretelling what is true for any people that exalt themselves and arrogantly assume their independence. Babylon will be devastated then and in the future.
God’s anger is aroused 2-5
Verse 2 Lift the standard…raise your voice…wave the hand…enter the doors
Here God begins to form his army. God is summoning His warriors to assemble so they could carry out His will in judging those with whom He was angry. Raising a flag on a hilltop and calling warriors to assemble pictures God doing this.
Verse 3 I have commanded...I have even called my mighty warriors to execute my anger
So this army is going to do God’s bidding. God has a plan and that plan includes use marauders, his mercenaries to accomplish that purpose.
Verse 4-5 many people…of kingdoms…of nations…from far country…farthest horizons…to destroy
Here we have the outcome of God’s anger, which is destruction of the entire land—here, the city of Babylon. This mustering of an army for war is a huge undertaking. They will assemble from faraway lands and from the ends of the heavens to do battle as His instruments.
NB: Though Isaiah was writing about the military strife in his day, a similar mustering of vast armies will occur just before the millennial kingdom in Revelation 16:12-16. The imagery here and in Revelation seem to also allude to a yet future time that is global in scope in Isaiah 13:11 ‘I will punish the world for its evil’ and in Revelation 16:14 ‘the kings of the whole world to gather them together for the war of the great day of God the Almighty.’ It could be that Isaiah’s prophecy refers to Gods historical activity as well as his future actions simultaneously.
God’s judgment is near 6-13
Verse 6 the day of the Lord is near
The day of the Lord, the day in which He will actively intervene in history, would be close by. It does not necessarily mean that the day is imminent. But it does mean it is inevitable. This is the time of the Lord’s judgment on the wicked world. In Isaiah’s day that is the city of Babylon, several decades later, probably in 689BC, when the Assyrians put down their rebellion. That political turmoil was similar to the judgment, which will come on the entire world, again in the midst of political turmoil, just before the
Lord established the rule of Christ upon the earth.
Verse 7-10 terrified…anguish…astonishment…fury…the day of the Lord is coming
Here is not only the inevitability of the day v 6 but also the approaching of that day v 9. And what kind of day is it? Well, one where all hands fall limp; hearts melt; people terrified; faces flush; when God exterminates the sinners. Like a woman with labor pains the people will be in extreme distress under the crushing cruel fury and burning anger of the day of the Lord. The supernatural changes in the skies v 10 seem to suggest an all-encompassing destruction similar to the final judgment on the world.
Verse 11-13 I will punish…I will put an end to the arrogance…I will make mortal man scarcer
The reason for this wrathful judgment is the evil of wicked people, especially their pride and haughtiness. Rather than human pride resulting in increasing good conditions for ever-expanding numbers of people, it will result in the cutting back of the human population. Because so many people will die in battle, people will be scarcer than the rare gold of Ophir, most likely a town known for it’s gold deposits. Again, v 13 suggests the cataclysmic nature of the final judgment to come.
God’s judgment is executed 14-18
Verse 14 like hunted gazelle...like sheep…each one will flee to its own land
While this army relentlessly attacks, the people would be utterly powerless to stop the invasion. They would be like antelope and sheep, defenseless creatures that are easy prey for hunters. People will scatter like frightened gazelles and sheep in that day as they seek security. People within the Assyrian empire from other countries would try to escape the impending destruction by fleeing to their native lands anyway they can.
Verse 15-16 will be thrust through…will fall by the sword…dashed to pieces…plundered…ravished
Such terrible things are executed including death by the sword, infanticide, ransacking, and rape. These warriors will slay all the wicked that they can find. Children will be unmercifully slaughtered in the sight of their parents. Houses will be looted and women raped.
LESSON: The scripture are amazingly consistent in that God ruthlessly judges pride, hubris or arrogance. It is about pride that the Bible differs most sharply with the world. The world may agree that theft, murder, adultery, and drunkenness are wrong. Unbelievers may even admit to such vices. But I've never heard an unbeliever say his sin was pride. C. S. Lewis in “Mere Christianity” wrote this: ”The essential vice, the utmost evil, is Pride. Unchastity, anger, greed, drunkenness, and all that, are mere fleabites in comparison: it was through Pride that the devil became the devil: Pride leads to every other vice: it is the complete anti-God state of mind.” Everyone who is proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord; Assuredly, he will not be unpunished (Proverbs 16:5; see also Proverbs 8:13; 11:2; 16:18-19; 18:12; and 21:4, 24). Pride is independence from God. To be proud is to focus on your status or achievements or those of others--independent of God. You cannot be proud and know God.
SINCE THE PROUD ARE DESTINED FOR DESTRUCTION DON’T PLACE YOUR HOPE THERE 17-22
Babylonia was under the Assyrian yoke when Isaiah gave this prophecy, probably during Hezekiah’s reign (715-686 B.C.). She was one of the nations, along with Egypt, to which Judah was looking as a possible savior to deliver them from the immediate Assyrian threat. This prophecy showed that Babylon was not a safe object for trust because God would destroy her.
Verse 17-18 stir up the Medes…who will not value silver…gold…mow down…not have compassion
Part of the Lord’s warriors would be the Medes, who occupied what is now central Iran. In Isaiah’s day the Medes were already a powerful people that the Assyrians dreaded. They would destroy Babylon. They united with the Babylonians to destroy the last vestiges of the Assyrian Empire in 609 BC. Still later it was the Medes and the Persians who overthrew Babylon in 539 BC. The Medes valued silver and gold less than military conquest; they could not be bought off but mercilessly slew every enemy. Revenge motivated them more than booty.
Verse 19 Babylon…pride…(like) God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah
This refers to the Assyrian sack of Babylon in 689BC. The Chaldeans were the ruling class that had been responsible for the supremacy of Babylon. However, Isaiah announced, Babylon would experience the same fate as Sodom and Gomorrah: destruction from the Lord’s hand. Because of her godless pride God would overthrow Babylon.
Verse 20-22 no inhabitants for generations…no tents…no flocks…but owls…wild goats…hyenas
After her judgment, Babylon would be uninhabitable even by nomads. Wild animals would be the only residents of the once great city. This destruction would come soon, and it would not be delayed. Babylon would be rebuilt and then destroyed again by the Medes and Persians in 539 BC. Ultimately, Babylon will again be rebuilt and then destroyed by God a final time Rev 18.
LESSON: Pride is no place upon which to build your life, have your hope, or trust your destiny. Babylon, like Assyria, like Egypt, and like Israel, all represent the demise of pride. God will not stand for it. Today man and nations arrogantly marginalize God at best and supplants him at worst. Like Babylon, a city throughout the Bible representing hubris, today the global disregard for the God of the Bible is similar. It. Too, can expect a similar devastation. So what about us?
1. Since God does ruthlessly destroy the proud and arrogant, determine to walk in humility in your own life. Pride is independence from God. Humility sees all value, virtue, power, and glory beginning and ending in God.
2. Since we cannot place our hope in pride or the proud destined for destruction, place it in God alone who is the source of all good. Actions based on that commitment are based in humility. And humility sees those people as distributors (channels rather than sources or reservoirs) of the glory of God. The best good there could ever be is to display the glory of God.