THE BOOK OF ISAIAH
Finally, rest, release from fear, bondage, and oppression
Isaiah 14 SCC 5/5/13
For many reasons, political and global, men like Saddam Hussein and Mohamar Ghadaffi, represent the demise of arrogant leadership. We cannot forget the images of their downfall. And any leader who leads with hubris in blatant disregard for God who placed them there will also be accountable for their leadership. In Revelation 18 we have a lament of Babylon; Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great! And she has become a dwelling place of demons and a prison of every unclean spirit…woe, woe, the great city, Babylon, the strong city? For in one hour your judgment has come’ v 2 and 10. Babylon will ultimately be made uninhabitable and destroyed. This nation and/or city represent the futility and folly of self-exalting pride, which this idealized Babylonian king modeled. This is the entire point of the passage.
BELIEVERS CAN ANTICIPATE THAT THEIR OPPRESSORS WILL BE DESTROYED
Verse 1-2: the Lord will have compassion…choose Israel…settle them…they will rule over
Earlier Isaiah predicted that Israel would experience defeat and captivity. After that the Lord would have compassion on her, choose her again for blessing and resettle her in her own land. The Israelites would then have authority over those who formerly had authority over them. They would take the lead domestically, militarily, and politically. So the prophet begins this oracle with a word of comfort and hope for Israel--in line with his theme of "a remnant shall return."
Verse 3: in the day when the Lord gives you rest from your pain and turmoil and harsh service
Having described the future destruction of Babylon in 13:17-22, Isaiah now related the coming destruction of Babylon’s king. He announces the promise of rest from oppression. These three expressions describe the difficulty of the people of God in this fallen world, notably under the pagan--Babylonian--domination. So the writer anticipates a time when the people will be set free from their troubles and sing a victory song.
Verse 4: will take up a taunt against the king of Babylon…
After the Lord gave Israel rest following her captivity, she would taunt Babylon’s proud ruler who had formerly taunted her. His death would be an occasion for joy, not sorrow. The taunt that follows, delights in the sudden collapse of the nation of Babylon. The taunt here is: “How the oppressor has come to an end!” Although Babylon is not yet the power it was to become in a few decades, here the prophet looks ahead to the enemy who, like Assyria, will oppress the people. The word is that all such oppressors will be destroyed before the great Messianic Age.
Finally great joy and security will prevail on earth (5-8)
Verse 5-6: broken the staff...of the scepter of rulers
God will break the ruthless tyrant. The pride of Babylon is focused on her ruthless king, or her kingship in general that characterized the proud nation. The terms “rod” and “staff” refer to the dominion of the pagan rulers as symbols of authority. The point is that the power of these oppressors is to be broken. They ruled with a continuous stroke of anger, afflicting other nations; but soon they would be broken down.
Verse 7-8: the whole earth is at rest and is quiet…cypress trees rejoice
Here is affirmation that this judgment will bring great joy to the people. These are the joyful shouts that exclaim the cessation of oppression and the beginning of lasting peace. Security is restored. The “trees” rejoice since no one has ever come up to cut them down. The forests are personified as delighting that the enemies no longer will come through cutting down trees to burn their fires and make their ramps.
There will be great commotion in Hell for those entering judgment (9-11)
Verse 9: Shades from beneath is excited
Here sheol refers to the realm of the departed spirits, all those who died in unrighteousness, without God, without hope, without their pomp, and left to wander in darkness. The meeting party is made up of the kings of the earth and others who are already there. “Shades” is a term for departed spirits.
Verse 10-11: you have become like us…your pomp…have been brought down to sheol…maggots
Other dead rulers there would rejoice because this great monarch now shared the humiliating fate of them all. Rather than honoring him, these dead leaders would mock him because in death he was not superior to them. Instead of an honorable bier he would get maggots for a bed and worms for a bedspread. What a final resting place for a king!
LESSON: Every evil ruler and oppressor will be trampled and destroyed. Each, one by one, will fall into the grave and the land of shades where they will await their judgment. Think about it—they usually get to rule for a generation then they are gone. God will be vindicated. Believers will be preserved and secure in the new realm of Christ’s rule. All will be completely reversed. Righteousness will replace ruthlessness.
ANYONE CHOOSING PRIDE AND OPPRESSION IS HEADING FOR DESTRUCTION
Verse 12: how have you fallen from heaven…you have been cut down
With this section we discover that we have a possible double meaning. The word ‘shining One’ describe the brilliance of the oppressing king, claiming to be the son of the morning star. But some have seen a second reference in it to Satan, or a spirit force behind the throne. In the Old Testament “stars” may refer to angelic or demonic powers. And the pagan kings claimed to be divine, or at least the offspring of the gods. Lucifer would then show the glory that Satan once had. Indeed, Paul says that he still can change himself into an angel of light to deceive people. But the primary meaning of the chapter is the human king who was filled with pomp and vainglory, who fell quickly from his exalted position.
Verse 13-15: I will ascend…raise…sit…ascend…make…nevertheless you will be thrust to sheol
Here portrays the great pride of this one who said he would exalt himself above God. He arrogantly thought that he was suitable for heaven, higher than the angels, fit to join the assembly of the gods. He thought he could make himself like the Most High. Such was the ambition of these powerful despots who thought they were divine. But the contrast is: “But you are brought down to the grave, to the depths of the pit” in v 15. Even though he had exalted himself to near deity status, he would die and go to Sheol like every other proud person.
Verse 16-17: Those who see you will ponder…is this the man who shook kingdoms…overthrew cities
There is amazement of those in hell of those who witness his fall. It is in the form of a question anticipating a negative answer, “Is this the one who shook the earth and made kingdoms tremble?” Here too it would refer primarily to the king of Babylon, the empire builder who kept puppet empires at bay and who would not let captives go home. When divine judgment has fallen, such kings are nothing. This evokes the amazement over them. Where is all their power now?
Verse 18-19: All the kings…each in his own tomb…like a trampled corpse
This shows that this one will not even have a state funeral. Kings normally lie in state when they die, but this one will be cast out of his tomb. To stress the indignity of this the prophet uses a couple of similes: “like a rejected branch” and “like a corpse trampled under foot.” The image of a branch is used here ironically; it often is used for a king who continues a dynasty. Here it is cut off and cast down. The other simile is of a trodden carcass. He will be like the rest of the carnage on the battlefield. There will be no honor or dignity in his death. They expected that such a “great man” would enjoy an honorable burial, but this man received no burial at all. He died covered with the bodies of his fellow warriors rather than with earth. Viewing his unburied corpse onlookers would wonder if this was really the infamous scourge of Babylon who had ruined his own country and ravaged his own people as well as his enemies. They would then take measures to assure that his sons would not rise to power by cutting off his posterity. Hopefully they could remove his memory from the earth.
Verse 20-23: I will sweep it with the broom of destruction
There would be no normal burial for this one, because he has ruined his land and his people. The idea of remaining nameless forever is an expression that signifies non-existence. His death will be disgraceful. To be forgotten is to be utterly destroyed--even from memory. But the death will also be for the land, the great land of Babylon. It will be turned into a place for owls, a swampland. God would sweep it with the broom of destruction. Babylon was destroyed by Persia in 538 B.C. and lay in ruins for 2500 years, until Saddam Hussein began rebuilding it as part of the cultural heritage of Iraq.
In the days of Isaiah, the people of Judah had no idea of the length of time between the oracle and its fulfillment. They might have expected it soon. But they did not know how the sequence of judgment with the exile, deliverance from Babylon, and judgment on Babylon would work out in Old Testament times, nor could they have known that there would be a glorious future destruction of “Babylon” at the end of the age when Messiah comes in glory (Rev. 19).
1. All things will culminate toward a time when the people of God will have rest, release from fear, bondage, and oppression. But those with faith in the Lord can be jubilant to know this day.
2. Not only will evil be destroyed but also the evil force behind it—Satan, the Anti-Christ and the spiritual power of the underworld.
3. God has no tolerance for pride and arrogant oppression. In the New Testament is the oracle about how Babylon has fallen, Babylon--that symbol of the present evil world system, the anti-kingdom.
4. God will bring them down and down all the way to hell like Satan. "Pride" in the Old Testament, especially pride like this, belongs to the unbeliever who rejects, or better yet, tries to replace God.