THE BOOK OF ISAIAH
Isaiah 21-22 SCC 6/9/13
Misplaced confidence in the ingenuity and valor of others to turn around a hopeless situation—one that threatens our very existence—is no guarantee to deliver us.
Verse 1: Here is a picture of a potential invader—one described as from sandy wastes by the sea approaching like a desert storm—possibly referring to a revolt in Babylon.
Verse 2: in a vision Isaiah heard the battle cry of one from or influential in Elam and Media who was confident of liberation for Babylon from Assyria.
Verse 3-5: In contrast to this overwhelming confidence Isaiah utters he is in pain, bewildered, trembling, horrified while the people revel v 5 misunderstanding the implications of what was happening. Instead of reveling they should prepare for battle. The confidence in the invader is misplaced and so is Israel’s.
Verse 6-9: God told Isaiah to have a lookout watch the impending battle between Assyria and this invader attempting to liberate Babylon. The watchman looked day after day v 7-8. Finally, someone arrives with a message of Babylon’s fall, its gods; representing their hope, lay shattered v 9.
Verse 10: The emotional impact on the people of Israel, hoping this revolt would be successful and repress the surging Assyrians, was stunning! Babylon’s fall seems like the last straw. Now no one could stop Assyria’s advance even, eventually, to Jerusalem’s very front door. Judah felt crushed emotionally, like the grain on the threshing floor. Isaiah also reiterates that his message was from God v 10b. The point is God does not want his people relying on this invader or the Babylonians to save them! This revolt will not be successful.
Verse 11-12: concerning Edom, the watchman saw no activity implying he was looking intently for something to report. Finally, he does report that the situation on the ground would not change soon there. Even though morning was coming—hope of something—another night would follow. Edom, too would face Assyrian incursions.
Verse 13-15: concerning Arabia, there would be difficult times for these people. Spending nights in the thickets, bringing water to the thirsty, meeting fugitives to give them bread, fugitives because of flight from swords, bent bows, and the press of battle, all indicate a routing at the hands of Assyrians.
Verse 16-17: in one year Kedar, possibly a powerful warrior tribe, would experience tremendous defeat and be humiliated. This oracle will be fulfilled as the Lord God has spoken it.
Hopeless situations have a way of making us desperate. Desperate for hope from any quarter we can find a reason to depend upon. Yet, God wants us to know that there is no guarantee from any quarter that we will survive with their support. We cannot comprehend the magnitude of the power arrayed against us. God says ‘our struggle is not against flesh and blood but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in heavenly places’ Ephesians 6:12. This is meant to force us back to dependence upon God not the ingenuity of others or their efforts. So, one thing to learn is that followers of Jesus must accept helplessness and hopelessness. Being desperate then motivates us to turn to God and rely upon Him, His strength, His support, His ability, and His plan.
In order to turn to God in hopeless and helpless life situations one must understand that God is powerful enough to manage it and then transfer his/her confidence in God’s ability to deliver as He promises. Unfortunately, Israel, too long forgetting God and His interests, cannot and do not trust.
Verse 1-4: the valley of vision refers to Jerusalem with valleys used as approaches to the city. People still inside the city walls went to the housetops to observe the enemy, the Assyrians, advance upon the city through these valleys v 1. Once full of revelry v 2, the city leaders faced reality and had escaped before this advance but were then captured without incident by the Assyrians v 3. Isaiah laments this unfortunate turn of events v 4.
Verse 5-8: these same Assyrians now waiting for opportunity to enter and sack and burn Jerusalem were
besieging it and the people within the walls could do nothing to stop it v 5. Mercenaries from Elam and Kir joined them and with troops from all over the Assyrian empire, they gathered at Jerusalem’s front door v 6-7. Since Jerusalem was defenseless v 8a, this was certainly a frightening time for the people.
Verse 8b-11: we would think wouldn’t we that such a precarious situation would at least force one to consider prayer or repentance; some kind of initiative to turn back to God! These people, the people of God, are too far-gone spiritually! Still trying and wanting to do things their way, on their own, rather than count on God in some tangible expressions of trust, they fight on in their own ingenuity. So they got out the weapons from the palace of the forest v 8.
At this time Hezekiah took defensive measures by:
(1) Repairing broken parts of the walls 2 Chron 32:5;
(2) Collected water in the lower pool 2 Chron 32:4;
(3) Demolished houses for building material; and
(4) Preserved city water supply in a reservoir;
‘You saw’, you collected’, ‘you counted’, ‘you tore’, and ‘you made’ v 9-11. Today one can still walk the 1777-foot underground tunnel carved out of solid rock during this very siege! However, refusing to look to the Lord, even this water, given by God long ago, would be no help to them.
Verse 12-14: instead or mourning v 12 as God desired, they reveled in the face of impending death—for tomorrow we die v 13. God, His power, His love, is not even in the equation in their minds. At this point, there is no remedy for them v 14. The curses of the Law are now active and they will die.
NB: There comes a point of no return when the wrath of God visits. When the mercy and grace of God are over. It takes a while but when the line is crossed, only judgment will come.
Verse 15-19: Shebna is a high court official involved in negotiations with Sennacherib King of Assyria 2 Kings 18:18-37. Trying to make a name for himself, possibly because of his position, he is fashioning a grave as a permanent resting place to be remembered v 15-16. Instead God says he would be demoted and die in some large foreign land v 17-19.
Verse 20-24: Eliakim is also in negotiations with Sennacherib but unlike Shebna, he does not use his position to act in his own interests. He would not be cast away but become a respected father v 20-22, and like a well-driver peg, be part of a firm foundation for the nation, with a lasting reputation v 23-24.
Verse 25: However, Isaiah warned that eventually even this peg would come to an end. This was a way of signifying that the kingdom of Judah would be taken away into captivity by Babylon of all people. The very ones they were hoping in to deliver them from Assyria will be the ones in about 120 years to deport them from the land.
1. We are prone to forget God, His promises to us; His power to deliver us; His ability to care for us. We forget him by assuming we can control our life events. So we sort of take over, and over time, because some things seem to work, like living beyond our means or forcing others to conform by using anger or rage, we keep at it. Until things begin to fall apart. The credit cards are maxed out and creditors are calling or our older adult children now rage back at us because they can and these relationships become brittle. God, His will, His word, was forgotten, set aside because we thought we knew better.
2. The posture we must take is repentance. Unlike the Israelites, we must not keep on keeping on, but must stop our sin. We must rebuke it; call it what it is; and change our strategy, our ways. If you keep doing what you are doing you will only get more of what you already got. For Israel that meant more destruction, more threatening circumstances, more failures, and eventually deportation. God will allow you to ruin your life if you never choose to change. God will let you box yourself in and live with the consequences you create. That is why Romans 1 says God gave them over. However, you can confess your hardheartedness and you can repent of your sinful ways. God promises to forgive you and His grace is more than sufficient for those who learn to trust Him.