Scripture reading – Isaiah 18-22
Today’s devotional reading continues Isaiah’s prophetic message of God’s judgment against the nations and Israel.
Isaiah prophesied the doom of Ethiopia as that nation appealed to other nations to come to their aid as the armies of Assyria approached (18:1-2). The nations of the world were pictured as frantic in the face of an Assyrian invasion; however, the LORD revealed to Isaiah, “I will take my rest” (18:4).
Unlike the nations that were overcome with fear and worry, God knew what He would do (18:4b-5a). When the time was come, the LORD promised He would “cut off…take away and cut down” the armies of Assyria like a man takes an axe and pruning shears to the branches of trees (18:5). The armies of Assyria would be brought to ruin and left as carnage for the birds of the air and the wild beasts (18:6).
Isaiah 19:16-25 may allude to a description of Christ’s Millennial Kingdom when He will reign over the earth from His throne in Jerusalem. In that day, Egypt’s fear and dread of the LORD will move that nation to turn to the LORD and worship Him (19:16-22).
Egypt, Assyria (i.e. modern-day Iraq and Iran), and Israel will be at peace during the Millennial period (19:23-25).
Remembering Isaiah’s prophetic ministry was to Israel, the LORD commanded the prophet to humble himself by stripping off his outer tunic, and walking barefoot (20:2-3). Isaiah’s physical appearance was a symbol of the humiliation Egypt and Ethiopia would suffer when those nations would fall to Assyria (20:4-5).
Ancient Babylon is, I believe, the “desert of the sea” (21:1) and is the region of modern-day Iraq. There is some debate among scholars over whether Isaiah’s prophecy of Babylon’s fall (21:9) was to Assyria, when that nation was the greater empire, or later when Babylon was defeated by the Medes and Persians (Daniel 5).
Isaiah 21:2 leaves no doubt to me that it was Babylon’s defeat by the Medes (i.e. Elam) and Persians (i.e. Media) that was intended. Babylon would fall to the Medes and Persians in 539 B.C.
Isaiah 21:11-17 foretold the doom of the tribes of Arabia.
Isaiah 22 is a prophecy of God’s judgment against Judah and the capital city of Jerusalem.
Having witnessed Assyria’s defeat of Israel and the captivity of the northern ten tribes, one would hope Judah would have humbled herself before God. Instead, we read: “Thou that art full of stirs [noise; shouting], a tumultuous city, a joyous city [jubilant; full of revelers] (22:2).
Rather than turn to the LORD, the self-reliant people of Jerusalem were doing all they could to shore up the walls of the city by taking timbers from Solomon’s palace (“the house of the forest” – 22:8; 1 Kings 7:2) and breaking down the walls of houses to close the breaches in the city walls (22:10). Instead of repenting of their sin, the citizens of Jerusalem mirrored the narcissistic sentiment of the rich fool (Luke 12:19) and boasted, “eat and drink; for to morrow we shall die” (22:12-14).
Isaiah 22:15-19 is a denunciation of a leader, the treasurer of Jerusalem identified as “Shebna” (22:15). Shebna had enriched himself and carved out a sepulchre worthy of a king (22:16). Isaiah prophesied Shebna would be carried away captive and his tomb would belong to another. In Shebna’s place, God promised to raise up Eliakim, a man He described as “my servant” (22:20-21). In spite of putting a godly man in the nation’s leadership, God’s judgment of Judah was inevitable (22:25).
What might you and I take from today’s Scripture reading?
The sovereignty of God over the nations is, at least for this writer, a great reminder that, while the nations rage and the threats of war are ever present, nothing takes God by surprise. The LORD revealed to Isaiah, “I will take my rest” (18:4).
God was not frantic with worry or overcome with anxiety. He was not dismayed by the armies of Assyria or the rise of Babylon. Prophesying 200 years before the events took place, Isaiah foretold the armies of the Medes and Persians would conquer Babylon and the king of Persia would send the people of Israel back to their homeland.
Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith