Monday, August 08, 2016

Reading Through Isaiah #2 (Chapters 13-22)

51wW9fXkBCL._SX321_BO1,204,203,200_This week we continue working through the prophecies of Isaiah, accompanied by Isaiah, The College Press NIV Commentary, by Terry R. Briley. Israel was besieged by many foreign nations, so this section shows that God is sovereign over all those pagan nations and God will even work through them to accomplish His plan to bless Israel and the world. I am posting quotes from the book on my Facebook page on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday (NT is Mon-Wed-Fri) and we can discuss comments and questions about the passage there. As usual, quotes from the commentary are in blue below…

Isaiah 13 begins a section of prophecies against the surrounding nations. These were probably directed to Israel, not to the other nations, to remind them that God is in control of all the world. Even the nations that he raises up to discipline Israel will someday be judged. In the end, Israel will join these nations in God's peaceful kingdom as God will redeem people from all nations eventually.

The historical Babylon has fallen, but the ultimate message from God to Babylon looks to “the greater reality that it anticipates and points to: the eventual fall of the whole world system which stands in opposition to God.” Isaiah 13, 178

Isaiah’s purpose here is to demonstrate the extent to which human beings can exalt themselves and the corresponding depth of their descent when God finally judges...the message is plain: no matter how much earthly power one attains, such power cannot stand before the Most High. Isaiah 14,12-15, 183

The next nation to hear the burden of Isaiah is Moab (15-16). They are also headed for destruction by Assyria. Isaiah urges them to seek the protection of the Davidic king instead of other alliances, but they refuse. Thus, Isaiah says the nation will be destroyed within three years from the prophecy.

Other nations, including Moab, will find security only as they align themselves, at last, with the God who rules in Zion. The same principle, of course, still holds true today. The saints will reign with Christ! How foolish then for us, as his people, to seek security in the things the world worships as its gods. Isaiah 15-16, 196

Next Isaiah speaks to Damascus. They too will share the judgment of Israel and Moab. Their destruction by Assyria is pictured as a harvest in which only a few grapes and olives are left. Then he turns his eye toward the south and the empire of Cush and Egypt (which was ruled at this time by an Ethiopian emperor). They hope to cut off the Assyrian advance by the force of arms, but Isaiah says that they must humble themselves before God. They do not and Assyria deals a terrible blow to the Egyptian empire. However, the ending provides hope for the future for Ethiopia.

Isaiah’s message regarding the noisy but ultimately inconsequential worldly powers is the same as that found in Psalms 1 and 2, where the wicked are like the chaff that the wind blows away and God laughs at the raging nations. Isaiah here urges his listeners to see through the blustery claims of those who seem powerful as they loot and plunder but will be exposed by God as weak and unstable. Isaiah 17, 200

This radical reversal signifies the way God’s demonstration of his sovereignty will transform even unbelievers from independent, self-serving schemers into worshipers of God. Although a woe is pronounced upon the Cushites of Isaiah’s day, hope remains that they and other nations will acknowledge God and humble themselves before him. Isaiah 18, 204

Isaiah returns to prophecy against Egypt in chapters 19-20. Jerusalem was tempted to trust in Egypt as an ally against Assyria, but Isaiah says this will be unwise. Egypt will also go into captivity to Assyria as Isaiah demonstrates by he and his students walking around for 3 years naked and barefoot. In the end, though, there is a remarkable prophecy of Egypt, Assyria and Egypt all together in God's kingdom. This is the only way for peace.

The climactic element of this remarkable portrait brings Egypt, Assyria, and Israel together as a triumvirate of nations unified by a highway and the worship of the same God. Israel has traditionally been caught between these two more powerful nations when they go to war with each other. In the future these longtime enemies will together fulfill God’s covenant with Abraham to be a blessing on the earth...Isaiah anticipates the time when God will reconcile those formerly hostile to one another through their faith in him. According to the New Testament, this dream becomes reality through the work of Christ. Isaiah 19.23-25, 210–211

In chapters 21-23 the prophecies turn even darker and move to a focus on Babylon. During Isaiah's time Babylon is a possible ally against Assyria, but Isaiah comes to the realization that Babylon is the real danger who will ultimately bring Jerusalem into exile. Nevertheless he prophecies their destruction which will take place almost 200 hundred years later and the downfall of all their allies in 21. Then in 22 he condemns the leaders and people of Jerusalem for leaving God out of their preparations for battle.

The combination of self-reliance and resignation in Jerusalem reflects not just a lack of faith, but a hardness of heart as well. This condition accounts for God’s ominous conclusion: Till your dying day this sin will not be atoned for... Atonement is only effective for those with hearts capable of repentance. Isaiah 22.24, 223–224.

Something greater than righteous human leaders is necessary to restore God’s people. “Just as an individual is not sufficient for himself (Shebna) neither is he sufficient for others (Eliakim).” Depending too heavily upon human leaders is as ungodly (and unwise) as depending on idolatry or foreign alliances. Isaiah 22.23-25, 226

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