So you blink and all of a sudden you start reading about the sword of the Lord which is consumed with blood and fat from the carnage that He has enacted. The wrath of the Lord in this Scripture is especially focused on Edom who is a neighbor of Israel\. If you look at the map that I included in chapter 13 you’ll see where Edom resides, just to the southeast of Israel. Edom was an arch enemy of the Israelites and they were starting to lose their ferocity with the encroachment of nomadic tribes in the area during Isaiah’s time. They were responsible for the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem so Isaiah saves some of his harshest words for Edom.
Isaiah also has a number of examples from nature that are fascinating. If you look at vs.11 you see the hawk, hedgehog and owl and raven present. Unfortunately it is not the best kept Hebrew so this verse is a bit more of a guess than us actually knowing that these animals were originally mentioned by the author. But then he does mention a whole variety of animals that will be present in the waste and wilderness that is created by the action of the Lord against Edom. We find mentioned jackals, ostriches, wildcats, hyenas, goat-demons (?), owl, and buzzards. A real Noah’s ark of unwanted animals.
If you look at vs.14 you will see Lilith mentioned. She was a hostile goddess associated with the religion of the Edomities, which was Sumerian mythology. Interestingly enough later on she becomes in Hebrew lore the first wife of Adam. I never knew that Eve was Adam’s second wife…Again, none of this is Scriptural, but Lilith would have been known by the people of Israel and she would have been feared.
If you look at vs. 16 you will see a command to read from the book of the Lord because God has commanded us to and his spirit will draw us closer to him. I’m just listening to this song now, I’m really into it. For some reason, it seems to fit here. The Spirit of the Lord can and should be upon us.
Let’s start off this morning with vs. 2 which could also be our appeal: “O Lord, be gracious to us; we wait for you. Be our arm every morning, our salvation in the time of trouble.” Don’t we all want an arm that we can lean on, that can help us up, that we can use for strength when ours is failing? The prophet calls out to the Lord and asks God that the Lord would be that arm…every morning.
This song makes me think about this chapter in Isaiah.
Isaiah tells us in this chapter that when a righteous king rules over the land then the blind will see (vs.3), the deaf will hear (vs.3), the people will understand (vs.4). The reign of a righteous king can make a big difference in the day to day lives of the Israelites and everyone will be able to tell who is king at that time. A relationship with the creator God will beget good, while a person who is trying to figure things out on their own will only beget evil.
He then uses from vs.9 to describe the transformation that has taken place from the beginning of his prophecies to now. At the beginning there were oracles against nations who would be destroyed because they had mistreated the people of Israel. Now, in these verses, he describes those oracles which portrayed an abused and abandoned woman to a transformational beginning in vs.15 when “a spirit from on high is poured out on us.” You know that when a spirit from on high is poured out on us then good things are going to happen.
In fact, the descriptions of what happens next are very celebratory. The people will be in peace, people will be planting near water sources and we no longer have to worry about our livestock. The depiction of an idyllic scene for life is powerful. Again, it does show the difference between what happens when a righteous king is in power and when the ruler turns his/her back on God.
This Scripture speaks out strongly against any who might rely upon the strength or wisdom of anyone or anything that is not directly associated with the Lord. He starts out by calling out the Egyptians and those who might have a crush of them because of their many horses or chariots or horsemen, who happen to be very strong. You can look to them for help, but they will be helpless if you do not consul the Lord first and foremost. We are not told to turn our back on these military figures, but rather do not rely upon them against the presence of the Lord. Rely upon the presence of the Lord and then see if the Lord requires or wants you to pursue that military might as something that you ought to have as well.
If armies were looking to go against the people of the Lord they may have all the power and strength in the world, but if they do not have the presence or the power of the Lord, then they will be helpless. Because in the end, as vs.5 tells us: “The Lord of hosts will protect Jerusalem, he will protect and deliver it, he will spare and rescue it.”
The same is true of the cursed enemy the Assyrian. When they come to conquer: “Then the Assyrian shall fall by a sword, not of mortals.” So God will come and intervene very, very directly. It would be nice to see the presence of the Lord in a very direct way where God is intervening in our problems in a very direct way. But God does, we just don’t see it. God intervenes but we rarely give Him the credit, we would rather give Him the blame for our troubles and take the credit for our successes.
How about his for a verse for the day? “You shall have a song as in the night when a holy festival is kept; and a gladness of heart, as when one sets out to the sound of the flute to go to the mountain of the Lord, to the Rock of Israel.” For some reason this choral ensemble came to mind. We sang this in high school and it has stuck with me, like pretty much everything that we sang in high school in the choir. No, the video below is not from my high school.
I have to begin this chapter with the verses that we find in vs.16 where the author accuses us of turning things upside down. Specifically he asks how can the potter be considered the clay? How can the clay say that the one who made him what he was has no understanding and is ignorant? Throughout this chapter we see the Lord speak a word of lament against Ariel which mean’s literally “lion of God”. But it is a Hebrew word which also denotes the heart of the altar. If you turn to Ezekiel 43:15-16 you will see that the altar hearth is described. In Hebrew that is called the ariel. So we know that this is a word of lament for Jerusalem.
Verses 13-14 speak to a God who loves us and yet wants us to worship Him without fear. He speaks of a people who draw near to God and honor Him with their lips but do not worship him with their hearts. They merely worship him by rote with words that do not mean anything to them, but words that they have become accustomed to. Their wisdom will perish while he raises up a people who will worship him with heart and soul.
He again ends this Scripture with a promise that one day Judah will no longer be ashamed and they will stand in the awe of the God of Israel. What a great image. One day we will all stand in awe of the God of Israel.
This longer chapter begins by speaking out against the Ephraim. They are portrayed as a drunken nation. I find it curious that it is not just the random people who are described as drunkards but rather their priests and prophets stagger under strong drink. As a result of this drunkenness the question arises: “Who will teach knowledge.” Who will pass on the most important lessons from one generation to the next.
The people have made a covenant with death and made an agreement with hell, or the devil as we would like to say. As a result of this covenant that the people have made with death, God is laying down a cornerstone. This cornerstone is justice and the people will try to figure things out on their own but they will meet their demise. As a result of this calamity then people will turn away from their covenant with death, which they will see produces nothing but, well, death.
People will turn back to the Lord as a result of the experiences that they have had in their life where they have made unwise alliances. I sometimes wonder how long it will take us to see that as we try to make deals with those who are not looking out for our good, that only bad things are produced. When we turn our lives over to the Lord then we know that we have the assurance and the promise that all things work for good for those who trust in the Lord. In Isaiah’s time, they were still learning this lesson as we are today.
I got a recommendation to include this in this post from someone today.
We hear mention now in Isaiah of this creature Leviathan which is mentioned in the Psalms as well (Look at Psalm 74:13-14). Leviathan was a creature that represented the sea and everything bad about the sea. Remember, the Israelites were not big fans of the sea, even though they lived right on it. They were not considered a sea-faring civilization. So it makes sense that on judgment day the Leviathan, or the dragon which we read about in Revelation, is defeated by God. Those things that scare us we want to have conquered when we face eternal life where everything is perfect. The defeat of a sea monster would count as a big step toward perfection.
Here is a depiction of it by the mid 19th century artist Gustave Dore.
But we quickly transition from the Leviathan which is mentioned in two verses to Jacob and Israel taking root again, because remember they had been plucked up in a dry and arid land. We find the promise that life will come back. Look at vs.13 and take heart that there will be a day when God will call His people to Him and they will actually respond and come back and worship him on the holy mountain. It speaks specifically of those who were carted off into exile, into slavery really, and will be brought back.
We continue our transition from the deserted and desolate land which was struck by the hand of God, to we now find that a song is being sung in Judah where the people say: “we have a strong city.” What a huge swing in favor and attitude to not only the Lord, but also to life in general. The author is also able to say with incredible certainty: “Trust in the Lord forever, for in the Lord God you have an everlasting rock.” A certain trust in the Lord isn’t just temporary, but can be, read should be, forever. What a huge transition from the fickleness of life to the certainty of the presence of the Lord. It must have been a good day.
His approach to those who are wicked is curious. Even if they are exposed to righteousness, even if they are taught the right thing, vs. 10 tells us that they are unable to learn it. They will still deal perversely with people. He then uses the example of a woman who is in labor to describe himself and the people of Israel. But the difference is that the labor just had the pain, there was no product of life which developed after the labor, just wind, as the author states. It is very much in line with Ecclesiastes.
This is a great Scripture to take and cross reference with Revelation 7:1 and 21:4. We read in all of these Scriptures that the day will come when death is swallowed up in victory. While you are looking at Revelation, you need to look at I Corinthians 15:54 where Paul tells us about the victory that we have in Jesus which is a conquering over death. But he gets his words from Isaiah in this chapter and verse 8.
We do read about the God wiping away the tears from our eyes. I love the imagine of the hand of God reaching out and wiping our tears from our eyes, similar to Michelangelo’s creation picture which you can find below.
I can never get enough of the moon of God seen in the bottom of the picture alongside the creation of the sun. Michelangelo had a sense of humor.