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Janet's Corner

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Isaiah 13

Isaiah Lesson 12…Isaiah 13

 

After the marvelous signs of the coming Messiah whose birth we have celebrated…

After the magnificent truths that Jesus is our strength, our song, and our salvation…

Welcome to the burdens of Isaiah in chapters 13-23. These burdens or oracles literally mean “to lift up.” Isaiah was bearing the burden of the message of God’s judgments of the nations which would bring destruction to the land and death to thousands of people.

I really thought we might just skip these chapters, but I believe that God uses all scriptures to teach us and bring us hope. In Romans 15:4 Paul says it clearly, “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.”

Therefore what do these burdens, these judgments, teach us? They teach valuable lessons about God’s character and what He desires for His people.

  1. These scriptures show us God’s sovereignty over all the nations.
  2. These scriptures show us God’s faithfulness and holiness, His justice and mercy to all

Overall there are two themes in these burdens.

1.      Warnings to ungodly (pagan) nations so that they like Israel would be without excuse when judgment fell

2.      Warnings to Judah not to rely on anyone but the Lord.

What about the timing of these prophecies? They were spoken by Isaiah from the end of Ahaz’s reign in which the king was looking to someone other than God to deliver Judah from their enemies and extend through the early years of Hezekiah’s reign in which Judah was seeking God and his ways.

Do you ever get caught up in the immediate? In what is at hand to see and to do? With life as it is happening right before you? What happens? We loose our perspective on the world around us – on other people around us. I believe that God was trying to give the people and subsequently us, a different perspective on life, helping us to see His sovereignty and his faithfulness to who He is and to us. What’s God’s bigger plan and purpose?

 

That brings us to the first judgment against Babylon. We need to identify Babylon. Babylon at the time of this prophecy is a province of Assyria, the nation which is threatening Israel and Judah. The city of Babylon was at that time insignificant in the world picture, yet not to God. The name Babylon traces to the word for confusion in Hebrew. To be faithful to our theme in understanding the signs and symbols in the book of Isaiah, we see that Babylon is the symbol of the world system man has built in defiance of God. Jerusalem and Babylon are contrasting cities - one a chosen city of God and the other, a wicked city of man. The city of God will last forever, but the city of wicked man will be destroyed. God is pronouncing judgment on this city before it even became a significant place in history. It would be a century later that Babylon became a world power. Babylon would conquer Judah. We have looked at the visit of the Babylonian king to Hezekiah in chapter 39 which sets the stage for Judah’s captivity in Babylon in 586 BC. Then in 539 BC, Babylon would be captured by the Medes./Persians The city slowly declined and was never rebuilt. It will be rebuilt in the future as a political and religious system as noted in Revelation 17 and 18. And subsequently destroyed at the second coming of Christ. Are you watching for the signs of the times?

 

For our study today I want to look at the Word to give us understanding of God’s sovereignty. Specifically, God’s sovereignty over all the nations. History is really God’s story. How easily we forget that whether we read the scripture or look at the news today.

In II Chronicles 20:6 Jehosophat the king of Judah declares that God is sovereign over all the nations. “O LORD, God of our fathers, are you not the God who is in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. Power and might are in you hand, and no one can withstand you.”

We must remember in God’s sovereignty, his sovereign rule over all, he has a plan and a purpose. Overall that plan and purpose is to bring about His glory and our good. What’s the “hand” of God really like?

Isaiah 14:24-27 “The Lord Almighty has sworn, ‘Surely, as I have planned, so it will be, and as I have purposed, so it will stand.” That seems to give us the impression that God is pretty heavy handed… But what is his hand like. What does he plan and purpose?

  1. God sees the nations as an instrument in His hand to accomplish his will.

In order to get the bigger picture we need to look at Isaiah 10: 5 where God identifies Assyria as rod of his anger - a rod that God sends against a godless nation (vs 6). God will raise up an evil nation to use as his instrument of judgment against ungodliness. He simply looks as them as an instrument in His hands. Isaiah 10:15 “Does the ax raise itself above him who swings it, or the saw boast against him who uses it” As if a rod were to wield him who lifts it up, or a club brandish him who is not wood!” We have looked clearly at the sin of Judah, realizing that because of God’s holiness, He can’t overlook sin. He will judge sin. And he does so using Assyria as his instrument. In His sovereignty, God uses even evil nations to accomplish His will in His people. His plan is to get the nations attention by disciplining them. Do you look at history even as it is unfolding today through the eyes of God’s sovereignty, that God uses even godless nations to accomplish his glory for the good of his people? God may use even our enemies to judge us. And what is his purpose? Remember that God’s judgment was to be used to refine His people. Our enemies can be used to reveal truth and light to us, so that God’s will can be accomplished in our lives. We need not fear the discipline of the Lord. The Lord disciplines those he loves (Hebrews 12:6). God disciplines us that we may share in His holiness (Hebrews 12:10).  Are you looking at even the troubles in your life as from the hand of God – perhaps being used to refine you, so that you can share in his holiness to fulfill the purposes he has planned for you?

 

  1. God will punish His enemies - even one that he has used as his instrument of wrath.

We see this in the word with the nation of Assyria (chapter 10) and with Babylon (chapter 13). In Isaiah 10:12, when God is finished using Assyria for his intended purpose, he punishes Assyria for their pride.  And in the example of God’s judgment against Babylon we see that he will punish His enemies. Isaiah 13:1-5 predicts that God will summon an army against Babylon to judge them (vs 4b-5). Verse 17 identifies this army as the Medes or Persians, who also don’t exist at the time of this prophecy as significant in the realm of worldly power. But God has a plan and purpose for them. And will carry it out. The Medes, even though they did not believe in Jehovah, are God’s holy ones (sanctified ones) set apart for his purposes to carry out His wrath against Babylon (vs 3).

      There is no doubt that this prophecy beginning in verse 9 points to the final destruction of God’s enemy pictured in the final destruction of the city of Babylon in the day of the Lord. Verse 11 says that God will punish the world for its evil, the wicked for their sins. There will be God’s judgment on a fallen world in the last days, before Jesus establishes his millennium kingdom. We are moving toward that day even now.

      But what about for us today. In II Peter 2 Peter is speaking about the destruction of false teachers – who would also represent enemies of God. In verse 9 “…the Lord knows how to rescue the godly men from trials and to hold the unrighteous for the day of judgment while continuing their punishment.”

God is sovereign over all nations, using nations to accomplish his purposes, whether that purpose is to discipline his children or punish their enemy.

The upraised hand of God against sin is one aspect of God’s hand as we have seen in the scripture.

We need to see God’s gracious hand- Isaiah 41:8-10. God’s desire for us is to uphold us with his righteous right hand. We are his children if we have believed in his son Jesus Christ. Right hand who is Jesus is full of grace and truth and love.

We often get hung up in the pain of the trial or discipline or testing sent our way. Or we are consumed with the desire to be released from the oppression of our enemies or with the need to get revenge and we forget that God has a greater purpose in the testings which is to bring about his glory and our good.

We can give up or crack up or shut up – cutting ourselves off from the grace of God in our lives. We do have another choice. We can hold onto his righteous right hand. We can trust God who has a plan and a purpose for us despite our tendency to fall into sin, despite our waywardness, despite the difficulties we have in walking in righteousness in a sin-filled world, despite the pain and suffering that is allowed in our lives. His grace is available.

I think one of the most helpful pictures to remember the sovereignty of God besides the history of his faithfulness in accomplishing his purposes seen  in scripture, is the picture of a tapestry….It is God’s hand who weaves the tapestry of history, as well as our individual lives. If history is like a tapestry, we are looking at it from the back of the tapestry. We see just the moment, just the small piece of thread being woven now. The people of Isaiah’s time – even Isaiah – didn’t “get it!” We don’t “get it” even when we see a small piece of the finished tapestry. God is weaving history and only he sees the upper-side – the entire fabric and its complete pattern. Therefore, we can trust Him to work out all the details of history for his glory our good. His glory and our good are wrapped together in his hand of love.