Before jumping into Isaiah’s prophecies against Damascus, Cush, Egypt, Babylon, Edom and Arabia, we read an affirmation psalm (Psalm 101).
Psalm 101: I Will
In eight verses, this psalm affirms twelve “I Will” statements — a great way to start the week!
- I will sing of the Lord’s love and justice
- I will be careful to lead a blameless life
- I will conduct myself with a blameless heart
- I will not look for approval from vile things
- I will have no part of faithless people
- I will put to silence those who slander their neighbor
- I will not tolerate those haughty eyes and a proud heart
- I will set my eyes on the faithful, the one whose walk is blameless
- I will not invite those who practice deceit into my house
- I will not stand in the presence of liars
- I will not listen to the wicked
- I will cut off every evildoer from the city of the Lord
This really needs to become a song we sing, one of those songs you can’t get out of your head. The airwaves are filled with so much negative news that this proclamation of the power of positive thinking (to steal Norman Vincent Peale’s title) is a great way to silence those voices. Thanks, Lord, for the reminder!
Prophecy Against Damascus: Isaiah 17
The capital city of Aram, home of the Arameans, frequent enemies of Israel, is an important city to this day. Now the capital of Syria, this location has been the target of many invasions. Isaiah’s vision would have likely been scoffed at when delivered, perhaps like the unsinkable Titanic.
See, Damascus will no longer be a city
but will become a heap of ruins.
The Apostle Paul was heading to Damascus when Jesus met him. The fact that there were Jewish synagogues in Damascus tells me there was hope for this place.
Yet some gleanings will remain,
as when an olive tree is beaten,
leaving two or three olives on the topmost branches,
four or five on the fruitful boughs,”
declares the Lord, the God of Israel.
The remnant survives.
Prophecy Against Cush: Isaiah 18
Woe to the land of whirring wings
along the rivers of Cush,
which sends envoys by sea
in papyrus boats over the water.
Go, swift messengers,
to a people tall and smooth-skinned,
to a people feared far and wide,
an aggressive nation of strange speech,
whose land is divided by rivers.
For the contemporary audience, the prophecy against Cush is a was a warning not to align themselves with Cush (and Egypt), even though it was tempting. God had their backs as long as they (Judah) was faithful. No need to create alliances with aggressive nations. Remain faithful, sing psalm 101 again!
Prophecy Against Egypt: Isaiah 19
The same applies to Egypt, that special place in ancient biblical times that housed and hid many of our ancestors (good and bad):
See, the Lord rides on a swift cloud
and is coming to Egypt.
The idols of Egypt tremble before him,
and the hearts of the Egyptians melt with fear.
So the Lord will make himself known to the Egyptians, and in that day they will acknowledge the Lord. They will worship with sacrifices and grain offerings; they will make vows to the Lord and keep them. The Lord will strike Egypt with a plague; he will strike them and heal them. They will turn to the Lord, and he will respond to their pleas and heal them. Isaiah 10:21-22
Our God is gracious, he wants the best of all of us, though His discipline is difficult to understand at times…well…oftentimes it seems. “He will strike them and heal them.” There seems to be a soft spot in God’s heart for Egypt, for the Egyptians. When Jesus was born and Herod threatened, Joseph responds to God’s prompting and heads to Egypt. Just one of several times in the Bible. Interesting.
Prophecy Against Egypt and Cush: Isaiah 20
For now, Isaiah continues his warning about Egypt and Cush:
Those who trusted in Cush and boasted in Egypt will be dismayed and put to shame. In that day the people who live on this coast will say, ‘See what has happened to those we relied on, those we fled to for help and deliverance from the king of Assyria! How then can we escape?’”Isaiah 20:5-6
Timing is everything.
Prophecy Against Babylon: Isaiah 21:1-10
Look, here comes a man in a chariot
with a team of horses.
And he gives back the answer:
‘Babylon has fallen, has fallen!
All the images of its gods
lie shattered on the ground!’”
The rise and fall of Babylon, several times throughout history, provides a reminder that those who worship idols, gods of their own hands, have little to rely on. It’s reassuring, perhaps, but troublesome as well. For some reason I’m thinking of Poland when the Nazis invaded. Knowing that their leader was pure evil didn’t remove the pain from those swept away by overwhelming forces. I wonder how strong my faith would be in such circumstances. Would I have read a letter from someone as renowned as Isaiah in those days and remained faithful? I hope the study of Isaiah gives me the strength to stand when my faith is tested, not if.
Prophecy Against Arabia: Isaiah 21:13-17
This is what the Lord says to me: “Within one year, as a servant bound by contract would count it, all the splendor of Kedar will come to an end. The survivors of the archers, the warriors of Kedar, will be few.” Isaiah 21:16-17
Hopefully, those in Judah, the faithful kings, heard these words and bolstered their faith in God as their deliverer rather than some unholy accord with neighboring nations. Well, for the most part we know that worked, at least temporarily.
Isaiah covers a lot of ground, much to consider, but throughout I read the story of God working his plan through people. As affirmed in Psalm 101, I will hear the words and align myself with those who walk with the Lord.