Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Isaiah 2: 13-18

13 And it will be against all the cedars of Lebanon that are lofty and lifted up,
Against all the oaks of Bashan,
14 Against all the lofty mountains,
Against all the hills that are lifted up,
15 Against every high tower,
Against every fortified wall,
16 Against all the ships of Tarshish
And against all the beautiful craft.
17 The pride of man will be humbled
And the loftiness of men will be abased;
And the LORD alone will be exalted in that day,
18 But the idols will completely vanish.

In poetic fashion, Isaiah expounds on the coming "day of reckoning." (vs 12) Last week, we read that it will come up "against everyone who is proud and lofty." It will not only come up against the people but against how His people have used His creation--it all falls under His judgment.


Verse 13: "the cedars of Lebanon...the oaks of Bashan"

  • I recall looking at the cedars in studying Hosea. In Hosea 14:5, the prophet foretells the time of Israel's ultimate redemption, in which "...he will take root like the cedars of Lebanon." Amos 4:1 spoke of the cows of Bashan--a derogatory name given to Israel for its unholy behavior--in a richly fertile and prosperous land. The image is of mighty, unshakable, towering trees, "lofty and lifted up," not as God-created pillars of His making but as reflections of the status-consciousness of man with ill-seeded expectations.

Verse 14: "lofty mountains...hills that are lifted up"
  • Contrast with this familiar memory verse from the Psalms: "I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the LORD, which made heaven and earth." (Psalm 121: 1 and 2, King James Version)

Verse 15: "every high tower...every fortified wall"
  • "You are my strong tower, shelter over me." Jerusalem did not sing as Kutless, but regarded the building of its own magnificent towers as something worthy of praise. "Did Jerusalem glory in the mountains that were round about it, as its impregnable fortifications, or in its walls and bulwarks? These should be levelled and laid low in the day of the Lord." (Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on the Bible)
  • An interesting find in looking at the Hebrew for the term "fortified wall." In addition to speaking of being of inaccessible height, the word comes from a root meaning "to clip off" as in "to gather grapes." This brings to mind a scene from the Day of the Lord, as revealed to John: 
"And another angel came out of the temple which is in heaven, and he also had a sharp sickle. Then another angel, the one who has power over fire, came out from the altar; and he called with a loud voice to him who had the sharp sickle, saying, 'Put in your sharp sickle and gather the clusters from the vine of the earth, because her grapes are ripe.' So the angel swung his sickle to the earth and gathered the clusters from the vine of the earth, and threw them into the great wine press of the wrath of God."
--Revelation 14: 17-19

Verse 16: "all the ships of Tarshish...the beautiful craft"
  • Tarshish was located in southern Spain--all the way west across the Mediterranean Sea. There was lively and successful trade between all of Israel and points west. As a side note, do you remember a prophet who tried to go to Tarshish? Jonah, in his humanly efforts to escape his calling east to Nineveh, hopped a boat in the polar opposite direction to Tarshish. His disobedience cost him--reformed him, but cost him. Without the allegory, Judah should have known its own disobedience.
  • In the King James', "beautiful craft" is translated "all the pleasant pictures." I had taken craft to mean another word for boat. How does this connect with pictures? It's open to interpretation. Matthew Henry postulates what some suggest, that 'pictures' refers to actual artwork that became coveted by its owner as a valuable possession. T. Lewis, writing in the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, offers this explanation: "'Pictures' stands for a slightly different word (but from the same root) in Isaiah...'imagery'...'watchtowers'. The prophet probably alludes to carved figures (of gods in animal or human shapes) on the prows of vessels.

That in which man places his pride--his idols (vs. 18)--will be humbled and abased, because God is in control over all things at all times. In His Day, He will be solely exalted, and all idols shall cease to be. Again, the Hebrew word for "vanish" in the NASB paints a much richer picture. It means a "whole burnt sacrifice, perfect, entire"--Strong's also uses the word holocaust.

In this Holy Week, we remember and reflect upon the act and ministry of One who knew no idols. He wept over this city that knew idols yet did not know Him. He came to give us salvation and understanding, to fulfill all the words of the law and the prophets, yet as a humble servant and not a lofty king. He came as the Word, and it is through Him that we make our pride vanish.

"Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves.... So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure."
--Philippians 2: 3, 12 and 13

"And we know that the Son of God has come, and has given us understanding so that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life. Little children, guard yourselves from idols."
--I John 5: 20 and 21

Closing out Chapter 2.... 'Til next Wednesday!


* * *

Next week: Isaiah 2: 19-22

Note: I read from the New American Standard Bible translation,
specifically, The MacArthur Study Bible (NASB).
I will quote other sources if used in a post.

I also use
Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible
(with notes from the King James Version).

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