Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Isaiah 7: 21-25

21 Now in that day a man may keep alive a heifer and a pair of sheep;
22 and because of the abundance of the milk produced he will eat curds, for everyone that is left within the land will eat curds and honey.
23 And it will come about in that day, that every place where there used to be a thousand vines, valued at a thousand shekels of silver, will become briars and thorns.
24 People will come there with bows and arrows because all the land will be briars and thorns. 25 As for all the hills which used to be cultivated with the hoe, you will not go there for fear of briars and thorns; but they will become a place for pasturing oxen and for sheep to trample.

In a day in America in which no issue is pricklier than the state of the economy, it is not surprising to see that it has been a hot topic since, oh, probably forever! Does God leave an imprint on a nation's economy? Today's verses closing out Isaiah, Chapter 7, certainly tell us so.

"And [because of the desolation brought on by the invaders] in that day, a man will [be so poor that he will] keep alive only a young milk cow and two sheep."
--Verse 21, Amplified Bible

Judah's primary economy in the days of Isaiah had been agricultural. Crops were grown in the lush, fertile lands. We recall "The Parable of the Vineyard" today, from Isaiah, Chapter 5, as we remember the nation's perfect conditions for the growing of grapes. A middle eastern "breadbasket," as well, if you will. But with the political and, ultimately, spiritual mistakes made by the nation, God would force a change of conditions.

"'So now let Me tell you what I am going to do to My vineyard:
I will remove its hedge and it will be consumed;
I will break down its wall and it will become trampled ground. I will lay it waste....For ten acres of vineyard will yield only one bath of wine, and a homer of seed will yield but an ephah of grain.'"
--Isaiah 5: 5, 6 and 10 (excerpts)

Judah's beautiful landscape would change from vineyards and farms to "briars and thorns." (vs. 23) Vines that used to be "valued at a thousand shekels of silver"--a year's rent, says commentator Matthew Henry--would now be trampled by "pasturing oxen and...sheep." (vs. 25) And, not great "pasturization" at that! It's the dregs from the once-overflowing Starbucks' cup. The crumbs in the plastic tray of Oreos that your kids should have thrown out instead of put back in the pantry. It's not even quite back-to-basics.

That cow and two sheep per remaining household in Judah needed to meet the needs of the whole household, which could have included not only children but extended family and servants of the has-been farm. Even in these times of desperation and desolation, God provided for those remaining, allowing the animals to produce enough milk for living:

"And because of the abundance of milk that they will give, he will eat butter and curds, for [only] butter and curds and [wild] honey [no vegetables] shall everyone eat who is left in the land [these products provided from the extensive pastures and the plentiful wild flowers upon which the bees depend]."
--Verse 22, Amplified Bible

I pulled out the Amplified Bible's version because of its expansion on what these pasture lands looked like. Note the reference to "bees." Last week, we revisited that bees were common to Assyria and are metaphorically mentioned in the Bible relating to the Assyrian Empire. The bees came at God's whistle to stake out positions in the ledges, cliffs and thorn bushes (Isaiah 7:19).

"The bees constructed their honeycomb and deposited their honey in holes in the ground; under rocks or in crevices between the rocks. They do the same today.... The Syrian bee is an especially hardy type and a good honey producer. It is carried to Europe and America for breeding purposes."

--International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
In the midst of "bee-dlam," there was honey.

Besides the product, the tools for commerce also had to change with the land. The hoe (vs. 25)--more specifically, a weeding hoe or 'mattock,' as used in some translations--would be exchanged for "bows and arrows." (vs. 24) The tidy farmers had to become hunters, as there were no fields of crops to tend but plenty of wilderness upon which wild animals would graze. Matthew Henry takes the wild nature of things a step further:

"The whole land having become briers and thorns, the grounds that men used to come to with sickles and pruning-hooks to gather in the fruits they shall now come to with arrows and bows, to hunt for wild beasts in the thickets, or to defend themselves from the robbers that lurk in the bushes, seeking for prey, or to kill the serpents and venomous beasts that are hid there. This denotes a very sad change of the face of that pleasant land. But what melancholy change is there which sin will not make with a people?"
 --Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on the Bible

Always love how deep Matthew Henry makes me think! Do we see what happens when we allow the sin in our lives to take over? I know I personally understand the feeling of being in a wilderness, letting anxiety and loss of control be my "bows and arrows." Foolishness to be there, I know, especially when I have been witness to those times of joy and spiritual prosperity. Not that there won't be trouble and tough times. But do I want my heart to become as King Ahaz's--lost to asking for a sign, or accepting and trusting the Word of God for my own situation?

"And see what folly it is to set our hearts upon possessions of lands, be they ever so fruitful, ever so pleasant; if they lie ever so little neglected and uncultivated, or if they be abused by a wasteful careless heir or tenant, or the country be laid waste by war, they will soon become frightful deserts."
--Matthew Henry

"Damascus and Samaria Fall," as we open up Chapter 8 and God's Word through Isaiah is affirmed.... 'Til next Wednesday!


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Next week: Isaiah 8: 1-4

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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