Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Isaiah 5: 26-30

26 He will also lift up a standard to the distant nation,
And will whistle for it from the ends of the earth;
And behold, it will come with speed swiftly.
27 No one in it is weary or stumbles,
None slumbers or sleeps;
Nor is the belt at its waist undone,
Nor its sandal strap broken.
28 Its arrows are sharp and all its bows are bent;
The hoofs of its horses seem like flint and its chariot wheels like a whirlwind.
29 Its roaring is like a lioness, and it roars like young lions;
It growls as it seizes the prey
And carries it off with no one to deliver it.
30 And it will growl over it in that day like the roaring of the sea.
If one looks to the land, behold, there is darkness and distress;
Even the light is darkened by its clouds.

We conclude Isaiah, Chapter 5, far from the beautiful vineyard that opened this chapter. This reads more like a scene out of "Braveheart" than "A Walk in the Clouds."

Last time, we talked about God's hand being in total control of this situation. The judgment and consequences facing Judah were His doing. He would "lift up a standard,"--a flag, sail or sign [Strong's]--to a "distant nation." A signal flare of sorts was fired to a nation that was not part of Israel--likely, forces from the Assyrian Empire. ("These would be Syria, Assyria, Babylon, etc. The imperial Assyrian army was composed of mercenaries hired from all over the Assyrian Empire."--Reformation Study Bible). Strong's includes one more definition in an explanation of the Hebrew for 'standard'--token. God was handing off Judah as if someone were receiving a token for a high score in an arcade game. Here, catch....

"'Because you did not serve the Lord your God with joy and a glad heart, for the abundance of all things; therefore you shall serve your enemies whom the Lord will send against you, in hunger, in thirst, in nakedness, and in the lack of all things; and He will put an iron yoke on your neck until He has destroyed you. 'The Lord will bring a nation against you from afar, from the end of the earth, as the eagle swoops down, a nation whose language you shall not understand....'"
--Deuteronomy 28: 47-49
Verse 26 says that God will "whistle" for this armament. This whistle is not a still small voice as Elijah would have heard in recognizing God. Again looking at the Hebrew, the word means "to be shrill, i.e., to whistle or hiss (as a call or in scorn)." [Strong's] More like the tea kettle at high boil kind of whistle! Or a hissing that would have sounded like a bee, as Assyria was noted for its bees. [International Standard Bible Encyclopedia] And once the call was issued, the forces would come "with speed swiftly," which certainly emphasizes the point.

Isaiah takes the next several verses to describe the army. Verse 27 describes a group dressed for battle with nothing of strength out of place. Not a one weary, stumbling, or sleepy. The phrasing chosen here reminds me immediately of Psalm 121: "He who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep." (verses 3b and 4) The Lord was lifting up an army with Divine might.

"If God set up his standard, he can incline men’s hearts to enlist themselves under it, though perhaps they know not why or wherefore. When the Lord of hosts is pleased to make a general muster of the forces he has at his command, he has a great army in an instant...."
--Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on the Bible

The army of total preparedness has perfect equipment as well. Bows and arrows, groomed and at the ready. Horses with hooves that "seem like flint," (verse 28) meaning of great hardness, so that they would be prepared to ride the miles and withstand the attack to come. Their chariots would kick up the dust, as if a "whirlwind." It is with the reference to chariots that some commentaries I read suggested this entire passage might also refer to other times of judgment and invasion, such as the emergence of the Roman Empire. More on this thought in a moment....

Verse 29 goes figurative, as the invading force takes on the persona of a roaring lion. Isaiah describes the take-over of Judah as if a lion attacking its prey. It begins with a commanding roaring, moves to a satisfying growl, the seize and, finally, the unchallenged escape. Babylon invaded Jerusalem in 586 B.C., destroying the temple and leading a host of Jews back to exile. If only Isaiah's words had sounded to God's people as a roaring lion.

"Those who would not hear the voice of God speaking to them by his prophets, but stopped their ears against their charms, shall be made to hear the voice of their enemies roaring against them and shall not be able to turn a deaf ear to it."
--Matthew Henry

Finishing up with verse 30 out of the King James Version:

"And in that day they shall roar against them like the roaring of the sea: and if one look unto the land, behold darkness and sorrow, and the light is darkened in the heavens thereof."

The idea of Scripture being applicable in more than one place and time (Assyrian Empire; Roman Empire; End Times) shouldn't surprise us. This is a living, active word! (Hebrews 4:12) Surely, in the exile of Judah and the destruction of the temple, there would be darkness in the heavens. I know what you're thinking, though: This was at God's hand! He could have intervened, done something different. But, as I hope we've learned from the little of Isaiah that we have tackled so far, we are talking about a people that had turned so far away from God that drastic measures were necessary. And, truly, when you read passages in Deuteronomy, like Chapter 28, this was the punishment to fit the disobedience. No surprises here!

It is hard to see this as a "tough love" situation, but, through discipline, God was trying to reach them and bring them back to Himself. This is a way He shows His love for us. And a time was coming in which there would be the greatest showing of His love ever known. Yet, history repeats itself....

"In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not."
--John 1: 4 and 5

The "darkness" did not understand, but led the true Light of the world to the cross. "And if one look unto the land, behold darkness and sorrow, and the light is darkened in the heavens thereof."

"It was now about the sixth hour, and darkness fell over the whole land until the ninth hour, because the sun was obscured...."
--Luke 23: 44-45a

"...The earth shook and the rocks were split. ...When they saw the earthquake and the things that were happening, became very frightened and said, 'Truly this was the Son of God!'"
--Matthew 27: 51-54 (excerpts)

THINGS HAPPEN in the presence of God, even as the heavens are darkened and saddened at the will of those who do not see. Might we hear the roaring cry of the prophets, the roaring cry of our Savior--the Lion of Judah [How about that flip on a metaphor!?]--so that we will not continue to walk in darkness, but have the light of life? (John 8:12)

Before that Day of the last roaring?

"'There will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth dismay among nations, in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves, men fainting from fear and the expectation of the things which are coming upon the world; for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.'"
--Luke 21: 25 and 26 (Jesus speaking

How Isaiah became a prophet. Chapter 6 begins.... 'Til next Wednesday!


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Next week: Isaiah 6: 1-3

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).