Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Isaiah 13: 1-5

Prophecies about Babylon

1 The oracle concerning Babylon which Isaiah the son of Amoz saw.
2 Lift up a standard on the bare hill,
Raise your voice to them,
Wave the hand that they may enter the doors of the nobles.
I have commanded My consecrated ones,
I have even called My mighty warriors,
My proudly exulting ones,
To execute My anger.
A sound of tumult on the mountains,
Like that of many people!
A sound of the uproar of kingdoms,
Of nations gathered together!
The Lord of hosts is mustering the army for battle.
They are coming from a far country,
From the farthest horizons,
The Lord and His instruments of indignation,
To destroy the whole land.

As mentioned at the end of last week's post, with Isaiah, Chapter 13, we begin an 11-chapter exposition of the prophecies concerning foreign nations. God will let loose words of fire upon those nations who are not His people. We begin with Babylon, which, in the time that Isaiah received this word, was not a world-dominating power. It was part of the Assyrian Empire. But, we know that the world's situation changed, as Babylon became an empire all its own, sweeping Judah out of its land.

Beginning with the first verse, we come to the word oracle, which commonly means a response or pronouncement of something by one with authority. ( "The Hebrew word can mean a literal weight, corresponding to the idea that the prophetic word is a heavy responsibility for the prophet who must deliver it." (Reformation Study Bible). Matthew Henry suggests the burden is that which is coming upon Babylon, meaning a word they are struggling to hear. Not being followers of God, the Babylonians would not have recognized this message as carrying much weight at the time, although the ultimate cost to them was and will be enormous.

Let's look at verse 2 in the Amplified Bible:

"Raise up a signal banner upon the high and bare mountain, summon them [the Medes and Persians] with loud voice and beckoning hand that they may enter the gates of the [Babylonian] nobles."
--Isaiah 13:2 (Amplified Bible)

I wonder if Babylon would have paid more attention to this oracle had they the Amplified Bible version? We looked at 'standard' when Isaiah used the word in 5:26--"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." God's raising a flag, a sail, a sign to call the nations of His choosing into service. Look at all the capital "My's" in verse 3! Look at how God calls them, too: "consecrated," "mighty," "proudly exulting." What we need to understand--as we had to understand about the calling of Assyria to conquer Israel--is that God is calling the nations! He is assembling the best warriors--not followers--to squelch His anger.

With verse 4, Isaiah grants us a visual and auditory picture of how such a gathering might look and sound. "Tumult" and "uproar" as God pulls up these nations from their places, giving them the mindset of heading for an all-out war without the mindset of knowing that it was for heavenly purposes.

"God’s sanctified [consecrated, my add] ones, designed for this service and set apart to it by the purpose and providence of God, disengaged from other projects, that they might wholly apply themselves to this, such as were qualified for that to which they were called, for what work God employs men in he does in some measure fit them for."
--Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on the Bible

When God can use the gifts and skills of those who do not believe for His service, how can we who believe doubt that He can use us as we are for His purposes? Wouldn't even bring this up if it weren't something I hear from believers pretty often. Think about it....

The end of verse 4 might be more literally translated as "the Lord of armies musters the army." As the Lord of hosts, God is in control of everything in the heavenly realms and the earthly realms. The "God of angel armies" can command the earthly forces of the nations as well--nations that will come from the "farthest horizons." (vs 5) The Medes and Persians? Really? His "instruments of indignation" will not fail Him.

Babylon's judgment on the Day of the Lord.... 'Til next Wednesday!


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Next week: Isaiah 13: 6-8

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).