Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Isaiah 13: 6-8

Wail, for the day of the Lord is near!
It will come as destruction from the Almighty.
Therefore all hands will fall limp,
And every man’s heart will melt.
They will be terrified,
Pains and anguish will take hold of them;
They will writhe like a woman in labor,
They will look at one another in astonishment,
Their faces aflame.

The New American Standard Bible indicates this section of Isaiah 13 as "Judgment on the Day of the Lord." Certainly, as we read through, you will see obvious signs that Isaiah is pointing to the end times. But, we might also read these words as a prophecy with a double fulfillment, seeing the defeat of Babylon by the Medes and Persians as an initial fulfillment of God's words to Isaiah. Isaiah, the writer, is very much present in this passage today, as we receive a very visual picture.

"Wail" or "Howl ye," as the King James Version of verse 6 reads--"the day of the Lord is near!" This is definitely not a "Rejoice!" or "Sing praises!" event for those who have not received the Lord's salvation. "Weeping and gnashing of teeth" comes to mind as a response. The day shall bring "destruction" and that at the hand of the Almighty--El Shaddai (God of the mountain, Encyclopedia of the Bible). How do you describe that destruction? Isaiah begins by reflecting on the appearance of those who will experience it firsthand.

"All hands will fall limp," verse 7, or "All hands be feeble" in the Amplified Bible. The study notes in the Amplified consider this passage in light of an event in the Babylon of Judah's captivity. Daniel 5 tells the story of then King Belshazzar, King Nebuchadnezzar's son, who had a party one night, worshiping false gods while drinking wine in abundance out of the stolen precious gold and silver vessels of the Temple. Suddenly, a hand appears and begins writing on the wall.

"Then the king’s face grew pale and his thoughts alarmed him, and his hip joints went slack and his knees began knocking together."
--Daniel 5:6
The prophets are giving us a picture of incredible fear with these images. The strong hand of God printed the words that would bring Belshazzar to his knees, literally. He would die, powerless, that night as the city would be taken over, and Darius the Mede made king. Prophecy fulfilled.
But, Babylon is not completely dead. Indeed, "Babylon" will rise (and fall) again, as Revelation tells us; this is the center of operations of the Antichrist. (Revelation 14) Isaiah's words will come back in the faces of those who witness the return of Christ and His armies, as He faces His earthly enemies once and for all. "Every man's heart will melt," or liquefy, as the Hebrew might also be translated. [Strong's] "Strength will rise as we wait upon the Lord," will not be the chosen lyrics or reality of Babylon!

"And they [of Babylon] shall be dismayed and terrified, pangs and sorrows shall take hold of them; they shall be in pain as a woman in childbirth. They will gaze stupefied and aghast at one another, their faces will be aflame [from the effects of the unprecedented warfare]."
--Verse 8, Amplfied Bible

Besides "weeping and gnashing of teeth," another often-used Biblical image of pain is that of "a woman in childbirth." Head back to Genesis 3:16 for the pronouncement: "To the woman He said, 'I will greatly multiply your pain in childbirth, in pain you will bring forth children....'" The King James Version of verse 8 uses the phrase "woman that travaileth," the root words of that meaning "pangs of childbirth, trouble, toil, labor, torture." (World English Dictionary) Scripture's picture of this kind of pain is not an immediate infliction but a drawn-out ordeal. Childbirth is a process, with increasingly difficult stages of pain. Having experienced this process twice (without medication), I have an appreciation for this metaphor!

Even so, we cannot comprehend fully what the Day of the Lord will look like, though it will leave the mightiest earthly warrior "in astonishment." (vs. 8) We say we are living in the last days, but are these the days of tribulation, as Scripture tells us are coming? The pangs of the end times come in seals and trumpets and bowl judgments, to use the words of Revelation. The events of the past few days--bombings and earthquakes and abominable crimes against new life--make me turn to Revelation and other passages, wondering if the time is at hand and if it's time to measure the size of those "contractions":

"When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be frightened; those things must take place; but that is not yet the end. For nation will rise up against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will also be famines. These things are merely the beginning of birth pangs."
--Jesus, speaking of the Tribulation, in Mark 13: 7 and 8

How long will this labor be? As we travail through these last days, are our eyes looking toward our Strong Deliverer? "Babylon" is beckoning.

"You are the everlasting God
The everlasting God
You do not faint
You won't grow weary
You're the defender of the weak
You comfort those in need
You lift us up on wings like eagles."
--from "Everlasting God," lyrics by Chris Tomlin 

Mortal man is scarce.... 'Til next Wednesday!

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Next week: Isaiah 13: 9-12

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).