Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Isaiah 13: 9-12

Behold, the day of the Lord is coming,
Cruel, with fury and burning anger,
To make the land a desolation;
And He will exterminate its sinners from it.
10 For the stars of heaven and their constellations
Will not flash forth their light;
The sun will be dark when it rises
And the moon will not shed its light.
11 Thus I will punish the world for its evil
And the wicked for their iniquity;
I will also put an end to the arrogance of the proud
And abase the haughtiness of the ruthless.
12 I will make mortal man scarcer than pure gold
And mankind than the gold of Ophir.

Isaiah joins with fellow prophets, like Joel and Amos, in bringing forth mention of the Day of the Lord. He is in the midst of pronouncing God's punishment upon Babylon, in Chapter 13, and his narrative will now move clearly from post-exilic Judah to the end times. Verse 9 lays it out: "cruel," "fury," "burning anger," "desolation." As much as Jerusalem may have been decimated by Nebuchadnezzar's forces, a "desolation" as is being described by Isaiah hasn't been seen since the days of Noah. And this will be worse than that because it's permanent! "He will exterminate its sinners from it." That is a truly dreadful picture (unless you know the Lord's salvation!).

Verse 10 moves into a more physical description of what will happen. The Day of the Lord is marked by an absence of light in any of its natural forms. "Oh, when the sun, refuses to shine...Oh, Lord, I want to be in that number...." Even as "He will exterminate its sinners," He will welcome those who have received Jesus into the number of the saints of Heaven! But the earth and all of creation will respond as God begins to exterminate light upon the world. The prophets, Jesus in the Gospel accounts and John in his Revelation all speak of this loss of light. But, I love how Paul describes creation's response, as he recalls the metaphor of childbirth (trouble, labor, torture), which we have been discussing here:
"For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body."
--Romans 8: 22 and 23

What is happening is the once-and-for-all punishment of the world's evil. (vs 11) God also makes specific reference to one of the overriding attitudes of the heart that leads to so much of the world's wickedness and evil: pride.

"'The proud look of man will be abased
And the loftiness of man will be humbled,
And the Lord alone will be exalted in that day.'"
--Isaiah 2:11

I'm sure I've said this before, but, there's a reason why "Thou shalt have no other gods before Me" is Commandment #1! When we lean so heavily upon ourselves for strength and celebrate all that we can be and do--in the absence of God--we are causing the creation to groan! Who is to be exalted? The Lord, alone! As happy as we might be over something we've done, or things our children have done, or things others have done, if we aren't saying that prayer of thanksgiving to thank God for what He has done through everything, then we are changing the look of our face (pride) and the height of our stature (loftiness)--and God's plans for dealing with those things will not be our own (abased and humbled).

Yes, this is Day of the Lord reading, but look back at Babylon before its takeover by the Medes and Persians. We looked at Belshazzar (Neb's son) a bit last week and God's literal hand in writing the happenings to come. Look at what Daniel says to him:

"Yet you, his son, Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart, even though you knew all this, but you have exalted yourself against the Lord of heaven; and they have brought the vessels of His house before you, and you and your nobles, your wives and your concubines have been drinking wine from them; and you have praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood and stone, which do not see, hear or understand. But the God in whose hand are your life-breath and all your ways, you have not glorified."
--Daniel 5:22-23  (emphasis mine

Taking the items from the Temple and using them vicariously were stupid, disrespectful mistakes. But the bigger problem was the pride that ruled over Belshazzar's heart. (And this, after his father had been so severely humbled for his pride by God! Pride so blinding, Belshazzar could not even see it through his father's mistakes.) Babylon may disappear from the realm of world domination, but, she does return, and her pride continues to rule.

"To the degree that she glorified herself and lived sensuously, to the same degree give her torment and mourning; for she says in her heart, 'I sit as a queen and I am not a widow, and will never see mourning.'"
 --Revelation 18:7 (on the fall of Babylon)

In verse 12, God compares the presence of man in this Day to that of "finding pure gold." Ophir, also mentioned in this verse, is mentioned in a couple of other places in the Bible. Though its geographical location is unconfirmed, with every mention it is clear that it is a known home for gold. Ophir's gold, yes, available. But the finding of men will be "scarce," as they will fall at the hand of the Lord.

"Then I said, 'Lord, how long?' And He answered, 'Until cities are devastated and without inhabitant,
Houses are without people
And the land is utterly desolate,
'The Lord has removed men far away,
And the forsaken places are many in the midst of the land."

--Isaiah 6: 11-12 (Isaiah asking how long he has to prophesy)

Though men will be "scarce," some will remain. "Like a terebinth or an oak whose stump remains when it is felled, the holy seed is its stump." (Isa. 6:13b)


More from the Day.... 'Til next Wednesday!

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Next week: Isaiah 13: 13-16

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).