Thursday, July 18, 2013

Isaiah 14: 28-32

28 In the year that King Ahaz died this oracle came:

Judgment on Philistia

29 “Do not rejoice, O Philistia, all of you,
Because the rod that struck you is broken;
For from the serpent’s root a viper will come out,
And its fruit will be a flying serpent.
30 “Those who are most helpless will eat,
And the needy will lie down in security;
I will destroy your root with famine,
And it will kill off your survivors.
31 “Wail, O gate; cry, O city;
Melt away, O Philistia, all of you;
For smoke comes from the north,
And there is no straggler in his ranks.
32 “How then will one answer the messengers of the nation?
That the Lord has founded Zion,
And the afflicted of His people will seek refuge in it.”

We could have covered verse 28 in last week's post. But that would have been like one of those season-ending cliff-hangers. "What?! What did the oracle say? What happens next?!...." So, let's take it all in this week.

It is interesting that this message comes with a timeframe, albeit vague. (And the fact that my study Bible says the year of King Ahaz's death is uncertain adds to that ambiguity!) But, we know the king died when Hezekiah began his term, which puts the time between 727 and 716/15 B.C. The Reformation Study Bible suggests the latter date is "preferable" since it occurs 14 years before the fall of Samaria at the hands of the Assyrians--also, the timeframe in which the Philistines were revolting against Assyria.

Ah, the Philistines. If you caught the fact that this week's passage is divided by a subhead in my study Bible, then you see 'Philistia'. And, if you see 'Philistia,' you can figure out from whence cometh the Philistines. Philistia (see map above) was a territory located in what is now southwestern Palestine. ['Palestine' is derived from Philistia/Philistine. (Encyclopedia of the Bible)] Throughout the Bible, the Philistines are public enemy #1 to God's people (David and Goliath just one of many stories). Just as Assyria faced God's judgment in oppressing God's people, so will the Philistines, according to this prophecy. Their judgment closes out Isaiah 14.

Remember, an oracle is a burden or inspired message of concern. Why was this coming before Judah at this time by Isaiah? Upcoming threats. We must continue to review history in light of prophecy.

King Uzziah was the first king under which Isaiah served. Generally, he was considered a "good" king, in that he followed the Lord, most of the time. God would strike him with leprosy for taking the duties of the priest, but God granted him successes, including a take-down of the Philistines.

"Now he [Uzziah] went out and warred against the Philistines, and broke down the wall of Gath and the wall of Jabneh and the wall of Ashdod; and he built cities in the area of Ashdod and among the Philistines. God helped him against the Philistines...."
--II Chronicles 26: 6 and 7a

So a precedent had been established, but, under King Ahaz (king #3 for Isaiah), Judah disbanded its Godly obedience. With the rising of Assyria as a threat to everyone, the Philistines sought to build up alliances for self-preservation. With Ahaz's passing and the torch being passed to his son, Hezekiah, the possibility for a Philistia/Judah coalition remained on the table for consideration. Thankfully, as we have seen in our review of Scripture, Hezekiah was not the man or king his father was. Having Isaiah--and his prophecies--for guidance demonstrated the wisdom of Hezekiah in keeping the nation secure under the ultimate reign of God.

Back to this week's verses, Uzziah appears to be the 'rod' spoken of in verse 29, especially since the Philistines came back to conquer portions of Judah during Ahaz's tenure. Lest the Philistines should gloat too much, the Lord plans to raise up "a viper" [Hezekiah] to squelch the rise of the nation, not to mention put a damper on the Assyrian revolt, at least, for that time.

"And the Lord was with him [Hezekiah]; wherever he went he prospered. And he rebelled against the king of Assyria and did not serve him. He defeated the Philistines as far as Gaza and its territory, from watchtower to fortified city."
--II Kings 18: 7 and 8
Conditions had been so poor under the rule of Ahaz. God says, in verse 30, that when Judah's poorest returned to being able to eat and when its weakest would consider it safe to lie down, then He would strike Philistia with "smoke from the north" (vs. 31)--that being the armies of Hezekiah. Who would have thought the north would rise again? But, Hezekiah "trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel; so that after him there was none like him among all the kings of Judah, nor among those who were before him. For he clung to the Lord; he did not depart from following Him...." (II Kings 18: 5-6, excerpts) And the Lord is the one who sets the world in order. Recall His righteousness and fairness in this from Isaiah, Chapter 11:

"But with righteousness He will judge the poor,
And decide with fairness for the afflicted of the earth;
And He will strike the earth with the rod of His mouth,
And with the breath of His lips He will slay the wicked."

--Isaiah 11:4
“How then will one answer the messengers of the nation?" (vs. 32) is the question closing out the passage and the chapter. The Philistines were bringing forward their offer, to band together to stand against Assyria. How would Judah respond?

"That the Lord has founded Zion, and the afflicted of His people will seek refuge in it."
--vs. 32, (i.e., the answer)
Not the answer the Philistines were looking for, yet they shouldn't have been surprised. How did David answer Goliath? "For who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should taunt the armies of the living God?" (I Samuel 17: 26b) The battle belongs to the Lord, and the Lord has founded Zion, therefore, we're sticking with our God!
Zion, being Jerusalem, the home of God's people, was founded with the intent that God's people would be able to return to it, time and time again until the time of the final Zion. God would be found with and by His people.

"By faith he [Abraham] lived as an alien in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, fellow heirs of the same promise; for he was looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God."
--Hebrews 11: 9-10

The story of the Bible is God keeping His people together. The Philistines would never come to grasp this greater truth, and, thus, faced God's judgment. Yes, God is the designer and builder of our earthly homes, but His plan is not just for a structure but for the goal of keeping His people faithful together, to lead and disciple others in the faith. They will then know that they will always have safety, provision, a "refuge," in the presence of God. This is the true hope of the Church--God's eternal presence!

"The poor of his people shall betake themselves to it (so some read it), shall join themselves to his church and embark in its interests; they shall concur with God in his designs to establish his people, and shall wind up all on the same plan, and make all their little concerns and projects bend to that. Those that take God’s people for their people must be willing to take their lot with them and cast in their lot among them. Let the messengers of the nations know that the poor Israelites, who trust in God, having, like Zion, their foundation in the holy mountains (Ps. 87:1), are like Zion, which cannot be removed, but abides for ever (Ps. 125:1), and therefore they will not fear what man can do unto them."
--Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on the Bible


Judgment on Moab.... 'Til next Wednesday!

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Next week:  Isaiah 15: 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).