Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Isaiah 17: 12-14

12 Alas, the uproar of many peoples
Who roar like the roaring of the seas,
And the rumbling of nations
Who rush on like the rumbling of mighty waters!
13 The nations rumble on like the rumbling of many waters,
But He will rebuke them and they will flee far away,
And be chased like chaff in the mountains before the wind,
Or like whirling dust before a gale.
14 At evening time, behold, there is terror!
Before morning they are no more.
Such will be the portion of those who plunder us
And the lot of those who pillage us.

As much as Isaiah Chapter 17 has addressed the alliance of Syria and Israel, and their impending punishment and destruction at the hands of Assyria, we must not forget that Isaiah is always delivering his words to Judah. As the chapter concludes today, we can see a shift in the prophet's emphasis as he provides some words of assurance to the nation amidst the growing power threats around it.

Again, let's review some history. Referencing II Kings 18 and 19, we recall Judah's King Hezekiah needing to confront the danger that was King Sennacherib of Assyria and his mighty army. Several cities in Judah had already fallen--not to mention, in the years preceding, Syria and Israel--to the superpower, and Jerusalem was threatened next. This is the "roar" and the "rumbling" of Assyria that Isaiah speaks of in this prophecy, years before its taking place.
"Alas," or "Woe," in the King James Version, "the uproar...." The Reformation Study Bible says that, "In ancient Near Eastern myths the sea represents chaos and death." The Assyrian army was seen as a huge tidal wave of terror, roaring, as the "mighty waters" do, and covering the land in an attempt to reestablish a new and deeper shoreline. The Assyrian army stands at the wall of Jerusalem, waiting to speak to Hezekiah, with the deafening sounds of its victories reverberating.

"The cords of death encompassed me,
And the torrents of ungodliness terrified me."

--Psalm 18:14
What Assyria would have seen as a strength--the incredible numbers in its army; the amassing of territory for its empire; the sheer power of its forces; its reputation--is marked as merely a loud racket to be silenced by God. Look how many times either 'roar' or 'rumbling' is used in verses 12 and 13! Assyria talks big. Talks loud. Bully! Then, we hit the middle of verse 13: "BUT...." (caps mine)

"...But woe to them (Isa. 17:12), for he shall rebuke them, that is, God shall, one whom they little think of, have no regard to, stand in no awe of; he shall give them a check with an invisible hand, and then they shall flee afar off. Sennacherib, and Rabshakeh [cupbearer to Sennacherib], and the remains of their forces, shall run away in a fright...."
--Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible (brackets mine)

There is so much history covered through prophecy in Chapter 17. I am sure, if I were from Jerusalem, listening to Isaiah, that I would have left his speech with more questioning of events than understanding the encouragement that would be there for me down the road. Syria and Israel and big chunks of Judah would be gone in the near future. The threat would literally stand at the wall of my city. But, God's rebuke would send the enemy afloat in the wind. Over the course of this chapter, we have seen multiple references to the harvest, what remains after the whirlwind of destruction that Assyria brings. How fitting for Isaiah to then call the harvester 'chaff', which is "the refuse of winnowed corn." (Easton's Bible Dictionary)

In verse 14 lies the prophecy that we see fulfilled in II Kings 19, with Hezekiah hearing further word from God through Isaiah and praying for His intervention on behalf of Jerusalem: "At evening time, behold, there is terror! Before morning they are no more." That's the way it went down!

"Therefore thus says the Lord concerning the king of Assyria, 'He will not come to this city or shoot an arrow there; and he will not come before it with a shield or throw up a siege ramp against it. By the way that he came, by the same he will return, and he shall not come to this city,' declares the Lord. 'For I will defend this city to save it for My own sake and for My servant David’s sake.'"

Then it happened that night that the angel of the Lord went out and struck 185,000 in the camp of the Assyrians; and when men rose early in the morning, behold, all of them were dead."
--II Kings 19: 32-35

"Such will be the portion of those who plunder us
And the lot of those who pillage us."
--Verse 14b

Capturing the spoil was a huge part of what plundering the enemy was all about. For the Assyrians, adding Jerusalem to its empire would have meant adding a very fine jewel to an already massive portion. But Assyria's lot was not under their own control, contrary to their own belief. God was not their portion, and He had a different destiny in mind. For Judah, knowing that the Lord was their portion should have spoken abundantly to them, especially given the pillaging around them. For the time being, under God's provision and King Hezekiah's obedience to the Lord, Jerusalem would be saved.

The wind blows at His command--to sweep away the enemies of His people in a mighty gale or to bend His people's boughs to know His presence, love, mercy and grace. Can't help but bring forth these lyrics in closing our text, here. When we know we are His portion, we see jealousy in a whole new way.
"He is jealous for me, loves like a hurricane. 
I am the tree, bending beneath the weight of His wind and mercy....

And we are His portion and He is our prize,
Drawn to redemption by the grace in His eyes,
If grace is an ocean, we're all sinking."

--lyrics from "How He Loves," by John Mark McMillan

"Message to Ethiopia," We begin Chapter 18. ...'Til next Wednesday!


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Next week:  Isaiah 18:1-3
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).