Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Isaiah 18: 6 and 7

They will be left together for mountain birds of prey,
And for the beasts of the earth;
And the birds of prey will spend the summer feeding on them,
And all the beasts of the earth will spend harvest time on them.
At that time a gift of homage will be brought to the Lord of hosts
From a people tall and smooth,
Even from a people feared far and wide,
A powerful and oppressive nation,
Whose land the rivers divide—
To the place of the name of the Lord of hosts, even Mount Zion.

We have reached our third post in this "Message to Ethiopia," with today probably not making things any clearer regarding for whom this prophecy is directed. But Isaiah's words themselves are not hard to understand; he even repeats himself!

With verse 6, we need to recall what we read in the previous verse. Isaiah had given us a word picture of grapevines, and God's representing Himself as a grape farmer and harvester. In a movement of perfect timing, God will "cut off the sprigs...and remove and cut away the spreading branches." (18:5) If 'sprigs' and 'branches' represent the nations of evil influence attacking God's people, then we pick up with 'They' in verse 6 being the people of those nations--armies, leaders, etc. What Isaiah describes is a massive road kill and those that will feast upon it. Note the timeframe: from "summer feeding" to "harvest time."
"'You will be glutted at My table with horses and charioteers, with mighty men and all the men of war,' declares the Lord God."
--Ezekiel 39:20
Is it possible that this refers to Assyria? Consider the slaughter of 185,000 such warriors by an angel of the Lord--at just the time before this army surely would have otherwise destroyed the wall of Jerusalem and taken over the city. (II Kings 19:35) Isaiah says there is the bringing of "a gift of homage" to God "to the place of the name of the Lord of hosts...." (vs. 7) That "place" would be Jerusalem, which God established as He prepared His people for entering the Promised Land.
"'But you shall seek the Lord at the place which the Lord your God will choose from all your tribes, to establish His name there for His dwelling, and there you shall come. There you shall bring your burnt offerings, your sacrifices, your tithes, the contribution of your hand, your votive offerings, your freewill offerings, and the firstborn of your herd and of your flock.'"
--Deuteronomy 12: 5 and 6

Would there be any better tribute paid God for His saving work in the preservation of His people than the spoil of the army of one of Earth's greatest empires (not to mention the army itself!) in Jerusalem? Isaiah does repeat himself in verse 7 as he speaks of "...a people tall and smooth...a powerful and oppressive nation...." He uses the very same words and phrasing in verse 2, as he tells "swift messengers" to send news to this people. There is certainly a logical and Biblically supported sense in looking at this prophecy in that way.

In looking through reference materials this week, I also found another interesting viewpoint, which puts the attention back on Ethiopia. Perhaps the description we read in verse 2 is Ethiopia. (Read more here.) A cross-reference for verse 7 is from Psalm 68, a Psalm of David in which is contained a prophecy concerning the nation:

"He has scattered the peoples who delight in war.
Envoys will come out of Egypt;
Ethiopia will quickly stretch out her hands to God."
--Psalm 68: 30b and 31

There is the thought that, through some means, Ethiopia is going to be coming forward in acknowledgement that God is God. This may be through physical battle, as it was with Assyria. But perhaps it refers--either in addition to or instead of--to Ethiopians embracing God as their "Lord of hosts."

Acts 8:27-38 is listed as a cross-reference for verse 7, also. This is the story of Philip, an evangelist in the earliest days of the Church, who meets up with an Ethiopian eunuch. The eunuch "had come to Jerusalem to worship." (Acts 8:27) He was not able to worship within the temple (Deuteronomy 23:1 has the details on why), but was studying Isaiah 53 in his chariot when Philip approached him.

"...and, though they seem useless and worthless, they shall be an acceptable present to him who judges of men by the sincerity of their faith and love, not by the pomp and prosperity of their outward condition."
--Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible

The Holy Spirit called Philip into action, and he not only led the Ethiopian in his understanding of Isaiah's prophecy concerning the coming of Jesus Christ as the Messiah, but baptized him! I wrote a few lines ago about the greatest tribute one could bring to the Lord. Though such a physical tribute as the Assyrian army would have been recognized as a present by all, is not the greatest gift when one comes to a saving faith in Jesus Christ as Lord!?

When I looked up the word homage, I was struck by a definition beyond gift, present, or something done out of honor or respect. Just a bit antiquated in present day, but worth a look nonetheless:
"The formal public acknowledgment by which a feudal tenant or vassal [landholder, but, largely, servant or slave] declared himself to be the man or vassal of his lord, owing him fealty and service." (brackets mine)

There is an entry in Encyclopedia Britannica that expounds on this. "Homage was essentially the acknowledgment of the bond of tenure that existed between the two [vassal and lord]. It consisted of the vassal surrendering himself to the lord, symbolized by his kneeling and giving his joined hands to the lord, who clasped them in his own, thus accepting the surrender."

I know. That would seem a huge reach from what is being said over the course of this chapter, and what Isaiah is generally speaking of in these chapters at this part of the book. Prophecy can be fulfilled multiple times. This is not a clear-cut chapter, in my mind. Plus, it is an image of grace and a story of hope and a picture of who God is--all of which I am unwilling to deny have their roots in Scripture.

"All you inhabitants of the world and dwellers on earth,
As soon as a standard is raised on the mountains, you will see it,
And as soon as the trumpet is blown, you will hear it."
--Isaiah 18:3 (emphasis mine)

"The Message to Egypt," as we begin Chapter 19. ...'Til next Wednesday!


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Next week:  Isaiah 19: 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).