“A harsh prophecy was told to me; The traitor shall be betrayed and the plunderer shall be plundered; march, O Elam, Besiege, O Media! All sighs have I brought to an end (Isaiah 21:2).” So in the future, the world will turn on its head, and all those who currently do evil will have their actions thrown back in their faces. They will finally get what they deserve. But at the same time, this isn’t a hopeful prophecy. It’s a harsh reality of the future in which evil still remains and pain is still very much a part of society. Because for a traitor to be betrayed means another person needs to become a traitor too, showing that each of us is capable of doing evil to another human being.
We’re given a time reference again. “During the year that Tartan came to Ashdod, when Sargon the king of Assyria sent him, and he waged war with Ashdod and captured it (Isaiah 20:1).” Now, I have no idea what year this is, but I’m sure archaeologists and rabbis have done a great deal of research into this matter. Regardless, at this point, God talks to Isaiah, and instructs him to dress in only a sackcloth and to remove his shoes, as a symbol of Egypt and Cush. Isaiah will have been naked for three years for this cause.
“So shall the king of Assyria lead the captivity of Egypt and the exile of Cush, youths and old men, naked and barefoot, with bare buttocks, the shame of Egypt (Isaiah 20:4).” Isaiah is representative of this impending exile and humiliation of these two nations. From this verse, we see that no one, from the children to the elderly, will be spared from this shame.
“The harsh prophecy of Egypt; Behold the Lord is riding on a light cloud and He shall come to Egypt, and the idols of Egypt shall quake from before Him and the heart of the Egyptians shall melt in their midst (Isaiah 19:1).” It’s currently chol hamoed Pesach, so it’s particularly interesting to read about Egypt, only days following us retelling the story of the Exodus at the seders. Now, unrelated to the plagues that hit Egypt at that time, we have another prophecy of destruction. Egypt will be devoid of spirit. The people will turn to idols and sorcerers, and the land will become dry and infertile. “And the fisherman shall lament and mourn, all who cast off fishhooks into the stream; and those who spread nets on the surface of the water shall be cut off (Isaiah 19:8).” The physicality of the land of Egypt will be ruined, but so will the spirits of the people, and by extension, the land.
“And it shall be for a sign and for a witness to the Lord of Hosts in the land of Egypt, for they shall cry out to the Lord because of oppressors, and He shall send them a savior and a prince, and he shall save them (Isaiah 19:20).” At this point, when Egypt is sent its savior, the Egyptian people will finally know and recognize God. It’s only then that Egypt will finally be healed. Even though the relationship is fraught with negativity, the relationship between God and the Egyptians is an ongoing one, and it’s interesting to see that it didn’t end when the Israelites left.
“All the inhabitants of the world and dwellers of the earth, when a standard of the mountains is raised you shall see, and when a shofar is sounded you shall hear (Isaiah 18:3).” Following up on yesterday, when the multitudes were discussed, now we have a standard to which these masses should rally towards. So does this mean that if the multitudes are united behind a common cause, they’re ok? I guess if this cause is a just one, one predicated by God, then of course it’s a good unifier. I’m wondering what today could serve as something like this, something that the whole world could get behind. It seems like there are so many deep divisions between people today, so I truly have no idea what would be the shofar call of the modern era.
“The harsh prophecy concerning Damascus; Behold Damascus shall be removed from [being] a city, and it shall be depth of ruins (Isaiah 17:1).” This doesn’t bode well for Damascus, and it doesn’t end here. Other cities are going to be abandoned and ruined as well. “And it shall come to pass on that day, that the glory of Jacob shall become impoverished and the fatness of his flesh shall become emaciated (Isaiah 17:4).” The people will be miserable, and at this point, human beings will finally remember God. In many ways it’s too little too late though, because the people forgot God for such a long time.
“Woe to a multitude of many peoples, like the roaring of seas they roar; and a rushing of nations, like the rushing of mighty waters they rush (Isaiah 17:12).” It’s not fully clear to me exactly why multitudes aren’t a good thing here, but it seems to me that this could be take as a warning against mob mentality. When all of the nations come together, it’s easy for things to escalate and get out of hand. Each human being becomes nothing more than a part of an anonymous mass. This takes away individuality and leaves one susceptible to losing their own voice, in favor of the collective. This happens far too often in the world, and usually leads to disastrous results.
“Bring counsel, deliberate judgment, make like the night your shadow at noon; conceal the exiles, reveal not the wanderer (Isaiah 16:3).” I’m pretty sure I’ve never read this verse before, and if I have I definitely never paid attention to it. But one of the great things about focusing on one chapter a day is that it obligates me to delve into parts of the text that I’ve never really thought about before. In Israel, taking in refugees has been a source of debate and conflict for years. Now, much of the rest of the world is facing it in light of the Syrian refugee crisis. It’s a deeply complex situation, but it’s what immediately came to mind when I read the second part of this verse. Reveal not the wanderer – does this mean that we’re supposed to protect those who come to us for protection? And how do we reconcile this commandment with all of the hate directed at refugees?
This chapter discusses the harsh prophecy made regarding Moab. “They went up to the temple, and Dibon to the high places to weep; for Nebo and for Medeba shall Moab lament; on all their heads is baldness, every beard is shaven (Isaiah 15:2).” We have a detailed description of the mourning of the Moabites, how they wept in their cities after being destroyed. The cries arouse the sympathy of Isaiah, because even though they’re not part of the people, they are people, and it’s not easy to see them suffer. Their land is totally destroyed, and again, it’s not that they didn’t necessarily deserve it according to biblical accounting, but regardless, we are not meant to enjoy the pain of other human beings.
We open with a promise reiterated. “For the Lord shall have mercy on Jacob and again choose Israel, and He shall place them on their soil, and the strangers shall accompany them and join the House of Jacob (Isaiah 14:1).” In this prophecy, we know that someday in the future, the people of Israel will return to our land. The people and the land are eternally linked, and periods of separation don’t diminish this bond. On a mundane, personal note, I’ve been missing Israel a lot lately, and I often think that I appreciate it even more during these periods of separation. Of course, in my case it’s an easy plane ride that I can take any time that keeps me from Israel. It’s not a God-driven edict anymore, which makes it infinitely easier to overcome.
A long, complicated, negative prophecy follows. At its conclusion, we have a question. “Now what shall the messenger of a nation announce? That the Lord has founded Zion, and therein shall the poor of His people shelter themselves (Isaiah 14:32).” Zion at its core is meant to be a refuge for the people of Israel, a place where we can return to in times of need. It’s empowering and comforting to know that this safe haven exists. If only it always had.
In a nice change of pace for those of us who tend to lose track of the narrative, this chapter begins by explicitly telling us that this is a prophecy concerning Babylon. “On a tranquil mountain raise a banner, raise your voice to them; wave your hand that they may enter the gates of the nobles (Isaiah 13:2).” This is a powerful verse, but I’m left totally confused. Who is speaking, and who is being spoken to? Is it God directly to Isaiah, or is it Isaiah on behalf of God to the people? Who are the nobles, and where are they entering?
Nothing is cleared up yet. It does seem that God is speaking though. He has appointed champions to go face the enemy. This enemy I’m taking to be Babylon, and they’re described as coming from a far away land. Chaos will come when they invade, and at the same time, God will remove sinners from the land. “Therefore, I will make heaven quake, and the earth will quake out of its place, because the anger of the Lord of Hosts, and on the day of His burning wrath (Isaiah 13:13).” Babylon is going to be completely destroyed. This isn’t a temporary tragedy either. The text explicitly states that the destruction will last for generations. It’s a depressing chapter, leaving no room for positive outcomes. It’s days like this that make the chapter breaks seem so arbitrary. The prophecy clearly isn’t done, but I am until tomorrow!
This chapter is only six verses, so I’m hoping that I’m able to find something profound to say about them. On a personal note, today is also my birthday, so I’d love to find a verse to meditate on as I look towards the coming year.
“And you shall draw water with joy from the fountains of the salivation (Isaiah 12:3).” This chapter is referencing the eventual day of the coming of the messiah, and it’ll be a time of great joy and happiness. I love this verse, and want to find a way to apply it, in some small way, in my own life. I want to bring joy to everything that I do this year, to approach life with a positive attitude and maintain a sense of happiness and wonder as much as possible in my day to day.