Wednesday, August 23, 2023

2023.08.23 Hopewell @Home ▫ Isaiah 17–18

Read Isaiah 17–18

Questions from the Scripture text: Against whom is this new burden stated (Isaiah 17:1a)? What will happen to the city (verse 1b–c)? And to what other Syrian cities (Isaiah 17:2)? Who is joined with them in their judgment (Isaiah 17:3)? Says Who (verse 3e)? What will wane (Isaiah 17:4b) and grow lean (verse 4c)? How bare will it be (Isaiah 17:5)? How much will remain (Isaiah 17:6)? Says Who (verse 6e)? What result will this have in Israel (Isaiah 17:7-8)? But what will have happened to their strong cities (Isaiah 17:9)? Why, what had their idolatry revealed that they had done (Isaiah 17:10a–b)? What fruit will such a people have from their best efforts (Isaiah 17:10-11d)? What will occur to bring this judgment about (Isaiah 17:12-13a)? But for all this international bluster, Who will do what with just a word of rebuke (Isaiah 17:13b–c)? What, specifically, will happen to whom, specifically (Isaiah 17:14)? Unto whom does Isaiah 18:1 pronounce woe? To whom are they sending ambassadors (Isaiah 18:2)? But how does Isaiah answer this false hope (Isaiah 18:3)? Who has spoken to him such an answer (Isaiah 18:4a)? How does He explain the period of time when men are permitted to think they may prevail (Isaiah 18:3-4)? But what happens when YHWH is ready to act (Isaiah 18:5)? And in what condition are the warring nations left (Isaiah 18:6)? What else will happen in that season—who will be bringing tribute to YHWH (Isaiah 18:7, cf. Isaiah 18:2)?

Why must all self-made, self-sustained plans ultimately fail? Isaiah 17–18 looks forward to the first serial reading in morning public worship on the coming Lord’s Day. In these twenty-one verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that any plan made apart from dependence upon God and obedience to God will fail because the Lord will wait until the ripe time, then devastate man with but a word. 

The folly of IsraelIsaiah 17:1–4. The section is titled “the burden against Damascus” (Aram/Syria, Isaiah 17:1), but what is hidden within is the woe that is coming upon Ephraim/Jacob (Isaiah 17:2-4). Israel threw its lot in with Syria, and now the two are under woe together.

The mercy of GodIsaiah 17:5-8. What is even more amazing than the stupidity and wickedness of Israel is the mercy of God! First, God leaves them a remnant (Isaiah 17:6). The destruction is exhaustive like reaping (Isaiah 17:5), but God leaves a remnant like in gleaning (Isaiah 17:6). Second, and even more mercifully, God uses the affliction to turn Israel from idols back to “the Holy One of Israel” (Isaiah 17:7-8). 

The powerlessness of self, Isaiah 17:9-11Isaiah 17:9 details the greatness of the devastation, and Isaiah 17:10-11 explain it. Isaiah 17:10a–b tell why. God is a constant salvation and refuge, but they are the opposite of His constancy; they have forgotten Him and not been mindful of Him. Why? Because they are living not by His grace but by their own plans, and trusting in their own power. 

You plant (Isaiah 17:10c), you set out (Isaiah 17:10d), you make grow (Isaiah 17:11a), your plant (verse 11a), you make to flourish (verse 11b), your seed (verse 11b). A self-driven life is the express train to forgetfulness of God. And it is a mercy when He makes it fail (“the harvest will be a heap of ruins,” verse 11c).

The omnipotence of God over a world coalitionIsaiah 17:12-14. God, in these three verses, is a strong (literally) contrast to Israel in the previous three verses. Look how strong the nations are in Isaiah 17:12-13a! A multitude of peoples who roar and rush like oceans! But even all of them together are nothing by comparison to God. One word from Him sends them flying like a tumbleweed in a tornado (Isaiah 17:13b–c). To attack God’s people is to sign up for overnight destruction (Isaiah 17:14). 

The mercy of God to His coalition from the world, Isaiah 18:1–7.  The parallel between the unnamed nation in Isaiah 18:1 and the multitude of nations in Isaiah 17:12 is underscored by the opening “Woe” in each verse. Now, we see how that coalition came to be. They looked for the best. “tall and smooth” is more literally “long and polished.” The word “skin” is supplied by the English version and doesn’t belong. The sense is “of long standing” and “polished skill.” 

But the Lord takes over the coalition. Now it is He addressing them in Isaiah 18:3, telling them that His part will be to lift the banner and blow the trumpet, but their part is merely to “see” and to “hear.” For His part, YHWH has not had to exert Himself (Isaiah 18:4); devastating a world coalition is like a quiet afternoon on the veranda for Him.

God’s timing is exact (Isaiah 18:5) and His judgment complete (Isaiah 18:6). But in the last day, there will be a people of long-standing and polished skill who aren’t fighting anymore. The description of the people in Isaiah 18:7 is the same as in Isaiah 18:2, but now they are bringing tribute to Zion, where they have come under the Kingship of YHWH of hosts. How merciful is the Lord; He is the God of salvation!

What have you been hoping will make the difference in your life for the better? How do you intend to pursue that? If you’re not hoping in the Lord by use of the Lord’s means, how can you expect that to end up? How do His power and mercy encourage you to navigate this life and eternity?

Sample prayer: Lord, forgive us for how foolishly we have trusted in our own plans and our own power. Truly, in doing so we forget the God of our salvation, and we are not mindful of the Rock of our stronghold. It is in mercy that You afflict us and cause such plans and efforts to fail. Grant that our hearts would not be hard but turn to You. Truly, one word from You is stronger than all the nations put together. How merciful You are that rather than destroying them all, You are saving a multitude that You are gathering from among them. Grant us humility by Your Spirit to rest upon You alone in Jesus Christ, through Whom we ask it, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP46 “God Is Our Refuge and Our Strength” or TPH244 “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God”

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