“In days to come Jacob will take root, Israel will bud and blossom and fill all the world with fruit.” Isaiah 27:6 (NIV)
What’s Going On?
Poor Isaiah. We know very little about his life until the Lord comes to him and tells him to go talk to the King of Judah on His behalf. In the first section of Isaiah, that king was Ahaz who dies in chap 14 and you’d think Isaiah had completed the task given to him. But he still has work to do and so continues to speak for the Lord to the people of Judah and the new king, Hezekiah, who you will remember was a good king who was known for his reforms throughout Judah. He turned Judah back to the Lord and reinstated the customs and practices of worship and sacrifice.
Under king Ahaz, Judah had become subject to the Assyrians after the fall of the northern kingdom of Israel. You’ll see the word “vassal” used which means they were expected to pay the Assyrians to leave them alone and to do whatever Assyria asked, even though they were still considered separate (at this point) from Assyria. Judah is vulnerable to the people around them who are in constant battle over land and trade routes and Judah is located right in the middle of it all. This is partly why Isaiah keeps speaking these “oracles” or prophecies about all these foreign nations. Woe be unto whoever gets in the way of God’s People, Israel/Judah.
Last week we read a lot of “Warnings” that involved some really depressing prophecies. There was a little bit of hope sprinkled in, but this week we see a huge shift in the hope department and I must say, it is nice to finally hear some good news. We start off the week reading about the devastation of the Earth, but then quickly turn to another Song of Praise. There is some apocalyptic reference here not just about the time after Israel’s destruction but also about a future time when there will finally be peace on ALL the Earth. There is plenty more talk of judgment, destruction, death, exile and slavery in store for the people of Judah. But then – chapter 40 happens. Ahhhhhh. For those of you who know my love of Handel’s Messiah, the words of Isaiah 40:1-2 are the opening lyrics that set the tone for the rest of the work, “Comfort ye, Comfort ye My people.” In chapter 41 we read of a Helper and there is the promise that Israel will not be forgotten or left alone. God’s mercy will rain down on His People after all. We finish this week with a brief reminder that God’s judgment will involve Babylon even before we see the rise of the Babylonian empire. But next week we continue the theme of hope for the future, not just of Israel and Judah, but for all the world, including the gentiles.
When and Where Are We?
You’ll notice that there are lots of places where “Israel” is used to describe God’s People, even though the two nations are divided and Israel has already fallen to the Assyrians, these events are actually taking place in the southern kingdom of Judah. You’ll also notice that Babylon is referred to often, even though the Babylonians are not the ruling empire yet. But the city of Babylon is HUGE and powerful, and awful, and pagan, and represents everything detestable to the Lord. You’ll see this reference again later. Whenever you see Ephraim – this is a reference to the northern kingdom Israel.
- Isaiah – prophet to Judah
- Hezekiah – King of Judah
- Eliakim – palace administrator; Shebna – palace secretary
- Sennacherib – King of Assyria (Bel, Nebo, and Marduk – their gods)
- Pharaoh Neco – King of Egypt
“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing!” Isaiah 43:18-19
Weekly Reading Assignment:
- Monday: Isaiah 24-27
- Tuesday: Isaiah 28-31
- Wednesday: Isaiah 32-35
- Thursday: Isaiah 36-39
- Friday: Isaiah 40-43
- Saturday: Isaiah 44-46