Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Word for Wednesday, June 17 Edition

Isaiah chapter 17 (the entirety):
The oracle concerning Damascus.

"Behold, Damascus is about to be removed from being a city,
And it will become a fallen ruin.
The cities of Aroer are forsaken;
They will be for flocks to lie down in,
And there will be no one to frighten them.
The fortified city will disappear from Ephraim,
And sovereignty from Damascus
And the remnant of Aram;
They will be like the glory of the sons of Israel,"
Declares the Lord of hosts.

Now it will come about that in that day the glory of Jacob will fade, and the fatness of his flesh will become lean. It will be even like the reaper gathering the standing grain, as his arm harvests the ears, or it will be like one gleaning ears of grain in the valley of Repahim. Yet gleanings will be left in it like the shaking of an olive tree, two or three olives on the topmost bough, four of five on the branches of a fruitful tree, declares the Lord, the God of Israel. In that day man will have regard for his Maker, and his eyes will look to the Holy One of Israel. And he will not have regard for the altars, the work of his hands, nor will he look to that which his fingers have made, even the Asherim and incense stands. In that day their strong cities will be like forsaken places in the forest, or like branches which they abandoned before the sons of Israel; and the land will be a desolation. For you have forgotten the God of your salvation and have not remembered the rock of your refuge. Therefore you plant delightful plants and set them with vine slips of a strange god. In the day that you plant it you carefully fence it in, and in the morning you bring your seed to blossom; but the harvest will be a heap in a day of sickliness and incurable pain.

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!
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.
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.
A couple of thoughts: first, that this chapter typifies the ones surrounding it: prophecies of destruction and desolation. Secondly, that this is a picture of human futility: cities are built and fortified, altars are constructed, crops planted. I take the crops here as being especially symbolic of any enterprise planned by man, in which today's work is intended to bring tomorrow's plenty -- on man's terms. But, since man has forgotten God (and we all do this habitually, believers or not), it all comes to nothing, or worse than nothing. This strikes me as a kind of reverse side of the coin to what Jesus said in Matthew 6:31-34:
"Do not be anxious, then, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'With what shall we clothe ourselves?' For all these things the Gentiles eagerly seek; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious for tomorrow; for tomorrow will take care of itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."
I think He was talking straightforwardly about more everyday sorts of things, maybe, than those "great affairs of peoples" that were the subjects of Isaiah's prophecy. But the principle is the same, regardless of the scale.

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1 comment:

akaGaGa said...

Interesting corollary, Jim. It reminds me of those who say that the God of the Old Testament is fire and brimstone, and the God of the New Testament is love and mercy.

Maybe your post shows that, Old or New, He's the same God.

Thanks for something to chew on.