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Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Isaiah 13 : Judgement Against Pagan Nations

      Today, in our study of the Book of Isaiah, we move into  a new phase regarding God's judgement. In the previous chapters, from one to twelve, Isaiah speaks of judgement against the southern kingdom and, albeit to a lesser extent, the northern kingdom. Chapters thirteen to twenty-three  are about God's judgement on other nations, starting in Chapter 13 with the judgement against Babylon, situated in modern-day Iraq. Long before Babylon became a world power and threatened Judah, Isaiah prophesied its destruction. He prophesied that although Babylon might shine for a time, it's ultimate destruction would be so complete that the land would never be fit for habitation ever again. Today it lies in total ruin, buried under mounds of sand and dirt. 
      Babylon was the rallying point of rebellion against God after the Great Flood. You can read the story in Genesis Chapter 11 about how the Babylonians built the tower of Babel as a monument to their own greatness, an act of direct rebellion against God. How often people do similar things today, building great monuments to their own glory, whether it's a massive statue of themselves or some edifice which bears their name. Perhaps they let the world know of their achievements by more of a show of their wealth with such things as expensive cars, stately homes, swimming pools, expensive clothes and jewellery. In themselves, of course, these things are not wrong, but when people use them in order to create an identity and self-evaluation, then they are used to take God's place in their lives. No matter how successful anyone might become, it is sinful to think that we can replace God in our lives by thing to reflect our achievements.
      At the time of God's message which we read of in Chapter 13, Babylon was still part of the Assyrian empire. The message relayed by Isaiah was a message both of challenge and hope. He warns them not to rely on other nations but on God alone, and lets them know that God would punish their enemies as they deserved.
1 A prophecy against Babylon that Isaiah son of Amoz saw:
 2 Raise a banner on a bare hilltop,
   shout to them;
beckon to them
   to enter the gates of the nobles.
3 I have commanded those I prepared for battle;
   I have summoned my warriors to carry out my wrath—
   those who rejoice in my triumph.
 4 Listen, a noise on the mountains,
   like that of a great multitude!
Listen, an uproar among the kingdoms,
   like nations massing together!
The LORD Almighty is mustering
   an army for war.
5 They come from faraway lands,
   from the ends of the heavens—
the LORD and the weapons of his wrath—
   to destroy the whole country.
 6 Wail, for the day of the LORD is near;
   it will come like destruction from the Almighty.
7 Because of this, all hands will go limp,
   every heart will melt with fear.
8 Terror will seize them,
   pain and anguish will grip them;
   they will writhe like a woman in labor.
They will look aghast at each other,
   their faces aflame.
 9 See, the day of the LORD is coming
   —a cruel day, with wrath and fierce anger—
to make the land desolate
   and destroy the sinners within it.
10 The stars of heaven and their constellations
   will not show their light.
The rising sun will be darkened
   and the moon will not give its light.
11 I will punish the world for its evil,
   the wicked for their sins.
I will put an end to the arrogance of the haughty
   and will humble the pride of the ruthless.
12 I will make people scarcer than pure gold,
   more rare than the gold of Ophir.
13 Therefore I will make the heavens tremble;
   and the earth will shake from its place
at the wrath of the LORD Almighty,
   in the day of his burning anger.
 14 Like a hunted gazelle,
   like sheep without a shepherd,
they will all return to their own people,
   they will flee to their native land.
15 Whoever is captured will be thrust through;
   all who are caught will fall by the sword.
16 Their infants will be dashed to pieces before their eyes;
   their houses will be looted and their wives violated.
 17 See, I will stir up against them the Medes,
   who do not care for silver
   and have no delight in gold.
18 Their bows will strike down the young men;
   they will have no mercy on infants,
   nor will they look with compassion on children.
19 Babylon, the jewel of kingdoms,
   the pride and glory of the Babylonians,
will be overthrown by God
   like Sodom and Gomorrah.
20 She will never be inhabited
   or lived in through all generations;
there no nomads will pitch their tents,
   there no shepherds will rest their flocks.
21 But desert creatures will lie there,
   jackals will fill her houses;
there the owls will dwell,
   and there the wild goats will leap about.
22 Hyenas will inhabit her strongholds,
   jackals her luxurious palaces.
Her time is at hand,
   and her days will not be prolonged.

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