Monday, August 22, 2016

Comfort My People; The Prophecies Of Isaiah, Day 55

Comfort My People:
The Prophecies Of Isaiah
Day 55

The remainder of Chapter 21 deals with a prophecy against Edom and a prophecy against Arabia.

The Edomites were the descendants of Jacob's brother Esau and they were located just below Judah, south of Ammon and Moab. They joined in the rebellion against Assyrian domination, refusing to keep paying tribute, but this proved to be a mistake as Assyrian forces marched against them as well as Judah in around 715 BC under Sennacherib. Judah escaped because the Lord acted on her behalf but Edom likely didn't fare too well. Edom fell into decline, later being easily overcome by King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon in the sixth century BC. After that the Nabateans pushed the remainder Edomites into southern Judah and into the Negev desert. Their final downfall came when they uncharacteristically fought on the side of the Jews against Roman occupation and were defeated in 70 AD when Jerusalem fell and the temple was destroyed. 

"A prophecy against Dumah:" (Isaiah 21:11a) Dumah was another word for Edom and it also means "silence". In the silence of the long dark night a voice calls out. "Someone calls to me from Seir, 'Watchman, what is left of the night? Watchman, what is left of the night?" (Isaiah 21:11b) Mount Seir was in the hill country of Edom, where Esau conquered the Horites and set up a stronghold, later moving his family there. A voice calls to the watchman on the hilltop, wanting to know how much of the night is left, how much longer the dark days will continue for Edom.

"The watchman replies, 'Morning is coming, but also the night. If you would ask, then ask; and come back yet again.'" (Isaiah 21:12) Edom's downfall is soon to begin. There is the night of Assyria's crushing blow to punish Edom for daring to rebel against her king, and after that the Edomites may have thought morning and recovery would come, but the dark night of Babylon arrives next. There is still no true daybreak after Nebuchadnezzar passes through, for the kingdom is lost and the Edomites will soon be crowded out of their territory. So the watchman is saying to the voice that called to him, "Morning is coming, but there will be more night. You can ask me again but I will give you the same answer."

Throughout her history Edom was a proud and rebellious nation. They wouldn't allow the Israelites to pass through their territory on the way to the Promised Land following their deliverance from Egypt. They stood against King Saul and were later conquered, made subject to Israel during the days of King David and King Solomon. They allied themselves with Moab and Ammon to attack Judah in the days of King Jehoshaphat but were defeated by the Lord. They rebelled again against King Jehoram and King Ahaz. The prophet Obadiah predicted the downfall of the Edomites because of their pride. They had made themselves enemies of God's people and of the Lord Himself. Isaiah knows the voice can call to the watchman in hope of a morning that will dawn to stay, but night will follow, for the Lord has already determined an end for Edom.

"A prophecy against Arabia: You caravans of Dedanites, who camp in the thickets of Arabia, bring water for the thirsty; you who live in Tema, bring food for the fugitives. They flee from the sword, from the drawn sword, from the bent bow and from the heat of battle." (Isaiah 21:15) The Arabs had backed Merodach-Baladan in his bid to take back the throne of Babylon from the Assyrians. We looked at this character last week, a tribal chieftain who was first conquered and deposed by Sargon, who then declared himself king of Babylon. When Sargon's son Sennacherib came to the throne, Merodach-Baladan came with his allies and briefly took it back when Sennacherib sent a detachment of the army to try and depose him. When this was unsuccessful, Sennacherib came himself with a larger army several months later and sent Merodach-Baladan fleeing into exile. Isaiah is predicting the coming of Assyria to put down the rebellion. Sennacherib will stomp down hard on the Arabs for their part in the conspiracy against him. The fugitives will flee the battle and the Dedanites are instructed to bring them water, while the Temanites are told to bring them food.

"This is what the Lord says to me: 'Within one year, as a servant bound by contract would count it, all the splendor of Kedar will come to an end. The survivors of the archers, the warriors of Kedar, will be few.' The Lord, the God of Israel, has spoken." (Isaiah 21:16-17) Just as a servant bound by contract would mark off the days of his servitude, so too can the remaining days of Kedar be marked off. The time frame is certain. 

Kedar was a son of Ishmael, the son of Abraham by his Egyptian slave woman Hagar. Hagar and her son were cast out when Sarah conceived her own son, Isaac. The descendants of these two sons of Abraham have been at enmity ever since. The people of Kedar were a huge tribe who settled in the Arabian desert. They lived nomadic lives and were well-known for supplying sheep and goats to the nations they traded with. They were also well-known for being warlike, skilled in archery. They suffered under Nebuchadnezzar when he attacked them on command from the Lord, as we find in Jeremiah 49:28, "Concerning Kedar and the kingdoms of Hazor, which Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon attacked: This is what the Lord says: 'Arise, and attack Kedar and destroy the people of the East." Isaiah is saying that the downfall of Kedar will come within a year. We don't know exactly when that year starts, but when it begins by the Lord putting it in Nebuchadnezzar's head to come against Kedar, the refugees will pour out by the end of that year. 

In the past couple of weeks, one by one, Isaiah is naming all of Judah's neighbors and predicting their coming destruction. One by one, he is eliminating them as allies of Judah against her enemies. By cutting off all hope from the outside, the prophet is leading the people to their one hope on the inside: the Lord God of Israel. I am reminded of Psalm 46 which was written in the days of the good King Jehoshaphat, when Edom allied itself with Moab and Ammon to attack Judah. Outnumbered by his enemies, Jehoshaphat appealed to the God of Israel for help and was supernaturally delivered from harm when he marched out with Judah's army singing the praises of the Lord. The Lord sent a spirit of confusion upon the Ammonites and Moabites, causing them to attack the Edomites. After slaughtering their own allies this way, the Ammonites and Moabites turned upon each other. Jehoshaphat and his men didn't have to fire a single arrow. You may find this account in 2 Chronicles 20. Psalm 46 was written by Jehoshaphat's choir directors about the victory they expected the Lord to bring them in the morning, and it says of Jerusalem, "God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day."

When King Sennacherib's army comes to lay siege to Jerusalem, Isaiah wants Judah's king and people to understand God is within her. She will not fall. By morning about 180,000 Assyrian troops will be dead and the people of Jerusalem won't have to fire a single arrow from the wall. Judah has no need of help from the pagan nations around her. They are going to fall to the enemy but Judah, because her God is with her, will stand. And if the people had taken this victory to heart, I believe they would not have later been conquered by Babylon, because they would have been incapable of falling into the idolatry they later fell headlong into. 

Our God is a mighty helper and defender. We may have wonderful Christian friends who support us and stand beside us in our troubles, but God is the giver of our victories. He is the source of all comfort. As long as we rely on Him, how can any enemy really defeat us? We can go forth into the battles of this world with the confidence of knowing, "God is within me. I will not fail. He will be my help."

No comments:

Post a Comment