Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Comfort My People: The Prophecies Of Isaiah, Day 57

Comfort My People:
The Prophecies Of Isaiah
Day 57

We are in the midst of a chapter regarding prophecies against Jerusalem. It is likely Isaiah received these prophecies during the reign of King Hezekiah of Judah, when the threat of Assyria loomed large, since several things in this chapter refer to those days. But it's also likely that Isaiah looked forward to the fall of Jerusalem by Babylon and perhaps even farther into the future, to the various conflicts and destructions that would take place there throughout the centuries. 

We left off yesterday with Isaiah overcome by grief over the thought of what was going to happen. Today we pick up with the next verse, "The Lord, the Lord Almighty, has a day of tumult and trampling and terror in the Valley of Vision, a day of battering down walls and of crying out to the mountains." (Isaiah 22:5) A day is determined and cannot be changed. The only thing that would have changed it is if Judah had turned wholeheartedly to the Lord, forever turning away from idolatry. But because God knows all things, He sees that the spiritual decline of the nation will continue. The conflict with Assyria and God's miraculous deliverance will only produce a temporary revival. Therefore He will later bring Babylon against them as discipline for their forsaking of the one true God. 

"Elam takes up the quiver, with her charioteers and horses; Kir uncovers the shield." (Isaiah 22:6) The Elamites were situated in what is modern-day southern Iran and in ancient times they rebelled against Assyria, allying themselves with Babylon. It could be they were present with the Babylonian forces when later they brought the walls of Jerusalem down. Kir was located in the territory of the Moabites, a people who were enemies of Judah.

"The Lord stripped away the defenses of Judah, and you looked in that day to the weapons of the Palace of the Forest. You saw that the walls of the City of David were broken through in many places; you stored up water in the Lower Pool. You counted the buildings in Jerusalem and tore down houses to strengthen the wall. You built a reservoir between the two walls for the water of the Old Pool, but you did not look to the One who made it, or have regard for the One who planned it long ago." (Isaiah 22:8-11) Jerusalem's main water source was from the Gihon Spring, located outside the city. In case of attack or siege by an enemy, the water source was vulnerable, so in previous times the Canaanites had built a strong fortified tower around the spring. The problem was, the spring itself was protected, but the waters from it were released into the Kidron Valley where enemy troops could water themselves and their horses. King Hezekiah built a tunnel to lead the water from the spring directly into the city so that the enemy did not have access to it. This provided fresh water for the citizens even in the event of siege, plus it placed hardship on enemy troops by completely blocking them off from the best water source in the region. "It was Hezekiah who blocked the upper outlet of the Gihon Spring and channeled the water down to the west side of the City of David." (2 Chronicles 32:30a)

We studied the channeling of this water when we did the study of the kings. Hezekiah was preparing a defense in case of attack, so that the people would not have to do what Sennacherib's field commander threatened they would do under siege: drink their own urine because of thirst. In our study of the kings we found no words of condemnation regarding the practical steps Hezekiah took to defend the city and provide for his people, but the section of Isaiah above sounds critical of his motives. He brought weapons from Solomon's palace, the Palace of the Forest. He saw that the walls of Jerusalem had weak spots and, because this material was readily and quickly available, used cut stones from existing homes to shore up the walls. He also took steps to protect the water source that was vital to the citizens. None of these things in themselves seem sinful. Any competent king would naturally take steps to protect and defend the city and its people. But the thoughts in Hezekiah's head are what appear to come under condemnation, for he is trusting in the precautions that man can take rather than trusting in the God of Israel. Isaiah says, "You went to a great deal of effort to protect the spring outside the wall but you did not appeal to the One who created the spring." We know from our study of the kings that Hezekiah did indeed end up appealing to the Lord for help, so it could be that these words of Isaiah are what caused him to repent of his reliance solely upon weapons and defenses and instead put all his hope and trust in the Lord. Having done all that was humanly possible to do, Hezekiah may have seen that it was not enough, and so he turned to the God of his fathers in faith.

"The Lord, the Lord Almighty, called you on that day, to weep and to wail, to tear out your hair and put on sackcloth. But see, there is joy and revelry, slaughtering of cattle and killing of sheep, eating of meat and drinking of wine! 'Let us drink and eat,' you say, 'for tomorrow we die!'" (Isaiah 22:12-13) As the enemy advanced, it should have been a time for the people to take stock of their lives and their spiritual condition. When the Assyrian troops stood outside the gates, and the message of King Sennacherib's field commander reached Hezekiah, he tore his clothes and put on sackcloth and went to the temple to seek the Lord. (2 Kings 19:1) The citizens should have followed his example. Instead, believing defeat was at the door, some decided that the best thing to do was live it up. They knew the city would be cut off from all trade if the Assyrians laid siege, therefore they intended to eat and drink to their fill while supplies remained. They believed they had done all that man could do and that it wouldn't be enough, so they were preparing for defeat, not considering that God was more than able to conquer any enemy. 

Their thinking was that everything relied on what man could do. They thought their strength was in the heavily fortified walls, the protected water source, and the weapons in the arsenal. There's nothing wrong with taking appropriate steps to defend oneself, but the problem is when we begin thinking it all depends on human strength and ingenuity. There is only so much man can do, especially when outnumbered, but what success truly depends on is the strength of our God. Many times in the Scriptures we find the Lord leading His people to great victories when they were severely outnumbered. This was to teach them that their real strength was in Him and that, if they would just remain faithful to their mighty Defender, He would do what man could not do. The Lord has given us common sense and He expects us to use it, as Hezekiah did when preparing the city as best he could, but the Lord also expects us to realize the rest is up to Him. 

There are few things we have control over in this life, but those few things can deceive us into believing everything depends on us and everything revolves around us. When our own efforts fail to bring the desired results, we tend to sink into a spirit of defeat and despair, falling into panic over the fragility of life and the insecurity of everything in this world. And we would have good reason to feel that way if our success and our security depended entirely on our own efforts. But we have something that nothing and no one can take from us: our relationship with the Lord and the help we find in Him. We can lose things like a loved one, a job, our health, or our home in the blink of an eye. But Christ our Savior, and our relationship with Him, is something not even the devil himself can tear from our hands. God is our security in an insecure world. God is our strength when the enemy comes against us. God is our hope when our circumstances look grim. God is our healer, our helper, and our mighty fortress. As the old song says, "On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand." With our feet firmly planted on the Rock of Ages, trusting in the awesome strength of an all-powerful God, we posses a security that can never be taken away.

No comments:

Post a Comment