Following the promise of Babylon’s fall in the beginning of today’s reading, the next oracle comes “in the year that King Ahaz died...” which would have been around 715 B.C. Remember that Ahaz was the king in chapter 7 who refused to ask the LORD for a sign regarding the threat from Israel and Syria. Not only had Ahaz and Judah survived these two smoldering stumps of firebrands, but, as Isaiah had promised, neither Israel nor Syria even existed as nations any longer.
Moreover, Philistia, Moab, and Cush would meet their demise as well. You’ll recognize most of these names from Israel’s past, and each had delighted in the troubles of Israel and Judah. These oracles are scattered throughout an undefined time period – some just after Isaiah promises Damascus’ fall in chapter 7, others after the fall of both Damascus and Samaria. As we’ve seen in other places – most notably in the book of Judges – patterns and themes matter more to the author than chronology.
Chapter 14 opens with a promise: “The LORD will have compassion on Jacob and will again choose Israel, and will set them in their own land…” When you read you’ll notice that this promise is nested within a prophecy against Babylon. There was nothing jarring to the Israelite mind in these oracles against other nations. What do gods do? They try to beat up on other gods. And what do I want my gods to do? I want my gods to provide protection and exact vengeance on other nations.
The jarring part is the alarm that this ebb and flow of strife is not how it's supposed to be, and one day it will be put right. The promise in these passages – and it’s an audacious one – is that the LORD alone has the ability and the integrity to end the chaos. Not simply to exact vengeance, but to inaugurate an order that both mirrors and fulfills the promise of Genesis 1.
Our verse for this week is James 1:22: But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.
Isaiah 14 through 18. Now let’s read it!
But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.