In each of the oracles today, imagine the prophet overcome with a vision that overpowers him with passionate imagery. In the oracle against Egypt in chapter 19, you’ll notice themes of foolishness and confusion. When the LORD comes to Egypt, He “will stir up Egyptians against Egyptians… and the spirit of the Egyptians within them will be emptied out, and I will confound their counsel.” In the vision regarding Babylon, the watchman stands at his post, awaiting riders who will bring the news that “Fallen, fallen is Babylon; and all the carved images of her gods He has shattered to the ground.”
And in Jerusalem, there is confusion and tumult, as Isaiah envisions the city under threat, “a day of tumult and trampling and confusion in the ‘Valley of Vision.’” The prophet watches as houses are toppled to fortify the wall, as water is pooled to prepare for siege, while agonizing that its inhabitants refuse “…to look to Him who did it, or see Him who planned it long ago…” For it is the LORD, not Assyria, who will “seize firm hold on you…and throw you like a ball into a wide land.”
Yet once again, in the midst of this, there is hope far beyond that which any son of Abraham could imagine. For there is coming a day when “the LORD will make Himself known to the Egyptians… and they will return to the LORD…” And “In that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria… in that day Israel will be the third with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing in the midst of the earth.”
Listen closely for how this hope extends both backward and forward, before the nation of Israel and beyond it. In Genesis 12, the LORD promised that Abram “will be a blessing,” and that in him “all the families on earth will be blessed.” Isaiah foresees the day when Judah’s purpose will be fulfilled, and Israel, Egypt, and Assyria will bow to the LORD.
Our verse for this week is James 1:22: But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.
Isaiah 19 through 22. Now let’s read it!
Isaiah 19 - 22
19:1 An oracle concerning Egypt.
Behold, the LORD is riding on a swift cloud
and comes to Egypt;
and the idols of Egypt will tremble at his presence,
and the heart of the Egyptians will melt within them.
And I will stir up Egyptians against Egyptians,
and they will fight, each against another
and each against his neighbor,
city against city, kingdom against kingdom;
and the spirit of the Egyptians within them will be emptied out,
and I will confound their counsel;
and they will inquire of the idols and the sorcerers,
and the mediums and the necromancers;
and I will give over the Egyptians
into the hand of a hard master,
and a fierce king will rule over them,
declares the Lord GOD of hosts.
And the waters of the sea will be dried up,
and the river will be dry and parched,
and its canals will become foul,
and the branches of Egypt's Nile will diminish and dry up,
reeds and rushes will rot away.
There will be bare places by the Nile,
on the brink of the Nile,
and all that is sown by the Nile will be parched,
will be driven away, and will be no more.
The fishermen will mourn and lament,
all who cast a hook in the Nile;
and they will languish
who spread nets on the water.
The workers in combed flax will be in despair,
and the weavers of white cotton.
Those who are the pillars of the land will be crushed,
and all who work for pay will be grieved.
The princes of Zoan are utterly foolish;
the wisest counselors of Pharaoh give stupid counsel.
How can you say to Pharaoh,
“I am a son of the wise,
a son of ancient kings”?
Where then are your wise men?
Let them tell you
that they might know what the LORD of hosts has purposed against Egypt.
The princes of Zoan have become fools,
and the princes of Memphis are deluded;
those who are the cornerstones of her tribes
have made Egypt stagger.
The LORD has mingled within her a spirit of confusion,
and they will make Egypt stagger in all its deeds,
as a drunken man staggers in his vomit.
And there will be nothing for Egypt
that head or tail, palm branch or reed, may do.
In that day the Egyptians will be like women, and tremble with fear before the hand that the LORD of hosts shakes over them. And the land of Judah will become a terror to the Egyptians. Everyone to whom it is mentioned will fear because of the purpose that the LORD of hosts has purposed against them.
In that day there will be five cities in the land of Egypt that speak the language of Canaan and swear allegiance to the LORD of hosts. One of these will be called the City of Destruction.
In that day there will be an altar to the LORD in the midst of the land of Egypt, and a pillar to the LORD at its border. It will be a sign and a witness to the LORD of hosts in the land of Egypt. When they cry to the LORD because of oppressors, he will send them a savior and defender, and deliver them. And the LORD will make himself known to the Egyptians, and the Egyptians will know the LORD in that day and worship with sacrifice and offering, and they will make vows to the LORD and perform them. And the LORD will strike Egypt, striking and healing, and they will return to the LORD, and he will listen to their pleas for mercy and heal them.
In that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria, and Assyria will come into Egypt, and Egypt into Assyria, and the Egyptians will worship with the Assyrians.
In that day Israel will be the third with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing in the midst of the earth, whom the LORD of hosts has blessed, saying, “Blessed be Egypt my people, and Assyria the work of my hands, and Israel my inheritance.”
20:1 In the year that the commander in chief, who was sent by Sargon the king of Assyria, came to Ashdod and fought against it and captured it—at that time the LORD spoke by Isaiah the son of Amoz, saying, “Go, and loose the sackcloth from your waist and take off your sandals from your feet,” and he did so, walking naked and barefoot.
Then the LORD said, “As my servant Isaiah has walked naked and barefoot for three years as a sign and a portent against Egypt and Cush, so shall the king of Assyria lead away the Egyptian captives and the Cushite exiles, both the young and the old, naked and barefoot, with buttocks uncovered, the nakedness of Egypt. Then they shall be dismayed and ashamed because of Cush their hope and of Egypt their boast. And the inhabitants of this coastland will say in that day, ‘Behold, this is what has happened to those in whom we hoped and to whom we fled for help to be delivered from the king of Assyria! And we, how shall we escape?’”
21:1 The oracle concerning the wilderness of the sea.
As whirlwinds in the Negeb sweep on,
it comes from the wilderness,
from a terrible land.
A stern vision is told to me;
the traitor betrays,
and the destroyer destroys.
Go up, O Elam;
lay siege, O Media;
all the sighing she has caused
I bring to an end.
Therefore my loins are filled with anguish;
pangs have seized me,
like the pangs of a woman in labor;
I am bowed down so that I cannot hear;
I am dismayed so that I cannot see.
My heart staggers; horror has appalled me;
the twilight I longed for
has been turned for me into trembling.
They prepare the table,
they spread the rugs,
they eat, they drink.
Arise, O princes;
oil the shield!
For thus the Lord said to me:
“Go, set a watchman;
let him announce what he sees.
When he sees riders, horsemen in pairs,
riders on donkeys, riders on camels,
let him listen diligently,
Then he who saw cried out:
“Upon a watchtower I stand, O Lord,
continually by day,
and at my post I am stationed
And behold, here come riders,
horsemen in pairs!”
And he answered,
“Fallen, fallen is Babylon;
and all the carved images of her gods
he has shattered to the ground.”
O my threshed and winnowed one,
what I have heard from the LORD of hosts,
the God of Israel, I announce to you.
The oracle concerning Dumah.
One is calling to me from Seir,
“Watchman, what time of the night?
Watchman, what time of the night?”
The watchman says:
“Morning comes, and also the night.
If you will inquire, inquire;
come back again.”
The oracle concerning Arabia.
In the thickets in Arabia you will lodge,
O caravans of Dedanites.
To the thirsty bring water;
meet the fugitive with bread,
O inhabitants of the land of Tema.
For they have fled from the swords,
from the drawn sword,
from the bent bow,
and from the press of battle.
For thus the Lord said to me, “Within a year, according to the years of a hired worker, all the glory of Kedar will come to an end. And the remainder of the archers of the mighty men of the sons of Kedar will be few, for the LORD, the God of Israel, has spoken.”
22:1 The oracle concerning the valley of vision.
What do you mean that you have gone up,
all of you, to the housetops,
you who are full of shoutings,
tumultuous city, exultant town?
Your slain are not slain with the sword
or dead in battle.
All your leaders have fled together;
without the bow they were captured.
All of you who were found were captured,
though they had fled far away.
Therefore I said:
“Look away from me;
let me weep bitter tears;
do not labor to comfort me
concerning the destruction of the daughter of my people.”
For the Lord GOD of hosts has a day
of tumult and trampling and confusion
in the valley of vision,
a battering down of walls
and a shouting to the mountains.
And Elam bore the quiver
with chariots and horsemen,
and Kir uncovered the shield.
Your choicest valleys were full of chariots,
and the horsemen took their stand at the gates.
He has taken away the covering of Judah.
In that day you looked to the weapons of the House of the Forest, and you saw that the breaches of the city of David were many. You collected the waters of the lower pool, and you counted the houses of Jerusalem, and you broke down the houses to fortify the wall. You made a reservoir between the two walls for the water of the old pool. But you did not look to him who did it, or see him who planned it long ago.
In that day the Lord GOD of hosts
called for weeping and mourning,
for baldness and wearing sackcloth;
and behold, joy and gladness,
killing oxen and slaughtering sheep,
eating flesh and drinking wine.
“Let us eat and drink,
for tomorrow we die.”
The LORD of hosts has revealed himself in my ears:
“Surely this iniquity will not be atoned for you until you die,”
says the Lord GOD of hosts.
Thus says the Lord GOD of hosts, “Come, go to this steward, to Shebna, who is over the household, and say to him: What have you to do here, and whom have you here, that you have cut out here a tomb for yourself, you who cut out a tomb on the height and carve a dwelling for yourself in the rock? Behold, the LORD will hurl you away violently, O you strong man. He will seize firm hold on you and whirl you around and around, and throw you like a ball into a wide land. There you shall die, and there shall be your glorious chariots, you shame of your master's house. I will thrust you from your office, and you will be pulled down from your station. In that day I will call my servant Eliakim the son of Hilkiah, and I will clothe him with your robe, and will bind your sash on him, and will commit your authority to his hand. And he shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and to the house of Judah. And I will place on his shoulder the key of the house of David. He shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open. And I will fasten him like a peg in a secure place, and he will become a throne of honor to his father's house. And they will hang on him the whole honor of his father's house, the offspring and issue, every small vessel, from the cups to all the flagons. In that day, declares the LORD of hosts, the peg that was fastened in a secure place will give way, and it will be cut down and fall, and the load that was on it will be cut off, for the LORD has spoken.”