Do You Think You Are Unaccountable?

Explore the Bible Series

March 26, 2006


Background Passage: Isaiah 13:1-23:18

Lesson Passage: Isaiah 17:1-3, 7-9;18:1-7


Introduction:Higher textual critics have faulted this section of the Prophecy of Isaiah for its lack of thematic cohesion, a result, they claim, of a host of editors who introduced disparate materials into the text. John Oswalt, along with a host of other conservative Old Testament scholars, has sought to answer these concerns about the unity of the text.


Oswalt suggests that this section forms a clearly defined, coherent unit.The recurrence of the word massa (ďoracleĒ or ďburdenĒ), throughout this section, ties the unit together.In addition, the judgments pronounced upon the nations denote a clear structure and unity. At first reading this section may appear to address the nations that surrounded Judah; however, more careful study of the text suggests a different purpose.Judah and Israel faced constant temptation to find their security in political alliances with the nations of the Middle East.Invariably, these alliances got the Lordís people in trouble.The warnings of this section of Isaiah alert the Jews to their need to ally themselves with Jehovah.All of the nations will, in time, face destruction.Only Jehovah would prove a faithful, dependable, and unfailing ally to the Jewish people.


The message of this portion of the Prophecy of Isaiah then, it seems, focuses on the transitory nature of the power structures of the world.Political and social strength does not arise from human contrivance and ingenuity; rather, it comes from faith and obedience toward God.The nations of the earth may form their alliances, but that is not the way of the Lord.Godís people must possess greater moral vision.They must understand that Godís ways are not manís ways.Jehovah will, according to his covenant promises, provide for, nurture, sustain, and protect his people.Human devises are not necessary for the Lordís people.


Perhaps these chapters will, to some readers, seem dry and unappealing.Some will fail to see the important implications of the text.It has ever been the plight of sinful man that he tries to foster his own security, strength, and salvation through inventions of human design. Adamís fig leaves foreshadow all of manís efforts to cover their guilt, weakness, and shame.The political alliances of Judah serve as another reminder of the inadequacies of our own ďfig leaves.ĒThe message of these chapters pierces through the efforts of sinners to find security, meaning, and salvation through any means other than faith in Christ Jesus.All other ways will ultimately fail.My dear reader, I encourage you to think much of Christ as you read these chapters.What contrivances and schemes have you formulated to find salvation and refuge in your own devises? What unholy alliances and compromises have you tolerated in your life?O dear reader, you must abandon your contrivances and venture upon Christ alone for your hope.He will not fail or falter.He remains, inviolate, the rock of your security and salvation.Repent and believe.


Brief Summary of the Background Passage:


I.                    The Babylonians (13:1-14:27)

A.     The future destruction of Babylon (13:1-22)

1.      God will gather his army against the Babylonians (13:1-5).

2.      The catastrophic destruction of Babylon (13:6-16).

3.      God will use the Medes to destroy Babylon (13:17-22). The Medo-Persian Empire defeated the Babylonians in 539 B.C.

B.     Judahís future restoration from Babylonian Captivity (14:1-23)

1.      God will gather the House of Jacob and make it a refuge for many sojourners (14:1-2).

2.      Jacobís House will know peace, and the Babylonians will experience decline, death, and decay (14:4-23)

II.                 Judgment on Assyria (14:24-27): Godís purpose of judgment on the Assyrians cannot be thwarted. The Babylonians overturned Assyrian power during the reigns of Nabopolassar and Nebuchanezzar (late Seventh Century B.C.).

III.               Judgment on Philistia (14:28-32): Israelís ancient nemesis will finally meet its end at the hands of Jehovah.Some commentators believe the ďstaffĒ refers to the fallen Davidic Monarchy, and others think it denotes the fallen Assyrian Empire.

IV.              Judgment on Moab (15:1-16:14): Like Philistia, Moab had troubled the Lordís people for generations.Their military back was broken by the time of Isaiah, but the prophet, nonetheless, predicted their utter ruin. Moabís pride led to its downfall (See 16:6ff).The prophet marks three years as the limits of Godís patience with this haughty people (See 16:14).

V.                 Judgment of Damascus (Syria) and Ephraim (17:1-14): Isaiah treated Syria and the North Tribe of Ephraim together.Perhaps the religious and moral compromise of Ephraim had made this Northern Tribe nearly indistinguishable from the Syrians.

VI.              Judgment of Cush (Ethiopia) (18:1-7): The nations, Isaiah predicted. Would pick the bones of the Cushites like birds eat carrion in the wilderness.

VII.            Judgment of Egypt (19:1-20:6): God promised to judge Egypt by means of a civil war.This horrific war would leave Egypt a desolate nation and a vassal to a powerful king (See 19:4).The people of Egypt will, Isaiah predicted, tremble before Israel.Remarkably, God also promised that Egypt would experience a great spiritual reformation.The Egyptians and the Assyrians would one day worship God and keep his commandments (19:21-25).Chapter Twenty focuses on the folly of a Jewish alliance with Egypt.The great African nation will fall before the Assyrians, and Israel, therefore, must seek its security elsewhere.

VIII.         Judgment of Babylon Revisited (21:1-17): This is a very difficult chapter to interpret.At first glance, it appears to center attention on Babylon; however, the text also includes oracles concerning Edom and Arabia (See 21:11-17).Babylon will fall, and all her gods will be shattered.The people will be likechaff on the threshing floor (See 21:9-10).Great darkness will fall on Edom and Arabia.

IX.              The Valley of Vision (22:1-25): This vivid chapter describes Jerusalem as a valley.This, of course, is ironic because the city took great pride in its designation as a city built on Mount Zion.Jerusalem took great comfort in its alliance with Babylon, and the ancient city clearly believed the Chaldeans would protect them from Assyria.Babylon, Isaiah promised, would fall, and Jerusalem would fall with their ally.

X.                 Judgment of Tyre and Sidon (23:1-18): The last people named as recipients of the Lordís judgment, the Phoenician people once enjoyed a warm relationship with Judah. Now, however, the Lord had purposed to defile the cities and dishonor the habitants of the land.



Observations on the Lesson Passages:


1.      (Isaiah 17:1-9): This text pronounces Godís judgment on the people of Syria.Damascus was, of course, the capital city of this pagan nation.Some of the Northern Tribes of Israel, Ephraim in particular, formed deep bonds with the Syrians.These political alliances led, no doubt, to religious compromises, and, in some sense, the interests of the two people became inextricably bound together.The Jewish people relied on their military alliances more than they trusted God.Verse ten identifies the problem.The people of Ephraim did not trust God; instead, they settled their confidence in their own contrivances.

2.      Again, Isaiah confronted Judah with its alliances.In this case, ambassadors from Cush had made their way to Jerusalem.These envoys sought to secure an alliance with Judah, against Assyria.The seafaring technology and imposing physical appearance of these men drew the admiration of the prophet; nevertheless, he warned Judah about the dangers of allying herself with the Cushites.


Please return to the introduction of the lesson.What application do these texts from Isaiah have for Christians today?