Isaiah 28-29 God’s Strategy Blog 10

Advent Sunday 2 December 2012 11.00am

We now enter Act 5 – the final half-century of Judah 640-605BC in the reigns of Josiah and Jehoiakim. Each of the five scenes in the Act begins with a ‘woe’. Chapters 28 and 29 are the first two scenes of the Act, each chapter, one scene.

During this whole period there are major shifts in the great powers. Assyria at the opening controls all of the land right up to lower Egypt but Babylonian rebellion[1] takes their interests back home and the Egyptian Dynasty of Psamtik I and II and Neco asserts itself and not only brings all of Egypt under its control but spreads its influence all the way to the borders of Babylon. Then Assyria is defeated at the gates of Babylon[2] and city-by-city Babylon advances and captures Assyria[3] – and that complete. Nebuchadnezzar, first as heir and then as King, becomes the dominant force right across the region apart from the coast. Judah is caught in the middle of all these major shifts and in spite of Isaiah’s warnings continues to make alliances that the Lord did not approve – particularly with Egypt.

In Judah, Manasseh dies in 642BC and is succeeded by his son Amon. He is assassinated two years later and succeeded by the 8-year-old Josiah. 2 Kings records his reforms of the temple and worship and the expansion of his Kingdom by absorbing part of the former Northern Kingdom of Israel (Ephraim). But Isaiah concentrates on the political tightrope he walks between Egypt and Assyria. Mostly he was successful, and so it is unfortunate that he dies fighting the Egyptians at Megiddo[4]. At this point Palestine (including Judah) is under Egyptian control. They place Jehoiachim on the throne. What happens then is later in the Act so will wait for next week.

The first scene begins with[5] a lament over Israel (Ephraim), recalling their foolhardiness prior to their destruction and captivity, and in particular their unwillingness to listen.  The second part[6] is an indictment of the foolish policies of the leaders in Jerusalem. A covenant with death may be a reference to the Egyptian God of death Osiris or simply a description of the consequences of alliance with any but the Lord himself. The third part[7] outlines the Lord’s strategy, which changes as circumstances change.  Like any good farmer, he does not destroy the previous crop as he sets and tends the other. God does not remain static but active in his world.

The second scene depicts Jerusalem’s disastrous political involvement again in three parts. The first[8] is a ‘woe’ to Ariel a pseudonym for Jerusalem. God will bring death to those who make covenants with death. He will besiege and destroy those who forget that God founded the city and can take it away. Part two[9] depicts Judah now in drunken stupor, paying only lip service to their God and not listening but stumbling to destruction. Part three[10] turns to the ‘schemers’, those who politic but ignore God. God will do the opposite of their tactics – forest will become orchard and orchard forest; the deaf, the blind, the meek and the humble whom they have disregarded will have their day; the connivers will perish but God has not removed his love from faithful Jacob and beyond these days that are coming is the restoration of God.

God has a strategy, a strategy to turn his people back to him whatever that takes, however painful we cause it to be – but he does not withdraw his love and his choice – once given they are irrevocable. But those he has chosen must keep covenant with him or bear the consequences.

 


[1] 652BC

[2] 626BC

[3] Ashur in 614, Nineveh in 612 and Haran in 610. This marks the end of Assyria’s domination of the known world. Babylon is now the Eastern power and Egypt the western.

[4] Particularly unfortunate as the Egyptians were not wishing to pick a fight with Judah, just to pass through, extending their empire to the Euphrates.

[5] 28:1-13 Perhaps this is prompted by Josiah’s expansion into the former territory of Israel.

[6] 28:14-22

[7] 28:23-29

[8] 29:1-8

[9] 29:9-14

[10] 29;15-24