Isaiah 23-27. The Lord is King

25 November 2012

We have reached Act 4. This Act follows the dramatic end of the siege of Jerusalem[1] and covering the period 700-640BC Hezekiah and then, his son, Manasseh are kings in Judah. But they are vassal Kings under the shadow of Assyria’s power – a power that stretches to the Mediterranean coast and right into Egypt.[2] Indeed the history of these years is of the constant clashes between the two superpowers Assyria and Egypt. Those who got in the way were crushed – particularly the Phoenicians – Sidon was attacked in 677 and Tyre in the same year en route, as it were, to Egypt which Assyria invaded in 674, 671 and in 667-6 and Thebes was sacked and ruined in 663.

In Judah, Manasseh joins his father Hezekiah in a co-regency and this seems to have changed the foreign policy of Shebna and Eliakim[3] that had caused all the pain of the previous generation. Both in the co-regency and in Manasseh’s reign Judah became a loyal vassal to Assyria – the policy God demanded and Isaiah advocated.

There are seven scenes in the Act:

  1. Burden re Tyre (23:1-18)
  2. The devastated land (24:1-13)
  3. The Lord and the Kings (24:14-22)
  4. The Lord of Hosts reigns on Mount Zion (24:23-25:8)
  5. A true worshipper responds (25:9-12)
  6. Judeans on pilgrimage to Jerusalem (26:1-21)
  7. ‘That Day’ for Tyre and for Israel. (27:1-13)[4]

The buffers that protected Judah, Babylon on one side and Egypt on the other, are gone and there is no future for the state – it is not so much a question of ‘if’ as of ‘when’ and ‘how’.

The Book of Isaiah contends that all this is of God. He is planning his salvation even as he deals with the bloodguilt of the people.

Behind these chapters lie two profound truths

  1. Land that has seen so much blood shed – most created by a refusal to follow God’s plans and to craft our own – is cursed and humanity cannot remove it.[5]
  2. God has the power to remove, to cleanse and change, even though he is the one who judges. He is both Judge and Redeemer

In short THE LORD REIGNS.

This is the hope for Judah and for all who call on him – nothing thwarts his purposes yet he is the redeemer. The fullness of that will be worked out in Acts 7-12[6] after the final lingering death and captivity of Judah.

But for now, take hope and respond to God’s mercy and salvation. God will ‘swallow up the death which endures for ever’.[7]

Our response is worship:

One will say in that day, ‘See our God, for whom we waited and he will save us. This is the Lord. We waited for him. Let us be rejoice and be glad in his salvation![8]

And so we go on pilgrimage, walking with our God to his (eternal) city. Till on that day when Tyre falls God’s true worshippers[9] will be gathered one to another and will bow down to him in the holy mountain in Jerusalem.

This is still the journey and the hope of the final destination for the ‘New Israel’ – we and all who believe in God’s redemption of the curse on the earth and its peoples through the death and resurrection of his Son, Jesus Christ.

 


[1] 701BC  See the previous blog for details.

[2] Lower Egypt. Upper Egypt was the other super power of the day.

[3] Successively, Hezekiah’s chief ministers who forged anti-Assyrian alliances which led to the invasion of Judah and the siege of Jerusalem – see the previous blog.

[4] I am indebted to the Word Biblical Commentary Vol 24 p296 for this clear delineation of the scenes.

[5] See especially 24:1-13

[6] Chapters 40-66. We study these after Christmas.

[7] 25:8 he will wipe away tears see Revelation 21 for the parallel passage.

[8] 25:9

[9] Here ‘Israelites’ – a synonym for the faithful to God as the political entity Israel has not existed for some fifty years now.