Daily Bible Studies
|Series Theme: Isaiah Studies (Series 1 of 9 - chapters 1 to 8)|
Chs.17 - 21
PRELIMINARY to reading Isaiah
Please check the 1st set of this series to understand Isaiah more fully
Chapter: Isaiah 17
Passage: Isaiah 17:1-8
A. Find Out:
1. Where will be destroyed? v.1,2
2. Yet where also is included? v.3
3. To what is that latter destruction compared? v.4,5
4. Yet what hope is given? v.6
5. On that day to whom will men look? v.7
6. How will that differ from what they did before? v.8
1. What TWO nations are linked here?
2. For what are Israel apparently being judged?
3. Yet what hope is given them?
Israel had made an alliance with Syria ( Aram ) and so the Lord pronounces against Damascus, its capital (v.1). It will become a ruin as will its other main towns (v.2). In 732 B.C. Tiglath-Pileser III captured Damascus and made it an Assyrian province and also took some of the northern cities of the northern kingdom, Israel.
The main focus seems to be upon Israel (we assume it is the northern kingdom although that is not made clear) and the prophetic picture is of the land being harvested (v.5), but the implication is that it is the heads of the nation who will be taken, not a wholesale clearing of the land (v.5c). Yet there is some hope in this message of judgment, as there always is when the Lord judges nations. The hope comes in the promise that there will be a remnant left after this takes place. There will be a smattering of people who had been faithful to the Lord – that is the implication of the reference to the fruitful boughs (v.6).
The outcome of this judgment and its cause are then given. The outcome will be that the remaining people will turn to God (v.7). That is the outcome and that is different from what had been before, which is the cause of the judgment. Previously the people of Israel had been worshipping idols (v.8) which they had made. Thus the judgment seems to have a dual cause: alliance with Aram & alliance with idols.
1. God will judge idolatry.
2. Yet with judgment there will be mercy for a faithful remnant.
Chapter: Isaiah 17
Passage: Isaiah 17:9-14
A. Find Out:
1. What will the cities become like? v.9
2. What had Israel done? v.10a
3. What frustration will occur? v.10b-11
4. What are the nations of the world like? v.12
5. Yet what happens when God intervenes? v.13,14a
6. So what reassurance does that bring? v.14b
1. What will happen in the land?
2. Why will it happen?
3. Yet what security is given?
In chapter 17 you may have noticed three times: “In that day”. The first one (v.4) indicated the coming judgement-harvest of Israel . The second one (v.7) indicated the final outcome, that the remnant would turn back to God, and the third one (v.9) gives the final state of the land.
Verse 9 is difficult to understand. “Their” and “they” is set against “the Israelites”. It is probable that the prophet is referring to the ungodly pagan worshippers now present, and subtly compares them to the faithful, obedient, godly people who first entered this land.
There follows a denunciation of Israel, the reason why this has happened: they had forgotten God (v.10) and turned away from Him. So now they try to continue as if everything was normal, they plant out their vines (v.10,11), tend them, feed them and generally do everything they can, but God has decreed no harvest!
Verse 12-14 come as a balance to all this promised destruction. The prophet speaks of the nations (and no doubt he has the invaders from the north in mind) as if they were like a raging sea that cannot be withstood. Imagine the pictures of a hurricane lashed sea, so nothing can stand on the shore. That's what the invaders seem like, but the truth is that the Lord only has to speak a word and they fall back. They may come in the morning, but are gone by the evening when God speaks.
1. God's judgements cannot be withstood.
2. The instruments of judgement (nations) are still under God's control.
Chapter: Isaiah 18
Passage: Isaiah 18 :1-7
A. Find Out:
1. Who is the next word directed against? v.1
2. How is this people described? v.2b,c,7a,b
3. What had they done & what will they do? v.2a,7c
4. Who will see what? v.3
5. What is the Lord doing? v.4
6. Yet what will He do? v.5,6
1. How are the people of Cush viewed by the world?
2. What will the Lord do to them?
3. What will they end up doing?
Cush , your note in your Bible will tell you, is the region of the Upper Nile , south of Egypt. They were considered to be a proud and aggressive people. Reference to whirring wings may certainly refer to locusts that were common, but it may also indicate the constant buzz of activity by which this people were known. They sent out envoys to other nations, possibly aggressively. To them this message comes.
Very well, says the Lord, people of the world look on and see (v.3). You'll know about it when I move (implied). I'm just going to remain quiet and look on (v.4), says the Lord, watching what happens among them. When they almost come to the point of harvest as a people, when they have grown strong and powerful, I will cut them down so that they stop their outward spread (v.5). They will be left weak and vulnerable, a prey for others to come and take their pickings from them (v.6). That is how dramatic the change will be. Even more than that, this strong willed arrogant people will be humbled so that they will come in humility bringing gifts to Jerusalem (v.7)
The word, although specific to this particular people, is also a warning to the world. God's word again and again warns against pride and arrogance and violence against God's people. The Lord will not sit idly by and let such things continue.
1. Whole nations are answerable to the Lord.
Chapter: Isaiah 19
Passage: Isaiah 19:1-4
A. Find Out:
1. To where is the Lord coming? v.1
2. What is He going to do? v.2
3. What effect will that have? v.3a
4. So what will they do? v.3b
5. What will the Lord then do? v.4
1. What indications are there of Egypt 's spiritual state?
2. What two forms of judgement is the Lord bringing on them?
We sometimes have a limited view of the form of judgment that comes from the Lord. Normally we tend to think of the Lord's judgments coming as supernatural acts of destruction, but in this prophecy we see something quite different.
First of all let's consider the cause of the Lord's action. If you knew nothing of the Bible and you came to this passage you may see no indication of why the Lord is coming with judgement. However if you know anything of the Lord's dealings with mankind, you will know He is against all forms of unreal or occult worship. The moment we say that, this passage instantly reveals the causes of the Lord's activity. In verse 1 we find reference to idols that they worship as also in verse 3. He is against false worship. But then in verse 3 there is also mention of mediums and spiritists who consult the dead, and He is against all such occult activity that looks for answers without referring to God Himself by the use of ‘hidden powers' (for that is what occult means).
The judgement that the Lord is going to bring on Egypt is twofold. First he is going to sow discord (v.2) so that there will be civil war. How does the Lord do such a thing? He simply steps back and lets the powers of darkness that are being referred to by the spiritists, have their way. The second judgement is that out of this will come a harsh ruler (v.4) who will deal severely with them. Note that in one sense all these things are a natural progression of unrestrained sin.
1. God sometimes steps back and lets our sin loose upon us.
2. God often uses man's own sin to bring judgement.
Chapter: Isaiah 19
Passage: Isaiah 19:5-15
A. Find Out:
1. What will happen to the waterways of Egypt ? v.5-7
2. Whose jobs will be at risk? v.8-10
3. Who are ridiculed? v.11
4. What are they challenged to do? v.12
5. What has happened to the leaders in Egypt ? v.13,14
6. So what is their state? v.15
1. What is going to happen naturally in Egypt ?
2. How is that going to affect the economy?
3. Why will Egypt 's wise men be helpless?
We saw in the previous study how the Lord was bringing two forms of judgement on Egypt – civil war and an oppressive ruler. Now we see a third form of judgement which, again, an unbeliever might scoff at and say, “Oh, that's just nature!” but we know it is the specific purpose of God being worked out!
The Nile is going to dry up, together with all its tributaries. As the water levels fall, the banks will begin to smell as the plant life dies and rots. Included in the plant life are the reeds that were used for a variety of purposes. As the water levels fall so the fish numbers diminish and the fishermen go out of business. As the water levels fall so the fields are not able to be irrigated and flax dies off, the flax for which Egypt was famous. Gradually whole parts of the economy die off.
As the leaders of Egypt look on they feel utterly powerless. There is nothing that they can do. They all make different suggestions as to how they should handle the crisis but no one has an answer that works. The wisdom for which Egypt was known (see 1 Kings 4:30) comes to nothing. The wise men have allowed the nation to worship ‘gods' that are no God so their wisdom was really no wisdom. Now in the face of this national emergency all of their combined wisdom is shown for what it is: helpless before the Lord!
1. True wisdom leads to the One True God.
2. When God brings judgement even clever people are humbled!
Chapter: Isaiah 19
Passage: Isaiah 19:16-20
A. Find Out:
1. Who will act how, and why? v.16
2. How will they act at the name of Judah ? v.17
3. And what will come about in Egypt ? v.18
4. What will be there in the midst of Egypt ? v.19
5. What will it be doing there? v.20a
6. What will the Lord do for them? v.20b
1. How is there first ‘bad news' for Egypt ?
2. How then, is there ‘good news' for them?
3. What is the result of that?
These verses are laden with information so we must not rush them. The earlier verses have been telling how the Lord will bring to nothing all the wisdom of Egypt and will bring judgements of civil war, an oppressive king, and then drought causing economic collapse. The result of all this will be a weakening of the people of Egypt as they realise this is God's hand on them (v.16). So weakened will they be that even mention of Judah (v.17) will cause fear.
Next comes something that really shakes us. There is going to come a transformation of Egypt that is quite remarkable. Five cities of Egypt will speak the Hebrew language and will declare themselves for the Lord (v,18). Even more there will be a place of worship of the Lord right at the heart of Egypt (v.19). This place of worship will be a sign to the world that Egypt belongs to the Lord (v.20a).
How is this going to come about? Well the oppressor that the Lord is giving them as a judgement, will be so bad that the people will cry out to the Lord and when they do the Lord will answer and bring someone new to them who will come and save them from this oppressive regime (v.20b). Thus God will bring judgement AND He will bring a deliverer from that judgement and the people, having cried out to the Lord and been delivered, will know the Lord and worship Him.
1. God's judgements are sometimes to destroy.
2. God's judgements are sometimes to drive people back to God.
Chapter: Isaiah 19
Passage: Isaiah 19:21-25
A. Find Out:
1. So how is the future summarised? v.21
2. What two things will the Lord do to Egypt ? v.22a
3. Yet what will happen between the two things? v.22b
4. What road link will there be from where to where? v.23a
5. With what result? v.23b
6. So what will that make a worshipping trio? v.24
7. How are they each described? v.25
1. What additionally will be the Lord's means of humbling Egypt ?
2. What will be the end result of that?
3. What is the final amazing end result in this prophecy?
The Lord has been saying how He will turn the heart of Egypt so that in the heart of Egypt there will be worship of the Lord. Earlier He had spoken of three forms of judgement – civil war, a despot, and a drought – and now in this passage He adds a fourth judgement which might be naturally seen as following on from the drought and everything around the rivers going rotten – a plague.
The acknowledging the Lord and worshipping Him (v.21) is the end product which will be brought about when the Lord first brings this plague on Egypt and then heals them (v.22) but the healing will only come after Egypt have cried out to the Lord, that is the middle part of this exercise and a critical bit. The objective is to bring Egypt to rely upon the Lord and to realise that he alone is all-powerful and worthy of their worship.
But there is something even more amazing that ends this chapter, the description of a road that joins Egypt in the south with Assyria in the north (v.23), that links the two nations that God will have dealt with so that there is an interchange of worshippers between them, with Israel in between. Whether this happened then or with the advent of the Gospel is unclear to us. Possibly both, certainly in the latter time.
1. God can turn the most hard of people or nations.
2. His objective is always to draw people to know Him.
Chapter: Isaiah 20
Passage: Isaiah 20:1-6
A. Find Out:
1. What event happened? v.1
2. What did the Lord tell Isaiah to do? v.2
3. Of what was this a picture? v,3,4
4. How had people felt about Egypt ? v.5a
5. How will that change? v.5b,6
1. What effect do you think the taking of Ashdod in the west would have had on the surrounding peoples?
2. Who had they relied upon in the past?
3. How is that going to change?
Sargon II of Assyria reigned from 721 to 705BC so this occurs during that time. His forces came and attacked Ashdod, (v.1) a Philistine city to the west of Judah (see 1 Sam 6:17). Now up until then Egypt had been strong and a support to friendly allies in the area. Thus previously the people of the coast (v.6) to the west and south of Judah had relied upon alliances with strong Egypt. When this attack comes they are naturally alarmed by take courage in Egypt. It is at this point that the Lord steps in.
He instructs Isaiah, as His messenger, to take off his clothes and walk around naked or semi-naked (possible a loin cloth) for three years. At the end of that time the Lord speaks again and declares that Isaiah has been a sign of what will soon be happening to Egypt. There is a sense here that this lived-out-sign and this word against Egypt comes almost as a full stop to ratify the end of the word against Cush and Egypt that we have seen in the previous two chapters.
Simply put, the Lord is saying to the lands nearest to Egypt, your time of relying upon Cush and Egypt is about to come to an end for these same Assyrians who have invaded Ashdod will come and take Egypt and take the peoples of Egypt and Cush into slavery (v.4). This is what will happen to weakened Egypt .
1. Man relies upon strong nations, but God can bring them down.
2. Relying upon men is unwise. Rely upon the Lord alone.
Chapter: Isaiah 21
Passage: Isaiah 21:1-10
A. Find Out:
1. What is going to happen to the next land described? v.1,2
2. How does it affect the prophet? v.3,4
3. What is the picture before the invasion? v.5
4. What does the Lord say to do? v.6,7
5. What report does the lookout eventually give? v.8,9
6. How does he describe Israel ? v.10
1. What does he see in verses 1 to 5?
2. How do verses 6 to 10 repeat that but differently?
Because the place is identified in verse 9 we can understand the earlier part of the oracle from that. The desert by the sea (v.1) is the land of Babylonia north of the Persian Gulf . The prophet ‘sees' an invader coming and total upheaval (v.2) when Elam (the land northeast of the lower Tigris Valley) join with the Medes (the land of modern Iran) and attack Babylon. The level of the devastation of the vision leaves the prophet wrecked (Daniel felt similarly when he had visions - Dan 8:27). There is a feeling of urgency in him as, in his vision, he sees the soldiers of Babylon sitting around and relaxing (v.5). He wants to call them to action because of what is about to come upon them.
But then it is as if the vision ends and he gets a simple word from the Lord (v,6) to set lookouts to report on what they see. When he sees movement (v.7) he will know things are happening as forecast. Eventually the lookout sees a messenger (v.8,9) coming with the news that Babylon has fallen, utterly devastated.
But then (v.10) there is a strange note. He refers to “my people, crushed on the threshing floor”. It is a reference to Israel (my people) who have been disciplined by an enemy, probably Babylon . In this Isaiah sees into the future (as he also does later in the book) and sees Babylon being used by God to chastise Israel and now this word comes as if to say, it's all right Israel, they'll get their just deserts!
1. Prophetic vision breaks the boundaries of time.
Chapter: Isaiah 21
Passage: Isaiah 21:11-17
A. Find Out:
1. What do they call from Edom ? v.11
2. What does the watchman reply? v.12
3. Who are next addressed? v.13
4. What are they told to bring? v.14
5. From what are the refugees fleeing? v.15
6. Who are they? v.16,17
1. What do you think is implied by the watchman of v.12?
2. Who are then called to help who?
First place names. You'll see from the note in your Bible that Dumah is wordplay on the quiet nation of Edom . Seir is also another name for Edom (see also Gen 32:3) the country to the south of the Dead Sea . In v.13 the Dedanites are an Arabian tribe of merchants. Tema is a n oasis in northern Arabia about 400 miles southwest of Babylon . Kedar is in the Arabian desert.
There are two groups of people mentioned in these short oracles. The first are the people of Edom (v.11) in the south east from Judah . Someone, presumably in a vision, calls to Isaiah as a watchman asking what is left of the night. Night presumably refers to the time of ‘darkness' when they were suffering under invasions from Assyria . Isaiah's reply (v.12) is that morning is coming, the darkness of Assyrian oppression is coming to an end, but then adds that night is coming again, possibly an allusion to the coming of the Babylonians. If you want to know more, he adds, come back again.
Isaiah then turns to Arabia (v.13), that large land mass to the south east. His rather oblique word calls to the travelling merchants who know how to hide and avoid invaders to be on the lookout to pick up the refugees who will be fleeing from Kedar. No reason is given beyond the fact that the Lord is very shortly going to bring down their pride and their famous bowmen will be defeated. It's a time of judgement
1. Even small nations out of the way do not escape God's eye.
2. God holds all peoples accountable for their sin.
RECAP - "Six (Seven) Condemnations" - Isaiah Chapters 17 to 21
In this final group of 10 studies we have seen :
Damascus was condemned for rejecting God (17:10), Cush for being arrogant and aggressive (18:2), Egypt for its idolatry (19:1,3) and pride in its wisdom (19:11), Babylon for its idolatry (21:9), and Arabia for its violence and pride (21:15,16). Edom is spoken against but no reason is given.
Again God holds nations accountable. The primary causes are pride, violence and idolatry. They may think that they can get away with it, but He will come and deal with them.
Pray again for your own nation that it will become humble, righteous and godly in respect of Israel .
In the summary table above you will have seen the overview of the subjects covered – mostly God's word being spoken against these many nations. What do we learn from them?
1. To the Nations
God is concerned with nations of the world. He's not merely concerned with Israel . Israel were called to be a light to the rest of the world and the world was supposed to learn about God through them. What we have in these chapters is God's specific word to a number of nations, not just Israel . It may sound obvious but it isn't.
2. Mind what you are doing!
The nations mentioned all relate in some way to Israel . Israel are included of course, but these are mostly nations that have opposed Israel at some time or other. The obvious one is Babylon and they are rebuked for their pride. Yes, God used them to bring discipline to Israel but that didn't give them the right to deal with Israel as they thought fit. No, they were simply the tool in God's hand, and mostly they didn't realise that and realise that they should only go as far as God wanted and not as far as they wanted! Some of the other nations were simply used as a thorn in the side of Israel when Israel had fallen away from God, but they too are still answerable to the Lord. Any nation that deals with Israel , in whatever way, is answerable to God.
3. Varied Chastising
As we have gone through these studies you will have seen the varied ways that God deals with these nations. In some cases they are attacked by other nations; in some cases they turn inwardly on themselves. God varies the discipline according to the nation.
4. Varied Sins
The primary sin that seems to come out again and again is that of pride – and the arrogance or rebellion against God that follows it. Some nations were proud because of their power and might, some were proud about their wisdom and some were proud because they thought they were impregnable. Pride is a wrong assessment of your self. These nations had to learn they were not greater than God! It is a lesson that both we and the nations of the world need to remember!