Text: Isaiah 13 -1 7
Isaiah prophesies God’s judgment against nations opposing and surrounding Israel/Judah:
1. The Lord condemns Babylon (the empire that sent Judah into exile) for its pride and declares that the empire will be overtaken by the Medes and the king of Babylon will experience a shameful death and no surviving offspring—a complete sweep with the broom of destruction. Furthermore, the Lord says He will have compassion for Israel and will settle them again in their own land when this happens.
2. Isaiah also prophesies God’s decisive plan and purpose to crush Assyria (the empire that sent the northern kingdom of Israel into exile).
3. When King Ahaz of Judah dies, Isaiah prophesies to the historic enemy of Israel, the Philistines that they should not rejoice at his death. Isaiah uses intermingled metaphors of roots and snakes to say that Ahaz’ offspring will trouble them and they will also suffer because of a God-sent famine in their land.
4. Chapters 15 and 16 show us a picture of the nation of Moab in exile and God lamenting over them. The Lord says in three years Moab’s splendour will be gone and survivors few.
5. The city of Damascus is condemned to be a heap of ruins, yet with some survivors. Cities in Ephraim (another name for Israel’s northern kingdom) will also disappear. This will cause those left to look to the Holy One of Israel and away from hand-made altars and Asherah poles, the cause of the city’s inhabitants to forget their true God.
Using other Biblical references, let’s take a closer look at how Isaiah’s prophecies of judgment on these nations were fulfilled and a bit about why they were judged (match the numbers for easy reference).
1. We see the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy of Babylon’s destruction by the Medes and Persians in the book of Daniel when Darius the Mede overtakes the kingdom the night Belshazzar, king of Babylon is slain (Daniel 5:30-31) after the prophet Daniel interprets divine writing on the wall. Under Persian king Cyrus, Judah’s exiles are permitted to return home (books of Ezra and Nehemiah will tell us more about that).
2. We know from the book of Jonah, which records Jonah’s journey to the Assyrian city of Ninevah to announce God’s destruction on that city, that God has compassion on Assyria and does not destroy the people when they repent. But the book of Nahum announces Nineveh’s final destruction, which happened around 632 BC when the Babylonians, Medes and Scythians rose up against them.
3. Judah’s King Ahaz is succeeded by Hezekiah (a good king!), who defeated the Philistines “as far as Gaza and its territory (2 Kings 18:8).
4. We hear more about Moab’s judgement, exile to Babylon like Judah, in the book of Jeremiah (Ch 48). Initiated through Solomon’s wives, the people of Moab corrupted Israel and Judah with their god Chemosh, who demanded child sacrifices.
5. Damascus was the prominent city of Syria, which was friendly allies with the northern kingdom of Israel. Here, both are judged. We see the fulfillment of this prophecy in 2 Kings 15:29 when the king of Assyria attacks Israel during the reign of Pekah. In 2 Kings 16:9 we are told he also attacks Damascus, captures it and deported its inhabitants.
If the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah can’t escape the consequences for their idolatry and evil, neither will the nations who overtake them and put them into exile. Through Isaiah’s prophecies and their fulfillments, we see the timeless truth that God is sovereign above all kingdoms of the earth, He is the one who sets kings up and He is the one who tears kingdoms down. God is the ultimate authority over all the earth.
What does it mean to you personally when you ponder God’s authority? Does his sovereignty give you peace or cause you to fear? What does your response to his authority say about your heart’s posture—are you humble before Him or do you have areas of undealt-with pride? Be honest with God and acknowledge his rule over your life and circumstances today.
Prayer: There is no one higher than you, Lord. Thank you for the love, forgiveness and grace I experience when I turn to you and acknowledge your greatness and authority and my need for you to save me from sin. Help me to live in a humble posture before you today and help me to trust your authority over my life and being. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Song: No One Higher (Aaron Shust)
In 2023, each week's blog is a follow-up reflection written by the preceding Sunday’s preacher to dig deeper into the sermon topic and explore engaging discussion questions.