Tuesdays with Isaiah (Chapter 34)

God’s severe, devastating judgement is coming upon the nations of the earth.  That is the sobering message announced in Isaiah 34.  The chapter begins with a summons to the nations to “hear” and “give attention” (1).  The Lord wants the entire world to listen to what He is about to proclaim: “Let the earth hear, and all that fills it; the world, and all that comes from it (1).

Verse 2 announces God’s disposition and decision related to “all the nations” (2).  He is “enraged” and “furious” with the nations and their armies (“hosts”).  In his wrath, He has “devoted them to destruction” (2).  God’s judgment will result in piles of corpses and mountains running with blood (3).  Even the heavens will not be spared: “All the host of heaven shall rot away and the skies roll up like a scroll.  All their host shall fall, as leaves fall from the vine. . .” (4).  The stars (or perhaps, angelic hosts) will also fade and fall. God’s cosmic and global judgment begins in the heavens and then descends to earth (5). 

Beginning in verse 6, Isaiah focuses on one nation that will experience the “sword” of the Lord:  Edom (6-17).  Using sacrificial language, Isaiah describes Edom in terms of sacrificial animals slain by the sword of the Lord (6-7).  “For the Lord has a sacrifice in Bozrah, a great slaughter in the land of Edom” (6).

This global judgment that brings death and destruction to nations (like Edom) constitutes the “day” of the Lord: “For the Lord has a day of vengeance” (8).  God will “recompense” the nations that have opposed “the cause of Zion” (8).

Edom—the focus of God’s global judgment in this chapter—will be devastated in a way that leaves the land desolate (9-17).  Isaiah pictures their streams being “turned into pitch” and the “soil into sulfur” (9).  A fire will burn “night and day”; the smoke of the fire will “go up forever” (10).  The land will lie desolate “from generation to generation” (10).

Devoid of people, Edom becomes a sanctuary for wild animals: hawk, porcupine, owl, raven, hyenas and wild goats (11, 14).  People are so scarce, that “there is no one to call it a kingdom” (12). Thorns and thistles grow where cities and houses once thrived (13).

Isaiah concludes by focusing in on the owls and hawks that now inhabit the unhabitable land of Edom (15-17).  The nest undisturbed: “Not one of them shall be missing.”  All this will happen because “the mouth of the Lord has commanded, and His Spirit has gathered them” (16).  These wild birds become the new population of Edom “from generation to generation” (17).

Behold Your God

The Lord does not hide His fury or ferocious deeds.  Isaiah 24 opens with God’s announcement to the all peoples that He is enraged with “all nations” and plans to bring severe, deadly judgment (1-2).  He outlines His plan to bring bloody death to the armies of the nations, leaving their corpses littering the landscape. He has set them apart for destruction, with special attention given to bringing down the nation of Edom. Evidently, He has no desire to craft an image of a harmless, benign deity. He wants all peoples to know He is fearsome and should be feared.

The Lord will have a sacrifice for sin.  Edom is pictured as a bloody sacrifice to God (6). Sin demands judgment from a righteous Judge and the wages of sin is death.  Either we are covered by God’s self-sacrifice in the person of His suffering Servant (Isaiah 53) or we will be the sacrifice for our sins.

The Lord’s vengeance recompenses those who mistreated Israel.  Edom is singled out as an example of a nation that aroused God’s anger for their mistreatment of Israel.  The devastation brought upon their entire nation—which leaves it a ghost town inhabited by wild animals—is God’s recompense for their hostility against Zion (8). God’s promise to Abraham about cursing those who curse Him remains in force (Gen 12:1-3).

The “day” of the Lord will bring destruction to both the heavens and the earth.  The language used to describe the Lord’s “day of vengeance” is cosmic; the hosts of heaven “rot away” and the skies “roll up like a scroll” (4). On earth, the armies of the nations are slaughtered in a devastation that ruins entire nations (Edom).  This wide-scale judgment lines up with the biblical description of the final “day of the Lord” (Isaiah 2:12; Joel 2:31; Micah 4:5; 2 Thess 2:1-17; 2 Peter 3).  “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Heb 10:31).

The Lord keeps His Word, spoken and written.  God does not hide his intentions but records them in “the book of the Lord” (16).  What He says He will do, He does.  He remains faithful to carry out “what the mouth of the Lord has commanded” (16).  What is written in Scripture truthfully conveys what God has spoken and commanded.

Here Am I

I must never join those who mistreat Israel.  Throughout Isaiah, and the rest of the Old Testament prophetic books, we see God’s spokesmen denouncing the sins of His people.  However, even when they speak against Israel, they are for the nation, wanting it to repent and return to the Lord.  Those who attack and mistreat Israel—like Edom—will face recompense and retribution from the Lord Himself.  Though I may not agree with all that Israel does and voice concerns, I never want to find myself among Israel’s enemies.  God will deal with them severely.

I must warn people of the coming devastation on the Day of the Lord.   While the Day of the Lord will bring darkness to the heavens and earth, we are not in the dark about the Day of the Lord.  We know it is coming. As one of God’s “watchmen” (Ezekiel 33:1-9), I have a responsibility to warn people to take shelter from God’s wrath in His grace, trusting in the sacrificial death of His Servant/Son to cover our sins and govern our lives (Isa 7:14; 53:1-11).  I do not want to be a watchman who fails in His task and has blood on his hands (Ezekiel 33:6).

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