Our first reading this week is from Isaiah 17:7-14
v7: In that day: This phrase is repeated. Repetition shows emphasis.
- A man will look to his Maker: In the last days, there is going to be a change.
- A man will look … his eyes (will gaze): This verse reveals to us that G-d’s judgment upon Israel is not for their eternal destruction but to bring them to repentance. After G-d’s judgment, He shows His mercy. This mercy is set within a last day’s context. In the last days, G-d will remember the patriarchs. He will remember His promises. For the sake of His name, for a testimony of his faithfulness/mercy and compassion He will renew these promises in the last days (Roms 10-11, Zech 12:10-14).
v8: He will not look: There is going to be a change!
- Altars: This word is written in the plural. This is a hermeneutical clue that tells us that this is not referring to the bronze altar or the incense altar found in the temple. Instead, this is referring to idolatry and the pagan altars associated with idolatry. The purpose of the time known as “Jacob’s trouble” (Jer 30:7) is to bring the last days Jewish people to repentance. This is a verse of hope and is a prophetic promise. In the last days there is going to be a change – Israel will no longer worship its idols, but they are going to turn to G-d.
- The work of his hands: He created it for his purposes, for his idolatry. These things he created will no longer have any relevance for him.
- Wooden images (literally:Asherah)…incense altars (literally: the pillars that were erected in honour of the sun): This is related to the worship of pagan G-ds.
v9: In that day: This expression is repeated again.
- Strong cities: Their fortified cities.
- Strong cities will be…forsaken (abandoned): This judgment is going to be harsh. We understand the purpose of this judgment (for repentance), but this helps us to understand the severity of it. Even though it is going to have a good outcome, it is going to be a very thorough day (not necessarily a 24-hour day, but a ‘day’ refers to a specific allotment of time) of judgment (Matt 24:15-22).
- Uppermost branch (literally:Treetops): The chief/top or best places. When Israel went into the Promised land G-d caused Israel’s enemies to be defeated or to flee. G-d then gave the Israelites the cities, the lands etc that had been inhabited by their Gentile enemies (Canaanites, Philistines etc). All of these good places, chief places, were going to be destroyed and become desolate in this time of judgment.
v10: You have forgotten the G-d of your salvation: G-d made it very clear as to why He was sending His judgment on them. It was no secret. They did not remember the One who gives true prosperity, true salvation and victory.
- Rock: ‘Rock’ can be thought of as a foundation. ‘Rock’ is also a word associated with Messiah. These people have forgotten their Messianic hope.
Note: Prophecy is poetic. One of the chief characteristics of Hebrew poetry is parallelism. Parallelism teaches us the relationship between things. Here we see that the ‘G-d of Salvation’ and the ‘Rock of power’ are related. The ‘Rock’ (Messiah) and ‘G-d’ being used in this parallel way shows that there is unity or oneness between G-d the Father and G-d the Son.
- Mindful of: Remembered. A study of this word reveals that it is a word that is related to covenant (Deut 8:18-20)
- Pleasant plants…foreign seedlings: These foreign trees and seedlings were part of pagan worship (Deut 12:2). Instead of building up a kingdom rooted in the promises of G-d (the covenantal truth of G-d) they planted trees that were pleasant to them (Isaiah 1:29-30). Their own wants and desires (acting in a way that was pleasant to their flesh) led to idolatry.
v11: Grow…flourish: Their disobedience did not immediately lead to punishment. They were prosperous and successful for a season despite their idolatry.
- A heap: The harvest was abundant but it became ruined/sick. They thought they were doing so well and things looked so good, but in a moment that all changed. Their harvest became less, it waned, it became weak and pitiful.
- Desperate sorrow: Human pain and suffering was the outcome.
v12: Note: Isaiah 17:12-13 is a depiction of the exile.
Woe: This is a word that is used to get our attention, but it is also a word that warns us about how awful something is going to be.
- Make a noise: Humming: The noise made here is not the noise related to a song. This is speaking of a sound that is like the violent roaring or the relentless humming sound of the sea. The Assyrians were going to come against the Northern kingdom like a great noise, a great disturbance, like the rushing of mighty waters.
- Mighty waters: Strong waters
v13: G-d will rebuke them: G-d rebukes the Northern kingdom. This rebuke is going to cause them to flee to a distant land with their enemy pursuing after them.
v14: Before the morning he is no more: Everything is going to be destroyed.
- This is the portion of those who plunder: The Northern kingdom was going to be looted. This was their fate/their portion/their lot due to their idolatry. When we are not faithful to G-d the outcome is destruction.