Isaiah 17:1-14 – Doomed by Association

Read Isaiah 17:1-14

You’ll note that Isaiah’s vision from God today is directed to Damascus, the capital of Syria. However, much of the oracle points to Israel. You may recall that Syria and Israel had made an alliance. In essence, Damascus was doomed by their association. Would God have otherwise demolished that city to rubble? “All that remains of Syria will share the fate of Israel’s departed glory,” declares the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.”

This is not the first time we hear about how Israel will be punished for their disobedience. There are new word pictures to help describe the desolation and the remnant who will remain. We have probably all seen what’s left of a field, on a tree, or on a vine after being harvested. If there is fruit left, it’s out of reach and often rots on the vine. Israel (and Damascus) will be left unrecognizable and barren. “It will be desolate, like the fields in the valley of Rephaim after the harvest.”

Sometimes we need to hear the message more than once before it actually sinks in. We encounter such repetition in the oracles shared by Isaiah and the other prophets. We know that some people are going to miss the first message. It’s like when we send out marketing emails to our business list. We know that not everyone opens every single email. It’s important to keep the message fresh and in front of our audience. The timing may not always be right for certain messages to be heard. For the Israelites, they needed to hear God’s warning, and they are going to get more than one chance to listen up.

If there was any question why God was proclaiming such doom, Isaiah clears that up, too. “Then at last the people will look to their Creator and turn their eyes to the Holy One of Israel. They will no longer look to their idols for help or worship what their own hands have made.” God is trying to get their attention. He is tired of how his people are putting their trust and faith in the wrong thing. He wants to reconcile his lost children to himself.

Have you ever been frustrated by wanting to share something with a friend or loved one only to get a busy signal on the phone or lament over an unanswered text? We, too, struggle with how we are going to get our message across. How much more does God feel separated from his children when they go off on their own, looking to other gods for help? He still loves them like crazy, but he’s furious with their actions of disobedience.

The people may be oblivious to how their actions are displeasing God and question him. The response is classic! “Why? Because you have turned from the God who can save you. You have forgotten the Rock who can hide you.” We’re not immune either. Have you ever found yourself going in a direction contrary to God’s leading? Have you ever relied on sources other than God to save you? We can probably all do a better job of calling on God’s power when we are feeling weak, lost, and alone.

I think of the meme of a man who dies from drowning in a flood. He asks God why that happened because he was praying the whole time for rescue. The man is gently reminded that he refused help from a firefighter, from a man with a boat, and finally from a rope dangling from a helicopter. You see, the man claimed each time, “God is going to save me.” He didn’t recognize that it was God sending him the rescue he prayed for. Do we ever do that—not recognize the blessings we receive from God?

We can think through what happened to Damascus. They were harmed because of their association with the disobedient Israel. Their doom was sealed when they made that alliance. Take some time today to look at the associations you have in friends, business partners, and neighbors. Have you teamed up with people who seem to look good on the outside but are not a healthy choice for you as an alliance? Are you surrounding yourself with people who build you up or drag you down?

Let’s pray … Lord, I thank you for how you have rescued me time and again from the unhealthy choices I have made in my life. Use me to be a light in this world so that others can find their way into your presence. Give me discernment to make the best choices. Forgive me for those times when I have thought I could do it on my own. May I rest in your peace and your power. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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