Are we as hard-headed as those in Judah? Do we look to the might of men instead of the majesty of God? Isaiah is pointing out to us again “What sorrow awaits those who look to Egypt for help, trusting their horses, chariots, and charioteers and depending on the strength of human armies instead of looking to the Lord, the Holy One of Israel.” Can you imagine how hard it was for Isaiah to sit back and watch his friends and neighbors continue in their sinful ways?
We probably have friends and family, too, who are content going about their lives with little attention to God, much less giving him the respect he deserves. It is frustrating for me to see the indifference. Does it help that I read passages like this and realize that people today aren’t acting that much different than those in Isaiah’s day? Maybe just a little. Not many of us are looking to Egypt for help!
Jerusalem is called the “Valley of Vision” here because it is where God often revealed himself. The people seem oblivious to the warnings they are being given. They are not repenting and putting their trust in God. They are doing all sorts of things, like partying, recreating on their rooftops, and preparing, all by their own power. “But you never ask for help from the One who did all this. You never considered the One who planned this long ago.” If they could only see how easy God was making it for them to be safe and secure. 2 Chronicles 7:14 sums it up nicely. “Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land.”
How often to do we do a similar thing? We go about our business, making plans, executing those plans, and then wonder why our plans fail. Perhaps we, too, missed the crucial piece of asking God first. Had we asked for God’s help, his input, his blessing, we may have received a message that our plans weren’t quite right. God’s plans never fail. Shouldn’t we want to make sure we are doing things God’s way?
Today’s reading is full of hope for the future. The warnings of destruction will be partnered with glimmers of hope. We can see that pattern playing out in our lives too. For every trial and valley of struggle, we can rejoice in the light at the end of the tunnel. We know there is an end in sight. John 1:5 says, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.” We can put our hope in Jesus. He was sent to this earth to be our light in the darkness. He is a light so bright that darkness cannot and will not ever overtake it.
Here we see what many Christians believe is a prophetic reference to the Messiah, the light of the world. “But in that day, the branch of the Lord will be beautiful and glorious.” The restoration Isaiah is speaking of will be truly manifested in the coming of Jesus. Years later, Jeremiah speaks of this branch as well, “For the time is coming, says the Lord, when I will place a righteous Branch on King David’s throne. He will be a King who rules with wisdom. He will do what is just and right throughout the land. And this is his name: ‘The Lord is Our Righteousness.’ In that day Judah will be saved, and Israel will live in safety.” What a beautiful word from God to give people hope.
What a sharp contrast in today’s reading. Yesterday was doom and gloom, today is hope of salvation. We are witness to a festive scene in heaven once again! I thought it was interesting that one of the 24 asked John who all the people were. John’s response was priceless. “Sir, you are the one who knows.” It was almost as if it were a trick question. I know what it’s like to be asked a question I don’t know the answer to but what should be obvious to the one asking!
This abrupt shift is like putting a movie on pause. It had to happen. We needed to halt the momentum of the fiery judgments of God brought by the horsemen in our last reading. Time was needed to make sure the faithful on earth could be marked “safe” before the full unleashing of God’s wrath. It speaks to me that God is always looking out for our best interests and will make sure we have what we need to stand strong in times of adversity.
This was an interesting passage in terms of fighting battles. In general, the people of God, Israel was not a warlike nation; they were rather to avoid warfare and seek peace. We could easily take some of what was said here and apply it to non-combat type battles in life as well. God knew the people were going to face all sorts of battles and combat in overtaking and protecting the land promised to them. They needed to understand the who, the why, and the how. Did anything surprise you in today’s reading?
There were some interesting “outs” listed for those getting ready to fight. Fear was one of them. I had to wonder if there would be any people left willing to fight. But God’s promise was to be with them. Even the priests were to come and address the troops with encouragement, reminding them, “the Lord your God is going with you! He will fight for you against your enemies, and he will give you victory!”