I don’t know about you, but as I read through this passage, I couldn’t help but hear the tune to praise song, “Indescribable” by Chris Tomlin. There is a fancy word for what we see happening here. It’s a disputation. In other words, it’s a debate or argument, and in this case, an argument that demonstrates the greatness of God. You see, the people who were living in captivity, hearing these words of comfort, needed to be reassured and reacquainted with their LORD. Their trust had to be rebuilt.
Think of a time when you were going through a difficult time. If someone had told you not to worry, that it was all going to turn out all right, would you have believed them? It would depend on who it was and how much you trusted that individual. These verses are helping reestablish the trust and relationship that had probably been damaged or may not even exist in the first place.
Have you ever asked God for something and wondered how he’d answer your prayer? That’s probably a pretty silly question! We have all done that, haven’t we? Isn’t it great to know we can have the assurance he will answer, even if it’s not in the way we would like. We read King Hezekiah’s prayer in our last reading. You’ll recall he was fearful of King Sennacherib, the king of Assyria. Today we see God’s response.
What strikes you most about this message from God? I loved God’s attitude. “Whom have you been defying and ridiculing? Against whom did you raise your voice? At whom did you look with such haughty eyes? It was the Holy One of Israel!” God was making it clear to Hezekiah that not only was he aware of what lies the Assyrians were telling, but that he wasn’t impressed by their actions at all. We’ve read about how God has used the Assyrians to destroy the land, but the Assyrians have taken their victory a bit far. They are pounding their chest as if it is their might and not God’s.
Chapters 34 and 35 are considered a match set. In our last reading we had judgment, and in this reading comes the hope. I’m also learning a lot about the literary style of Isaiah. I didn’t realize that scholars see a distinction between First Isaiah (Chapters 1-39) and Second Isaiah (Chapters 40-66). We’ve just read Chapters 34 and 35 which are usually considered a bridge between the two, and Chapters 36-39 are like a snapshot in history that we have yet to cover. I’m always fascinated to learn cool facts about the Bible and how it has been designed with such intention.
We have an intentional God. He has been known to allow certain things for those who love him, as we have seen, that have been less than enjoyable. We can look around our world today and see plenty of examples of that! The important thing for us to keep in mind is there is always hope on the other side of any trial or judgment. “There the Lord will display his glory, the splendor of our God.” We see that time and again in Scripture. It just makes sense that it is a pattern we can trust as well.
Isaiah calls it out plain as day. “Look, a righteous king is coming!” Having suffered under power hungry kings who were not focused on God’s will, the idea of a righteous king must sound amazing. Bad things will befall Judah, but they can look forward to the day when God sends Jesus, a king unlike any other king. One who promises to rule with justice.
“In that day” we hear some remarkable things will happen. Evil will be exposed as evil. We can look around today and see how evil is infiltrating our world on many levels. It’s like people are blind to it and even attracted to it. It’s alarming really. Yet this phenomenon is nothing new. Even when Jesus came the first time, the people didn’t recognize him, and evil was allowed to play a role in his death. While we don’t understand, we know God has it under his control.
I realize these first several verses are directed to Isaiah to keep him strong and uplift him while facing the trials prophets face. But didn’t you also sense the peace and assurance that came as if God was speaking directly to you? There is a lot going on in the world these days. If you listen to all the media reports and buy into their plots and those of movie makers, these words to Isaiah could be cautioning us, too. “Don’t call everything a conspiracy, like they do, and don’t live in dread of what frightens them.” That word, conspiracy, seems to get tossed about more and more these days. We need to be careful, too.
Instead, this is what we should do and how we should be focusing our attention. “Make the Lord of Heaven’s Armies holy in your life. He is the one you should fear.” Absolutely this! God isn’t to be feared as in afraid but as in awe and reverence. When we give God his rightful place in our lives, the right doors open, and the right messages arrive when we need them. God can use us, too, to be the messengers to others of his goodness and mercy. We should not be silent about how God is working in our lives. Other people are hungry and looking for this type of connection to their creator. Such hope and directions these verses give us, too!