Day 16

Judgment Against the Nations

from the Lent 2017: You Are Mine reading plan


Isaiah 21:1-17, Isaiah 22:1-25, 1 Corinthians 15:54, 1 Peter 2:6

BY Amanda Bible Williams

Text: Isaiah 21:1-17, Isaiah 22:1-25, 1 Corinthians 15:54, 1 Peter 2:6

We’re in the thick of Isaiah’s prophecy now, about a third of the way through the book we call by his name. But if you’re like me, things don’t feel much clearer than when we first began. So far in our reading, I’ve come across more questions than answers. But I think that’s okay. I think this feeling we’re feeling (are you feeling it, too?) is by design. We are not meant to feel comfortable here.

Isaiah’s prophecy to this point, both in general and in detail, is dark. If his message were one of those Magic 8-balls we had when we were kids, we’d shake it and it would say, “Outlook not good.” Judgment was coming. This was certain.

“Looking” is a recurring theme in these two chapters. We see it in chapter 21 when the Lord tells Isaiah, “Go, post a lookout; let him report what he sees” (v.6). The watchman sees what the Lord said he would: horsemen approaching in pairs. “Babylon has fallen, has fallen,” the Lord replies. “All the images of her gods have been shattered on the ground” (v.9).

As readers of Isaiah’s prophecy, we look, too, watching the scene through our modern-day imaginations. And we see it: destruction and devastation, pain and anguish. We see a kingdom fall along with its false gods—gods incapable of rescue.

Further into chapter 21, we see the lookers again. In his oracle against Dumah, Isaiah reports: “One calls to me from Seir, ‘Watchman, what is left of the night? Watchman, what is left of the night?” (v.11). Desperation echoes in the repetition; surely there is something good, somewhere off in the distance? And there is—for a moment. “Morning has come, and also night,” the watchman replies (v.12). There is hope, sure, he says, but it won’t last.

In short, Isaiah 21 leaves us right where we started: lost in darkness and despair, no hope to be found among us.

No hope to be found among us.

Hope had to come to us. And Hope did, though we refused to see Him (John 1:10-11).

In chapter 22, Isaiah’s prophecy pivots to an oracle against Jerusalem, the holy city itself. Though referred to here as the “Valley of Vision,” Jerusalem was blind. They’d built up walls of self-reliance and weapons of their own strength, all in vain. They looked to themselves, forgetting their God. The prophet says to them:

“You made a reservoir between the walls for the waters of the ancient pool, but you did not look to the One who made it, or consider the One who created it long ago.”
– Isaiah 22:11

God called Israel to repent, but they had a party. God offered them solace, but they celebrated their futility instead. God said “Look!”, but they would not see.

What about us? Will we look? Not just to the future, hoping for a bright light on the horizon. Not to ourselves, drawing strength from our empty wells. And certainly not to whatever shallow joy we can cook up on our own. No, we look to the Lord of Hosts.

The Lord is the One who establishes kings and kingdoms, and He is the One who remains after they fall.

The Lord is the One who calls out to those in darkness and implores them to see His face—beautiful, holy, good.

The Lord is the One whose holy justice cannot overlook sin, and He is the One whose merciful compassion provides sin’s remedy at His own expense.

The cross of Christ was the darkest point on the landscape of humanity, but that sacrifice purchased our rescue. Because of Jesus, His death and glorious resurrection, death itself “has been swallowed up in victory” (1 Corinthians 15:54).

Devastation is still all around us, and we are bowed down, dismayed (Isaiah 21:3). But we look. We look to Christ. We look to Christ and we return to Him, repenting of our sin and trusting Jesus, the only true and lasting Hope.

Thanks be to God and to Jesus Christ, our eternal, incorruptible Savior. Amen.

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Post Comments (113)

113 thoughts on "Judgment Against the Nations"

  1. Kait says:

    I’m definitely in a season of life that God is tearing away all of my “man made idols” that I’ve put up so that I can see him more clearly. It hurts. But I suffer with gratitude knowing one day, whether a year from now or one day in eternity, I will thank him for this season as it drew me near to Him and forced me not to rely on my own strength, but fully rely on the strength of the Lord. Death is swallowed up! Oh death, where is your victory? Oh death, where is your sting?

    1. She Reads Truth says:

      Kait, thank you for sharing this. We are praying for you in this difficult season. Grateful for you!

      – Stormye

    2. Millie says:

      That is exactly what is happening to me right now. My main idol has left me and I feel alone and fearful. It is hard to trust.

  2. Kersti says:

    What an amazing reminder that when we are in the thick of things, completely distracted by the world and feeling alone, it is in those moments God can be showing us himself- his redemption- his mercy if we choose to go to him and look up.
    Lord help me get my face off of my problems and onto you. You are faithful.

  3. brie says:

    I always feel so trapped; trapped by my own creation of anxiety. Yet, the Lord calls me to be free and I cant find Him because I have pushed myself away.
    I know i am headed toward destruction, yet here I stand taking to steps to the Lord and falling further away right afterwards.

    I do not know what is my anxiety and what is the Lord speaking to me anymore.

    1. Kara says:

      I used to have the same problem separating my anxious thoughts from Gods words. I was so desperate to control my world that I gave him very little room to work. I would challenge you to try and make space to listen for him every day and give up to him every anxious thought. May he show you his love and help you discern his vs your words.

      1. Brie says:

        Thank you! How did you find space to listen everyday?

    2. Noelle says:

      Anxiety had a grip on me since I was very young. It wasn’t until I was able to give it to Him and learn the difference between His words and my own (or, so often, those of the enemy) that I was freed. I still struggle with anxious thoughts and self doubt. When I start hearing those thoughts, though, I remember Who my God is. He would never tell me things that would tear me down, make me feel lost, or make me feel anxious. He gently and lovingly guides me toward His will for my life. The enemy uses the anxiety to offer chaos; God offers peace. Next time your anxiety starts creeping up on you, analyze the thoughts – are they helpful and uplifting (conviction CAN be uplifting!), or are they hurtful and disheartening? God offers PEACE!

    3. Claire says:

      A scripture for you today – James 4:7 ‘Submit to God, resist the devil and he will flee from you.’ As Kara said, offer them up each time…it may be hard but it’s worth it. Bless you!

    4. Amanda says:

      Correct me if I’m wrong but I think basically (how I’m reading it) what you are asking is ‘how do I know what is from God or from my anxiety?’ My pastor said something not long ago that has stuck with me and is how I now help to differentiate the two (bc I have the same problem). He said, ‘what does Gods word say? If your anxious thoughts go against His word then you indeed know that it’s not from God but from the devil. Seek the word, know what it says so that you can start to differentiate the truth vs not the truth.
      And know you are not alone in this! Take care!

      1. Lauren says:

        That is absolutely wonderful advice, Amanda! I love it!!!

    5. She Reads Truth says:

      Brie, praying for you. Asking the Lord to remind you that He controls all things and to give you peace. Thank you for letting us know how to pray for you.

      – Stormye

    6. BML says:

      God wants us to take every thought captive to His obedience through the e a inaction of that thought with His Word, 2 Corinthians 10:4-5.

    7. Holly says:

      I’ve been in this place very recently, and off and on throughout my whole life, and I can tell you that God calls his people back to him. For a long time, I wanted to come back. I knew I was living in my own destruction, overtaken by depression and anxiety, but I wasn’t truly repenting. I was allowing the enemy to shame me, make me feel unworthy of forgiveness, and I tried to hide from the Lord. But He continued to draw me in, so I spent time in the word. I am not proud of this, but at first it was begrudgingly. I was trying to understand on my own without asking God to reveal himself. I wasn’t listening. Before long though I could feel Him working in my heart. He spoke to me through scripture, and used it to call me to true repentance. He showed me that the source of my anxiety was entirely contradictory to His word.

      What I’m saying is, you are here. Seek Him diligently and you will find Him (Proverbs 8:17). Continue to trust that He is who He says He is and allow Him to work out His plan for your good. Let Him be your source of hope. (Jeremiah 29:11) Praying for you today!

  4. Michele says:

    The devotional today really helped me to study the readings in Isaiah. Great understanding of what we are looking to in Jesus. Very humbling to read these chapters.

  5. Debbie Simler-Goff says:

    This is so true and makes me think of the day age we are living in now. Oh how I believe that the Lord is reaching to our nation… And I watch, pray, and wonder what our response will be.

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