Isaiah Chapter 17 – Why would God be so good to us?
(OK, there’s a lot of ground to cover today, but don’t give up on this post – the end is worth it!)
Isaiah chapter 17 carries a mix of prophecies that deal with Judah, Israel, and Damascus in Isaiah’s day, as well as a future event that has not yet come to pass.
Event #1 is documented in 2 Kings chapters 18-19, then the Assyrian army comes against Judah. When the city of Jerusalem was surrounded, King Hezekiah and Isaiah went into he the temple and spread out the threatening letters from Sennacherib. “Lord, we look to you,” they prayed. That very night, a single angel of the Lord went into the Assyrian army camp outside of the city and killed 185,000 soldiers (2 Kings 19:35, Isaiah 17:14).
Event #2, the complete destruction of Damascus, has not yet come to pass. The first three verses of Isaiah 17 describe it:
The burden against Damascus. “Behold, Damascus will cease from being a city, and it will be a ruinous heap. The cities of Aroer are forsaken; They will be for flocks which lie down, and no one will make them afraid. The fortress also will cease from Ephraim, the kingdom from Damascus, and the remnant of Syria; They will be as the glory of the children of Israel,” says the Lord of hosts. (Isaiah 17:1-3)
Damascus is still the largest city in Syria today, so clearly this prophecy has not yet come to pass. So, was Isaiah wrong? Hardly. History teaches us that Gods word will stand, even if it doesn’t make sense today.
For example, when Israel was reborn as a nation in 1948, over a thousand years of bible critics who had claimed the bible was wrong because “Israel was no more,” were silenced! Based on past performance, God’s word always comes to pass, so we can rest assured that there will be a future event that will bring the complete destruction of the great city of Damascus.
Damascus is one of the great cities of the ancient world, and the capital of the ancient nation of Syria, which is positioned to the immediate north-east of Israel. Syria has participated in several wars against Israel; The 1948 Arab-Israeli war, and the 1973 Yom Kippur war. Today Syria is at war with Israel through their support of militia groups in Lebanon such as Hezbollah. In 2006 Hezbollah launched an artillery attack on northern Israel, sparking a month-long conflict. So, we can say that Syria and Israel have been in conflict for thousands of years!
When the events of 2 Kings 18-19 occurred (event #1), Assyria was a single nation coming adjacent Israel. Yet in Isaiah 17 we are told of an alliance of many nations coming attacking Israel:
Woe to the multitude of many people who make a noise like the roar of the seas, and to the rushing of nations that make a rushing like the rushing of mighty waters! The nations will rush like the rushing of many waters. (Isaiah 17:12)
This suggests that Syria, represented by Damascus, will again ally with other nations and attack Israel, which also fits with a prophecy given in Psalm 83.
For behold, Your enemies make a tumult; And those who hate You have lifted up their head. They have taken crafty counsel against Your people, and consulted together against Your sheltered ones. They have said, “Come, and let us cut them off from being a nation, that the name of Israel may be remembered no more.” For they have consulted together with one consent; They form a confederacy against You: The tents of Edom and the Ishmaelites; Moab and the Hagrites; Gebal, Ammon, and Amalek; Philistia with the inhabitants of Tyre; Assyria (modern Syria) also has joined with them; They have helped the children of Lot. (Ps 83:2-8)
This confederacy of nations exists today in the countries that surround Israel, and are to this day committed to its destruction. Today Israel has a strong military, and are very capable of defending themselves. When they’re attacked, will they depend on their own military might, or the US for their salvation? Or will these man-made defenses fail, and when surrounded by enemies intending to drive them into the sea, will they turn to God? Isaiah 17 predicts that things will get so bad, Israel will be forced to turn to God;
In that day a man will look to his Maker, and his eyes will have respect for the Holy One of Israel. He will not look to the altars, the work of his hands; he will not respect what his fingers have made, nor the wooden images nor the incense altars. In that day his strong cities will be as a forsaken bough and an uppermost branch, which they left because of the children of Israel; and there will be desolation. (Isaiah 17:7-9)
Isaiah 17 concludes his oracle against Damascus by describing the length of time it takes for the city to become reduced to rubble. Overnight, this historic city is destroyed.
But God will rebuke them and they will flee far away, and be chased like the chaff of the mountains before the wind, like a rolling thing before the whirlwind. Then behold, at eventide, trouble! And before the morning, he is no more. This is the portion of those who plunder us, and the lot of those who rob us. (Isaiah 17:13-14)
One evening Damascus flourishes, but by the next morning it’s obliterated. In that day there will be great destruction. Yet amidst all of the destruction and chaos presented in Isaiah 17, there is a word of hope: “Yet!”
Yet gleaning grapes will be left in it, like the shaking of an olive tree, two or three olives at the top of the uppermost bough, four or five in its most fruitful branches,” says the Lord God of Israel. (Isaiah 17:6)
There will be great destruction, but a remnant will come through this war, protected by God. All throughout scripture, in the midst of darkness, are words of hope and restoration. Even in the midst of correction, God proclaims hope and restoration to those who are His.
In the midst of losing everything, Job declared:
Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him. (Job 13:15)
After being shown the coming Babylonian destruction, Habakuk declared:
When I heard, my body trembled; My lips quivered at the voice; Rottenness entered my bones; and I trembled in myself, that I might rest in the day of trouble. When he comes up to the people, He will invade them with his troops. Though the fig tree may not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines; Though the labor of the olive may fail, and the fields yield no food; Though the flock may be cut off from the fold, and there be no herd in the stalls— Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation. (Habakuk 3:16-18)
I have to admit, I don’t always understand it. Why would God be so good to us? There is simply no logical reason I can think of… other than the logic of love.
Gods love for us trumps our mistakes, our failures, even our rebellion. God may correct us, but He ALWAYS loves us, and He has our ultimate redemption in mind:
For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39)