Today: [Isaiah 18] Can’t We All Just Get Along? In chapter 18 of Isaiah the prophet speaks against the efforts of nations in the region to make treaties and agreements with them outside of His counsel. In modern times we have seen organizations rise such as the League of Nations and the United Nations and we wonder at their inability to get anything done. Billions of dollars are spent only to emphasize and demonstrate the impotence of such organizations to stem the world-wide bloodshed that seems to go unchecked. Isaiah warns that nations that confederate themselves outside of His counsel will come to ruin. In this we see that unlike we are taught in Western culture, faith and spiritual matters are more than just individual or personal concerns. God rules among the nations and the nations ignore Him to their own destruction. The call of Psalm 2 is to “kiss the son” and as we look on at the world scene we know that blessed are all of those who put their trust in Him.
[Isa 18:1-7 KJV] 1 Woe to the land shadowing with wings, which [is] beyond the rivers of Ethiopia: 2 That sendeth ambassadors by the sea, even in vessels of bulrushes upon the waters, [saying], Go, ye swift messengers, to a nation scattered and peeled, to a people terrible from their beginning hitherto; a nation meted out and trodden down, whose land the rivers have spoiled! 3 All ye inhabitants of the world, and dwellers on the earth, see ye, when he lifteth up an ensign on the mountains; and when he bloweth a trumpet, hear ye. 4 For so the LORD said unto me, I will take my rest, and I will consider in my dwelling place like a clear heat upon herbs, [and] like a cloud of dew in the heat of harvest. 5 For afore the harvest, when the bud is perfect, and the sour grape is ripening in the flower, he shall both cut off the sprigs with pruning hooks, and take away [and] cut down the branches. 6 They shall be left together unto the fowls of the mountains, and to the beasts of the earth: and the fowls shall summer upon them, and all the beasts of the earth shall winter upon them. 7 In that time shall the present be brought unto the LORD of hosts of a people scattered and peeled, and from a people terrible from their beginning hitherto; a nation meted out and trodden under foot, whose land the rivers have spoiled, to the place of the name of the LORD of hosts, the mount Zion.
Verse 1 of chapter 18 refers to a land beyond the river of Ethiopia that is “shadowed with wings”. Scholars have found it difficult to identify this nation exactly but there is consensus that it refers to Assyria. That being the case then this chapter would be a continuation of a prophecy of the destruction of Assyria contained in the last three verses of the previous chapter. There are those who believe that the warning is to the southern kingdom of Judah who falsely trusted in treaties with Ethiopia and Egypt as shadowing wings of protection against the Assyrians. Whatever the case may be the chapter is a continued warning to nations who depend upon one another for treaties of peace and military agreement between themselves rather than looking to the living God as their hope and their stay.
We can see this vain hope in the United Nations today. The United Nations began with the League of Nations envisioned by Woodrow Wilson as a means to ward off global conflict. It did not do so and the United Nations established afterwards as a means of stabilizing world relations has become in our own country a platform of strife and denunciation of western values and a source of condemnation of Israel itself. The United States pays 22% of the total budget of the UN, an amount more than 180 other member nations combined of only 193 participating nations. Therefore when we see the UN denouncing Israel, and lobbying against the interests of God’s chosen people we do well to remember that it is the American tax payers hard earned dollars that are financing the effort. All of this in the name of unity that Isaiah in the nation states of the ancient world he prophesied in – denounced as a false trust. Bringing nations together outside of God’s will and purpose is nothing more than building another tower of Babel. A nation’s trust belongs to God.
In verses 4-5 God tells the prophet that He will cut off the overshadowing wings of false trust and give Himself rest from the rapacious military policies of empire and conquest that are represented by these godless nations and their policies. Regardless of what men may plan and set out to do, ultimately God is in control and sets the boundaries even for nations and kingdoms, saying: “this far and no further”. For us as believers we may get frustrated when we see godlessness abound seemingly unchecked and without any real voice to stand against these anti-christ powers that shape even our own nation. Our trust and our hope however is upon the assertion of Isaiah in a previous chapter 9:
[Isa 9:6-7 KJV] 6 For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. 7 Of the increase of [his] government and peace [there shall be] no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.
God does not ignore the conduct of nations and just focus upon the needs and salvation of the individual. Western values teach that religion is a personal matter, pertaining to each individual privately and that there is no place for faith in the public square. This is a thinly veiled perspective that public policy and government is above the mandates of God’s commandment to which God laughs and holds all such contemptuous thinking in derision:
[Psa 2:2-12 KJV] 2 The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and against his anointed, [saying], 3 Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us. 4 He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision. 5 Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure. 6 Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion. 7 I will declare the decree: the LORD hath said unto me, Thou [art] my Son; this day have I begotten thee. 8 Ask of me, and I shall give [thee] the heathen [for] thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth [for] thy possession. 9 Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel. 10 Be wise now therefore, O ye kings: be instructed, ye judges of the earth. 11 Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling. 12 Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish [from] the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed [are] all they that put their trust in him.
This was true in David’s day and it is true in our own. Though leaders come together and overshadow themselves with wings of political connections and union and treaties as Isaiah warns about in this chapter, it is the Lord God who vexes the nations as He vexed the builders at Babel. He confounded their language and made it impossible for them to get anything done together. Thus it is today that outside of God there is no unity, and there will never be consensus among nations. The answer for us and the encouragement for us is the reproof of God in v. 12 “kiss the Son O nations of the earth” and “blessed are all they that put their trust in them”.
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