Today: [Isaiah 22] The Coming Captivity of Jerusalem. In this chapter the city of Jerusalem is celebrating but Isaiah is mourning. The southern kingdom is rejoicing at a time when they think all their troubles are over. Wicked king Ahaz is dead, a new king rules on the throne. Things are looking up – yet Isaiah cries out publically and bitterly warning the people and the king of a bitter time to come. Hezekiah hears Isaiah and shrugs it off, concluding that Isaiah’s words have no bearing on anything important to him. To which the prophet laments as the celebration rages on as the city rushes headlong into captivity and judgment. If you are going to truly hear the voice of God and see what is taking place in the spirit you are often going to find yourself out of step with the mainstream as Isaiah was. The question is and the commitment you must choose to make is where your fidelities lie – with the people and their short sighted viewpoint or with the vision of God revealed to you?
[Isa 22:1-25 KJV] 1 The burden of the valley of vision. What aileth thee now, that thou art wholly gone up to the housetops? 2 Thou that art full of stirs, a tumultuous city, a joyous city: thy slain [men are] not slain with the sword, nor dead in battle. 3 All thy rulers are fled together, they are bound by the archers: all that are found in thee are bound together, [which] have fled from far. 4 Therefore said I, Look away from me; I will weep bitterly, labour not to comfort me, because of the spoiling of the daughter of my people. 5 For [it is] a day of trouble, and of treading down, and of perplexity by the Lord GOD of hosts in the valley of vision, breaking down the walls, and of crying to the mountains. 6 And Elam bare the quiver with chariots of men [and] horsemen, and Kir uncovered the shield. 7 And it shall come to pass, [that] thy choicest valleys shall be full of chariots, and the horsemen shall set themselves in array at the gate. 8 And he discovered the covering of Judah, and thou didst look in that day to the armour of the house of the forest. 9 Ye have seen also the breaches of the city of David, that they are many: and ye gathered together the waters of the lower pool. 10 And ye have numbered the houses of Jerusalem, and the houses have ye broken down to fortify the wall. 11 Ye made also a ditch between the two walls for the water of the old pool: but ye have not looked unto the maker thereof, neither had respect unto him that fashioned it long ago.
In this passage we find among the burdens of Isaiah in prophesying to the nations, he turns and prophesies against the city of Jerusalem. He describes it as a city full of stirs and tumults at a time that God is calling for sobriety and a mature response to the solemnity of the times from a prophetic perspective. This is in the context of the last several chapters of Isaiah describing by the spirit the coming overthrow of the southern kingdom and all the remnant of the people being forced into captivity in a foreign land, specifically Babylon. Isaiah weeps bitterly and laments while the city of Jerusalem is in a veritable Mardi Gras aptomosphere. We will remember again that this is during the reign of Hezekiah. Hezekiah’s rule compared in prosperity to that of Solomon and of king David. From the standpoint of good things taking place there was reason to rejoice, yet into the midst of this city of celebration the prophet Isaiah’s words are a total disconnect with the people. They are rejoicing and celebrating and Isaiah is lamenting. Poor Isaiah! So out of step with the times! He is just wrong! He is out of alignment with what all the other prophets are saying – why should we listen to him. Perhaps he needs a doctor’s appointment to get a prescription for an anti-depressant. Maybe there is something going on in his personal life that is contaminating his vision. Whatever be the case we need not listen to his tormented ramblings – after all we have a good king now! Ahaz is dead, things are looking up! Yet Isaiah sees by the spirit the city under siege and even houses broken up to fortify the walls – which in fact Hezekiah eventually does.
If we look back into the histories of Judah at this time we will get a good look at the spirit of the city and the light esteem the people have for the prophesying of this mad prophet:
[2Ki 20:12-19 KJV] 12 At that time Berodachbaladan, the son of Baladan, king of Babylon, sent letters and a present unto Hezekiah: for he had heard that Hezekiah had been sick. 13 And Hezekiah hearkened unto them, and shewed them all the house of his precious things, the silver, and the gold, and the spices, and the precious ointment, and [all] the house of his armour, and all that was found in his treasures: there was nothing in his house, nor in all his dominion, that Hezekiah shewed them not. 14 Then came Isaiah the prophet unto king Hezekiah, and said unto him, What said these men? and from whence came they unto thee? And Hezekiah said, They are come from a far country, [even] from Babylon. 15 And he said, What have they seen in thine house? And Hezekiah answered, All [the things] that [are] in mine house have they seen: there is nothing among my treasures that I have not shewed them. 16 And Isaiah said unto Hezekiah, Hear the word of the LORD. 17 Behold, the days come, that all that [is] in thine house, and that which thy fathers have laid up in store unto this day, shall be carried into Babylon: nothing shall be left, saith the LORD. 18 And of thy sons that shall issue from thee, which thou shalt beget, shall they take away; and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon. 19 Then said Hezekiah unto Isaiah, Good [is] the word of the LORD which thou hast spoken. And he said, [Is it] not [good], if peace and truth be in my days?
Here we see why the people were rejoicing. The king of Babylon sends Hezekiah a get-well card at a time he was sick. Hezekiah receives the envoys from Babylon and shows them all the secret treasuries of the city and the temple. These are the same treasures that the king of Babylon eventually takes along with the captives back to Babylon and holds a drunken feast with the wealth and riches of Jerusalem that Hezekiah showed him. Isaiah shows up to the party and demands the king to answer for his actions. The king bashfully admit his foolish action and Isaiah declares that because of this the whole nation will eventually go into captivity and the king’s own sons will be castrated and serve as eunuchs in Babylon. To this the king shrugs and says “no problem, just so it doesn’t happen in my day…” Isn’t this familiar to us? This was a city living like there was no tomorrow. They were not concerned with anything that didn’t directly touch their lives. They will not look beyond their own selfish lives while Isaiah looks down through the telescopic lens of a prophet to the consequences of the choices of the people measured in blood and captivity for their children.
12 And in that day did the Lord GOD of hosts call to weeping, and to mourning, and to baldness, and to girding with sackcloth: 13 And behold joy and gladness, slaying oxen, and killing sheep, eating flesh, and drinking wine: let us eat and drink; for to morrow we shall die. 14 And it was revealed in mine ears by the LORD of hosts, Surely this iniquity shall not be purged from you till ye die, saith the Lord GOD of hosts. 15 Thus saith the Lord GOD of hosts, Go, get thee unto this treasurer, [even] unto Shebna, which [is] over the house, [and say], 16 What hast thou here? and whom hast thou here, that thou hast hewed thee out a sepulchre here, [as] he that heweth him out a sepulchre on high, [and] that graveth an habitation for himself in a rock? 17 Behold, the LORD will carry thee away with a mighty captivity, and will surely cover thee. 18 He will surely violently turn and toss thee [like] a ball into a large country: there shalt thou die, and there the chariots of thy glory [shall be] the shame of thy lord’s house. 19 And I will drive thee from thy station, and from thy state shall he pull thee down. 20 And it shall come to pass in that day, that I will call my servant Eliakim the son of Hilkiah: 21 And I will clothe him with thy robe, and strengthen him with thy girdle, and I will commit thy government into his hand: and he shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and to the house of Judah. 22 And the key of the house of David will I lay upon his shoulder; so he shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open. 23 And I will fasten him [as] a nail in a sure place; and he shall be for a glorious throne to his father’s house. 24 And they shall hang upon him all the glory of his father’s house, the offspring and the issue, all vessels of small quantity, from the vessels of cups, even to all the vessels of flagons. 25 In that day, saith the LORD of hosts, shall the nail that is fastened in the sure place be removed, and be cut down, and fall; and the burden that [was] upon it shall be cut off: for the LORD hath spoken [it].
In this day that Isaiah is prophesying the Lord is calling the people to solemnity and intercession but the city is tone deaf to the voice of God focused on celebration and having a good time. It is a stark comparative of a city destroyed while given over the celebration and feasting just as Babylon itself was destroyed in one night of reveling and celebration themselves. The character of Jerusalem at this time and that of Babylon is indistinguishable one from the other. What is the lesson for us? Babylon represents popular culture and the secular world. Jerusalem for us is the church, the community of the redeemed. If we draw the comparative between the world and the church would we have as much in common as Jerusalem and Babylon? Is there any relevance to making this distinction? John the Revelator looked down to our day at spiritual Babylon and he sees within it the people of God who like the angels who dragged Lot out of Sodom have to be told to come out:
[Rev 18:4 KJV] 4 And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.
Just as John tells us in another place that the spirit of anti-Christ is already working in the earth – so the spirit of Babylon is a heavy and oppressive reality all around us. To this the prophet calls to us “come out of her my people”. We need not be like Lot’s wife and family who had to be compelled and taken by the hand forcibly to come out of Sodom. They had many investments there, and relationships both personal and otherwise. As wicked as the city was they were reluctant to leave and upon leaving Lot’s wife looking back was turned into a pillar of salt. Jesus Himself in Luke 17:31 looked down to our day and warns us “remember Lot’s wife…”
What does this look like for us? How do we come out of Mystery Babylon, that pernicious influence of ungodliness all around us? It is different for every person but it surely affects every transaction of our lives, our relationships, our activities and lifestyle choices. The consequence for us? Does it even matter? Is this just another shrill prophet, making everyone uncomfortable and can’t Isaiah just shut up and let us go about our business? The dread cost may not come in our lifetime but what of our children? What of that generation yet unborn who will reap the bitter harvest of the choices we make and indict us for being culpable for the captivity suffering in a time to come. This is the message of Isaiah to the city of Jerusalem and a message that touches the life of every sincere believer.
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