Isaiah 17 (ESV)
An Oracle Concerning Damascus
An oracle concerning Damascus.
Damascus was one of the great cities of the ancient world, and the capital of the ancient nation of Syria. For centuries it has been a commercial and political hub in the Fertile Crescent. Damascus was destroyed by the Assyrian invaders in 732 BCE, and Samaria (Ephraim) fell ten years later.
Behold, Damascus will cease to be a city
and will become a heap of ruins.
2 The cities of Aroer are deserted;
they will be for flocks,
which will lie down, and none will make them afraid.
3 The fortress will disappear from Ephraim,
and the kingdom from Damascus;
and the remnant of Syria will be
like the glory of the children of Israel,
declares the Lord of hosts.
4 And in that day the glory of Jacob will be brought low,
and the fat of his flesh will grow lean.
5 And it shall be as when the reaper gathers standing grain
and his arm harvests the ears,
and as when one gleans the ears of grain
in the Valley of Rephaim.
6 Gleanings will be left in it,
as when an olive tree is beaten—
two or three berries
in the top of the highest bough,
four or five
on the branches of a fruit tree,
declares the Lord God of Israel.
7 In that day man will look to his Maker, and his eyes will look on the Holy One of Israel. 8 He will not look to the altars, the work of his hands, and he will not look on what his own fingers have made, either the Asherim or the altars of incense.
The faithful remnant look humbly to their Creator.
9 In that day their strong cities will be like the deserted places of the wooded heights and the hilltops, which they deserted because of the children of Israel, and there will be desolation.
10 For you have forgotten the God of your salvation
and have not remembered the Rock of your refuge;
Here the prophet names the true source of their trouble: they have forsaken the covenant of their God. Such a choice has consequences.
therefore, though you plant pleasant plants
and sow the vine-branch of a stranger,
11 though you make them grow on the day that you plant them,
and make them blossom in the morning that you sow,
yet the harvest will flee away
in a day of grief and incurable pain.
One aspect of the Lord’s judgment against Israel will be to bring their hard work to nothing. They will work hard to plant and grow crops (both literally and figuratively), but the harvest will be a heap of ruins.
This can be one of the most devastating aspects of the Lord’s judgment. Haggai 1:6 speaks of this work of the Lord: You have sown much, and bring in little; you eat, but do not have enough; you drink, but you are not filled with drink; you clothe yourselves, but no one is warm; and he who earns wages, earns wages to put into a bag with holes. How much better it is to be listening to Jesus, and to have our service directed and blessed by Him (Luke 5:1-10).
12 Ah, the thunder of many peoples;
they thunder like the thundering of the sea!
Ah, the roar of nations;
they roar like the roaring of mighty waters!
13 The nations roar like the roaring of many waters,
but he will rebuke them, and they will flee far away,
chased like chaff on the mountains before the wind
and whirling dust before the storm.
14 At evening time, behold, terror!
Before morning, they are no more!
This is the portion of those who loot us,
and the lot of those who plunder us.
These last two verses show a comforting principle: that God will allow trouble only as long as he wishes, then he will rebuke it. “Weeping will endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.” We are not at the mercy of our circumstances or of our enemies. We are at the mercy of God.
Of course, Damascus is in Syria, and how often we have prayed for the terrible situation in Syria! Such carnage! Bombs and chemical weapons and so many lives lost. I ache for the mothers in Syria, not knowing where the men of their family are, or even if they are dead or alive, raising children in refugee tents in the desert. How can we not weep?
Speaking of children — Today is the 27th birthday of our youngest child. Devlin has just completed his MDiv at Princeton Theological Seminary, and in the fall he will return to PTS to start on his Ph.D. in New Testament. We are so proud of him and so grateful to the Lord! We praise the God of our salvation and the rock of our refuge (see verse 10), who has promised never to leave us or forsake us or our children, be they in Syria (Oh, Lord, draw near to them!) or in New Jersey!
Take to heart this song — “Your Grace Is Enough,” written and sung HERE by Matt Maher, a Roman Catholic contemporary worship artist.