Reading through the Bible together
Isaiah is including a number of important items in this chapter. Besides Moab, other nations and cities also have problems and messages were given to Isaiah against them. But God does place some of their people on the same level as being the “sons of Israel” (verse 3d). However, the heart of Damascus’ problem in this chapter is “you have forgotten the God of your salvation and have not remembered the Rock of your refuge” (verse 10).
The people of Damascus should have known better. They lived near Israel for ages and knew of the “revelations” of God, the laws, the events of God in history, the sanctuary message, and yet, they followed their own way. The evil that Damascus was known for is its popular altars (verse 8a-c). Focused only on business and self-achievement the people of Damascus, forgetting the God of Israel, built altars for heathen nations, even for Judah in the days of Ahaz who came to Damascus to see an Assyrian altar and had it copied for himself (2 Kings 16:11). To invade God’s pure religion with inroads from adjacent or neighboring religious culture, is dimly viewed by God. Damascus even made copies for others of the “mother goddess” Asherah, the incense-stands, and altars (verse 8a-c).
So punishment is awaiting Damascus and the surrounding cities. In their immediate future, Damascus would fall and become a ruin and the cities would be forsaken (verses 1-2). Isaiah associates Ephraim with Damascus (verse 3a). One thing we know about Isaiah is that he writes in panels, puts them together, and sometimes switches to another time-zone in the same chapter. It appears that in verses 4-7 Isaiah also has in mind the Second Coming of Christ and what will happen to the evil of Damascus and to the remnant of Syria who are “faithful” when “the glory of Jacob (the Northern Kingdom of Israel) will fade” and the “fatness of his flesh will become lean” (verse 4).
In verses 5-6, Isaiah describes earth’s final harvest and speaks of the gleanings that are left in the grain, or the shaking of an olive tree, yet olives remain there. In other words, there will be a godly remnant and that is the good news amid the bad news. In verse 3c Isaiah says “the remnant of Aram they will be like the glory of the sons of Israel.” There are faithful people in that area and they will be similar to the glory of spiritual Israel. “In that day “man will have regard for his Maker and his eyes will look to the Holy One of Israel” (verse 7). This remnant has the same characteristics as Elijah: they will have no regard for popular idolatry, cross-denominational culture, and the borrowing of the fashion of religious objects (verse 8a-c).
At the Second Coming, strong cities will be forsaken and the land will be desolate (verse 9). At the time of the End, says Isaiah in verses 12-14, the nations will be in uproar like the roaring of the seas, a period of global confusion. During this time, Christ will come and “He will rebuke them and they will flee” (verse 13b) and be chased as chaff in the wind (verse 13c).
This same imagery was used by Christ to describe the condition of the evil at the Second Coming. They will pray for mountains to fall on them to hide them from the glory of God. The events of the Second Coming will happen quickly and be over like terror arriving in the evening and before morning “they are no more” (verse 14b). The elimination of the wicked leaves Satan alone on this desolate planet. This will be the situation of the evil, of which Damascus as a city is an example of those who do Satan’s biddings.
There is a land that is fairer than day and brighter than snow where we will live forever in total harmony with You. All aspects of life will be fulfilled. Lord, grant that we will share in that glorious occasion when all pain and sorrow will be history forever. Amen.
Koot van Wyk
Kyungpook National University
Sangju, South Korea