Even the Most Powerful Must Trust In God
February 24, 2009
Isaiah 18,1-7: Disaster! Land of whirring Locust beyond the rivers of Cush, (2) who send ambassadors by little reed-boats across the waters! Go swift messengers to a nation tall and bronzed, to a people feared far and near, a mighty and masterful nation whose country is criss-crossed with rivers. (3) All you who inhabit the world, you who people the earth when the signal is hoisted on the mountains, you will see, when the ram's-horn is sounded, you will hear. (4)For this is what Yahweh has told me, I shall sit here quietly looking down, like the burning heat in the day time, like the dewy mist in the heat of the harvest. (5) For before the harvest, once the flowering is over and blossom turns into ripening grape, the branches will be cut off with pruning knives, and the shoots taken off, cut away. (6) All has been abandoned to the mountain birds of prey and the wild animals: the birds of prey and the wild animals will summer on them, and the wild animals winter on them. (7) Then an offering will be brought to Yahweh Saboath on behalf of a people tall and bronzed, on behalf of a people feared far and near, on behalf of a mighty and masterful nation who country is criss-crossed with rivers: to the place where the name of Yahweh Saboath resides, Mount Zion. 1/14/09ff
Psalm 83,1-4: God, do not remain silent, do not stay quiet or unmoved, God! (2) See how your enemies are in an uproar, how those who hate you are rearing their heads. (3) They are laying plans against your people, conspiring against those you cherish; (4) they say, ‘Come, let us annihilate them as a nation, the name of Israel shall be remembered no more! 9/26/07
Psalm 73, 8-12: Cynically they advocate evil, loftily they advocate force. (9) Their mouth claims heaven for themselves, and their tongue is never still on earth. (10) That is why my people turn to them, and enjoy the waters of plenty, (11) saying ‘How can God know? What knowledge can the Most High have? (12) That is what the wicked are like, piling up wealth without any worries. 11/18/06, 11/28/06, 4/11/07, 2/3/08
Zechariah 12,5: The leaders of Judah will say to themselves, "The strength of the inhabitants of Jerusalem lies in Yahweh Saboath their God." 11/9/09
These are strange days and the Lord has thrown me into Isaiah 18,1-7, an obscure bit of scripture that everyone agrees is difficult (many commentaries skip right over it). I wouldn’t attempt to say anything about it without the repeated prompting of the Holy Ghost. So while it’s difficult, here goes.
As to the literal-historical context, it’s about the Ethiopian Dynasty in league with Egypt, frantically sending ambassadors to Israel in the seventh century BC so that Israel will make an anti-Assyrian pact.
But verse 2 advises Israel to send messengers back to this “mighty and masterful nation” (Ethiopia) and tell them that God’s judgment is in store for them and all those who trust in their own might (v. 1 “Disaster! Land of whirring locust).
This judgment came to Egypt in 671BC when the Assyrian Esarhaddon took Memphis, and later by his son Asshurbanapal in 667, who crushed further Egyptian rebellion, and later in 663, when the Assyrians took Thebes (Bright, History of Israel, Westminster 1981, 311; cf. Nahum 3,8).
What’s the present day upshot of this? Those who race around the world seeking allies trying to make the world safe from war by more war, are about to get their branches clipped and stalks cut like the grape bundles in the mid-summer harvest in Israel (vv.4-5) as happened to Egypt. In other words, Israel, Ethiopia, Egypt, and all other mere mortal nations, don’t make false and frantic military alliances. Trust in God. Or face some imminent consequences. Come to Christ. Fulfill (May 2010) Psalm 87,4: "I [God] will make mention of Rahab [a "foreigner" who worked for God] and Babylon [those who escape her] to those who know me; behold, O Philistia, and Tyre, with Ethiopia [historical non allies]: "This one was born in her [the foreigner born by faith, too, in Zion].
As to the applied or present context of this scripture, doesn’t this sound like the U.S. (the land “beyond” the rivers of Cush, beyond the limits of the then known world?), and Israel frantically sending ambassadors to make military alliances to combat Islamic Jihad, Hamas, and Iran. This is franticism against fanaticism, and has made these folks more powerful than they really are, throwing gas on their tangential flame.
“War on terror” here. “War on terror” there. “War on terror” everywhere. Makes one think this “war” might end up like the “war on drugs,” underachieving, not to mention costly, to the point of $4 gas and an overheated credit mania, that lands us to the economic trough of today.
Israel recently invited the U.S. to more war, now against Iran, in the waning days of the last administration! This had been a drum beat among some in Israel and the U.S. political establishment for years, pre-emptive force, and it’s corollary “nation building” by force (which even some bona fide political liberals now embrace). Go figure, send in the troops and then build them better roads and courthouses and other new stuff, and pretty soon, they will be peaceful, just like us.
What might God be saying about this frantic trusting in horses and chariots? Psalm 73,9ff “cynically they advocate evil, and loftily they advocate force. Their mouth claims heaven for themselves, and their tongue is never still on earth.” Am I missing something- doesn’t every nation have to check in with God before military actions are taken, in that God is the author of all life? (Genesis 4,7; Deuteronomy 1,29ff; Exodus 33,2;13; Revelation 20,8).
Forget for a moment the brunt of these powerful scriptures, and ask yourself gentle and faithful reader: Have Israel and the U.S. of late been acting like nations that have faith in God, or themselves?
Dear Israel, we love you as Christians in the U.S., and we are thankful beneficiaries of your faith patrimony. You have taught us much about perseverance and forbearance. You were made the light of the world by God and your security is ultimately in the hands of God, not the United States of America. Your scriptures and your experience have proven this time and again.
And dear God fearers of all stripes, even peaceful Muslims, anti-Israeli fervor among some errant elements is driving world events today (Psalm 83 above), and these events are presently speeding up. This has been the predicted word of God for at least 2600 years, so why are we so surprised.
But what I’m hearing from God that while this is so, the U.S. and Israel must still primarily depend on God in these very matters. I’m also hearing:
“let me [God] blow the Shofar, not any man, and begin the judgment on all evil, in Israel and elsewhere, and then vindicate the faithful of Israel and elsewhere.”
“It’s not the job of any human being to hasten Armageddon.” (Zechariah 9,14 and the entire book of Revelation)
I’m also hearing (Rev. 20,9):
“Do you think Hamas is a problem for me, the God of Israel?”
“Do you think I can’t take care of Iran?”
“Do you think any army of men, puts any fear in me, or can outdo me?”
And finally, in sum:
“There’s no excuse for not trusting in me, for everything that goes on in the world.”
It’s as if the comfortable political classes and those of us who have put our trust in them have resigned themselves to the idea that God has nothing to add to the present world political and economic situation. And thus the playing field is best left to the generals of war and the titans of Wall Street and Washington and London and Tel Aviv, and Moscow, who tell us that the only valid remedies in the world today are military, political, and economic ones.
This is an attitude that demands the judgment of God, the clipping the wings of the present, entrenched political classes that occasionally give him lip service (Is. 18,5-6), while doing whatever seems right in their own eyes. After this judgment, which will be clear to all, then God will have a chance to get a word in edgewise, and then, perhaps, regular folks in the U.S. and Israel (and the world) will turn to God, and not to them.
And as for leaders in the faith here and in Israel, and Mecca for that matter, how can we allow our people to put so much trust in military prowess, in men and governments, and the frantic laws of men? How can we be so complicit in often telling God what to do- “God bless America. God Bless America. God Bless America” (Or, God bless __________. etc) How about as my friend David Dawson put it seven years ago “America Bless God. America Bless God. America Bless God.”
And the faith calamity, not to mention the political and economic calamity, of this situation, is that apparently much of the populace in both the U.S and Israel, and elsewhere, have bought into the idea that political, military and economic might are the answers to man’s problems.
It’s as if the present power brokers of political class in Israel and the U.S. somehow accept all this end time violence, but only as a secular reality, a trial march to a new world order, that once and for all will excise God, and save the world economy and the political status quo to boot.
Yes Isaiah 18,1-7 is difficult. And perhaps it even hints that we humans have come to the point in world history where the locust of military might is so vast and menacing (see also Rev. 9,9ff), the genies so far out of their nation-state bottles, that national military might is at best a two edged sword (and remember what Jesus said about the sword). It offers a certain amount of protection, but does not in any way, shape or form offer the security of God. In fact, Revelation 9,11 symbolically suggests that the technological locusts of military might may become so out of the control of mere governments and corporations, that we realize (too late?) that they are really in the control of more evil forces than man himself, and man’s governments.
There’s a judgment coming on the political elite classes of this earth that keep saying “trust us, trust our economic systems, trust our military preparedness, trust our worldly wisdom.” All this trust- without any declaration that anyone has sought the exacting and just guidance of God.
And until this pruning-judgment happens, or we as a people awake to massive Godly conversion that engulfs all sectors of our nation, we will not be bringing the right sacrifice (faith in the Messiah of Israel) to Zion per Isaiah 18,7:
“Then, an offering will be brought to Yahweh Saboath on behalf of a people tall and bronzed [clean shaven], on behalf of a people feared far and near, on behalf of a mighty and masterful nation whose county is criss-crossed with rivers: to the place where the name of Yahweh Saboath resides, Mount Zion.”
So there is hope on the way- but it appears to be coming at the cost of a season of pruning.
I hope some folks in Washington and Wall Street and Israel and elsewhere are praying to God for his exacting guidance, a remnant ready to govern when God’s people turn first to God, and only secondly to them. Then the dry bones of Israel, and elsewhere, may indeed come to life.
Peace Out Brothers and Sisters.