Hand Stretched Out
Isaiah 14:1 ESV
Psalm 137:1-4 ESV
Isaiah 14:3-21 ESV
Isaiah 14:27 ESV
The book of Isaiah opens in Isaiah 14:1 with a promise that says, “For the Lord will have compassion on Jacob and will again choose Israel, and will set them in their own land.”
The words of the promise from the prophet Isaiah was important to the land of Judah…really important!
It told them God will remember them. It told them the hand of God was still ON them. More importantly, it told them God would someday bring them back to their own land.
See, the Babylonians had forced the Hebrew people living in the Southern Kingdom of Judah into exile in Babylon and the prophet’s words that God would choose them again and bring them back to their own land was what they longed to hear.
Reading about being conquered and exiled made me realize that’s probably not something we can understand.
When I was a child I was never separated from my parents for a significant period of time. Occasionally I went to see my grandparents but that was a treat…it wasn’t frightening at all.
From studying about it I know the Babylonian exile lasted 70 years. The strong men were separated from their families and in many cases the only men who were not taken to Babylon were not in good health or they were older.
The women and children were often left behind to fend for themselves. That was no easy task. Life then was difficult enough when the men were there.
When the men were taken to Babylon the women and children had to learn how to survive on their own.
We also think of the men who were taken from their homes and had to go work in a strange land. They had no idea how long they would be in Babylon.
Would they ever see their wives and children or their friends and neighbors again?
Would they worship in Temple again?
The Temple in Jerusalem had been destroyed, so would it be rebuilt…ever?
The more I started to think about what it would have actually been like, I realized that it would have been a frightening change and in many cases, a breakdown of the family unit.
All of society would have changed.
The Temple was in a shambles and the prophets were taken away…were the priests taken away as well?
Was there any place left where the Hebrew people could worship at all?
Psalm 137:1-4 begins with the phrase, “By the waters of Babylon,
there we sat down and wept, when we remembered Zion.
On the willows there we hung up our lyres.
For there our captors required of us songs, and our tormentors, mirth, saying, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion! How shall we sing the Lord's song in a foreign land?”
Much of Hebrew scripture was remembered by what the people heard and held in their hearts.
The promise of Isaiah would have been foretold. In Isaiah 14:3-21 Isaiah’s words promised:
“When the Lord has given you rest from your pain and turmoil and the hard service with which you were made to serve, you will take up this taunt against the king of Babylon:
“How the oppressor has ceased, the insolent fury ceased! The Lord has broken the staff of the wicked, the scepter of rulers, that struck the peoples in wrath with unceasing blows, that ruled the nations in anger with unrelenting persecution. The whole earth is at rest and quiet; they break forth into singing. The cypresses rejoice at you, the cedars of Lebanon, saying, ‘Since you were laid low, no woodcutter comes up against us.’ Sheol beneath is stirred up to meet you when you come; it rouses the shades to greet you, all who were leaders of the earth; it raises from their thrones all who were kings of the nations. All of them will answer and say to you: ‘You too have become as weak as we! You have become like us!’ Your pomp is brought down to Sheol, the sound of your harps; maggots are laid as a bed beneath you, and worms are your covers. “How you are fallen from heaven, O Day Star, son of Dawn! How you are cut down to the ground, you who laid the nations low! You said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; above the stars of God I will set my throne on high; I will sit on the mount of assembly in the far reaches of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’ But you are brought down to Sheol, to the far reaches of the pit. Those who see you will stare at you and ponder over you: ‘Is this the man who made the earth tremble, who shook kingdoms, who made the world like a desert and overthrew its cities, who did not let his prisoners go home?’ All the kings of the nations lie in glory, each in his own tomb; but you are cast out, away from your grave, like a loathed branch, clothed with the slain, those pierced by the sword, who go down to the stones of the pit, like a dead body trampled underfoot. You will not be joined with them in burial, because you have destroyed your land, you have slain your people. “May the offspring of evildoers nevermore be named! Prepare slaughter for his sons because of the guilt of their fathers, lest they rise and possess the earth, and fill the face of the world with cities.”
Those were the words the people would have heard in temple. They didn’t have a handy pocket scripture book. It was spoken out-loud in temple to them. They were used to that and they would have remembered the words they heard. They carried the words with them in their hearts. The people of God would have remembered the promise that after the difficult time of oppression, the Lord will break the hold the oppressors have on you (God’s people).
The people of God would have remembered that those who opposed them would be brought down to Sheol.
They would have remembered the promise of rest.
They would remember there will come a time when the oppressor will cease.
Isaiah’s words told them even the trees will rejoice when the mighty kings fall!
They would have remembered one king, identified as Lucifer will fall from heaven.
He will not be like the most high. The one who thought himself mighty will be brought down.
Then, in Isaiah 14:27 the prophet wrote, “For the Lord of hosts has purposed, and who will annul it? His hand is stretched out, and who will turn it back?”
The words of the prophet told God’s people, God DOES accomplish what has been promised! God stretched out His hand and no one…nothing can change it.
God spoke the words to Isaiah, and the word was TRUSTWORTHY.
It WAS a done deal!
Today’s Spiritual Practice is: Trust God’s Word
Choose a scripture and speak it to yourself. Hold it in your heart. It is Trustworthy.
In God, Deborah