In Chapters 21-23 Isaiah turns his prophetic attention to the more remote future. The last section showed that God rules decisively over the nations – now these next five declarations are far more allusive and mysterious in nature. What will happen? God is at work in a sin sick world.
God is in charge over the five culture mentioned.
21:1-10 is about Babylon.
Isaiah calls it the desert of the sea – which is strange, because Babylon is inland! Isaiah is being sarcastic – deserts cannot sustain human life – they are dry And the sea has water everywhere but not a drop to drink. Babylon has nothing to offer us – so don’t trust it or admire it or invest everything there. God has a better kingdom than the world can offer.
Next he looks at Edom calling it Dumah meaning silence – it’s a play of words we wouldn’t spot in English where dom (for Edom) becomes dumah for silence. They are looking for a prophetic word but God is putting them off – come back again. We have a better hope than that – Paul writes that “whatever was written in former days was for our instruction that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” (Rom 15:4)
The third prophecy is for Arabia – another play on words as Arabia is the same as the Hebrew for evening – Arabia is slipping into the night. It’s the twilight of their culture. Isaiah is showing us the future – the civilizations of man in a darkening world. The kingdom of God will never have darkness! Phil 3 tells us “our citizenship is in heaven and from it we await a Saviour, The Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like His glorious body…”
The fourth prophecy is for Jerusalem in ch 22:! – the valley of vision – that’s irony. There’s no vision in the valley. The Old Covenant people of God, the people of revelation and vision have stopped looking to God v11 “You did not look to the One who made it or have regard for the One who planned it long ago.” God has spoken but they aren’t listening.
“They are not living for the end, they are living for the weekend” Ray Ortlund
But Jesus said “you are the light of the world… Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven Matt 5:14,16
The last prophecy is against Tyre starting 23:1 – Ch13-20 had 5 prophecies starting with Babylon and ending with Tyre and now this section does too. Why Babylon and Tyre? They typify all human societies. Revelation sees the world as Babylon and it will fall “Fallen, Fallen is Babylon the Great” Rev 18:2 Babylon as the ruthless political power and Tyre as dishonest commercial success. Babylon a land power, Tyre a sea power and Babylon used force, Tyre used seduction. They oppose faith and tempt believers away with intimidation or seduction, whatever works and causes us to lose sight of Christ.
Jesus is different, He is no bully or accuser or intimidator – he gives clarity and courage as we live in the world and joyfully overcome it.
The kingdom of the world and the kingdom of God are in complete conflict. God wins Isa 23:9, but the surprising end is that the world’s wealth and merchandise will be holy. Surprising because the law of Moses stated money associated with prostitution could not be given to God. It was dirty money. But God can redeem the corruption. Don’t envy the world, the future lives with God and His grace.
In the end, revelation shows us heaven on earth, a beautiful city – the prostitute, beast and evil defeated and a pure bride (the Church) on her wedding day. God is a redeemer – we have all bought into Babylon and Tyre’s seductions, but He cleans us from shame and guilt – because no unclean thing will be allowed there. Trust God, give Him everything you are ashamed off and he will make it clean and beautiful.
What are you reading at the moment?