Isaiah is working his way round the compass points to show that Judah can’t look anywhere else for hope and salvation – only to God. From Philistia in the West (14:28-32), Moab in the East (ch15-16) and soon Egypt in the South (ch 19-20), Isaiah turns his attention to the North – Damascus in Syria. Judah can look nowhere for her security than God, who is Lord and judge of all.
He lumps Israel’s Northern kingdom in with Syria (v3), because they had already formed a Syro-Ephraimite pact in ch7 twenty years before.
Assyria destroyed Syria and Israel between 732BC and 722 BC – they became emaciated rather than fat v4, the olive trees are so beaten that only a few olives remain v6 and all will be desolation v9. Israel fell because she turned to Syria for protection. The deeper root was that they had forgotten God v10-11. There was a long history of idolatry which had eroded single minded commitment to the Lord – they worshipped at Asherah poles and incense altars v8. But they will repent “in that day” v7, when disaster has fallen. But Isaiah can also see a day in the future at the end of time when there will be widespread repentance.
Idolatry isn’t just building Asherah poles, sacrificing children to Molech and the like, it’s closer to home in the 21st Century. Spurgeon said that our human minds are “a perpetual factory of idols”. Calvin said our hearts a factory of idols – so I guess that covers the thinkies and the feelies! Something becomes an idol when it captivates us more than Jesus – that can be making money, spending money, bigger muscles, sexual encounters, playing video games, goofing around on the internet or doing ministry all the time.
As I read that I am also drawn to the glorious passage about Jesus in Phil 2, because one day everyone will recognise their idolatry and pride. In Phil 2 we see the God who created and sustains the universe, humbled himself to also become a man, obedient to death as our substitute. We can choose to follow Him now and have an attitude of humility like Him. Choosing now means we get to experience the lavish blessings of God’s grace (Ephesians 1). Not choosing now means that we, one day will join the whole earth in judgement Phil 2:10-11 – “every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father”
What then do we do with this passage:
1 What idols are in your heart? – what consumes more passion and devotion than Jesus Christ?
2 Have you chosen to follow Christ? Why not turn to him now and ask him to be your Lord and Saviour?
3 Choose to have the same attitude as Jesus in Phil 2:5-11