Isaiah 2:5-22 (NKJV)
O house of Jacob, come and let us walk In the light of the Lord.
For You have forsaken Your people, the house of Jacob, Because they are filled with eastern ways; They are soothsayers like the Philistines, And they are pleased with the children of foreigners.
Their land is also full of silver and gold, And there is no end to their treasures; Their land is also full of horses, And there is no end to their chariots.
Their land is also full of idols; They worship the work of their own hands, That which their own fingers have made.
People bow down, And each man humbles himself; Therefore do not forgive them.
Enter into the rock, and hide in the dust, From the terror of the Lord And the glory of His majesty.
The lofty looks of man shall be humbled, The haughtiness of men shall be bowed down, And the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day.
For the day of the Lord of hosts Shall come upon everything proud and lofty, Upon everything lifted up — And it shall be brought low —
Upon all the cedars of Lebanon that are high and lifted up, And upon all the oaks of Bashan;
Upon all the high mountains, And upon all the hills that are lifted up;
Upon every high tower, And upon every fortified wall;
Upon all the ships of Tarshish, And upon all the beautiful sloops.
The loftiness of man shall be bowed down, And the haughtiness of men shall be brought low; The Lord alone will be exalted in that day,
But the idols He shall utterly abolish.
They shall go into the holes of the rocks, And into the caves of the earth, From the terror of the Lord And the glory of His majesty, When He arises to shake the earth mightily.
In that day a man will cast away his idols of silver And his idols of gold, Which they made, each for himself to worship, To the moles and bats,
To go into the clefts of the rocks, And into the crags of the rugged rocks, From the terror of the Lord And the glory of His majesty, When He arises to shake the earth mightily.
Sever yourselves from such a man, Whose breath is in his nostrils; For of what account is he?
Today we finish up Isaiah 2 by looking at the prophecy of the Day of the Lord, and how the Lord humbles the proud and those who think themselves powerful. One of the themes explored in Isaiah is the salvation of YHVH (the Lord) in the face of the disobedience and wickedness of Israel. In this part of Isaiah 2, Isaiah beckons the Israelites to walk in the light of the Lord before declaring what the Lord has done. Isaiah 2:6 begins with the statement that God has forsaken His people because they have been filled with eastern ways. Note here that the countries of the East were such nations as Arabia, Syria and Mesopotamia, as well as possibly Babylon. These nations practised no shortage of idolatry and magic. They had regular rituals that were bathed in such atrocities as witchcraft and orgies because of the way that these gods were worshipped. The Israelites had begun to intermingle with these foreign nations and the cultures had bled into and corrupted Israel. As Israel grew as a nation, foreign relations were necessary. If a king did not watch his conduct properly, they might carelessly allow some of these foreigners to assimilate into Israel. This was something the Lord had forewarned when Israel had first entered Canaan, but now it was a warning turned to deaf ears. Vs. 7 states the wealth of the Israelites, that they have no end to their treasures and chariots, filled with horses and gold and silver. These were the greatest markers of wealth at the time and the surplus meant that Israel was thriving. So why was this a bad thing? This wealth was the result of commercialism and we all know the effects of mercantile lives; softness, luxury and duplicity. At least, that was a very real risk and the notion of having this much riches only adds to the possibility. It was unlikely that Israel possessed that many chariots or horses since those were not local to the land nor did Israel use chariots for war because of the terrain. Hence it is unlikely these chariots were used for anything other than pleasure. And since there would likely be a lack of such resources except in Solomon's time, these might have been imported to Israel as a show of ostentation. In other words, these markers of wealth were simply the rich in Israel showing off to others as if they had achieved it on their own. Rather than dedicating their wealth to God, they bowed before idols of their own creation (vs. 8-9). Some versions have vs. 9 as “each man humbles himself”, but perhaps more correctly it was that each man bowed before an idol. Such disobedience and infidelity in the face of God simply spoke to the corruption of the hearts and minds of Israel. In light of this, Isaiah warns the people to enter into the rock and hide in the dust from God's majesty. The proud lofty looks of man would be humbled in the exaltation of God's presence. God alone would receive that honour. Man would bow where he was meant to. It is worth noting that God rarely demonstrates His majesty and exaltation except in comparison to the pride of man. Although figures in the Bible have encountered the splendour of God and been terrified by it, God never purposefully demonstrates His glory unless there is a reason for it. The Lord is a gentle ruler who knows that He does not need to take such extreme measures except to put people who have their heads in the clouds back in place. We must remember that at the end of the day, we are merely servants receiving the boons of our king. Pride will only get us struck down. It would be as the Chinese proverb says, “to not understand one's strength and play the roll of a skilled man at the door of an expert of experts”. Imagine pitting yourself against the top guns of any field with mediocre skill and claiming your greatness. Vs. 17-19 mirror vs. 10-11. What this usually means is either a repetition and emphasis, or more likely a focus into what is contained between these two repetitions. Isaiah speaks of how that which is proud and lofty will be brought low. Whether the cedars of Lebanon, or the oaks of Bashan or high mountains, high towers and the ships of Tarshish, all will be brought down in the day of the Lord. The focus is there. God will humble that which has been lifted up beyond its status, for they have forgotten the one who has enabled all of them. Isaiah ends the chapter by talking about how the idols mentioned at the start of the passage (vs. 6-9) would be disposed of by those who used to worship them so that they would be able to hide away from the terrifying glory of the Lord's majesty. The final verse of the poem summarises what we have talked about in terms of pride, the Lord's majesty and the fragility and superficiality of the possessions of man. Isaiah warns to stay away from people who lift themselves up because they cannot account for themselves. The phrase “whose breath is in his nostrils” compares itself to God’s creation and Job’s claim that God’s breath is in the nostrils of mankind. Life is brought by God, not mankind and therefore no matter how much man would like to lift himself up, our failing is that we have no true power to be accountable for.
Daniel is currently and forevermore will be a student and a learner, trying to delve into the deep conundrums of life and seeing where the path leads. He enjoys linking different things in life back to God through strange and seemingly random connections. Daniel is in the Young Professionals ministry of the Central Christian Church.