Read Isaiah 17
A Prophecy Against Damascus
17 A prophecy against Damascus:
“See, Damascus will no longer be a city
but will become a heap of ruins.
2 The cities of Aroer will be deserted
and left to flocks, which will lie down,
with no one to make them afraid.
3 The fortified city will disappear from Ephraim,
and royal power from Damascus;
the remnant of Aram will be
like the glory of the Israelites,”
declares the Lord Almighty.
4 “In that day the glory of Jacob will fade;
the fat of his body will waste away.
5 It will be as when reapers harvest the standing grain,
gathering the grain in their arms—
as when someone gleans heads of grain
in the Valley of Rephaim.
6 Yet some gleanings will remain,
as when an olive tree is beaten,
leaving two or three olives on the topmost branches,
four or five on the fruitful boughs,”
declares the Lord, the God of Israel.
7 In that day people will look to their Maker
and turn their eyes to the Holy One of Israel.
8 They will not look to the altars,
the work of their hands,
and they will have no regard for the Asherah poles
and the incense altars their fingers have made.
9 In that day their strong cities, which they left because of the Israelites, will be like places abandoned to thickets and undergrowth. And all will be desolation.
10 You have forgotten God your Savior;
you have not remembered the Rock, your fortress.
Therefore, though you set out the finest plants
and plant imported vines,
11 though on the day you set them out, you make them grow,
and on the morning when you plant them, you bring them to bud,
yet the harvest will be as nothing
in the day of disease and incurable pain.
12 Woe to the many nations that rage—
they rage like the raging sea!
Woe to the peoples who roar—
they roar like the roaring of great waters!
13 Although the peoples roar like the roar of surging waters,
when he rebukes them they flee far away,
driven before the wind like chaff on the hills,
like tumbleweed before a gale.
14 In the evening, sudden terror!
Before the morning, they are gone!
This is the portion of those who loot us,
the lot of those who plunder us.
Isaiah 17 is a prophecy of the judgment and ruin that is to come in the city Damascus, which is the capital of Syria (also called “Aram”). During this time, the people of Damascus and Israel, (referenced by its dominant tribe Ephraim), shared a border and were closely working together against the southern kingdom of Judah and to resist Assyria. The Assyrian empire was extremely powerful, and Judah (ruled by King Ahaz) refused to join a coalition against them. We see in chapter 7, that King Ahaz rejects Isaiah’s counsel not to fear Israel and Syria and instead offers treasures to the king of Assyria in exchange for protection from them (2 Kings 16:5-9). The king of Assyria responded to this by capturing Damascus in 732 BC, along with Israel in 722 BC. The Assyrians were God’s instrument of wrath against the Israelites (Isaiah 10:5).
The destruction of Damascus was correlated to the fall of the northern kingdom of Israel. In verse 3, it says, “The fortress disappears from Ephraim, and a kingdom from Damascus.” This passage has a dual fulfillment prophecy, meaning there is prophecy that has been fulfilled and there is prophecy that is waiting to be fulfilled. The Assyrians conquered Damascus, but it still remains to be a city today and it is one of the oldest cities in the world. The prophecy of Damascus will ultimately be fulfilled in future judgment.
Damascus being destroyed is in essence taking away Israel’s fortress and protection, a place where they were finding security and peace. The destruction would lead the Israelites to have no choice but to look to “their Maker” and “turn their eyes to the Holy One of Israel”. It would cause them not to “look to the altars they made with their hands” or to the “shrines they made with their fingers” (v. 7-8). Israel had forgotten they were the people of God. They had forgotten who they belonged to. They had forgotten that the Lord was their true fortress and Savior. They had forgotten that their only protection would be found in their Maker. They had forgotten the God of their salvation and the rock of their strength (v. 10).
We too, can forget where our security comes from. We can try to find peace in places it was not meant to be found. We can look for things in this world to find protection, but they will ultimately fail us. We need to remind ourselves that God is our refuge and strength, and our ever-present help in times of trouble (Psalm 46:1). He gives us peace, not as the world gives, so that our heart doesn’t have to be troubled (John 14:27). We can find safety in His name, which is a fortified tower (Proverbs 18:10). Through the protection and strength that comes from the Lord, there is nothing that we can’t walk through because He is with us. Let us look to our Maker today; our peace and our security are on the other side of our trust in Him.
- What places are you tempted to find your security in other than God?
- What decisions in your life are being driven by fear?
- How can you rest in your Maker today?
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