Read Isaiah 21
A Prophecy Against Babylon
21 A prophecy against the Desert by the Sea:
Like whirlwinds sweeping through the southland,
an invader comes from the desert,
from a land of terror.
2 A dire vision has been shown to me:
The traitor betrays, the looter takes loot.
Elam, attack! Media, lay siege!
I will bring to an end all the groaning she caused.
3 At this my body is racked with pain,
pangs seize me, like those of a woman in labor;
I am staggered by what I hear,
I am bewildered by what I see.
4 My heart falters,
fear makes me tremble;
the twilight I longed for
has become a horror to me.
5 They set the tables,
they spread the rugs,
they eat, they drink!
Get up, you officers,
oil the shields!
6 This is what the Lord says to me:
“Go, post a lookout
and have him report what he sees.
7 When he sees chariots
with teams of horses,
riders on donkeys
or riders on camels,
let him be alert,
8 And the lookout shouted,
“Day after day, my lord, I stand on the watchtower;
every night I stay at my post.
9 Look, here comes a man in a chariot
with a team of horses.
And he gives back the answer:
‘Babylon has fallen, has fallen!
All the images of its gods
lie shattered on the ground!’”
10 My people who are crushed on the threshing floor,
I tell you what I have heard
from the Lord Almighty,
from the God of Israel.
A Prophecy Against Edom
11 A prophecy against Dumah:
Someone calls to me from Seir,
“Watchman, what is left of the night?
Watchman, what is left of the night?”
12 The watchman replies,
“Morning is coming, but also the night.
If you would ask, then ask;
and come back yet again.”
A Prophecy Against Arabia
13 A prophecy against Arabia:
You caravans of Dedanites,
who camp in the thickets of Arabia,
14 bring water for the thirsty;
you who live in Tema,
bring food for the fugitives.
15 They flee from the sword,
from the drawn sword,
from the bent bow
and from the heat of battle.
16 This is what the Lord says to me: “Within one year, as a servant bound by contract would count it, all the splendor of Kedar will come to an end. 17 The survivors of the archers, the warriors of Kedar, will be few.” The Lord, the God of Israel, has spoken.
This chapter contains the first three of a series of five oracles that the Lord speaks through Isaiah. There is abundant wickedness throughout the nations, and God is proclaiming His judgment over them. Isaiah had long waited for God to intervene in the sin that has captivated the nations around him, but when he sees what God’s response to the nations’ sin will look like he is gripped with anguish. Verse 11 says, “Watchman, what is left of the night? Watchman, what is left of the night?” It’s like we can hear him yelling, “How much longer? How much longer?” There is desperation in the peoples’ voices as they see the consequences of their sin surrounding them.
In her book Holier than Thou, Jackie Hill Perry reminds us of God’s identity as Holy, and how that determines His relationship to sin. She says, “When God sees sin in all of its different colors, He doesn’t see himself, He being the most beautiful. There is nothing so unlike God than sin. Nothing so awful as that presence within us that is repelled by God’s voice.” Because God is holy, He cannot be in the presence of sin and sin cannot remain in His presence. His justice and wrath is rooted in His holiness.
God’s holiness defines how he is unlike us. He cannot sin, He is only good, only love, only righteous, only holy all of the time. A right understanding of God is a right understanding of His identity as holy. With this proper understanding of God, our only response to Him is to fall flat on our faces in worship and surrender.
May we see and know God for who He is, and trust His ways all the more deeply because of His character that has been revealed to us all throughout Scripture. Praise God that sin and wickedness cannot stand in His presence, that there is justice for all of the pain, brokenness, and wrongdoing that we come face-to-face with each day. Praise God for covering us with the blood of Jesus through sacrificing His Son on our behalf. Because we are seen as righteous through Jesus, we are able to come near to God. He is good, just, and holy, and he will come again to make all things right.
- How have you understood God’s holiness?
- How do you view and respond to the sin in your own life as a result of God’s holiness?
- What would it look like for you to live with God’s holiness in mind?
“As He is transcendent and thus different, incomparable, God’s wrath is nothing like the anger we know of by experience. Wrath isn’t a response to God’s ego being bruised nor is it that He’s a sadist, taking pleasure in our pain. It is quite the opposite. The wrath of God is the ‘holy revulsion of God’s being against that which is a contradiction to his holiness.’ God cannot be indifferent to sin because He is too holy, holy, holy to do so.”–Jackie Hill Perry, Holier Than Thou
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