Read Isaiah 33
Distress and Help
33 Woe to you, destroyer,
you who have not been destroyed!
Woe to you, betrayer,
you who have not been betrayed!
When you stop destroying,
you will be destroyed;
when you stop betraying,
you will be betrayed.
2 Lord, be gracious to us;
we long for you.
Be our strength every morning,
our salvation in time of distress.
3 At the uproar of your army, the peoples flee;
when you rise up, the nations scatter.
4 Your plunder, O nations, is harvested as by young locusts;
like a swarm of locusts people pounce on it.
5 The Lord is exalted, for he dwells on high;
he will fill Zion with his justice and righteousness.
6 He will be the sure foundation for your times,
a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge;
the fear of the Lord is the key to this treasure.
7 Look, their brave men cry aloud in the streets;
the envoys of peace weep bitterly.
8 The highways are deserted,
no travelers are on the roads.
The treaty is broken,
its witnesses are despised,
no one is respected.
9 The land dries up and wastes away,
Lebanon is ashamed and withers;
Sharon is like the Arabah,
and Bashan and Carmel drop their leaves.
10 “Now will I arise,” says the Lord.
“Now will I be exalted;
now will I be lifted up.
11 You conceive chaff,
you give birth to straw;
your breath is a fire that consumes you.
12 The peoples will be burned to ashes;
like cut thornbushes they will be set ablaze.”
13 You who are far away, hear what I have done;
you who are near, acknowledge my power!
14 The sinners in Zion are terrified;
trembling grips the godless:
“Who of us can dwell with the consuming fire?
Who of us can dwell with everlasting burning?”
15 Those who walk righteously
and speak what is right,
who reject gain from extortion
and keep their hands from accepting bribes,
who stop their ears against plots of murder
and shut their eyes against contemplating evil—
16 they are the ones who will dwell on the heights,
whose refuge will be the mountain fortress.
Their bread will be supplied,
and water will not fail them.
17 Your eyes will see the king in his beauty
and view a land that stretches afar.
18 In your thoughts you will ponder the former terror:
“Where is that chief officer?
Where is the one who took the revenue?
Where is the officer in charge of the towers?”
19 You will see those arrogant people no more,
people whose speech is obscure,
whose language is strange and incomprehensible.
20 Look on Zion, the city of our festivals;
your eyes will see Jerusalem,
a peaceful abode, a tent that will not be moved;
its stakes will never be pulled up,
nor any of its ropes broken.
21 There the Lord will be our Mighty One.
It will be like a place of broad rivers and streams.
No galley with oars will ride them,
no mighty ship will sail them.
22 For the Lord is our judge,
the Lord is our lawgiver,
the Lord is our king;
it is he who will save us.
23 Your rigging hangs loose:
The mast is not held secure,
the sail is not spread.
Then an abundance of spoils will be divided
and even the lame will carry off plunder.
24 No one living in Zion will say, “I am ill”;
and the sins of those who dwell there will be forgiven.
In this chapter (and repeatedly throughout the book of Isaiah), we observe a key theme: hope. Hope in God. Hope in Heaven. Hope in justice. Hope in grace.
We know that Judah is under attack from Assyria, and Judah has not yet sought the help of God. Instead, they have looked to themselves and to the Egyptians. However, as we have read, these “weapons” are no match for God’s power. This battle required more than what they had within themselves. God dwells on high. He is stable. He is wise. He is a sure foundation. He is mighty (v. 5-6). He is the One who will deliver and can deliver, and He is on their team.
Because of their independent efforts, the people and the land suffered (v. 7-9). They were miserable. Fighting the battle on their own wasn’t working; they needed someone mightier than themselves. And though they forgot Him, God is gracious to remember them. He doesn’t want to leave them in their suffering. God will fight on their behalf and deliver His people from the Assyrians. He will bring judgment on the people and will bless His righteous ones.
Our world is distressed. We cry aloud in the streets. We lack respect for one another. The land is wasting away. Justice is incomplete. We are sick and hurting. We are just like the lost people here, trying to fix it on our own. And rather than begging Him to intervene, we often forget God. This chapter is pivotal because it speaks to the hope of what it means to have God in our hearts and on our team. Not only do we have hope for a glorious future with our King, but we have hope in the present, because God is currently intervening for us (Galatians 2:20). We are not more powerful than He is. We cannot do it on our own.
He will save us. He will forgive us of our iniquity, He will fight for us, and we will dwell in His marvelous Kingdom forever.
- What does this passage teach you about God? What does it teach you about humanity?
- In what ways are you looking to yourself for deliverance from the chaos around you?
- In what (or whom) are you putting your hope?
Did You Know?
Of the six “woes” that we have read over the preceding few chapters, this is the only one directed at a foreign nation (Assyria). The other five were directed at the Judahites.
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