Isaiah 25: Protection in the Midst of Trouble

Isaiah 25: Protection in the Midst of Trouble

This is a long delayed continuation of my series on Isaiah 24-27, an early apocalypse. To get the background, look back at my entry on Isaiah 24 and possibly even follow the links there to my material on this topic on Threads from Henry’s Web.

For those who may not want to follow the links back, let me summarize. Isaiah 24-27 is a section of Isaiah dealing with some variety of eschatological events. Its language is rooted in the judgment that Isaiah has proclaimed on Israel and Judah, but it looks beyond that. Many interpreters regard it as confused and disorderly, but it is actually similar to later apocalyptic literature in that regard. It gives word pictures of various places and attitudes as God’s judgment falls on the land, but also as God’s people are delivered.

I like to apply the metaphor of the theme ride to this, such as I use in my study guide to Revelation. Think of yourself as riding on something like Disney’s “Pirates of the Caribbean” ride. You will pass through various scenes of the pillaging of a town by pirates, but it is not a sequential presentation. You may find various elements portrayed simultaneously that might have happened sequentially. Isaiah 25 is much like that.

You may want to look back at my entry Isaiah 24-27 – Starting Form Criticism for more details on organization, but for now I will just suggest dividing the passage as follows:

1-5: A Hymn of Praise
6-10a: Promise of Blessing
10b-12: Oracle of Judgment

Notice how the elements of this chapter, and indeed of the entire section are welded together. They may seem disorganized on first read, but by their very differences they help to highlight the various events and attitudes that will characterize the time of God’s judgment.

I want to note again that this is a draft translation, placed here simply to hang my comments from. As always, study from the version of your choice.

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It is sometimes difficult for modern readers to appreciate passages such as this one, and if we are honest, most of the first 35 chapters of Isaiah, because we tend to separate the sweetness and light of redemption from the bitterness and dark of judgment. But in Biblical descriptions, these elements come together. If we think carefully, we will likely realize that they do so in reality as well. The elimination or removal of a tyrant brings freedom for his former subjects. During the time while people fight to remove the tyrant there are times of joy and times of distress.

The first five verses of Isaiah 25 are a hymn of praise for God’s deliverance. Go back and read the end of chapter 24, which I called a “prophetic dispute” in my entry on Isaiah 24, and see how we come out with this time of praise.

1YHWH, you are my God!
I will exalt you!
I will praise your name!
For you have performed wonders,
Ancient counsels, true and firm.
2For you have turned a city into a pile of rubble,
A fortified town into a ruin,
A foreign palace into a city
That will never be rebuilt.
3So a strong people will glorify you,
A city of violent nations will fear you.
4For you have been a fortress for the poor,
a place of security for the needy in distress,
shelter from the rain,
shade from the heat,
when violent wind splashes against a wall.
5Like heat in a dry place, you will silence the raging of the strangers,
Like heat under the shadow of a cloud,
The song of the tyrants shall be humbled.

Note that even in the hymn of praise the destruction is recognized. Again, judgment on evil results in liberation for good.

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Even though we have already experienced a time of praise, we again have a passage of promise.

6And YHWH of hosts will make for all the peoples on this mountain,
A feast of the best produce, a feast of aged wine,
a feast garnished with marrow and fine wine.
[Revelation 19:5-10]
7And he will destroy on this mountain the blanket,
the blanket that is over all the people,
And the veil that is covering all the nations.
8He will destroy death forever,
And the Lord YHWH will wipe the tears from every face,
And he will turn the shame of the people from upon the land,
Because YHWH has spoken.
[Revelation 7:17; 21:4]
9And it will be said in that day,
Behold, this is our God! We have waited for him, and he will save us.
This is YHWH, we have hoped for him,
and we will dance for joy and rejoice in his salvation.
10For YHWH’s hand will rest on this mountain.

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I’m not certain there should be a break here. Commetators seem to think so, but based on they way I read the whole passage, the judgment on Moab can be simultaneous to, and indeed part of, the redemption for God’s people. This is, however, one of the portions of this passage that tends to look more at the situation at the time of the Babylonian exile.

The prophecies of God’s final judgment are growing out of God’s current actions of judgment and salvation. Teaching here is through history.

And he will trample down Moab under it,
As one tramples a pile of straw in a dungheap.
11He will stretch out his hands in its center,
as a swimmer spreads out his hands to swim,
but he will make its pride fall with the movement of his hand.
12He’s toppled the high fortifications of your walls,
laid them low,
brought them to the ground,
into the dust.

I think the imagery in this passage is quite clear as it stands. I’ll follow this as soon as I can with an entry on Isaiah 26 and then 27 to complete the series. Unfortunately, it takes more time to turn this material into blog entries than it does just to study it for myself.

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