Thursday, December 10, 2020

Chapter 22 - Oracle Against the Valley of Vision

Isaiah 22 is an oracle against the Valley of Vision (verse 1). There is a Puritan book of prayer titled The Valley of Vision.  The phrase, Valley of Vision, appears only in this passage in all of Scripture; many are convinced it is a reference to Jerusalem, a city in a valley, known to be the city wherein God met with His people.

I found it funny that the next phrase in verse 1 in the HCSB is "What's the matter with you?" as it reminds me of the often cited question from R.C. Sproul: "What's wrong with you people?" The question in our passage is followed by another: "Why have all of you gone up on the rooftops?" What follows in this chapter lends credence to the view that verse 1 relates to people going to the rooftops to get a better view of the Assyrian army's retreat from Jerusalem.

Isaiah 22:2 (HCSB)  The noisy city, the jubilant town, is filled with revelry. Your dead did not die by the sword; they were not killed in battle.

Happy they are that the swords of Assyria have withdrawn, though their kinsmen who died were not killed by those swords - likely hardship and illness from a long seige.

Isaiah 22:3 (HCSB)  All your rulers have fled together, captured without a bow. All your fugitives were captured together; they had fled far away.

This comment is not part of the historical record of the Assyrian siege of 701 B.C., but may be a reference to the capture of some of Hezekiah's people during a battle with Assyria.

Isaiah 22:4-5 (HCSB) Therefore I said, “Look away from me! Let me weep bitterly! Do not try to comfort me about the destruction of my dear people.” For the Lord GOD of Hosts had a day of tumult, trampling, and confusion in the Valley of Vision— people shouting and crying to the mountains.

Isaiah speak in the first person, weeping over the loss of life due to the siege. He recognizes that though Assyria was the agent of wrath, it was YHWH who trampled on the Valley and caused confusion. Note the recurring picture of people crying and calling out to the mountains to hide them. No place in all creation to hide from the wrath of the Lamb!

The next couple of verses note that the best warriors went out to defend the city but God removed the defenses of Judah. When that happened, the leaders of Judah went to the House of the Forrest looking for weapons. This is likely a reference a building Solomon built: 1 Kings 7:1-2 (HCSB) Solomon completed his entire palace complex after 13 years of construction. He built the House of the Forest of Lebanon.

"You" in these verses refers to the leadership of Judah; they looked for weapons, looked at the breaches in the city wall, collected water, calculated how many houses to tear down for materials, and made a reservoir for waters of the ancient pool. This last is a reference to a tunnel built by Hezekiah to bring water into the city. All of these actions taken by the leaders of Judah reveal men who had put their trust in their own wisdom and strength - rather than trusting in the covenant God Who had built them up into a mighty nation; the last bit of verse 11: "you did not look to the One who made it, or consider the One who created it long ago." Self-reliance by those who know God is a wretched position - as the next passage demonstrates.

Isaiah 22:12 (HCSB)  On that day the Lord GOD of Hosts called for weeping, for wailing, for shaven heads, and for the wearing of sackcloth.

Here's that phrase again, denoting the end of the age when judgment comes.

Isaiah 22:13-14 (HCSB) But look: joy and gladness, butchering of cattle, slaughtering of sheep, eating of meat, and drinking of wine— “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die!” The LORD of Hosts has directly revealed to me: “This sin of yours will never be wiped out.” The Lord GOD of Hosts has spoken.

Rather than weeping and wearing sackcloth; the people of Judah are joyful and glad, enjoying the high life - just as the people of the world before the first rain came. All in full view of the Creator, who revealed to Isaiah that the sins of Judah mentioned herein will never be wiped out. The Lord GOD of Hosts has spoken! This is one reason it is impossible for there to be a future for Judah as the people of God; their sin will ever be before them.

The last section of this chapter is an oracle against a steward of Jerusalem, a man known as Shebna, identified as a high-ranking official in Hezekiah's court (2 Kings 18:18, 26, 37; Isa 36:3, 11, 22; 37:2). He and another steward, Eliakim, are the focus. Even though Eliakim was praised by Isaiah, the lesson from this oracle is clear and applicable to us, today: Politicians CANNOT solve problems that are God's purview.

Isaiah 22:15-19 (HCSB) The Lord GOD of Hosts said: “Go to Shebna, that steward who is in charge of the palace, and say to him: What are you doing here? Who authorized you to carve out a tomb for yourself here, carving your tomb on the height and cutting a crypt for yourself out of rock? Look, you strong man! The LORD is about to shake you violently. He will take hold of you, wind you up into a ball, and sling you into a wide land. There you will die, and there your glorious chariots will be—a disgrace to the house of your lord. I will remove you from your office; you will be ousted from your position.

Note the tone YHWH had in giving this oracle to Isaiah: You, Shebna, think yourself a strong man. YHWH will shake you violently, wind you up into a ball and sling you far where you will die and be disgraced.

After that, Eliakim will take Shebna's place; he will have position and prestige. He will be placed in a solid place - like a peg driven into a firm place, for coats to hang.

Isaiah 22:24-25 (HCSB) They will hang on him the whole burden of his father’s house: the descendants and the offshoots—all the small vessels, from bowls to every kind of jar. On that day”—the declaration of the LORD of Hosts—“the peg that was driven into a firm place will give way, be cut off, and fall, and the load on it will be destroyed.” Indeed, the LORD has spoken.

As the people of Judah are willing to put ALL their problems on Eliakim's shoulders (more trusting in man than in God), the peg will give way, be cut off, and all that was hanging on it destroyed. When the people got to the place where they took no responsibility for themselves, expected their government to handle everything, God removed the government He had established - cut him off - and destroyed those who had forgotten Him in favor of the government.

Indeed - YHWH has spoken.

Brothers and sisters - as we seek an honest and truthful outcome to our national elections, let us not put our hope in this party or that one; let us not get emotionally invested in the kingdom of this world. But let be responsible pilgrims with our eyes fixed on the Lord of Glory. 

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