The day of the LORD: Isaiah 13

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Today’s reading: Isaiah 13-17.

For the day of the LORD is near upon all the nations. As you have done, it shall be done to you; your deeds shall return on your own head. Obadiah 1:15

The Golden Rule says, “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Obadiah seems to be saying the opposite: “what you do unto others will be done unto you.” Though simple, the concept is frightening in its implications for those who carry out programs of cruelty and oppression. That’s the message that Isaiah brings to all the nations around Jerusalem – Babylon, Assyria, Damascus, Moab, and the Philistines. God will use them to judge his rebellious people, but their surpassing cruelty will be turned back on their own heads. None will feel it more than the ruler of Babylon. It will happen on the day of the LORD.

How you have fallen from heaven, O morning star, son of the dawn! You have been cast down to the earth, you who once laid low the nations! You said in your heart, “I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of the sacred mountain. I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.” But you are brought down to the grave, to the depths of the pit. Those who see you stare at you, they ponder your fate: “Is this the man who shook the earth and made kingdoms tremble, the man who made the world a desert, who overthrew its cities and would not let his captives go home?” Isaiah 14:12-17

The rulers of Babylon, past and future, share much with Satan, and some interpret these verses to describe Satan’s fall from glory. But they seem more appropriate to the pride and cruelty of the Babylonian kings, and the terrible fate that falls on them at the day of the LORD. This terrible day is a once and future event, seen by Isaiah in Babylon’s near future, but coming again at the end of the age before Jesus’ return.

The day of the LORD is a day of wrath.  God punishes the wicked and evil with anger and destruction.

It is a day of cosmic upheaval. The heavens are darkened; sun, moon, and stars all fail to give their light.

It is a day of terror. The people flee and become scarce. Their hearts melt and anguish overwhelms them.

It is a day when the proud are humbled. Like the king of Babylon, all those who exalted themselves  and sought to ignore God will instead find they cannot escape God’s judgment.

Isaiah’s weighty message about Babylon wasn’t delivered to them, but to the people of Judah. God meant to console the people and give them hope in the days to come when they found themselves captive in a foreign land. Babylon’s days were numbered, but God would continue to care for his chosen people. As for us, we can rejoice in our days of trouble, knowing that God is sovereign. He will continue to take care of us even when events make us doubt him, and he will ensure that wicked oppressors are punished.

God will reckon with those that invade the rights and disturb the peace of mankind, for he is King of nations as well as of saints. Now this reception of the king of Babylon into the regions of the dead, which is here described, surely is something more than a flight of fancy, and is designed to teach these solid truths:—[1.] That there is an invisible world, a world of spirits, to which the souls of men remove at death and in which they exist and act in a state of separation from the body. [2.] That separate souls have acquaintance and converse with each other, though we have none with them: the parable of the rich man and Lazarus intimates this. [3.] That death and hell will be death and hell indeed to those that fall unsanctified from the height of this world’s pomps and the fulness of its pleasures. – Matthew Henry

Image by NASA Goddard on Flickr, CC by 2.0

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