Summary: Isaiah’s prophecy reveals that God will accomplish His will - with or without us.
Take your Bibles and open them to Isaiah Chapter 13 as we continue our journey through the Old Testament prophecies regarding the “Day of the Lord”. In his first 12 chapters, Isaiah deals primarily with God’s judgment against Israel and Judah for their unfaithfulness to Him. But now in Chapter 13, he begins a new section that ends in Chapter 23 in which he prophesies against the surrounding nations. He introduces this particular prophecy with these words:
The oracle concerning Babylon which Isaiah the son of Amoz saw.
Isaiah 13:1 (ESV)
The word translated “oracle” here is the Hebrew word “massa” which literally means a “burden”, or a “load”. And this and the oracles that follow certainly are a burden in the sense that they describe some serious acts of God’s judgment that are going to be carried out against these surrounding nations.
It is not surprising that God begins this series of prophecies with Babylon. After all Babylon – current day Iraq – was the original seat of civilization. It was also the birthplace of all false religion as we see clearly in the account of the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11. So it is fitting that Babylon would be first in the list of nations that God is going to judge.
At the time of Isaiah’s prophecy, as we saw last week, Assyria was still the great world power in the Middle East. Babylon was an upcoming power, but it is well over 100 years before any of the things that Isaiah prophesies even begin to occur.
As we examine this passage, I’m going to jump around a bit in the chapter in order to help us develop our understanding of what Isaiah is writing about.
GOD’S INSTRUMENT OF JUDGMENT – HIS “CONSECRATED ONES” (vv. 2-3, 17)
On a bare hill raise a signal;
cry aloud to them;
wave the hand for them to enter
the gates of the nobles.
I myself have commanded my consecrated ones,
and have summoned my mighty men to execute my anger,
my proudly exulting ones.
Isaiah 13:2, 3 (ESV)
As Isaiah begins the oracle, he leaves no doubt that it is God, in His complete sovereignty, who is going to carry out the judgment that he will describe in the following verses. Note especially that as God speaks in verse 3, that it is He who has commanded His consecrated ones; He is the one who has summoned His mighty men to execute His anger. Everything that Isaiah is about to describe is God’s idea and it is His work.
We’ll come back to the description of the judgment itself in just a moment, but I can’t help but think that as Isaiah begins to describe the judgment that is going to come against the Babylonians that the people of Judah have got to be thinking that they are the people that God is describing in verse 3. After all, they are God’s “chosen people” aren’t they? So certainly they are the consecrated ones that God is going to use to punish Babylon. They are the ones who have been “set apart” by God to be used by Him in this process.
But when Isaiah finishes describing the judgment itself and finally identifies the “consecrated ones” in verse 17, Isaiah’s audience is in for a big surprise.