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.
Behold, I am stirring up the Medes against them,
who have no regard for silver
and do not delight in gold.
Isaiah 13:17 (ESV)
It is not Judah that God is going to use after all – it is the Medes. At this point in time they are even less of a world power than Babylon. But God, in His complete wisdom and sovereignty will make the Medes his “consecrated ones” and use them to carry out His judgment.
This week I’m going to take a little different approach to the applications that we’ll identify from our study. Instead of looking at all of them at one time at the end of the message, I’m going to incorporate them throughout the message. And there is no doubt that we can identify the first of those principles here:
• Application #1 – If we are not faithful in serving God, He will consecrate someone else to carry out His will.
I think one of the reasons that Isaiah begins his book by describing the judgment that is going to come against Israel and Judah is that God wants to remind them just how unfaithful that they have been to Him. And to add insult to injury, since they have not been faithful in serving Him, God is going to consecrate someone else – in this case the Medes – to carry out His will.
This just confirms what we discovered last week. When God preserves a remnant, He does that for the purpose of calling them to the task of perpetuating His kingdom. Although being chosen by God certainly has its privileges and benefits, it also carries with it a great deal of responsibility. And if we’re not faithful to carry out the task that God gives to us, He’ll raise up someone else to do that because His purposes will be carried out, as Job certainly discovered: