Summary: Peace is rare in this world. Only Jesus can bring true peace. We need to work with him to bring peace where we are.
Israel was a divided nation during Isaiah’s life … and the two kingdoms were under threat of foreign invasion. That threat became a reality in Isaiah’s lifetime.
By 722 BCE the Assyrians had conquered the northern kingdom and ten tribes (of the 12) had been relocated and scattered throughout what is today Syria, Iraq and Turkey (predicted in chapter 7 of Isaiah)
In 586 BCE (as predicted by Isaiah) the southern kingdom was also conquered and the people exiled by the Babylonians.
The result of war and exile: mass cultural genocide. It meant that even after return from exile, only a remnant remained of what was once the Jewish nation … a people set apart by God to be a holy people. In a sense, it’s not unlike the remnants of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples that remain in our nation today. The damage that was done was so significant that culture, language and story were lost forever:
- The people were murdered
- Used for slave labour
- Forced to scatter, in the hope that their culture would soon be bred out of them
Well, that’s the history behind today’s passage (in brief) … and it’s shocking for two reasons:
1. On a human level violence and war is always shocking and distressing;
2. But from a faith perspective there’s another level …. It’s shocking because God had promised peace to this people.
Leviticus 26:6-11 – ‘I will grant peace in the land, and you shall lie down, and no one shall make you afraid; I will remove dangerous animals from your land, and no sword shall go through your land … I will look with favour upon you and make you fruitful and multiply you; and I will maintain my covenant with you. You shall eat old grain long stored (means there will always be a plentiful harvest) … I will place my dwelling in your midst … And I will walk among you, and I will be your God and you will be my people.”
It’s a beautiful image of a people at peace …. But so far from the reality by the 6th century for God’s people.
In fact this kind of peace, has never been realised in the land of Israel … we’ve looked in the last few weeks at why this is … the chapters preceding chapter 9 tell about how the people have turned away from God and forgotten him and confined him to one option of many gods to worship …
And according to the agreement (covenant) God had with the people, they cannot be blessed with his peace, as long as they persist in sin …
And this makes the situation seem pretty hopeless. But God, in his mercy, makes a promise …
v1 – There will be no gloom for those who were in anguish. In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time he will make glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations (this is describing the area where the Assyrians first struck the northern kingdom … so God is speaking specifically through Isaiah, to his people – this message is not for the whole world – it’s for us). It goes on: