113-117 Isaiah Chapter 17
Prophecy about Damascus
In the ancient world, Damascus was one of the great cities. It was the capital of the nation of Syria. Syria was to the immediate north-east of Israel and the northern tribes around the Sea of Galilee. The people there had constant contact with the Syrian people. Damascus was a beautiful city in the ancient world but the coming Assyrian judgment would reduce Damascus to a city of ruins.
It was a time when Israel and Syria were aligned together against Judah. Since they were close allies God would announce His judgment against Israel at the same time as to Syria. (2 Kings 15:29; 2 Kings 16:9) Describe the fulfillment of this prophecy.
Israel’s modern interaction with Syria is interesting. Syria occupied the Golan Heights, a crucial high plateau above the region of Galilee. Israel was under constant threat of invasion and shelling from the Syrian positions on the Golan Heights. Syria eventually launched a full invasion of Israel from the Golan Heights. Miraculously Israel beat the Syrians and recaptured the Golan Heights. Today Syria claims the Golan Heights and insists that Israel give it back. The Israelis are adamant that they will never give the land back to Syria, as it is necessary for their security. Syria still fights Israel through terror groups and militia from Lebanon. There is a dream of a greater Syria encompassing Syria, Lebanon and other parts of northern Israel.
During this time of God’s judgment, some will turn to the Lord God and humble themselves with respect towards God. The Israelites were given to idol worship and one of the purposes of God was to turn them away from that so they would trust in God. In this judgment, God would turn them away from every wrongdoing they had placed their trust in. The pagan altars, wooden images, altars for burning incense, and even their strong cities would not give them protection. Their only hope was in the Lord God.
“When the Israelites came into the land of Canaan many years before, the strong cities of the land were abandoned to them . . . However, the situation has changed, and the same cities will be abandoned by the Israelites themselves as they are under the judging hand of God.” (Grogan)
One part of the Lord’s judgment was to make their labors fruitless. They will work hard to plant and grow their crops but the harvest will amount to nothing. For the people of Israel, this could be the most devastating aspects of the judgment. (Haggai 1:6) Haggai speaks of the work of the Lord. “You have sown much, but harvest little; you eat, but there is not enough to be satisfied; you drink, but there is not enough to become drunk; you put on clothing, but no one is warm enough; and he who earns, earns wages to put into a purse with holes.” (Haggai 1:6) How much better it is to listen to Jesus and have our service directed by Him. (Luke 5:1-10)
Why did the Lord bring His judgment upon Israel? Because they had forgotten the God of their salvation. Satan does not need to make us bank robbers or murderers. All he needs to do is make us forget God. “We are thus reminded that we ought not to be so impatient in enduring chastisements, which cure us of the fearfully dangerous disease of apostasy.” (Calvin)
Other nations will be used by God to bring judgment against Syria and Israel. They will come as a flash flood that cannot be stopped. The nations that God will use are not necessarily righteous nations. God will also rebuke them and they will flee far from Israel. God can use one sinner to judge another and then judge that sinner also.
It is a comfort that in the midst of judgment God can show His mercy. The judgment against Israel was bad but it could have been much worse. For a season God will allow judgment of His people and then rebuke those who had been attacking Israel. Israel was not at the mercy of the attackers they were at the mercy of God