The man with the writing case at his side (Ezek 9:2-9:4)

“Among the executors

Was a man

Clothed in linen,

With a writing case

At his side.

They went in.

They stood beside

The bronze altar.

Now the glory

Of the God of Israel

Had gone up

From the cherubim

On which it rested

To the threshold

Of the house.

Yahweh called

To the man

Clothed in linen,

With the writing case

At his side.

Yahweh said to him.

‘Go through the city,

Through Jerusalem,

Put a mark

On the foreheads

Of those who sigh,

Of those who groan

Over all the abominations

That are committed in it.’”

Now a new character enters the scene. This man dressed in white linen with a writing case at his side was among the 6 executioners from the north. They were all standing at the bronze altar when the glory of the God of Israel left the cherubim where it was resting and went to the threshold of the house. Then Yahweh called to the man, who was clothed in linen, with the writing case at his side. Yahweh told him to go into Jerusalem. He was to find all the people who were sighing and groaning about all the abominations in town. He was to put a taw mark on their forehead, like a mini cross, since taw was the last consonant of the Hebrew alphabet. Thus he acted like the angel of death in the Passover story. He marked those who cared about the situation there, who might be spared.

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The powerful intervention of God (Isa 51:9-51:11)

“Awake!

Awake!

Put on strength!

O arm of Yahweh!

Awake!

As in days of old!

The generations of long ago!

Did you not cut Rahab in pieces?

Did you not pierce the dragon?

Did you not dry up the sea?

Did you not dry up the waters of the great deep?

Did you not make the depths of the sea

In a way for the redeemed to cross over?

The ransomed of Yahweh shall return.

They will come to Zion with singing.

Everlasting joy shall be upon their heads.

They shall obtain joy.

They shall obtain gladness.

Sorrow shall flee away.

Sighing shall flee away.”

Second Isaiah has a plea for the arm of Yahweh to act again as he had done in Egypt at the time of the Exodus. He had cut up Rahab, the sea monster name for Egypt. He had pierced the dragon in mythological terms. He dried up the waters, so that the redeemed of Israel could cross over. These same ransomed people will now come to Zion singing with joy. They will be joyful and glad and not sorrowful or sighing. Yahweh will intervene again on their behalf.

The holy way (Isa 35:8-35:10)

“A highway shall be there.

It shall be called the Holy Way.

The unclean shall not travel on it.

But it shall be for God’s people.

No traveler,

Not even fools,

Shall go astray.

No lion shall be there.

No ravenous beast shall come up on it.

They shall not be found there.

But the redeemed shall walk there.

The ransomed of Yahweh shall return.

They shall come to Zion with singing.

Everlasting joy shall be upon their heads.

They shall obtain joy.

They shall obtain gladness.

Sorrow shall flee away.

Sighing shall flee away.”

Isaiah has something called the Holy Way highway. On this road there will be no unclean people, only God’s people. However, there is no indication about how they would patrol this road. No one would ever get lost on this highway, not even a fool. Perhaps they must have had good signs on the Holy Way highway. No lions or predatory animals would be on this great holy highway. Only the redeemed and the ransomed of Yahweh would be on this road as they went to Mount Zion singing. There would be joy and gladness with no sorrow or sighing. Obviously, this is about the time of the return after the exile.

The city in chaos (Isa 24:7-24:13)

“The wine dries up.

The vine languishes.

All the merry hearted sigh.

The mirth of the timbrels is stilled.

The noise of the jubilant has ceased.

The mirth of the lyre is stilled.

No longer do they drink wine

With singing.

Strong drink is bitter

To those who drink it.

The city of chaos is broken down.

Every house is shut up

So that none can enter.

There is an outcry in the streets

For lack of wine.

All joy has reached its eventide.

The gladness of the earth is banished.

Desolation is left in the city.

The gates are battered into ruins.

Thus it shall be on the earth.

Thus it shall be among the nations.

It will be

Like a beaten olive tree,

Like the gleaning

When the grape harvest is ended.”

Isaiah points out that without wine, there is no joy, just sighing. The vines and the wine have languished and dried up. The sound of the jubilant musical instruments of the timbrels and lyre was no more. There were no more drinking and singing. Strong drink had become bitter, like raw alcohol. The city of chaos broke down. It is difficult to figure out whether this was a specific city or the symbolic end of the world chaos. All the houses were closed, so that no one could come in or go out. People complained about the lack of wine with no joy in this city, since gladness had been banished. It was now a desolate chaotic city with broken down gates. This felt like the time after the olive trees and vines had been harvested with nothing left to do, even though there was no harvest. The vines and trees were empty and barren.

The plea to God (Ps 38:9-38:11)

“Lord!

All my longing is known to you.

My sighing is not hidden from you.

My heart throbs.

My strength fails me.

The light of my eyes has gone from me.

My friends and companions

Stand aloof from my affliction.

My neighbors stand far off.”

David made a plea to the Lord, God, who knew his situation. He was aware of his longing and sighing that was not hidden from him. His heart throbbed. His strength failed. His eyesight was growing dim. His friends, companions, and neighbors were standing aloof from him and his afflictions. Only God could help him.