Watch out sinners (Isa 33:13-33:14)

“Hear!

You who are far away!

What I have done!

You who are near!

Acknowledge my might!

The sinners in Zion

Are afraid.

Trembling has seized the godless.

‘Who among us can live

With the devouring fire?

Who among us can live

With these everlasting flames?’”

Isaiah has Yahweh ask the Israelites to listen, just as he had done. If they are far away, can they see what he has done? If they are near, then they should acknowledge Yahweh’s might. The sinners at Mount Zion are afraid. The godless are trembling. They seem to ask how they can live with this devouring fire and these everlasting flames.

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The broken earth (Isa 24:18-24:20)

“The windows of heaven are opened.

The foundations of the earth tremble.

The earth is utterly broken.

The earth is torn asunder.

The earth is violently shaken.

The earth staggers

Like a drunkard.

It sways

Like a hut.

Its transgression lies heavy upon it.

It falls.

It will not rise again.”

The phrase ‘windows of the heaven’ was a reference to a big rainfall since we still use this term that the heavens or clouds open up during a heavy rainstorm. The foundations of the earth were trembling since the earth was broken, torn asunder, and violently shaken. Isaiah refers to it as a drunken earth, staggering around as he also compared it to a swaying hut. The earth has committed many transgressions, so that it will fall and not rise again. The end is near.

The vision of the attack against Babylon (Isa 21:2-21:5)

“A stern vision

Is told to me.

The betrayer betrays.

The destroyer destroys.

Go up!

O Elam!

Lay siege!

O Media!

All the sighing

She has caused

I bring to an end.

Therefore my loins are

Filled with anguish.

Pangs have seized me,

Like the pangs of a woman in labor.

I am bowed down,

So that I cannot hear.

I am dismayed

So that I cannot see.

My mind reels.

Horror has appalled me.

The twilight I longed for

Has been turned for me

Into trembling.

They prepare the table.

They spread the rugs.

They eat.

They drink.

Rise up!

Commanders!

Oil the shield!”

Isaiah has this stern vision from Yahweh. The betrayer and the destroyer act out together. Elam and Medes, the Persians and the Medes were about to attack Babylon. Since the Israelites were in Babylon, they were afraid but hopeful, like a woman experiencing labor before the birth of a child. Isaiah, in the first person singular, was not quite able to hear or see what was going on. He knew that horror was about to happen. Instead of a happy twilight there was trembling. However, they continued as normal, eating and drinking at tables with rugs. Nevertheless, the cry came to the commanders to rise up and get ready. They had to oil the straps on their shields as they prepared to do battle.

The future defeat of Egypt (Isa 19:16-19:17)

“On that day,

The Egyptians will be

Like women.

They will tremble with fear

Before the hand

That Yahweh of hosts

Raises against them.

The land of Judah

Will become a terror

To the Egyptians.

Everyone to whom it is mentioned

Will fear

Because of the plan

That Yahweh of hosts

Is planning against them.”

Once again, Yahweh, via Isaiah, talks about a specific future day, ‘on that day,’ when the Egyptians will be defeated. They would be afraid like women, trembling and fearing the hand of Yahweh. Judah would become a name to be feared in Egypt, where everyone there would fear Yahweh. However, the only great defeat of Egypt did not come until the time of Alexander the Great in the 4th century BCE, some 400 years after the time of Isaiah, but not under the name of Judah.

The results of the attack on Moab (Isa 15:4-15:6)

“Heshbon cries out.

Elealeh cries out.

Their voices are heard

As far as Jahaz.

Therefore the loins of Moab quiver.

His soul trembles.

My heart cries out for Moab.

His fugitives flee to Zoar,

To Eglath-shelishiyah.

At the ascent of Luhith,

They go up weeping.

On the road to Horonaim,

They raise a cry of destruction.

The waters of Nimrim

Are a desolation.

The grass is withered.

The new growth fails.

The verdure is no more.”

As far as we can tell, everybody was crying out from the towns of Heshbon (mentioned 37 times in the biblical literature) and Elealeh (mentioned 10 times in the biblical literature). They were towns in the Israelite Reuben territory, but Isaiah seems to indicate here that they were part of upper Moab. This crying could be heard 25 miles away north in Jahaz (mentioned 8 times in the biblical literature) which was in the Israelite Gad territory. The Moab people were frightened. They were trembling. In fact, Isaiah says that even his heart cried out for them. These Moabites fugitives fled south to the tip of the Dead Sea near Zoar, which is on southeast end of the Dead Sea. There was a story about Lot in Genesis about this city (chapters 13-19). They also fled to the surrounding towns of Eglath-shelishiyah and Horonaim, near the ascent of the Luhith hills. Isaiah is the only one to mention any of these towns, but they seem to be in southern Moab near Zoar. The waters of Nimrim were desolate with grass withering and nothing growing. Only Jeremiah and Isaiah make any reference to these waters of Nimrim. Anyway, everybody was crying and upset.

God of the whirlwind (Ps 77:16-77:20)

“When the waters saw you!

O God!

When the waters saw you,

They were afraid.

The very deep trembled.

The clouds poured out water.

The skies thundered.

Your arrows flashed on every side.

The crash of your thunder

Was in the whirlwind.

Your lightnings lit up the world.

The earth trembled.

The earth shook.

Your way was through the sea.

Your path was through the mighty waters.

Your footprints were unseen.

You led your people like a flock

By the hand of Moses and Aaron.”

This psalm ends with a remembrance of the power and presence of Yahweh when he was with Moses and Aaron. He recalled the power of God in the storms. He remembered how Yahweh had helped his people get out of Egypt. These themes were captured in this ancient hymn to God. The waters were afraid of God, as if the waters had feelings of trembling before God. The lightnings in the sky were the arrows of Yahweh. The thunder was his voice. The earth trembled, much like the waters. The earth shook. However, he led his people by way of the great sea so that they were no footprints left behind. He led his people like a flock of sheep through the hands of Moses and Aaron. Notice that Aaron is considered the equivalent to Moses here.

Terrible situation (Ps 55:4-55:7)

“My heart is in anguish within me.

The terrors of death have fallen upon me.

Fear and trembling come upon me.

Horror overwhelms me.

I say,

‘O that I had wings like a dove!

I would fly away.

I would be at rest.

Truly,

I would flee far away.

I would lodge in the wilderness.”

Selah

David was in anguish.  He feared death.  Fear and trembling came over him as horror overwhelmed him.  This concept of fear and trembling became a major concept and the name of a writing of the 19th century theologian or philosopher Soren Kierkegaard.  David finally said that he wished that he was a dove that could fly away.  He wanted to rest somewhere far away where no one knew him.  He would love to live in the wilderness.  This idea of flight from a problem is still common today.  We like to get away from our problems.  This section ended with the musical interlude meditative pause, Selah.