Isaiah 20-23
(Woe to Jerusalem)
July 20th

Produced by The Listening for God Ministry
Copyright 2016

Please refer to one or more Bible versions of your choice to read this section. We recommend that you read at least two versions for added understanding. For your convenience, we have provided six links below, each of which takes you directly to today's chapters in a specific version:

Key Verse

The Lord stripped away the defenses of Judah

- Isaiah 22:8a (NIV)

Summary of Chapters

This set of chapters concludes the section of prophecies regarding other nations and includes one regarding Jerusalem, thereby indicting them along with the foreign nations for acts against God. Chapter 20 provides a brief additional prophecy about Egypt and Cush (Ethiopia) foretelling the embarrassment to come when Assyria takes their people captive. Isaiah also rebukes those people from his own country who had put their trust in these other nations.

In the 21st chapter, Isaiah adds to the prophecy for Babylon described in previous chapters and appears to convey some level of sympathy as he ponders a grievous vision that was given to him: “Therefore are my loins filled with pain: pangs have taken hold upon me, as the pangs of a woman that travaileth: I was bowed down at the hearing of it; I was dismayed at the seeing of it (Isa 21:3 - KJV).”

In the 21st chapter Isaiah also introduces prophecies for Edom and Arabia in which he once again appears to be somewhat sympathetic to his ancient foe, Edom. For example, he suggests that there may be future good news from the messengers. He issues an appeal to Arabia to provide food and water for refugees who fled from wars in their own lands.

In Chapter 22, Isaiah rebukes the people of Jerusalem for not seeking the wisdom and protection of God when they strengthened the walls of the city. He also ridicules them for a future event in which they will feast while the fortress is attacked. He then calls attention to one particular official, Shebna. Shebna may have been a presumptuous foreigner who did not get his job done, so Isaiah warns him of the punishment that God will administrate:

In what may be an overstatement of the obvious, Isaiah then quotes the LORD, who says that Shebna will be deposed, and identifies his replacement.

In chapter 23, Isaiah warns of the destruction of Tyre, a nation of merchants who took pride in their accomplishments instead of honoring God. Isaiah says they will be forgotten for 70 years.

Reflection and Application

We are all due for embarrassment if we put our own ambitions and pride ahead of our worship of God. If we have already gone down that path, then perhaps someone will take pity on us, as Isaiah did with Edom and encourage us to get back on track.

When we turn from God, he may be “filled with pain” the way Isaiah was, because God longs for us to be in unity with him. He desires to alleviate the pain for all of us and reconcile us to him. Reconciliation begins with our admission of guilt, the request for forgiveness for our debts and trespasses, and the offer of forgiveness of others.

Our generation has seen its fair share of refugees from war and natural disaster, including the on-going exodus from Somalia. We are called to give them food and water, just as Isaiah called Arabia to give comfort to the refugees of his era. Sadly, the tension between nations persists, even in the same geographic location in which Isaiah lived. God wants the nations to trust in him, not in each other for ultimate deliverance.

When we are put in a position of leadership we need to remain humble, particularly if we are considered a “foreigner.” Maybe we have been transferred to a new office or serve as a consultant for people outside of our own organization. Our role is to serve these people and not to get overly comfortable with our position. Shebna, the palace administrator described in chapter 22 serves as a good example of what not to do. He was a foreigner serving in Jerusalem who earned mediocre performance reviews but felt as if he earned a special burial place overlooking the city.

God calls us to respect each other and walk humbly in any situation, but we may need a special reminder of that when we are leading a group of people and assume any type of inflated idea of our own skills and purpose, else we may find ourselves deposed, just like Shebna.

Some types of successful people perceive themselves as rain-making machines and forget that all their resources originate from God. Yet these resources can be quickly extinguished by economic crises, the invisible hand of competition, natural disaster, crime, or other circumstances beyond the control of the person. If we are successful in our vocations, it’s important to give praise to God, especially on the Sabbath, which we should reserve as a day to stop working, honor God, and give thanks to him for our blessings.

Questions and Prayers for Further Reflection

Related Questions
  1. When was the last time you stared at the clouds? What did you see?
  2. What experiences have you had where you were an outsider brought in as a leader for a group of people? What did you do to make it work?
  3. In what ways can your success be attributed to God? How can we respond to this goodness?
  4. What can we do to help those who have not had success?

Recommended Prayer
Father in heaven, we know that you bring justice to those who disrespect you. Help us to remain humble and reconcile ourselves to you.

Suggested Prayer Concerns
People recently transferred to a new location by their company

Looking Ahead

Tomorrow's reading: Isaiah 24-27 (Day of Judgment)

Comments and Questions
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