In Isaiah 25 we catch a glimpse of the ultimate international banquet, the most lavish feast of all. It’s a meal prepared by the Lord himself for peoples from all nations. The food will be exquisite, plentiful, and delicious. The celebration will be unsullied by gloom and tears, not to mention national or ethnic conflicts. All peoples will gather to share together in the Lord’s banquet.
When we look at the state of our world today, we see evidence of human sin everywhere. It might be in a park filled with litter, or a bay filled with sewage, or a sky filled with deadly haze. We see the reality of Isaiah 24:5, which, in the NIV, reads, “The earth is defiled by its people.” The Hebrew verb translated here as “defiled” is often rendered as “polluted” (chanef).
Last week we saw how God judged Shebna, the temple administrator, for his pride and for trying to use his authority for his own glory. Today, the Lord, through Isaiah, condemns human pride once again. But, whereas in Isaiah 22 the pride of a single leader was indicted, this time it’s the pride of a nation.
Shebna serves as a powerful reminder of the folly of seeking our own honor above that of the Lord. It’s natural for us to want others to think well of us, and to an extent this is consistent with our Christian discipleship (for example, 1 Tim 3:2). But if we become preoccupied with our own glory, we dishonor the Lord and risk our own demotion.
We tend to think of Isaiah as the prophet of Israel who brought God’s word to the Israelites. Indeed, this is true. But, through Isaiah, the Lord often addressed other nations as well. In Isaiah 21 he spoke to Babylon, Edom, and various peoples in the region of Arabia.
Churches are indeed gatherings of God’s people, but he claims others in the communities where churches find themselves. In fact, God places churches where they are, not only that they might be blessed, but also so that they may reach out to draw others into the fellowship of God’s people. Every church has a missional calling: to proclaim in word and demonstrate in action the gospel of Jesus Christ, so that people might come to faith and join the people of God.
Reading between the lines of Isaiah 18, we can see that certain ambassadors from far away came with an offer of military help for Israel. They came from Cush, a region south of Egypt along the tributaries of the Nile River, roughly equal to modern day Ethiopia. Ambassadors from Cush came down the Nile in their boats in order to enter into an alliance with Israel. But the Lord rejected their offer, noting that he had more than enough power to deal with countries that would attack Israel.
When we think about the cost of forgetting God, we are apt to think of “spiritual” things. When we forget God, we fail to worship him. When we forget God, we cut ourselves off from his guidance. When we forget God, we lose a strong sense of our life’s purpose.
Have you ever experienced something like this? You make choices in your life that seem to advance your own cause. You trust in what you have done, in your plans, in your cleverness, in your own hard work. For a while all seems well, but then the results of your actions begin to crash upon you like waves during a storm. As you are battered, you realize the folly of your ways. Then, and only then, do you turn your eyes to God, looking for help to the only one who can save you. Is this story at all familiar to you?
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