Wisconsin Lutheran Chapel logo

God’s Word for You

Isaiah 13:9-16

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Tuesday, January 1, 2008

9 See, the day of the LORD is coming
—a cruel day, with wrath and fierce anger—
to make the land desolate
and destroy the sinners within it.

The word “cruel” can refer to a wicked man (Proverbs 11:17), or what he does (Proverbs 12:10), or what kind of punishment he should receive (Jeremiah 30:14; Proverbs 17:11, “a merciless/cruel official will be sent against him”). It can also refer to the way an army attacks (Jeremiah 6:23, 50:42). Here, judgment day is called “cruel,” because it will be merciless in every way for those who have rejected God.

10 The stars of heaven and their constellations
will not show their light.
The rising sun will be darkened
and the moon will not give its light.

The promise of the sun, moon and stars ending their existence on judgment day is a common theme in both Old and New Testaments. Jesus promised these obvious signs as a warning of the end: “There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars” (Luke 21:23-25). “The stars will fall from the sky” (Matthew 24:29). “The heavenly bodies will be shaken” (Mark 13:25). In Revelation 6:12-13 John saw the sun turn black, the moon turn to blood and the stars fall from the sky like ripe figs dropping from a tree. Isaiah will say later on that “All the stars of the heavens will be dissolved” (Isaiah 34:4). And Joel’s prophecy of the end coming like vast swarms of locusts also promises these things: “the stars no longer shine” (Joel 2:10, 3:15).

11 I will punish the world for its evil,
the wicked for their sins.
I will put an end to the arrogance of the haughty
and will humble the pride of the ruthless.
12 I will make man scarcer than pure gold,
more rare than the gold of Ophir.
13 Therefore I will make the heavens tremble;
and the earth will shake from its place
at the wrath of the LORD Almighty,
in the day of his burning anger.

Although Aristotle is reported to have said, “Death is the most terrible of all things, for it is the end,” he was wrong. There is something far more terrible than death. The Bible clearly tells us that God will punish all who have rejected him in hell.

Just as death is the separation of the body from its soul, so also hell is the separation of body and soul from God. The nature of hell is that it is a creation of God to be the prison house for the devil and the other evil angels (demons) who were misled by him, and sadly those people who reject God. The Bible teaches these things about hell:

  1. It is a place or a ‘somewhere’—“Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment” (Luke 16:28). Also, Jesus “went and preached to the spirits in prison” (1 Peter 3:19).
  2. It is eternal: “Eternal fire” (Matthew 18:8). Lutheran theologian Joh. Quenstedt wondered whether this would be (a) real fire, (b) supernatural fire, or (c) some kind of figurative fire, and concluded that the answer was to pray “earnestly” that God will not reveal the answer to us “by the knowledge that comes from experience.”
  3. The doctrine of hell has been revealed to mankind as a warning: “They will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life” (Matthew 25:46). “And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell, where ‘their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched’” (Mark 9:47-48, with Jesus quoting Isaiah 66:24).
  4. The attitude of some modern theologians that a loving God would never truly damn anyone directly contradicts the Bible’s true warnings: “But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet to warn the people and the sword comes and takes the life of one of them, that man will be taken away because of his sin, but I will hold the watchman accountable for his blood. Son of man, I have made you a watchman…” (Ezekiel 33:6-7).

The existence of hell and its torments makes us aware of just how merciful and compassionate our Savior is, who has rescued us from it’s flames and unending suffering by giving himself as our substitute.

14 Like a hunted gazelle,
like sheep without a shepherd,
each will return to his own people,
each will flee to his native land.
15 Whoever is captured will be thrust through;
all who are caught will fall by the sword.
16 Their infants will be dashed to pieces before their eyes;
their houses will be looted and their wives ravished. (NIV)

Like the doctrine of hell, the phrase “sheep without a shepherd” is intimately connected with the need for a Savior in the Bible. Moses asked God to send the people a leader after his death so that they would not be “like sheep without a shepherd” (Numbers 27:17), and God appointed Joshua to be his successor. The prophet Micaiah (not Micah) said that Israel had become “like sheep without a shepherd” during the time of king Jehoshaphat, the fourth king of Judah (1 Kings 22:17; 2 Chronicles 18:6). Jesus also saw the people of Israel this way at different times in his ministry; when he was calling his twelve disciples (Matthew 9:36) and before the Feeding of the Five Thousand (Mark 6:34).

All mankind, every one of us, needs the good Shepherd, Jesus Christ. He has assured us of the never ending joy of heaven, with all its variation (1 Corinthians 15:40-42), all its different and delightful tasks (Luke 19:17, 19), all its unexpected rewards (Matthew 25:34-42; 2 Corinthians 9:6), and all its unending reunion, meeting, feasting and conversation with people we have known, not known, or merely known about (Matthew 8:11), with the angels (Hebrews 12:22), and with the Lord Jesus Christ himself. Come, Lord, Jesus.

Note: The word for “world” in verse 11, tevel, first appears in the Bible in Hannah’s prayer in 1 Samuel 2:8, although God himself uses the word twice in Job (Job 34:14, 37:12). The modern Jewish name of Israel, eres yisrael, employs the more common word for “earth,” eres, which refers more to “land” in the sense of what we would call real estate. Tevel includes the seas and everything else that makes up the whole globe: the completeness of God’s creation.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim SmithAbout Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. His wife, Kathryn, attended the Chapel from 1987-1990 while studying Secondary Education (Theater and Math) at UW-Madison. Kathryn’s father, John Meyer, was also the first man to serve as a Vicar at Chapel.

To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.