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God’s Word for You

Isaiah 24:14-18

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Monday, February 18, 2008

This chapter has been a picture of the judgment at the end of the world: there is no hope for anyone to escape. But Isaiah hears something. The enemy is at the gate, the terrors of destruction have leapt onto the threshold—and Isaiah puts a hand to his ear. “What’s that I hear?” he says to us in a dramatic aside. “Do you hear singing?”

14 They raise their voices, they shout for joy;
     from the west they acclaim the LORD’s majesty.
15 Therefore in the east give glory to the LORD;
     exalt the name of the LORD, the God of Israel,
     in the islands of the sea.
16 From the ends of the earth we hear singing:
     “Glory to the Righteous One.”

The word “island(s)” occurs just seventeen times in the Old Testament—all but one of these are in the book of Isaiah. The prophet uses the word when he wants to talk about foreign people; especially about foreigners—outsiders—who fall under the judgment of God’s law but who can still be brought to faith through the gospel, such as in 42:12: “Give glory to the Lord and proclaim his praise in the islands.”

There is still hope even in the face of the Last Day. The hope we have is in the greatest majesty of all: In God himself.

God’s majesty is like a comparison of a million, a billion and a trillion. A stack of hundred dollar bills about four feet tall—the height of my son Peter—would be a million dollars. To reach a billion, the stack would have to be three times the height of a skyscraper. To get to a trillion, the stack would be miles and miles out into space. God’s majesty is so infinitely beyond us that we seem like pocket change lined up next to that trillion stack. Our best good works are like a gum wrapper and a broken button compared with God’s infinite glory.

And that doesn’t make us feel wretched. It doesn’t make us feel inadequate. Just the opposite: God’s majesty and glory leapt into our world to rescue us! Peter looked at the glory of the transfigured Christ, but he didn’t despair because he didn’t add up to beans next to Jesus. He fell on his face and worshiped his Lord (and, Peter being Peter, he opened his mouth without thinking about what he wanted to say). But he worshiped. And that’s what we do: We worship our majestic and glorious Lord: “Glory to the righteous one!”

But I said, “I waste away, I waste away!
     Woe to me!
The treacherous betray!
     With treachery the treacherous betray!”
17 Terror and pit and snare await you,
     O people of the earth.
18 Whoever flees at the sound of terror
     will fall into a pit;
whoever climbs out of the pit
     will be caught in a snare. (NIV)

Isaiah’s hand drops away from his ear, and he brings us back into the moment once again. The judgment God will bring will be inescapable. For the believer, Judgment Day will be a time for singing and laughing. For the rest of the world, from the most distant island to the most heavily populated continent, there will be condemnation: Terror and pit and snare.

That’s exactly why we keep reaching out with the gospel. The end will come, and every moment that it is not yet here is another moment in which we can bring God’s message to the world. It’s the message of forgiveness, comfort, and peace through Jesus.

Note: The other occurrence of “island” in the Old Testament, Ezekiel 26:18, falls very much within Isaiah’s usage and is perhaps an indication that Ezekiel, like Jeremiah and some of the minor prophets, was familiar with Isaiah and reflect his language in their books. The similarities between Isaiah and Micah, however, are a different case altogether. Isaiah and Micah were contemporaries and colleagues and may very well have been friends; their books often “speak” to one another.

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.