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God’s Word for You

Isaiah 21:11-12

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Thursday, January 31, 2008

A Prophecy Against Edom (“Dumah”)

11 An oracle concerning Dumah:
Someone calls to me from Seir,
     “Watchman, what is left of the night?
     Watchman, what is left of the night?”
12 The watchman replies,
“Morning is coming, but also the night.
     If you would ask, then ask;
     and come back yet again.” (NIV)

“Dumah” is a play on the name “Edom” (E-DOM; DUM-ah). Mount Seir is a high peak at the southern end of the Dead Sea, so there’s no mistake about who is being spoken about. Dumah means “silence,” and it’s a warning about what’s about to happen.

First, there is a riddle: Why would somebody up on Mount Seir call to a watchman to find out how much of the night is left? The person on the mountain would already know—but it’s not a physical night that is meant. It’s the “night,” the dark time, of the Assyrian crisis.

The prophet Amos had warned Edom because that nation had “pursued his brother (Israel) with a sword” and with “his blind fury unchecked” (Amos 1:11). Now Isaiah calls out as the watchman himself, saying that although morning is coming, night is coming once again.

And he says something else: “If you would ask, then ask.” The Hebrew word for “ask” used here means to seek or ask something out of a rising desire that’s boiling up inside you, such as the life-and-death questions in Daniel 2:16, 7:16. In Obadiah 1:6, this “seek urgently” word is translated with “pillaged” in the NIV. Maybe Isaiah was saying, “If you’re about to blurt out a question, then blurt it out because time is short.” Paul says the same thing: “The time is short…for this world in its present form is passing away” (1 Corinthians 7:29, 31).

For the people of Edom, time was very short. If any of them were going to ask something about the Lord and find out about their true Savior, it would have to be quick, because their time of grace was coming to a close. But even a brief moment in the gospel would be enough. In Ecclesiastes, Solomon said “Even a live dog is better off than a dead lion—anyone who is among the living has hope” (Ecclesiastes 9:4b, 4a).

We can apply this same thought to the people of the world around us. We don’t know how long any one person’s—or any one nation’s—time of grace will be. But what we do know is that that time will come to an end.

What can we do to bring the gospel to the world? A few people making an effort can do huge things for the kingdom of the Lord. But there is still more to be done. Our Civilian Chaplain program brings the gospel to our people in the military without compromising that Gospel. Our offerings to Home and World Missions help bring the gospel to the world. But the world is a very big place, and the work of the gospel can be seen exploding into new reaches of the world every day—China, Southeast Asia, East Timor, Africa (Mozambique, Niger, Cameroon), Chile, Russia, Brazil—the list goes on and on, and we don’t know how much daylight there will be until night falls again.

“If you would ask, then ask,” the Prophet proclaims, “and come back yet again.” We have the most precious gift in the world: JESUS is the answer to the question that the world asks. Let’s keep on bringing the answer: Christ was crucified for our sins. No other answer will do, and the day is short.

Wishing they would listen won’t bring them the message, though. Ask your pastor what you can do today—right now. The silence (Dumah) will come too soon for too may souls for us to wait.

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.