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God’s Word for You

Isaiah 21:6-10

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Wednesday, January 30, 2008

6 This is what the Lord says to me:
“Go, post a lookout
     and have him report what he sees.

After Elijah defeated the 850 priests of Baal and Asherah on Mount Carmel, he ordered his own servant to stand watch on the mountain to wait for the fulfillment of a prophecy (1 Kings 18:43). Now God tells Isaiah to post a lookout who will report the destruction of Babylon. In Isaiah’s case, he may have known that the fall of Babylon was more than a lifetime away, but he also realized that the command from God to post a lookout meant that the things God was proclaiming were as good as done in God’s eyes: They would certainly happen.

God’s title in this verse is “Lord.” When translations spell Lord with small (lower case) letters like this in the Old Testament, it is the Hebrew word adonai, “master.” Later in verse 10, it is spelled LORD with capital (upper case) letters. This is God’s name, Yahweh or Jehovah. This is the name of God that means I Am (Exodus 3:14), the God who is infinite and everlasting (Deuteronomy 33:27), and it is the name God uses when he makes covenants and promises (Numbers 18:19; 1 Chronicles 16:14-17). This name reminds us that our infinite God will never fail to do what he has promised (“the LORD’s…compassions never fail,” Lamentations 3:22). The Almighty that accompanies this name in verse 10 is the word sabaoth which means “armies” or “hosts of warriors” (not sabbath which means “peace, rest” and “seven”). It the title of God especially favored by the prophet Malachi, who uses it two dozen times in his short book (Malachi 1:4, 2:2, 3:1 etc.). The LORD Almighty is the title that reminds us that our immortal, unfailing God is also omnipotent, all-powerful, and completely able to carry out the things described in the text (Genesis 28:3, 35:11, and many more).

7 When he sees chariots with teams of horses,
      riders on donkeys or riders on camels,
      let him be alert, fully alert.”

The lookout is to watch for signs of war. Chariots on the move and teams of horses were signs of an army on the move. An Arabian warrior often went into battle riding one horse and trailing another so that he would have a spare mount—some think this is the meaning of “Remember how you and I were riding together” (lit. “were riding pairs”) in 2 Kings 9:25.1 When the lookout sees the signs of war coming, he needs to be even more alert.

8 And the lookout shouted,
“Day after day, my lord, I stand on the watchtower;
     every night I stay at my post.
9 Look, here comes a man in a chariot
     with a team of horses.
And he gives back the answer:
     ‘Babylon has fallen, has fallen!
All the images of its gods
      lie shattered on the ground!’”
10 O my people, crushed on the threshing floor,
     I tell you what I have heard
from the LORD Almighty,
     from the God of Israel. (NIV)

The watchman, of course, is Isaiah himself—who but a prophet of God could stand watch for an event in the distant future and yet report about it in the present? He has heard the message, and he delivers it to us: Babylon has fallen! In God’s eyes, this is so certain it can be reported as having taken place even though it is still in the future.

In his vision of the end of time, John reports hearing almost the same words: “‘Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great! She has become a home for demons and a haunt for every evil spirit, a haunt for every unclean and detestable bird.’” Revelation 18:2. The greatness of Babylon will be reduced down to nothing at all. Isaiah points to its false religion falling to the earth; John points to its sacred places being desecrated by unclean animals. The two parallel thoughts are eight hundred years apart in time; but both mean comfort for God’s people. Our God is the Lord Almighty. He is the same God from one end of the Bible to the other. He is the Savior who has forgiven our sins. Our God has kept his promises, and he shall reign for ever and ever.

1 M.S. Seale, The Desert Bible (Wiedenfeld and Nicolson, 1974) p. 97; quoted in J. Alec Motyer Isaiah (IVP, 1999) p. 147.

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.

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