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God’s Word for You

Isaiah 34:8-17

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Wednesday, April 16, 2008

8 For the LORD has a day of vengeance,
     a year of retribution, to uphold Zion’s cause.
9 Edom’s streams will be turned into pitch,
     her dust into burning sulfur;
     her land will become blazing pitch!
10 It will not be quenched night and day;
     its smoke will rise forever.
From generation to generation it will lie desolate;
     no one will ever pass through it again.
11 The desert owl and screech owl will possess it;
     the great owl and the raven will nest there.
God will stretch out over Edom
     the measuring line of chaos
     and the plumb line of desolation.

As we run down to the end of chapter 34, we see God’s grip closing in around his enemies. The reliable becomes chaotic. The living river becomes dead ooze. The fertile land we see turning to a wasteland. We see darkness. Edom (pinch-hitting for all God’s enemies) is surrounded by it. This is a darkness that closes in around all unbelievers in the end. Even the raven calls to mind blackness (Song of Solomon 5:11), as does the unseen screech of the owl (Micah 1:8).

When God measured or evaluated his creation in the beginning, it measured up in every way. God himself was able to look at what he had made and say “It is good.” Now the measuring line across the land of the unbeliever tells us that there is no longer God’s plan and perfection. There is now chaos. In fact, the words the NIV translates with chaos and desolation are the very words from Genesis 1:2, formless and empty. Judgment Day will see the world unmade, rolled up, and returned to what it was. The unbeliever has that in store: chaos, desolation, and a complete lack of God’s blessing and providence.

12 Her nobles will have nothing there to be called a kingdom,
     all her princes will vanish away.
13 Thorns will overrun her citadels,
     nettles and brambles her strongholds.
She will become a haunt for jackals,
     a home for owls.
14 Desert creatures will meet with hyenas,
     and wild goats will bleat to each other;
there the night creatures will also repose
     and find for themselves places of rest.
15 The owl will nest there and lay eggs,
     she will hatch them, and care for her young under the shadow of her wings;
there also the falcons will gather,
     each with its mate.

In verse 14, the Hebrew words for “wild goats” and “night creatures” are sometimes associated with demons in later Jewish myths. The word sa’ir (NIV wild goat) may be the goatlilke satyr. Lilith (NIV night creature) was a Babylonian (not originally Jewish) female storm demon considered to be the ‘hag of the night,’ the original ‘nightmare.’ The misconception that she was Adam’s first wife (a Jewish myth) is a much more recent invention and is hardly worth commenting about.

The point of the passage is that for Edom—standing in for all who reject God—there will nothing left. All their wonderful cities and their whole kingdom will be ruins inhabited by night creatures, owls, or worse.

There is irony in verse 15, since these night creatures, the owl and falcon, will take care to protect their young in their nest, but the Edomites / unbelievers did no such thing, spiritually speaking.

16 Look in the scroll of the LORD and read:
None of these will be missing,
     not one will lack her mate.
For it is his mouth that has given the order,
     and his Spirit will gather them together.
17 He allots their portions;
     his hand distributes them by measure.
They will possess it forever
     and dwell there from generation to generation. (NIV)

God’s plan has not changed since the very beginning: the creatures have always had what God wanted them to have. Here in the picture of the judgment, the animals still do not “lack a mate.” God even showed this to Adam when he paraded the animals in front of him so that the man would understand that there was not yet a “suitable helper” (Genesis 2:19) for him, until God made Eve.

God has had a plan in mind for us all along. Jesus has rescued us from the black pitch and ooze, from the formlessness and chaos of eternity without God. Jesus has snatched us from the desolation, and Jesus himself has written our names in “the scroll of the Lord.”

God wants us to trust him; to rely on him. He wants us to understand that he provides for us. As we admit our sins and our mistrust and our doubt to him, he holds out his forgiveness to us, and he holds out heaven to us. He loves us. And through his Son Jesus, he has given us the forgiveness we need. In Jesus, we have the way to eternal life.

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.