In that day, the Lord will punish with his sword— his fierce, great and powerful sword— Leviathan the gliding serpent, Leviathan the coiling serpent; he will slay the monster of the sea. In that day— “Sing about a fruitful vineyard: I, the Lord , watch over it; I water it continually. I guard it day and night so that no one may harm it. I am not angry. If only there were briers and thorns confronting me! I would march against them in battle; I would set them all on fire. Or else let them come to me for refuge; let them make peace with me, yes, let them make peace with me.” In days to come Jacob will take root, Israel will bud and blossom and fill all the world with fruit. Has the Lord struck her as he struck down those who struck her? Has she been killed as those were killed who killed her? By warfare and exile you contend with her— with his fierce blast he drives her out, as on a day the east wind blows. By this, then, will Jacob’s guilt be atoned for, and this will be the full fruit of the removal of his sin: When he makes all the altar stones to be like limestone crushed to pieces, no Asherah poles or incense altars will be left standing. The fortified city stands desolate, an abandoned settlement, forsaken like the wilderness; there the calves graze, there they lie down; they strip its branches bare. When its twigs are dry, they are broken off and women come and make fires with them. For this is a people without understanding; so their Maker has no compassion on them, and their Creator shows them no favor. In that day the Lord will thresh from the flowing Euphrates to the Wadi of Egypt, and you, Israel, will be gathered up one by one. And in that day a great trumpet will sound. Those who were perishing in Assyria and those who were exiled in Egypt will come and worship the Lord on the holy mountain in Jerusalem. – Isaiah 27:1-13
This is a funny bit of water. I took an extra day to chew on it. When rafting a river for the first time it is common to scout rapids to make sure that when you float the rapid you choose the best line. At some point one has to put their boat in the water and run the rapid — so here goes.
The mysterious beast from Job, Leviathan, returns in this passage. I am left with many of the same questions I had back in Job. Who or what is the Leviathan? Is it meant as a metaphor for something or someone? If so who or what? Back in Job the only sense I could make of Leviathan was that it was a metaphorical monster that represented the big and scary things of this world that will assail us.
As I read this passage another possibility occurs to me. What if “Leviathan” is a metaphor for all the scary and difficult spiritual demons that try to keep us from faithfully following God? Following this metaphor the “sea” would be the spiritual realm that our souls inhabit while our physical bodies make their way in this land of oblivion here on earth. We all have “sea monsters” that dwell in the “sea” which we are struggling to navigate. Thankfully God makes it clear that He will slay Leviathan. We need only allow Him the room to do so in our lives.
I am reminded of a somewhat bizarre and quirky movie that came out in the early 1990’s with Robin Williams and Jeff Bridges called “The Fisher King”. In the movie Jeff Bridge’s character is a radio personality who made a fatal mistake on the air and Robin Williams is a history professor who has become homeless and mentally unstable as a result of the same traumatic event.
I am pretty sure that the makers of this movie did not set out to create an allegory for our spiritual lives, but the “demon” that Robin William’s character faces is very much like the Leviathan. The resolution of the movie is far from spiritual with Jeff Bridges and Robin Williams laying naked in central park looking up at the clouds. Perhaps they would have both been better off if they had looked toward the “cloud” that showed up in Jerusalem to shelter us from storms and set us free from demons like the ones they encountered.
God wants to be there to slay our “Leviathans”. He continues in this passage to say: “Sing about a fruitful vineyard: I, the Lord , watch over it; I water it continually. I guard it day and night so that no one may harm it. I am not angry. If only there were briers and thorns confronting me! I would march against them in battle; I would set them all on fire. Or else let them come to me for refuge; let them make peace with me, yes, let them make peace with me.” We are His vineyard that he waters and cares for so that we can bear good fruit. God just wants us to make peace with Him. He wants to settle the matter.
God also makes it clear that He is not the only one who should be working to slay Leviathans. We have to do our part by cleaning up the idols and things in our lives that keep us from Him: “By this, then, will Jacob’s guilt be atoned for, and this will be the full fruit of the removal of his sin: When he makes all the altar stones to be like limestone crushed to pieces, no Asherah poles or incense altars will be left standing”. We need to be busy crushing false altars and splintering “Asherah poles” that are unique to each one of us.
God is willing to “go to bat” for us, and He did so in an amazing way when He came to earth and died on a cross for us, but we must also take responsibility to bear good fruit and accept the water supply He offers.
Prayer: God help us to both accept Your help in overcoming spiritual “demons” and take an active role in removing distracting idols that keep us from You.