The Lord is exalted, for he dwells on high; he will fill Zion with his justice and righteousness. He will be the sure foundation for your times, a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge; the fear of the Lord is the key to this treasure. Look, their brave men cry aloud in the streets; the envoys of peace weep bitterly. The highways are deserted, no travelers are on the roads. The treaty is broken, its witnesses are despised, no one is respected. The land dries up and wastes away, Lebanon is ashamed and withers; Sharon is like the Arabah, and Bashan and Carmel drop their leaves. “Now will I arise,” says the Lord . “Now will I be exalted; now will I be lifted up. You conceive chaff, you give birth to straw; your breath is a fire that consumes you. The peoples will be burned to ashes; like cut thornbushes they will be set ablaze.” – Isaiah 33:5-12
Well this is a passage right out of the newspapers and web pages across the world at the moment, or perhaps in a year or two when the Middle East really gets messy. It seems we hear every day of Syria, Jordan, or Lebanon and the conflict that is happening there. In this passage God reminds the Israelites that it is He that will fill Zion with justice and righteousness.
No matter how successful or affluent Israel becomes if the justice and righteousness they seek does not come from God it will probably not satisfy or last. If they put their trust in God He “will be the sure foundation for your times, a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge.” I am sure there are many in modern day Israel who have heeded these words in Isaiah and placed God at the center of their lives, but there are also those who have placed their trust in either themselves or the products of their own hands.
The Jewish inhabitants of Israel here in Isaiah, and in Modern Israel, are not alone in this habit of misplacing priorities and unhealthy posture. Many followers of the Way of Christ, myself included, often choose to place their trust in people and things other than God. We build our foundation on what we think is stable ground only to find that when winds blow and storms arrive we find our “house” shifting on its foundation. I suspect there are many people in the Middle East today that feel as though the “foundation” of their “house” is shifting and unstable.
The “brave men cry aloud in the streets; the envoys of peace weep bitterly”. The leaders apparently know that something is not right and are shedding tears of the oppressed, samples of their souls. What do these tears tell us about these envoys of peace? Perhaps they are looking in the wrong place for the peace that they seek. They are envoys of peace, but perhaps not a peace that comes from the Prince of Peace.
The “treaty is broken, its witnesses are despised, no one is respected”. Wow that certainly sounds like it could be a current news story describing the recent discussion and debate around trying to make a nuclear agreement with Iran or Peace with the Palestinians. I think God is trying to remind all those who read this passage that all treaties and agreements between people actually have a third party, God.
I reflected on this concept in a post called “Steadfast Spirit” from Psalm 51:1-12. In that post I wrote: “All the sins for which we need to be washed clean are ultimately against God, not the people we commit those sins against”. I think this applies to both people and nations. We can create all the organizations, alliances, and treaties we want, but unless our efforts include God, and the peace and quiet confidence that come from Him, we will “conceive chaff”, “give birth to straw”, and our “breath” will be “a fire that consumes”. The very efforts we put toward peace will inflame more conflict. Sounds eerily familiar doesn’t it?
Prayer: God You are the Prince of Peace in whom lasting peace is found. Help us to acknowledge that all conflicts here on earth represent a failure to passionately pursue Your peace.