Salvation in Isaiah 18
Ethiopia is one of the oldest independent countries in Africa and one of the oldest in the world being mentioned 20 times in the Old Testament. First mention Genesis 2 v 13
And the name of the second river is Gihon: the same is it that compasseth the whole land of Ethiopia.
The first verse of the book of Esther describing the extent of the kingdom of Ahasuerus
Now it came to pass in the days of Ahasuerus, (this is Ahasuerus which reigned, from India even unto Ethiopia, over an hundred and seven and twenty provinces:)
Vast regions were controlled by this Persian King.
Today Ethiopia's poverty-stricken economy is based on agriculture, which suffers from frequent drought and poor cultivation practices, and as many as 4.6 million people need food assistance annually. Coffee is critical to the Ethiopian economy and other important exports include live animals, hides, and gold. The war with Eritrea in 1999 – 2000 and recurrent drought have buffeted the economy, in particular coffee production. Under Ethiopia's land tenure system, the government owns all land and provides long-term leases to the tenants; despite this limitation, strong growth is expected to continue in the near term as good rainfall, the cessation of hostilities, and renewed foreign aid and debt relief push the economy forward.
Once Ethiopia was fabulously wealthy! In one of the oldest books of the Old Testament we read in Job 28 v 19
The topaz of Ethiopia shall not equal it, neither shall it be valued with pure gold.
Biblical Ethiopia is the land of Cush which lies south of Egypt. The country is mostly desert but its lifeline in Biblical times lay in a narrow fertile strip of land along the Nile River in its southern stretches.
Ethiopia and Egypt are often associated together being neighbours. When the Egyptian leader Shishak invaded Jerusalem there were Ethiopian mercenary soldiers with the Egyptian army.
2 And it came to pass, that in the fifth year of king Rehoboam Shishak king of Egypt came up against Jerusalem, because they had transgressed against the LORD, 3 With twelve hundred chariots, and threescore thousand horsemen: and the people were without number that came with him out of Egypt; the Lubims, the Sukkiims, and the Ethiopians.
Now it would appear that Ethiopia knew some great days in her history. In fact she became so strong that in 715 BC she captured and occupied her neighbour Egypt at the same time that Assyria was threatening Judah and Jerusalem. And it was then that Ethiopia, strong though she was, began to fear the Assyrians.
1. WOE TO ETHIOPIA. v1
Isaiah describes her as a far off nation first of all. Geographically, from Isaiah’s perspective, Ethiopia was way off, beyond the rivers – the White and the Blue Nile – in the deep south beyond Egypt and even Northern Ethiopia. But it is also a nation of shadowing wings – the original Hebrew has the idea of rustling, buzzing or whirring wings. The wings are the wings of insects – and I am told that there are many insects in Ethiopia – in particular there are locusts and tsetse flies. These nasty little flies carry sleeping sickness which is dangerous to humans and animals even today. The land was known for the insects – a little like the west of Scotland from July to September – midges!
But because they were so many Isaiah is using them as a figure of the multitudes of soldiers that Ethiopia could muster at this time. To this nation and country Isaiah announces a message from God – “Woe to Ethiopia.”
2. WARNING TO THE WORLD.
Verse 2 – 3. Isaiah tells us that ambassadors are sent up the Nile River and across to the ports of Judah. They come in their papyrus ships which were very suitable for rivers or canals but not for the sea. Yet they came – but why did they come? Perhaps they were seeking to ally themselves with Judah against the Assyrians. They may have thought that it was a good idea to team up with other nations under threat from Assyria the cruel.
What we hear from Isaiah is interesting – God has everything under control! Go home and be quiet – there is no need to become excited. Return to your own tall, smooth skinned people who themselves are able to mete out and tread down, even though for 5 centuries the Ethiopians had been meted out and trodden down by the Egyptians. The boot was now on the other foot.
But in verse 3, having instructed the Ethiopians, Isaiah now calls on the world to listen to his message. The metaphorical language is similar to what we saw 2 months ago in chapter 11 – a flag or ensign was lifted up on the hills of Judah signalling that God was about to judge – a trumpet would sound and the heathen would be repelled. Let the peoples of the nations see and hear. The Lord God almighty, Jehovah is going to act and his action will serve as a rallying point for those who worship Him and as a warning and a judgement for those who do not. So warning is issued.
3. WARRIORS ARE WASTED.
Verses 4 – 6, here are Jehovah’s words through the prophet to the world. The world seemed to be in upheaval with the threat of the Assyrians to many nations. Yet the Lord God declares His calm control of world affairs. “I will take my rest.” This is not a statement of indifference or inaction on God’s part – rather it is His absolute sovereignty in the affairs of all men, unbelievers as well as believers. He sees from heaven what is going on and He is allowing the time of judgment to mature.
Verse 5 – before the Assyrians have gathered in and stored the harvest of their invasion (another metaphor) God will act! It will be before the harvest. When the time is right God will destroy the enemy that threatens the world.
I find this prophecy very comforting at this point and maybe we as believers can all do the same. The current world scene has the capacity to cause us to fear. Suicide bombings in other countries may not be far away from us here in Britain. Do we have the confidence that God the sovereign Lord is in control? As we look at this history in Isaiah the answer must be yes – God is in control and anything that men do of this nature is within God’s permissive will. He will deal with the terrorists.
All the nations are called upon to observe the judgement about to be meted out on Assyria – by Jehovah.
Verse 6 describes what will happen – vultures and other carrion birds will swoop down to devour the bodies of the slain Assyrian army; wild beasts will have their pick too – to feed on them in summer and winter too. The Assyrian had boast of his greatness – he had said that he would take Jerusalem with as much ease as he had taken the other cities of Samaria and Damascus. But Assyria failed to realise that Jehovah was a real God, not some idol in a tiny shrine. God was bigger, much bigger than that! He would act according to His will, not the will of the Assyrians.
Are we able to see world affairs like this? We fear because of some terrible disaster coming about like another world war – but everything is under God’s control – God is our refuge and strength – do we believe it?
Be still then and know that He is God!
4. ETHIOPIA’S GRATEFUL WORSHIP.
Verse 7 – The ultimate outcome will be the glory of God. The nation of Ethiopia will send a grateful present to the Lord of Hosts – and the place to take that grateful present was to Zion, to Jerusalem – the place of the Name of the Lord of Hosts. What an element of the prophecy this is. The Ethiopians will be so in awe of the mighty power of Jehovah; will be so convinced that indeed it was He who overcame their vast army of 185,000 soldiers killed in a single act at the very gates of Jerusalem; that they will come and send a present to God! Centuries earlier King David had said this in Psalm 68 v 31
Princes shall come out of Egypt; Ethiopia shall soon stretch out her hands unto God.
Jehovah’s destruction of the wicked and His gracious goodness to His own people, will so impress those from the far away places like Ethiopia, that they will bring their gifts to His throne.
So reads the 7th verse of Isaiah 18 from the historic point of view.
But before we leave the chapter let us notice one more thing.
Verse 4 says this
For so the LORD said unto me, I will take my rest, and I will consider in my dwelling place like a clear heat upon herbs, and like a cloud of dew in the heat of harvest.
God says that He himself will come to deal with the enemies of His people, to rescue them when they most needed Him. He promised to take up his rest and dwelling amongst them and refresh and protect them.
My friends, is not this what our saviour did when He came in the flesh?
John 1 v 14 And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.
He was the One who came at the right time –
Galatians 4 v 4 But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law,
And the Lord Jesus Christ is the One, the same One, Jehovah, who came into the world to save sinners –
Philippians 2 v 6 Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: 7 But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: 8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.
Hebrews 2 v 14 Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; 15 And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. 16 For verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham. 17 Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people.
He came to us – He came to His own people. He saw us attacked by the armies of Satan, those hordes of sins that threatened to attack and consign us to a lost eternity in everlasting hell and judgement. And he came to stand between us and the enemy, destroying the enemy for us.
The Jewish people understood this – but they understood it in a far too literal way – that the Messiah would come as a conquering King with a mighty army. Whereas the King came in weakness as a baby; grew in meekness as a man and ministered in humility as the sovereign saviour; ultimately dying on a cross. This was not the way that people thought it should happen!
The eunuch from Ethiopia did not think that was how it should happen either. He was returning very disappointed from worship in Jerusalem. As he journeyed he read the prophet Isaiah and wondered who the suffering servant of Isaiah 53 could be –
Isaiah 53 v 2 For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him. 3 He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. 4 Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. 5 But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. 6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. 7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth. 8 He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken.
How gracious of the Lord God to send Philip to explain it to him. And we know the rest of the account – conversion – baptism and rejoicing in sins forgiven.
Suffering was the Lord’s plan to thwart the enemy and bring Him down. And then to take up residence amongst His people by His Spirit. What a wonder this is to be able to see it!
Can you see it tonight my friend?
We thought earlier of Woe to Ethiopia – but to any without a relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ it is woe to you!
Woe is coming because your soul will be lost without Christ.
Woe to you because it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God and not to be forgiven.
Woe to you because you tonight have had the opportunity to consider the Lord Jesus Christ and salvation through Him – but you may leave here and do nothing about it!
Woe to you if you do not repent of your sins – turn from them – turn to the Lord God and seek His mercy and forgiveness.
Woe to you if you do not have trust in Jesus Christ alone to save you from the awfulness of hell to come!
We thought also of a WARNING TO THE WORLD. Jesus issued many warnings in His ministry
Luke 13 v 1 There were present at that season some that told him of the Galilaeans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. 2 And Jesus answering said unto them, Suppose ye that these Galilaeans were sinners above all the Galilaeans, because they suffered such things? 3 I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish. 4 Or those eighteen, upon whom the tower in Siloam fell, and slew them, think ye that they were sinners above all men that dwelt in Jerusalem? 5 I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.
He explained, using two incidents, that no one is more guilty than another in God’s sight – all are condemned no matter how few or how many sins they have committed. The important words are in v 3 and v 5
Repentance and faith lead to life.
Oh my friend – listen to the words of warning from the Lord Jesus Christ – “unless ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish”.
He calls you to consider your sinful ways, and turn from them. And then to trust Him to save you.
So then you may become a true worshipper and present a sacrifice of praise to Him your saviour.
May He grant that to each one tonight – and may we know the blessings of the present –
Jude 1 v 24 Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, 25 To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen.