Salvation in Isaiah 22
We remarked last week that the work of the prophet is the most difficult of all tasks. Isaiah was one of those men charged with being a channel of God’s word to His people. He had to tell them the truth! He had to tell them things that they did not want to hear. He had to warn them of judgment to come. He had to be scared himself before he could communicate the awesome and scary words of the Lord their God.
This evening we find him in the Valley of Vision.
The Valley of Vision is a place where the prophet Isaiah went to sit and meditate. We have many beautiful spots in this area where we live; some of the most pleasant are green wooded valleys, with a little stream running through the bottom. There are places to sit and rest and be quiet – but most of all to think and meditate.
Most Bible students and commentators consider Jerusalem, the beautiful city and capital of Judah, to be the Valley of Vision. It is not so much for the geographical features of Jerusalem; for it is a city set on a hill, but surrounded by many mountains, giving it the status of being high yet also in a valley. God had appeared in a vision to Isaiah and other prophets before him at Jerusalem. The city and its Jewish inhabitants had been well favoured over the centuries because God had given the people SIGHT – VISION. He had revealed Himself and His will to them. Through the years He had led His people by Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He was with them in Egypt from Joseph to Moses. He had brought them out of slavery and provided laws for living and worship for them. He had brought them into Canaan and established them in their own land. And He had given them this city – Jerusalem. And through all of this experience God had constantly visited them to give them sight – a vision that had provided them with HOPE!
What is this vision that kept the Jews going that was to be repeatedly announced to them?
It was a vision of a worldwide Kingdom under IMMANUEL, the promised King of David’s family line. And the vision projected them to the very end of time – to the NEW JERUSALEM.
The Jews were – and we who are Christians, the spiritual Israel and successors to the promises – are people who live in the valley of vision!
Isaiah had a specific section of the vision to tell his people in this chapter. It is in two parts.
1. The Invasion of Judah and Jerusalem by the Assyrians. Verse 1 – 14.
2. The Removal of an officer of Hezekiah’s court and his replacement by another. Verse 15 – 25.
You may think that these events are unrelated. But 1 Kings 18 and 19 speak of the siege by the Assyrians; their attempts to get Hezekiah and his people to surrender, and the men involved in the negotiations – the two mentioned in the second part of the chapter. Let us think this evening about the first section –
1. The Invasion of Judah and Jerusalem by the Assyrians. Verse 1 – 14.
We can recall that Isaiah in the last few chapters has been announcing “Burdens” – oracles, messages, denouncements, against various countries associated with Judah. Ethiopia, Egypt, Edom, Moab and so on. Presumably he had uttered the burdens and then written them from the Jews city of Jerusalem.
But now it is Jerusalem’s turn to be warned and for Isaiah to have a burdensome message for her. She too is to be judged!
V1. The housetops were the flat roofs where the house owners might retire for sleep, lamenting or for worship – either of God or of idols. How do we know this?
Jeremiah 19 v 13 And the houses of Jerusalem, and the houses of the kings of Judah, shall be defiled as the place of Tophet, because of all the houses upon whose roofs they have burned incense unto all the host of heaven, and have poured out drink offerings unto other gods.
Perhaps now the people have gone up onto their housetops to observe the approaching army of Assyrians – but they have gone with a false confidence – believing themselves to be impregnable.
2. The city was a noisy place, stirred with all kinds of activities. The people will be slain – not by a sword – but by the treading down of the Lord – actually many would die through the famine caused by the siege. But it was the consequence of the rejection of God.
3. Those who lead and defend the people in the city of Jerusalem will fail them – will seek to escape, but will be captured. This is a prophecy concerning the later siege of the Chaldeans when Zedekiah was captured by Nebuchadnezzar. This shows that Isaiah is looking through a long telescope and predicts the events of 2 attacks on Jerusalem – Assyrian – which God dealt with miraculously, and the Babylonian that resulted in the captivity.
4. Isaiah inserts a personal note – this vision moves him to weep and lament – here are his words!
5. When the Lord moves in judgment the people will not know what to do in the midst of their confusion. They will cry to the mountains – we have heard that before – 3 texts come to mind –
Hosea 10 v 8 The high places also of Aven, the sin of Israel, shall be destroyed: the thorn and the thistle shall come up on their altars; and they shall say to the mountains, Cover us; and to the hills, Fall on us.
Luke 23 v 30 Then shall they begin to say to the mountains, Fall on us; and to the hills, Cover us.
Revelation 6 v 16 And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb:
6. Now Isaiah looks even further ahead and sees the overthrow of the invaders! Elam and Kir are names for the Medes and Persians who brought Babylon’s downfall.
The phrase uncovering the shield here means the removal of the cover of a shield ready for battle.
7. A picture of foreign invaders occupying the approaches to the city.
8. This is a sad verse since it describes the withdrawal of Jehovah from his people and the protection of the city of Jerusalem. We remember how the Lord has protected His people down the centuries – a covering of a cloud in the day and a fire in the night – coverings! Now the Lord God removes them! The symbol of His presence – gone! How sad. History records that God covered His people and Jerusalem during Sennacherib’s siege; but it was removed when Nebuchadnezzar came!
9 – 11. Efforts would be made to provide for protection in the siege. Houses would be demolished so that stones could be used to build a second wall and repair the breaches in the wall. A moat was to be constructed between the walls as water storage tanks. But Isaiah tells them their preparations would come too late for them to be saved. The people’s mistake was they looked to themselves and not to the Lord. He was the source of protection and deliverance. If they turned away from Him, He had promised to determine their destruction – Deuteronomy 28.
12. Having said all this about what God had revealed a final warning is issued – God calls for weeping – mourning – baldness – and dressing up in sackcloth.
Weeping over sins of idolatry and leaving God out of their lives.
Mourning over the lost opportunities to love and serve the Lord God; mourning that they had brought this disaster on themselves.
Baldness – shaving of the head in contrition.
Wearing sackcloth – humbling themselves in mournful sorrow for sin – a sign of repentance. Isaiah calls the people to do this. The people of Nineveh did it when Jonah preached judgement to them – why could God’s people not do the same? All of these actions would have demonstrated contrition of spirit. Jesus said “Blessed are they that mourn – for they shall be comforted”. Jesus meant mourning over sin. Sadness and grief felt by the soul that sins and offends God. Do you mourn over your sins? Do you weep about your offences towards God? Are you affected emotionally when you sin or fall into sin? Are you prepared tonight my friend to humble yourself beneath the mighty hand of God who has power to snuff out your life at a moment’s notice? Repentance always involves sorrow for sin – grief that we have broken God’s laws – a conscience stricken by the pain of guilt. This is the hardest part of becoming a Christian – to admit your sin; to turn from your sin and to be humbly sorry for your sin. And because, “sorry means not doing it again” then sorrow must bring about a deep change in the soul. Is this your experience?
So – did the inhabitants of Jerusalem repent and turn? Perhaps we need to ask the question in a different way because this is a prophecy from the Valley of Vision and the lips and pen of Isaiah – WILL the people of Jerusalem repent and turn? See what Isaiah says –
13. Instead of repentance – joy and gladness! Preparing a feast as if nothing was happening. Drinking wine to make the heart glad rather than seek the Lord in humble sorrow! This would be their attitude –
let us eat and drink; for to morrow we shall die.
It was not as if they felt any pleasure at the thought of death – but it indicates a love of life which scoffs at death! When religion collapses it opens the way for sensual dissipation and revelry.
My friends – is not this that we see happening in our land and nation today? Religion has all but been abandoned. What is there in its place? An attempt by people to make sense of life. But they have no point of reference. Moral absolutes have been waived and hope of eternity all gone.
Let us eat and drink; for to morrow we shall die.
When you are dead you are dead they say. We might as well live life to the full – while we have got it – for there is nothing else! This is the prevailing “enjoy yourself” philosophy.
How short sighted such thinking is! And the truth of the Gospel of grace through the death and sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ, God’s son, is still the same as it has ever been. The Gospel has not changed – but men and women have!
God has provided a way for people to be released from the siege of sin. They can be released from the deprivation of sin’s oppression which has them in its grip. They do not have to build walls of resistance against this enemy – or build water tanks to keep them alive. There is one who has come to deal effectively and finally with the enemy of souls. This One is a King. He has Kingly qualities – Kingly dignity – Kingly power – and the love of a King for His subjects.
This King’s name is Jesus Christ – and he sent his messengers long ago to announce His coming – Isaiah was one of them. He promised to save His people from their sins – that is the meaning of His name. Jehovah saves. He is God Himself. He has come to bring hope beyond the grave. How can He do that?
Because He, the Son of God, went through death, paying for the sins of many – and on the other side of death rose again – raised by a miraculous power unheard of before. All who believe in him and trust in him will also rise again. Instead of “eat and drink for tomorrow we die”, the believer can say – repent, believe and serve the Lord – for tomorrow we die – and then rise again to live for ever! What a wonderful promise! Isaiah prophecies the beginning of the process with his warning in verse 12 – first there must be of necessity – the weeping over sin and the mourning over the breakages of God’s law. But after that there is joy and gladness in serving the King who is a kind and generous Master. Oh my friend – is he your saviour tonight? Will you think seriously about your soul tonight?
Will you consider the merits and the work of the man Christ Jesus – who is God and who came to saves sinners like us?
We who are Christians have a glorious hope beyond the grave – tell me – what hope do you have if you still have sin to be accounted for when you meet the Lord God?
Believers do not fear the meeting with the Lord at the judgment day. We have the confidence to say to God, “Thy son died for me – He paid my penalty – His blood has washed me clean.” But are you fearful because you do not know of Christ’s forgiveness and pardon?
My friends we live in a valley of vision. We have the Bible, the Word of God. There is a plan for God’s people through time and eternity and it is made vivid to us through the Holy Spirit. There is a sense that we are more fortunate than the people of Jerusalem. Even between the sieges of Sennacherib and Nebuchadnezzar they only had Isaiah’s word for it. They could and did reject the rantings of a prophet who rarely had anything good to say to them.
Now we have the complete record of the Word of God in our hands – freely available and in a language that we can understand. We are therefore fools but also irresponsible if we ignore the offer of eternal life that is made to us form the Living God!
Verse 14 of Isaiah 22 has a final and serious warning to those who refuse to trust the living Lord God.
14 And it was revealed in mine ears by the LORD of hosts, Surely this iniquity shall not be purged from you till ye die, saith the Lord GOD of hosts.
There is an unpardonable sin which any unsaved sinner can commit. It is to die without your sins forgiven. It is to appear before God the judge with sin still in your account. If you die an unsaved sinner then there is no forgiveness beyond the grave. Forgiveness for sins is only available in this life that you are living now! Be warned my friend – you must repent of your sins and turn to trust in Jesus Christ. If you don’t – and you die tonight you will be lost forever – how tragic that would be! Don’t go any further tonight before you have repented humbly, and asked God to forgive you all your sins.
Jesus said All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out. John 6 v 37