Before we go forward, I feel the need to go back a bit and establish a little of the historical context of the fall into exile for the people of Israel and Judah. The nation of Israel had been divided into two kingdoms; the Northern Kingdom of Israel and the Southern Kingdom of Judah. The holy city of Jerusalem was part of the Southern Kingdom, and the Southern Kingdom proved to be more militarily powerful than their neighbors to the north.
Isaiah began his ministry around the year 740 B.C. His prophecies encompassed both those living in the Northern and Southern kingdoms, as well as the neighboring/invading nations. Isaiah lived through the fall of the Northern Kingdom to Assyria around the year 722 B.C. By the time Israel fell, the people had undergone over 10 years of horrifically brutal physical and psychological warfare. Those who survived the final Assyrian onslaught were exiled to places far away, and Samaria was resettled by the Assyrians.
Witnessing the destruction of the Northern Kingdom, Isaiah turned his prophecies to the south, warning Judah of the same fate which awaited them if they did not change their ways. Although Isaiah wouldn’t live to see it, the Southern Kingdom of Judah fell to the Babylonian Empire around 586 B.C.–almost 200 years after Isaiah’s prophecies! The people of Judah lived in exile for about 50 years, until the fall of Babylon to Persia. At this time, the Jews were allowed to return to their homeland. However, they were still occupied by a foreign power and would remain an occupied nation for another thousand plus years.
I find it remarkable to read the ancient prophecies of Isaiah with the knowledge that the people and events Isaiah foretold did not come about for another 200 years. And yet, God had those plans set into place. He called king Cyrus by name, proclaiming him to be His “servant” long before there ever was a king Cyrus in the first place! (Biblical and historical scholars might disagree with me. I suppose this is the time when you read the fine print telling you that I have a MA in Christian Education, not Ancient Biblical History!)
Here’s the theological message I take from all of this. 1) God has a plan. 2) God has a very specific, detailed and organized plan. 3) God will follow through with His plan. 4) God will follow through with His plan in His time–not mine. 5) God will keep His promises.
Even though God’s anger burned against His people, His heart never truly left them. The book of Isaiah is filled with God’s promises of salvation and restoration. God knew His people would be sent away. But He also knew that He would bring them home once more. And if God had such a far-sighted and far-reaching plan of salvation so long ago, how can we not believe that He still has far-sighted and far-reaching plans of salvation today?
Surely, the arm of the LORD is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear… “This is my covenant,” says the LORD. “My Spirit, who is on you, and my words that I have put in your mouth will not depart from your mouth, or from the mouths of your children, or from the mouths of their descendants from this time on and forever. Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you.” Isaiah 59:1, 21; 60:1
Take some time in the next few days to think about where you are in your life. What are your hopes? Your dreams? Where are you waiting/wanting to see the saving hand of the Lord?
Blessings and Peace,