I read it days ago for my reading plan, but I find myself returning again and again to Isaiah 30. Terrifying. Sobering. Challenging. Encouraging. Beautiful. So many things in a scattering of verses. I’ve been tempted to tear loose the more beautiful, warmer parts in the middle and the tail-end, but everything must and needs to be taken in – from the sweeter fragrance of mercy unearned to the stink of the sulfur. This is such a stunning moment in Isaiah’s prophecy, in all of God’s Word. A whiplash of a journey that just brings you to your knees for so many reasons – for repentance, for praise, for commissioning…
1″Ah, stubborn children,” declares the LORD, “who carry out a plan, but not mine,and who make an alliance, but not of my Spirit,
that they may add sin to sin;
2 who set out to go down to Egypt,
without asking for my direction,
to take refuge in the protection of Pharaoh
and to seek shelter in the shadow of Egypt!
3 Therefore shall the protection of Pharaoh turn to your shame,
and the shelter in the shadow of Egypt to your humiliation.
4For though his officials are at Zoan
and his envoys reach Hanes,
5everyone comes to shame
through a people that cannot profit them,
that brings neither help nor profit,
but shame and disgrace.”
6An oracle on the beasts of the Negeb.
Through a land of trouble and anguish,
from where come the lioness and the lion,
the adder and the flying fiery serpent,
they carry their riches on the backs of donkeys,
and their treasures on the humps of camels,
to a people that cannot profit them.
7Egypt’s help is worthless and empty;
therefore I have called her
“Rahab who sits still.”
8And now, go, write it before them on a tablet
and inscribe it in a book,
that it may be for the time to come
as a witness forever.
9 For they are a rebellious people,
children unwilling to hear
the instruction of the LORD;
10 who say to the seers, “Do not see,”
and to the prophets, “Do not prophesy to us what is right;
speak to us smooth things,
11leave the way, turn aside from the path,
let us hear no more about the Holy One of Israel.”
12Therefore thus says the Holy One of Israel,”Because you despise this word
and trust in oppression and perverseness
and rely on them,
13therefore this iniquity shall be to you
like a breach in a high wall, bulging out, and about to collapse,
whose breaking comes suddenly, in an instant;
14and its breaking is like that of a potter’s vessel
that is smashed so ruthlessly
that among its fragments not a shard is found
with which to take fire from the hearth,
or to dip up water out of the cistern.”
15For thus said the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel,”In returning and rest you shall be saved;
in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.”
But you were unwilling, 16and you said,”No! We will flee upon horses”;
therefore you shall flee away;
and, “We will ride upon swift steeds”;
therefore your pursuers shall be swift.
17 A thousand shall flee at the threat of one;
at the threat of five you shall flee,
till you are left
like a flagstaff on the top of a mountain,
like a signal on a hill.
18Therefore the LORD waits to be gracious to you,
and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you.
For the LORD is a God of justice;
blessed are all those who wait for him.
19For a people shall dwell in Zion, in Jerusalem; you shall weep no more. He will surely be gracious to you at the sound of your cry. As soon as he hears it, he answers you. 20And though the Lord give you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet your Teacher will not hide himself anymore, but your eyes shall see your Teacher. 21 And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left. 22Then you will defile your carved idols overlaid with silver and your gold-plated metal images. You will scatter them as unclean things. You will say to them, “Be gone!”
23 And he will give rain for the seed with which you sow the ground, and bread, the produce of the ground, which will be rich and plenteous. In that day your livestock will graze in large pastures, 24and the oxen and the donkeys that work the ground will eat seasoned fodder, which has been winnowed with shovel and fork. 25And on every lofty mountain and every high hill there will be brooks running with water, in the day of the great slaughter, when the towers fall. 26 Moreover, the light of the moon will be as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun will be sevenfold, as the light of seven days, in the day when the LORD binds up the brokenness of his people, and heals the wounds inflicted by his blow.
27 Behold, the name of the LORD comes from afar,
burning with his anger, and in thick rising smoke;
his lips are full of fury,
and his tongue is like a devouring fire;
28 his breath is like an overflowing stream
that reaches up to the neck;
to sift the nations with the sieve of destruction,
and to place on the jaws of the peoples a bridle that leads astray.
29You shall have a song as in the night when a holy feast is kept, and gladness of heart, as when one sets out to the sound of the flute to go to the mountain of the LORD, to the Rock of Israel. 30And the LORD will cause his majestic voice to be heard and the descending blow of his arm to be seen, in furious anger and a flame of devouring fire, with a cloudburst and storm and hailstones. 31The Assyrians will be terror-stricken at the voice of the LORD, when he strikes with his rod. 32And every stroke of the appointed staff that the LORD lays on them will be to the sound of tambourines and lyres. Battling with brandished arm, he will fight with them. 33For a burning place has long been prepared; indeed, for the king it is made ready, its pyre made deep and wide, with fire and wood in abundance; the breath of the LORD, like a stream of sulfur, kindles it.