The burden against the Wilderness of the Sea. As whirlwinds in the South pass through, so it comes from the desert, from a terrible land. A distressing vision is declared to me; the treacherous dealer deals treacherously, and the plunderer plunders. Go up, O Elam! Besiege, O Media! All its sighing I have made to cease. (Isaiah 21:1-2)
Isaiah chapter 21 lays out another prophecy against Babylon (the Wilderness of the Sea), the nation God would use to be the rod of correction to Judah, but also spelling out the future of Persia (Elam, Media), and Arabia (verse 13-17). Isaiah is prophesying that Media will overthrow the Babylonian Empire. This is an amazing prophecy since at the time that Isaiah wrote this (approx. 714 B. C.) the Medians were still nomads roaming through the desert.
Isaiah even gives a description of the scenario that will happen..
Prepare the table, set a watchman in the tower, eat and drink. Arise, you princes, anoint the shield! For thus has the Lord said to me: "Go, set a watchman, let him declare what he sees." (Isaiah 21:5-6).
The prophet Daniel, one of the men taken into captivity by the Babylonians, gives the account in Daniel chapter 5. The Persians has surrounded Babylon, but the walls were so thick that the Babylonians were confident they could never be penetrated. The Babylonian king Belshazzar was so confident, he threw a huge party! But while Belshazzar partied, Darius the Mede stopped up the river that ran under the walls, and the Persian army marched into Babylon. That very night Babylon fell.
But while this is very interesting stuff (yes I geek out on biblical prophecy), what is more interesting to me is comment Isaiah made in the middle of this word of the Lord:
Therefore my loins are filled with pain; Pangs have taken hold of me, like the pangs of a woman in labor. I was distressed when I heard it; I was dismayed when I saw it. My heart wavered, fearfulness frightened me; The night for which I longed He turned into fear for me. (Isaiah 21:3-4)
In other words, the vision that Isaiah was given of the fall of Babylon did not make him happy. Quite the opposite, it pained him deeply. Even though Isaiah may have longed for the time to come when God would punish the enemies of Israel, the people that would be so cruel to the people, and carry them into captivity for seventy years, the judgment of the Lord literally frightened him. "The night for which I longed He turned into fear for me.The night for which I longed He turned into fear for me."
And so it should. Read through the book of Revelation… the descriptions of what will befall this earth and the enemies of God are nothing short of terrifying. While on the one hand, Christians may long for the day that God will bring judgment to a world that has rejected Him and persecuted His people, when it actually happens, no one will be cheering. I don't know about you, but I would not want my worst enemy, or the most sadistic criminal, to have to experience the judgment that is coming.
And that brings it home for me. It helps me understand our mission as Christians:
While we're called to be holy, our mission isn't to see how holy we can become...
Even though God wants to bless us, our mission isn't to figure out how we can experience the most blessings in life...
Our mission is to rescue as many people as possible from the coming flood of judgment that God has appointed for those who reject Him.
Like Isaiah, we're the advance team, we have the word of the Lord, it will come to pass, so let's get busy telling people!
For thus has the Lord said to me: "Go, set a watchman, let him declare what he sees." (Isaiah 21:6)