Chapters 34 and 35 portray the great contrast between those who oppose the Lord and those who trust the Lord to forgive their sin and save them for His glory. Chapter 34 speaks graphically about judgment on His opposition.
Judah should always hear Isaiah’s preaching for what personal interest that preaching holds, but the immediate audience in Isaiah 34 is Edom. The nations must “draw near, hear, and listen” (34:1). None is exempt (See Luke 6:46-49). God’s wrath is so certain that Isaiah can speak of destruction as an already accomplished fact (34:2) and in graphic terms that depict the horrible reality to come (34:3). The Day of the Lord will be total in its compass and sweeping in its effect (34:4). God is a Warrior and has “devoted” enemies to destruction (34:5), referring to God reclaiming every life and everything for Himself (Joshua 6:17). Edom will suffer this “ban” (34:6-7).
The Lord will judge the nations for the sake of His honor and the cause of the faithful remnant. Edom will receive “recompense” for all it did to Israel (34:8). Brimstone is sulfur, particularly pungent and noxious when burning. Fire is the means and desolation the result (34:9-10a). The modern mind thinks of “forever and ever” as time with no possibility of interruption or alteration (34:10b). Hebrew thinking is somewhat different. “Forever” to the Hebrew mind meant “as long as the circumstances remain unchanged,” so read verse 10 as a powerful image in a heightened poetic sense, not as chronological narrative. For instance, poetry can speak of a land of burning sulfur where animal life, but not human life, can exist (34:11). Edom will lose its leadership (34:12), and the land will grow as wild as its wildlife (34:13-15). This scene of judgment is as unwholesome and sinister as Isaiah’s poetry can paint it.
Both judgment for God’s foes and deliverance for His remnant are affirmed. The book referenced in 34:16 is unclear, but the quote from it is clear enough: Every promise God made concerning judgment and deliverance will be accomplished. God has spoken and His Spirit has begun this work (34:16-17). Until the Day of the Lord comes it is the responsibility of the faithful remnant not to gloat over promised deliverance but to declare the supremacy of God over every nation in hopes that the nations will repent and return to Him.
Dr. David Moore is a Baptist preacher in Pampa and an online instructor in Bible and theology for Taylor University and Nations University. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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