Isaiah 17
Expositor's Dictionary of Texts
The burden of Damascus. Behold, Damascus is taken away from being a city, and it shall be a ruinous heap.
Through the Material to the Spiritual

Isaiah 17:2

It will not appear to be so. Appearance, indeed, will be on the other side. But we are to judge by the harvest, by the end, and not by the appearances. Sometimes it would seem as if the devil reigned. He has everything his own way; he imagines evil, and brings his device to pass; and we say, 'Why should we trouble about God, and of what good is it to pray? He does not trouble us, He does not answer, He does not care for us.' But the Lord has never concealed from us the great fact that He judges everything by the end; He ripens evil, as well as good. God can only get at some people through the material; they have wasted the spiritual. He can make no impression upon them along the spiritual line; they have lost all their sensitiveness, they are past feeling, their conscience is seared as with a hot iron, and the withdrawal of His spiritual mercies would have no effect upon them.

I. God must come to us. He will come to us through the way of pain or loss or sorrow; He will take a long time to come, but He will come. It takes years to make some men think; it takes years to bring down the high looks of the haughty and to bring to nothing the devices that are multiplied against the Lord; but they will all come down. Do not judge by a moment of sunshine; the law has been made clear, it cannot alter: 'It shall be well with the righteous, and it shall be ill with the wicked'. The Lord causes the harvest to bud and to bring forth all manner of sweet miracles, and then at the last He looks at it in rebuke and withers it from the face of the earth, withers it whilst we are gathering it; we thrust in our sickle, and hew down sheaves of darkness and of poison.

II. Observe the reasonableness of this. Who is it that is offended? Who is it that is forgotten? The Giver, the Father, the Servant of all. What can happen but death? We cannot be living within a scheme of things which we did not set up, and we cannot adapt that scheme to our ways and our wishes without coming upon the Maker, the Contriver of it all. We are born into a scheme of things; we are not sent into the world to reconstruct it; great laws were here before we were; we found them out, discovered them, burnt our fingers in going too near them, and therefore we cannot ignore these laws without coming upon penalty, suffering, rebuke. Being sent into a scheme of things, our wisdom is in finding out how it begins, proceeds, how it develops, how it grows, and our great business in life is to lie alongside of these forces, and not to oppose them, but to obey them, and thus discover and glorify the will of God.

III. On the ground of mere reason, I hold that the Christian argument is a sound argument. It answers more questions than any other scheme of life; it lulls more anxieties, it brings more consolations, it goes further than any scheme of things can go into the great unseen and grand immeasurable. I ask you, therefore, to ground yourselves upon God's will, and take of life as it comes, with all simplicity of love and completeness of obedience and all-believing faith. If you would have peace, you can have it in that way; you can have it in no other way. The law is equal, it is equal on both sides, it cannot be trifled with; if it is severe on the one side, it is gentle on the other. The same holds good with regard to the law of mercy and peace, that everywhere that great law is operating in favour of those who are in sympathy with it, and who long to carry out all its meaning and enjoy all its rewards.

—Joseph Parker, City Temple Pulpit, vol. vi. p. 157.

References.—XVI. 1.—J. M. Neale, Sermons on the Prophets, vol. i. pp. 35, 46. XVII. 10, 11.—A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture, p. 76.

The cities of Aroer are forsaken: they shall be for flocks, which shall lie down, and none shall make them afraid.
The fortress also shall cease from Ephraim, and the kingdom from Damascus, and the remnant of Syria: they shall be as the glory of the children of Israel, saith the LORD of hosts.
And in that day it shall come to pass, that the glory of Jacob shall be made thin, and the fatness of his flesh shall wax lean.
And it shall be as when the harvestman gathereth the corn, and reapeth the ears with his arm; and it shall be as he that gathereth ears in the valley of Rephaim.
Yet gleaning grapes shall be left in it, as the shaking of an olive tree, two or three berries in the top of the uppermost bough, four or five in the outmost fruitful branches thereof, saith the LORD God of Israel.
At that day shall a man look to his Maker, and his eyes shall have respect to the Holy One of Israel.
And he shall not look to the altars, the work of his hands, neither shall respect that which his fingers have made, either the groves, or the images.
In that day shall his strong cities be as a forsaken bough, and an uppermost branch, which they left because of the children of Israel: and there shall be desolation.
Because thou hast forgotten the God of thy salvation, and hast not been mindful of the rock of thy strength, therefore shalt thou plant pleasant plants, and shalt set it with strange slips:
In the day shalt thou make thy plant to grow, and in the morning shalt thou make thy seed to flourish: but the harvest shall be a heap in the day of grief and of desperate sorrow.
Woe to the multitude of many people, which make a noise like the noise of the seas; and to the rushing of nations, that make a rushing like the rushing of mighty waters!
The nations shall rush like the rushing of many waters: but God shall rebuke them, and they shall flee far off, and shall be chased as the chaff of the mountains before the wind, and like a rolling thing before the whirlwind.
And behold at eveningtide trouble; and before the morning he is not. This is the portion of them that spoil us, and the lot of them that rob us.
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