Wednesday, July 9, 2014

God Taunts The Empire (Isaiah 14)

After Isaiah warns Babylon of God’s coming judgment in the previous chapter, he speaks in the voice of God a taunt of the arrogant empire. In the middle of his mockery is a passage with which many Christians are very familiar.

Isaiah 14:12-14 (ESVUK)
“How you are fallen from heaven,
    O Day Star, son of Dawn!
How you are cut down to the ground,
    you who laid the nations low!
You said in your heart,
    ‘I will ascend to heaven;
above the stars of God
    I will set my throne on high;
I will sit on the mount of assembly
    in the far reaches of the north;
I will ascend above the heights of the clouds;
    I will make myself like the Most High.’

A verse used by Christians most often to describe Satan is used here to describe a king.

The arrogant ambition of the spirit of Antichrist is the same for all rebels against the Kingdom of God. The subject of this passage in Isaiah is often attributed to Lucifer, describing the desires of his heart before his fall from heaven. The temptation to all rebels is the same. The desire to become god of one's own world is common, though empty. All temples house illegitimate squatters in God's Creation, the temple of the Creator. We may seek our own power and satisfaction, and find ourselves chasing the wind to our own destruction, or we may lay down all our desires and seek the satisfaction found only in the all-powerful God, who made us and loves us and knows our needs better than we know ourselves. From the source of all life will we be made whole.

Isaiah 14:29 (ESVUK)
Rejoice not, O Philistia, all of you,
    that the rod that struck you is broken,
for from the serpent's root will come forth an adder,
    and its fruit will be a flying fiery serpent.

A rod is cast down, but is raised as a serpent. Isaiah is reminding us of Moses’ staff, cast down before Pharaoh, turned to a serpent as evidence of God’s authority. Isaiah therefore implies that Moses' staff was a threat to Pharaoh. A staff or rod represents authority. When Moses' rod is cast down, when the authority God has given him appears to be most humiliated, it will still rise and destroy the authority of the empire. Philistia is rejoicing that the authority of Israel has been thrown down. God promises to raise it back up as a serpent.

When we consider the image further, it reveals even more. The rod is raised as a fiery serpent. Though we are conditioned to usually think of serpents as evil, it does not appear to be so in this case. We are reminded again of Moses, who raised up a serpent in the wilderness as a symbol of healing for the people of Israel when they had been bitten by serpents with fiery venom. In John's third chapter, Jesus applies this image of the raised serpent to himself, telling Nicodemus the Pharisee that when he is raised up the same way, people will look to him and be born again from within.

Jesus' use of the passage about Moses and the raised serpent could also apply here. Though Philistia rejoices at the fall of Israel and Judah, God will raise them back up.

On the day of Jesus' return, the nation of Israel will, in Christ, have the final victory over Philistia and all other empires when the one who was raised on the cross like Moses' serpent returns in fire to judge the guilty.

Tomorrow: 1 Peter 3 - I'm Too Sexy For This Shirt: A Case For Real Biblical Modesty

After today, I will be taking a break from this Isaiah series until October. In the meantime, I will be posting sermon transcripts with their audio, and continuing to update my series from 1 and 2 Peter and Mark.
Click the image above for the entire series from Isaiah.

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