The Roaring of Chaff

Reading Time: 6 Minutes

Isaiah’s words about the nations in 700 B.C. are very relevant in 2021.

Ah, the thunder of many peoples,
they thunder like the thundering of the sea!
Ah, the roar of nations,
they roar like the roaring of mighty waters!
(Isaiah 17.12)

A partial list of “thundering” and “roaring” nations resembles this today.

— Political instability in Syria, Iraq, Pakistan, Lebanon, and Egypt

— The Israeli-Palestinian conflict

— Criminal violence in Mexico and other South American countries

— Tensions between the U.S., China, Russia, North Korea, and Iran

— Conflict among various groups within our nation

The Cause of Conflict

Psalm 2 provides a diagnosis of conflict within countries and among nations.

Why do the nations conspire,
and the peoples plot in vain?

The kings of the earth set themselves,
and the rulers take counsel together,
against the Lord and his anointed, saying,

“Let us burst their bonds asunder,
and cast their cords from us.”
(Psalm 2.1-3)

Nations first rebel against God. They reject God’s principles because they constrict their self-seeking desires. When they turn away from God, they turn on each other.

In her book, The Origins of Totalitarianism, Hanna Arendt described countries as “a business with a gun.” Arendt’s picture describes nations who conquer other nations as a way to increase their wealth.

National leaders are not able to follow God’s principles and the lust for conquest at the same time. Something has to give, and what gives is a willingness to follow God.

Both individuals and nations fall under Jesus’ truth, “No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth” (Matthew 6.24).

When people and nations choose wealth and conflict over God and his directions, they become nothing more than chaff.

The Psalmist wrote, “The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away” (Psalm 1.4).

When Isaiah surveyed the “roaring” and “thundering” of the nations, he knew their reality. They were nothing but chaff.

The nations roar like the roaring of many waters,
but he will rebuke them, and they will flee far away,
chased like chaff on the mountains before the wind
and whirling dust before the storm.
(Isaiah 17.13)

God’s Message about the Chaff

The nature of God is quite a contrast to the “roaring” and “thundering” of nations. As the Lord of All, he resides in quiet confidence.

For thus the Lord said to me:
I will quietly look from my dwelling
like clear heat in sunshine,
like a cloud of dew in the heat of harvest.
(Isaiah 18.4)

God demonstrates his might, not through a flash of blinding power. His purpose is not to destroy, but to save.

According to Isaiah, God wants his followers to simply trust his quiet power.

For 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.
(Isaiah 30.15)

Isaiah 18.5-6 declares that confidence in God is rightly placed. God’s victory came while his people relied on his power. A disease reached their opposing army and 185,000 enemy soldiers died in a night.

Ethiopians Worship God

Not every nation ends up like chaff. By the grace of God, some recognize God’s character and trust him.

This is true of the Ethiopians.

“At that time gifts will be brought to the Lord of hosts from a people tall and smooth, from a people feared near and far, a nation mighty and conquering, whose land the rivers divide, to Mount Zion, the place of the name of the Lord of hosts” (Isaiah 18.7).

Acts 8 tells of how Philip was directed by the Holy Spirit to meet with an Ethiopian eunuch. The Spirit had prepared the eunuch’s heart to be ready for salvation.

Philip told him about Jesus. The eunuch responded to the good news message and brought the gospel to Ethiopia. What is remarkable is that Isaiah’s prophecy became true with the eunuch.

Today, there is a strong Christian church in Ethiopia. The church has survived the test of world events and is still thriving today.

As we consider Isaiah’s message today, let’s praise God for how he works with the nations. Let’s also respond to Isaiah’s message and live in complete confidence in God’s activity in the world.

About This Blog

Rudy Ross is an excellent student of Isaiah. Rudy and I have a video you can see on the Bob Spradling YouTube Chanel.

Rudy will bring a different dimension to Isaiah than what is in my blog. I hope you will check out and enjoy my interviews with him.

I am indebted to a book by Dr. John Oswalt on Isaiah for his insights into this powerful book.

If you have a prayer request, please email me at or private message me on Facebook. The Maywood Baptist prayer team will pray for you.

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