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Isaiah 21 is a message of doom for Babylon. The consistent theme from chapters 13-23 is that God’s people should not place their trust in nations that are bound for destruction.
While that is the central message, there are two important observations to be made in this passage.
(1) Isaiah’s terror at the prospect of judgment on the nations reflects God’s pain over the suffering of people, even evil and proud nations.
(2) There is a particular need for there to be lookouts who separate themselves from the crowd and pay attention to God’s activity in the world.
A Message of Doom
Isaiah prophesied the end of Babylon with these words. The Medes and Persians would soon end the Babylonian reign over the region.
A stern vision is told to me;
the betrayer betrays,
and the destroyer destroys.
Go up, O Elam,
lay siege, O Media;
all the sighing she has caused
I bring to an end. (Isaiah 21.2)
The phrase, “the betrayer betrays, and the destroyer destroys” captures the evil of war.
During World War II over 20 million Russians died while fighting for their country. Following the war, under the reign of Joseph Stalin, their very own government killed an estimated 20-60 million more citizens of their nation.
Similar to Babylon, Stalin was a betrayer and destroyer. It was his nature. Once finished with the German armies, he turned that evil nature on his people.
“War is treachery and greed as the works of a lifetime, patiently built up and cared for, are destroyed in a violent moment by all that is ugly in humanity” (John Oswalt).
The Prophet’s Pain
Even though Babylon was a ruthless nation, Isaiah felt deeply over the harm that would come to the people. The prophet knew the heart of God and God’s feelings resonated in his mind and body.
Therefore my loins are filled with anguish;
pangs have seized me,
like the pangs of a woman in labor;
I am bowed down so that I cannot hear,
I am dismayed so that I cannot see.
My mind reels, horror has appalled me;
the twilight I longed for
has been turned for me into trembling. (Isaiah 21.3-4)
The Book of Isaiah is filled with some of the most profound passages of God’s love in the Bible. It also contains many words of warning, judgment, and punishment.
When we read about judgment and punishment, let’s remember that Isaiah’s broken heart reflected God’s grief over what the nations would experience.
God is deeply pained by our sin and the resulting punishment. However, as Rudy Ross often says in our YouTube videos, judgment serves as guardrails for society. Without it, we would have already self-destructed.
Jesus taught, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,
“So that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous” (Matthew 5.44-45).
Isaiah had the attitude of Jesus’ teaching ingrained in his inner self. He was a child of God, who prayed for and grieved over the coming judgment of Israel’s enemies.
We can measure the depth of our relationship with God by how we feel toward our enemies. Do we pray for them? Do we act in their best interests when possible? Do we grieve over their misfortune?
A lookout leaves the noise and activity of the city and climbs to a place where the most important aspects of life can be seen.
For thus the Lord said to me:
“Go, post a lookout,
let him announce what he sees.
When he sees riders, horsemen in pairs,
riders on donkeys, riders on camels,
let him listen diligently,
very diligently.” (Isaiah 21.6-7)
The lookout sees and carefully hears what is taking place.
To “listen diligently,” the lookout has to leave the noise of the crowd.
The lookout turns away from the activity of the city and ascends to a place where seeing is possible.
The faithful watcher is willing to leave the comfort and entertainment of the crowd to watch for God’s activity.
Then the watcher called out:
“Upon a watchtower I stand, O Lord,
continually by day,
and at my post I am stationed
throughout the night.” (Isaiah 21.8)
This lookout waited until God’s activity was revealed.
“Look, there they come, riders,
horsemen in pairs!”
Then he responded,
“Fallen, fallen is Babylon;
and all the images of her gods
lie shattered on the ground.” (Isaiah 21.9)
The lookout was able to see and announce the destruction of Babylon.
Help Wanted: Lookouts
The world has always needed spiritual lookouts. These faithful people are those who are willing to leave the crowd, noise, business, entertainment, and other distractions to learn God’s will.
They live where they can “see” and “hear” what God is doing in the world. They love God and desire to know and do his will above all else.
When they know God’s will, they willingly align their lives with his it. Sometimes, this involves courageous action. At other times, they bear the burden of praying for God’s will to be done.
It may be that God has called you to be a lookout. The best way to find out is to deepen your love relationship with him.
Leave the noise and activity of the world and spend significant time with the Lord.
As you live with him, he will guide you. It may be that you will be one of his lookouts for the times in which we live.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or private message me on Facebook. The Maywood Baptist prayer team will pray for you.