Isaiah as prophet speaks for God to the people but the prophets would also often speak to God for the people, this is especially true when their role aligned with that of priest as Isaiah’s did. Much of the poetic literature takes the form of poetry or song and so you’ll see close parallels with many of the Psalms, especially those that turn to lament. We too have a dual responsibility of speaking to others, bringing God’s word to them and of speaking to God for others in intercession.
Read Isaiah 33
Assyria is the destroyer who considers herself invincible but her success is only possible because God is using her to fulfil his plans (v1). Having addressed Assyria directly, Isaiah now speaks to God, in recognition and response to God’s certain commitment that he will deal with the enemy, Isaiah pleads with God for strength, sustenance and grace so that God’s people may persevere through the trial (v2).
The people can trust God to act because of his character and nature. He is the one who is truly invincible. He is the real undestroyed destroyer. He defeats enemies and he is exalted and glorious. Not only that but he is strong and dependable, the source of stability and safety for all who turn to him (v3-6).
Isaiah pauses to lament, looking at the situation as it is and as it will be throughout the time of judgment. He sees a desolate land but also sees the cause of it, unfaithfulness and a broken covenant (v7-9). God’s response to this is to declare that he will arise, he will act. His purpose in doing so is to protect his own name, his own honour (v10).
The words of Isaiah and the words of Yahweh continue to interchange, it is as though they are singing a duet together, sometimes turned to each other, sometimes addressing the people together. In verses 11-14 they describe God’s perfect and holy justice that brings judgement and causes fear. This raises the question “Who is able to stand before such a holy God and stay in his presence without being destroyed themselves? The answer comes back that there is only one. It’s the one who themselves is righteous godly in their own life, just in their treatment of others. This person is themselves worthy to be exalted and they are revealed as the righteous king we have already met. It’s Jesus (v15-16). The people are invited to look again with new eyes and see what is happening, to see this king reigning, to see the proud and greedy judged, to see stubborn opponents of God removed and to see the new Jerusalem a city of peace and security (v17-20). This new and restored Jerusalem is the place where God’s king rules. Where God is present with his people (v21-22).
“Who among us can dwell with the consuming fire? (v15)
- Why is God described as a consuming fire?
- Who alone is able to dwell with this God?
- How then can we get close to God?
Lord, we are humbled by your holiness and we acknowledge that our sin makes us worthy of judgement and destruction. Thank you that you choose not to destroy us. Thank you that in Christ we are seated with you and able to boldly enter your presence.