Isaiah – Day 991

Scripture:  Isaiah 51:20 (NIV):  “Your sons have fainted; they lie at the head of every street, like antelope caught in a net.  They are filled with the wrath of the LORD and the rebuke of your God.”

Thought:  To me, when God sends judgment through His wrath and rebuke, even the best and strongest of men becomes weak and subjected before Him.

Question:  Will I be filled with God’s wrath or with God’s blessings?

As we continue to study the negative consequences of Israel’s idolatry, we have seen much calamity allowed to befall them.  Today’s verse is another description, illustrating how even the young and strong of the Jews are affected.  God’s wrath upon them is overwhelming.

“Your sons have fainted;”

As we age, we look to the younger generations to carry on with strength.  But Israel’s sons are not strong.  They “faint” in weakness, probably in large part due to famine associated with the long siege of war.  Lamentations 2:11 and 12:  “My [Jeremiah’s] eyes are spent with weeping; my stomach churns; my bile is poured out to the ground because of the destruction of the daughter of my people, because infants and babies faint in the streets of the city.  They cry to their mothers, ‘Where is bread and wine?’ as they faint like a wounded man in the streets of the city, as their life is poured out on their mother’s bosom.”

War and the conquering oppression of Babylon paints an awful picture in our minds.  God’s precious people, His chosen ones, the children of Zion, are being destroyed left and right.  And the “sons”, normally called into conscription to serve as soldiers against such an attack, fail and faint.  Why?

“they lie at the head of every street,”

Looking at several different translations, many interpret the term “lie” as an indicator that the young men are “asleep.”  This fits with the context certainly as we look back to verse 17:  “Awake, awake!”  From what should they awaken?  They need to awaken from the seductive illusions of their own idolatrous sins.

The young men are congregated “at the head of every street.”  What this conveys to me is that the conquest has totally invaded all the living areas of Jerusalem.  No city street is left out.  The young sons have come out of their homes into the streets, supposedly to face the evil foe, Babylon,  but to no avail.  They are helpless against the enemy because God’s wrath is upon them.  As we discussed in verse 17, the judgment permitted by God, full of His anger (righteous indignation), pours out and has so much influence that the recipients act like drunkards.  They become intoxicated with God’s wrath.

Sometimes our use of the word “intoxicated” conveys a positive sensation such as this idea:  “I was intoxicated by the smell of the roses.”  But Israel’s intoxication is anything but pleasant.  Revelation 14:10:  “…they, too, will drink the wine of God’s fury which has been poured full strength into the cup of his wrath.  They will be tormented…”

“…like antelope caught in a net.”

The King James Version has “as a wild bull in a net.”  A bull is a stronger animal than an antelope!  Regardless of which animal was intended in Isaiah’s writing, the word picture is clear:  the animal is trapped—no matter how strong an animal it is.  It flails, wild-eyed to gain freedom, but the ones in control of the net have prevailed.  The animal is helpless and unable to escape.  He is held tight in this confinement.

So it is when people are subjected to God’s wrath.  No matter the strength of young, strapping “sons”, the righteous anger of God traps them.  Though they may object, shake their fists or cry out for freedom, God has control over them.  Helplessly, they must endure the outpouring of God’s anger.  Revelation 16:9:  “They were seared by the intense heat and they cursed the name of God, who had control over these plagues, but they refused to repent and glorify him.”  Ezekiel 17:20:  “I [the LORD] will spread my net for him [the King of Israel], and he will be caught in my snare.  I will bring him to Babylon and execute judgment on him there because he was unfaithful to me.”

“they are filled with the wrath of the LORD”

When a winebibber is full of drink, the effect is obvious to all.  The fullness of the alcohol eliminates the person’s self-control.  Isaiah, and, as we’ve seen in Scripture, other prophets (Jeremiah and Ezekiel), and even an apostle (John), have used this state of affairs allegorically.  God’s wrath “fills” the rebelling soul, stripping him of his own self-control.  He is “under the influence” of God’s anger.

The wrath of God is unbelievably over-powering and devastating.  Hebrews 10:31:  “It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”  This portion in Hebrews outlines clearly why God may resort to His sheer wrath:  Hebrews 10:26, 27 and 30:  “If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God…For we know him who said, ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ and again, ‘The Lord will judge his people.’ ”

“…and the rebuke of your God.”

This is the second thing the Israelites are “filled with”, the first being God’s wrath.  A close look at the word “rebuke” affirms that all these calamities (Isaiah 51:19) are rebukes straight from God.  They are not scientifically produced or politically produced elements.  No, they are produced by God and by His intention to judge.

“Rebuke” is defined by Merriam-Webster this way:  “to criticize sharply.”  One who criticizes another does it intentionally with the desire to correct their reasoning.  God had sent plenty of pre-warnings, warnings, recommendations, teachings and corrections already to Israel.  Just read the prophets and you’ll see this is true.  Finally, after no messages had been heeded, God is ready to rebuke—“criticize sharply.”

It seems to me that when God is pushed to this degree, He responds with a super-strong out-pouring of rage.  In Revelation, set at the end of the ages, after centuries and even millennia of warnings, God’s wrath is collected in bowls and literally dumped or poured out on the planet.  Nahum 1:6:  “Who can withstand his indignation?  Who can endure his fierce anger?  His wrath is poured out like fire; the rocks are shattered before him.”  It is mighty power indeed that can shatter rocks!

I for one do not wish to become the object of God’s wrath or rebuke.  How about you?

Prayer:  Oh jealous Father, I bow before You!  I understand Your capacity for wrath and judgment.  Help me never to forget this side of Who You are so that my view of You is clear and balanced.  In this way, LORD, strengthen me to heed all Your warnings.  Cause me to obey Your commandments, that Your blessings—not curses—may characterize my life.  I ask these things in Christ’s Name, Amen.

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