Because of this news I'm doubled up in pain, . . . baffled by what I hear,undone by what I see. Absolutely stunned, horror-stricken, I had hoped for a relaxed evening, but it has turned into a nightmare. (Isaiah 21:4-5, MSG)
Isaiah, whom I would describe as dignified, wandered around naked for three years in one of God's living parables. I'm not sure how I have missed that in reading Isaiah before. (Chapter 20:1-3). I was tempted to write about that until I read the riveting paragraph in the next chapter.
He described it as a hard vision. In the 21st century, it reads like something we would see on the nightly news in time of war. Plunder, attack, siege, moaning and groaning. Vietnam aired nightly when I was in high school and college and it feels like we've been fighting in the Middle East for years without end, just shifting from one country to another (that is not meant as a political comment, btw.) In addition to the news, we are inundated by violence on screen, in TV series and movies. Long term exposure leads to a numbness, and I'm one of the worst.
Isaiah wasn't. The vision made him physically sick and gave him nightmares. He couldn't believe what he saw, and he couldn't understand it.. It's been awhile since I felt that way about something I watched. How about you?
Even stranger, the bad news happened to Israel's aggessors. Elam, Media, Persia, Babylon, Edom, Arabia--the betrayers were betrayed. The plunderers were plundered. The battles happened in the sands of the Negev desert, probably in conditions close to those of our recent conflicts.
In Isaiah's shoes, I might have rejoiced to see the fall of my nation's enemies. I certainly didn't lose any sleep when the leaders of the Iraq regime were picked off one by one. But Isaiah felt their pain. In an earlier chapter, he wrote glowing words about the road that would run through the desert from Egypt to Israel. He rejoiced in that vision. Not this one.
I like the Isaiah of this chapter. If he lived today, he would stay current on international news. He would weep over the destruction one nation throws at another.
He certainly wouldn't close his eyes.