What does it say?
Isaiah 31-32 continues the “Book of Woes” begun in chapter 28 (Isa 28-33). This fifth woe is a rebuke of those who trust in Egypt for security rather than God.
The sixth and final woe follows in Isaiah 33. Though not named specifically, this woe is directed against the foreign power threatening God’s people. From the historical context, it is clear that this is Assyria. Of the six woes, this is the only one directed against a foreign people, the others being directed against God’s people Judah. Though used by God as an instrument to bring judgment upon his people, Assyria will also reap what they have sown by sin.
Isaiah 34 turns attention to Edom (Idumea) and surrounding nations. They, too, will suffer judgment for their treatment of God’s people.
What does it mean?
God displeasure with the unfaithfulness of his people has driven much of what we have seen in Isaiah. Five of the six woes are directed against Judah. By the time we arrive at the sixth woe in Isaiah 33, the language and scope turn very futuristic and apocalyptical. That Assyria is not mentioned by name would also suggest that there is a future application to all of God’s enemies. The language of Isaiah 34 is clearly both immediate and prophetic, going far beyond the historical Edom and Israel’s surrounding neighbors. There are many connections to other prophetic visions. Notice Isaiah 34:4 and the image of heaven being rolled together like a scroll; compare that to Revelation 6:14. Isaiah 34:8 announces that this is the day of the Lord’s vengeance, a vision of the time of final judgment.
Yet even in the midst of scenes of horrific judgment, do not fail to see the images of hope that never fail. See particularly Isaiah 32:15-20 in this regard. God’s plan is to bless his people to be a blessing to the nations of the world. When his people fail to properly engage in that plan, they suffer the consequences. They may delay but never disrupt God’s mission. Though God from the beginning desires that all the peoples of the earth worship him, there is a day of final judgment coming when those who reject him will meet their final end.
How will I respond?
Today I pray that I would not be blinded by all the scenes of judgment and apocalyptic language to see the flow of God’s plan, and to see his great patience and mercy. Today I will pray that God would specifically allow me to see the nations of the world through his eyes as I process the news from around the earth.