Keep in Expectation of Jehovah
1, 2. (a) What does Isaiah chapter 30 contain? (b) What questions will we now consider?
IN ISAIAH chapter 30, we read further divine pronouncements against the wicked. Nevertheless, this part of Isaiah’s prophecy highlights some of Jehovah’s heartwarming qualities. In fact, Jehovah’s characteristics are described in such vivid terms that we can, as it were, see his comforting presence, hear his guiding voice, and feel his healing touch.—Isaiah 30:20, 21, 26.
2 Even so, Isaiah’s countrymen, the apostate inhabitants of Judah, refuse to return to Jehovah. Instead, they put their trust in man. How does Jehovah feel about this? And how does this part of Isaiah’s prophecy help Christians today to keep in expectation of Jehovah? (Isaiah 30:18) Let us find out.
Folly and Fatality
3. What scheme is exposed by Jehovah?
3 For some time the leaders of Judah have been scheming in secret to find a way to avoid coming under the yoke of Assyria. However, Jehovah has been watching. Now he exposes their scheme: “‘Woe to the stubborn sons,’ is the utterance of Jehovah, ‘those disposed to carry out counsel, but not that from me; and to pour out a libation, but not with my spirit, in order to add sin to sin; those who are setting out to go down to Egypt.’”—Isaiah 30:1, 2a.
4. How have God’s rebellious people put Egypt in the place of God?
4 What a shock for those scheming leaders to hear their plan revealed! Traveling to Egypt in order to make an alliance with her is more than hostile action against Assyria; it is rebellion against Jehovah God. In the time of King David, the nation looked to Jehovah as a stronghold and took refuge ‘in the shadow of his wings.’ (Psalm 27:1; 36:7) Now they “take shelter in the stronghold of Pharaoh” and “take refuge in the shadow of Egypt.” (Isaiah 30:2b) They have put Egypt in the place of God! What treason!—Read Isaiah 30:3-5.
5, 6. (a) Why is the alliance with Egypt a fatal mistake? (b) What earlier journey made by God’s people highlights the foolishness of this trip to Egypt?
5 As if to answer any suggestion that the mission to Egypt is merely a casual visit, Isaiah gives more details. “The pronouncement against the beasts of the south: Through the land of distress and hard conditions, of the lion and the leopard growling, of the viper and the flying fiery snake, on the shoulders of full-grown asses they carry their resources, and on the humps of camels their supplies.” (Isaiah 30:6a) Clearly, the journey is well planned. Envoys organize a caravan of camels and asses, which they load with costly goods and lead down to Egypt through a barren wilderness infested with growling lions and venomous snakes. Finally, the envoys reach their destination and hand their treasures to the Egyptians. They have bought protection—or so they think. However, Jehovah says: “In behalf of the people they will prove of no benefit. And the Egyptians are mere vanity, and they will help simply for nothing. Therefore I have called this one: ‘Rahab—they are for sitting still.’” (Isaiah 30:6b, 7) “Rahab,” a “sea monster,” came to symbolize Egypt. (Isaiah 51:9, 10) She promises everything but does nothing. Judah’s alliance with her is a fatal mistake.
6 As Isaiah describes the journey of the envoys, his listeners may remember a similar journey made in the days of Moses. Their forefathers walked through that very same “fear-inspiring wilderness.” (Deuteronomy 8:14-16) In Moses’ day, however, the Israelites were traveling away from Egypt and out of bondage. This time the envoys travel to Egypt and, effectively, into subjection. What folly! May we never make such a bad decision and exchange our spiritual freedom for slavery!—Compare Galatians 5:1.
Opposition to the Prophet’s Message
7. Why does Jehovah have Isaiah write down His warning to Judah?
7 Jehovah tells Isaiah to write down the message that he has just delivered so that “it may serve for a future day, for a witness to time indefinite.” (Isaiah 30:8) Jehovah’s disapproval of putting alliances with man above reliance on Him must be recorded for the benefit of future generations—including our generation today. (2 Peter 3:1-4) But there is a more immediate need for a written record. “It is a rebellious people, untruthful sons, sons who have been unwilling to hear the law of Jehovah.” (Isaiah 30:9) The people have rejected God’s counsel. Hence, it must be written down so that later they cannot deny that they received a proper warning.—Proverbs 28:9; Isaiah 8:1, 2.
8, 9. (a) In what way do the leaders of Judah try to corrupt Jehovah’s prophets? (b) How does Isaiah demonstrate that he will not be intimidated?
8 Isaiah now offers an example of the people’s rebellious attitude. They “have said to the ones seeing, ‘You must not see,’ and to the ones having visions, ‘You must not envision for us any straightforward things. Speak to us smooth things; envision deceptive things.’” (Isaiah 30:10) By ordering faithful prophets to stop speaking what is “straightforward,” or true, and to speak instead what is “smooth” and “deceptive,” or false, the leaders of Judah show that they want to have their ears tickled. They want to be praised, not condemned. In their opinion, any prophet not willing to prophesy according to their taste should “turn aside from the way; deviate from the path.” (Isaiah 30:11a) He should either speak ear-pleasing things or stop preaching altogether!
9 Isaiah’s opponents insist: “Cause the Holy One of Israel to cease just on account of us.” (Isaiah 30:11b) Let Isaiah stop speaking in the name of Jehovah, “the Holy One of Israel”! This very title irritates them because Jehovah’s exalted standards show up their contemptible condition. How does Isaiah react? He declares: “This is what the Holy One of Israel has said.” (Isaiah 30:12a) Without hesitation, Isaiah speaks the very words his opposers hate to hear. He will not be intimidated. What a fine example for us! When it comes to proclaiming God’s message, Christians must never compromise. (Acts 5:27-29) Like Isaiah, they keep on proclaiming: ‘This is what Jehovah has said’!
The Consequences of Rebellion
10, 11. What will be the consequences of Judah’s revolt?
10 Judah has rejected God’s word, trusted in a lie, and relied upon “what is devious.” (Isaiah 30:12b) What will be the consequences? Jehovah, instead of leaving the scene as the nation wishes, will cause the nation to cease to exist! This will happen suddenly and completely, as Isaiah stresses with an illustration. The rebelliousness of the nation is like “a broken section about to fall down, a swelling out in a highly raised wall, the breakdown of which may come suddenly, in an instant.” (Isaiah 30:13) Just as a growing bulge in a high wall will eventually cause the wall to collapse, so the increasing rebelliousness of Isaiah’s contemporaries will cause the collapse of the nation.
11 With another illustration Isaiah shows the completeness of the coming destruction: “One will certainly break it as in the breaking of a large jar of the potters, crushed to pieces without one’s sparing it, so that there cannot be found among its crushed pieces a fragment of earthenware with which to rake the fire from the fireplace or to skim water from a marshy place.” (Isaiah 30:14) Judah’s destruction will be so complete that nothing of value will remain—not even a potsherd big enough to scoop hot ashes from a fireplace or to skim water from a marsh. What a shameful end! The coming destruction of those who rebel against true worship today will be equally sudden and complete.—Hebrews 6:4-8; 2 Peter 2:1.
Jehovah’s Offer Rejected
12. How can the people of Judah avoid destruction?
12 For Isaiah’s listeners, though, destruction is not inevitable. There is a way out. The prophet explains: “This is what the Sovereign Lord Jehovah, the Holy One of Israel, has said: ‘By coming back and resting you people will be saved. Your mightiness will prove to be simply in keeping undisturbed and in trustfulness.’” (Isaiah 30:15a) Jehovah is ready to save his people—if they show faith by “resting,” or refraining from trying to secure salvation through human alliances, and by “keeping undisturbed,” or demonstrating trust in God’s protective power by not giving way to fear. “But,” Isaiah tells the people, “you were not willing.”—Isaiah 30:15b.
13. In what do the leaders of Judah put their confidence, and is such confidence justified?
13 Isaiah then elaborates: “And you proceeded to say: ‘No, but on horses we shall flee!’ That is why you will flee. ‘And on swift horses we shall ride!’ That is why those pursuing you will show themselves swift.” (Isaiah 30:16) The Judeans think that swift horses, rather than Jehovah, will mean their salvation. (Deuteronomy 17:16; Proverbs 21:31) However, counters the prophet, their trust will be an illusion because their enemies will overtake them. Even large numbers will not help them. “A thousand will tremble on account of the rebuke of one; on account of the rebuke of five you will flee.” (Isaiah 30:17a) The armies of Judah will panic and flee at the shout of just a handful of the enemy.a In the end, only a remnant will remain, left alone, “like a mast on the top of a mountain and like a signal on a hill.” (Isaiah 30:17b) True to the prophecy, when Jerusalem is destroyed in 607 B.C.E., only a remnant survive.—Jeremiah 25:8-11.
Comfort Amid Condemnation
14, 15. What comfort do the words of Isaiah 30:18 offer to the inhabitants of Judah in ancient times and to true Christians today?
14 While these sobering words are still echoing in the ears of Isaiah’s listeners, the tone of his message changes. Threat of disaster gives way to a promise of blessings. “Therefore Jehovah will keep in expectation of showing you favor, and therefore he will rise up to show you mercy. For Jehovah is a God of judgment. Happy are all those keeping in expectation of him.” (Isaiah 30:18) What heartening words! Jehovah is a compassionate Father who yearns to help his children. He delights in showing mercy.—Psalm 103:13; Isaiah 55:7.
15 These reassuring words apply to the Jewish remnant who are mercifully allowed to survive the destruction of Jerusalem in 607 B.C.E. and to the few who return to the Promised Land in 537 B.C.E. However, the prophet’s words also comfort Christians today. We are reminded that Jehovah will “rise up” in our behalf, bringing an end to this wicked world. Faithful worshipers can be confident that Jehovah—“a God of judgment”—will not allow Satan’s world to exist for one day longer than justice requires. Therefore, “those keeping in expectation of him” have much reason to be happy.
Jehovah Comforts His People by Answering Prayers
16. How does Jehovah comfort discouraged ones?
16 Some, though, may feel discouraged because deliverance has not come as soon as they had hoped. (Proverbs 13:12; 2 Peter 3:9) May they draw comfort from Isaiah’s next words, which highlight a special aspect of Jehovah’s personality. “When the very people in Zion will dwell in Jerusalem, you will by no means weep. He will without fail show you favor at the sound of your outcry; as soon as he hears it he will actually answer you.” (Isaiah 30:19) Isaiah conveys tenderness in these words by switching from the plural “you” in Isa 30 verse 18 to the singular “you” in Isa 30 verse 19. When Jehovah comforts distressed ones, he treats each person individually. As a Father, he does not ask a discouraged son, ‘Why can’t you be strong like your brother?’ (Galatians 6:4) Instead, he listens attentively to each one. In fact, “as soon as he hears it he will actually answer.” What reassuring words! Discouraged ones can be greatly strengthened if they pray to Jehovah.—Psalm 65:2.
Hear God’s Guiding Voice by Reading His Word
17, 18. Even in difficult times, how does Jehovah provide guidance?
17 As Isaiah continues his address, he reminds his listeners that distress will come. The people will receive “bread in the form of distress and water in the form of oppression.” (Isaiah 30:20a) The distress and oppression that they will experience when under siege will become as familiar as bread and water. Even so, Jehovah is ready to come to the rescue of righthearted ones. “Your Grand Instructor will no longer hide himself, and your eyes must become eyes seeing your Grand Instructor. And your own ears will hear a word behind you saying: ‘This is the way. Walk in it, you people,’ in case you people should go to the right or in case you should go to the left.”—Isaiah 30:20b, 21.b
18 Jehovah is the “Grand Instructor.” He has no equal as a teacher. How, though, can people ‘see’ and “hear” him? Jehovah reveals himself through his prophets, whose words are recorded in the Bible. (Amos 3:6, 7) Today, when faithful worshipers read the Bible, it is as if God’s fatherly voice is telling them the way to go and urging them to readjust their course of conduct so as to walk in it. Each Christian should listen carefully as Jehovah speaks through the pages of the Bible and through Bible-based publications provided by “the faithful and discreet slave.” (Matthew 24:45-47) Let each one apply himself to Bible reading, for ‘it means his life.’—Deuteronomy 32:46, 47; Isaiah 48:17.
Contemplate Future Blessings
19, 20. What blessings are in store for those who respond to the voice of the Grand Instructor?
19 Those responding to the voice of the Grand Instructor will scatter their graven images, viewing them as something disgusting. (Read Isaiah 30:22.) Then, those responsive ones will enjoy wonderful blessings. These are described by Isaiah, as recorded in Isaiah 30:23-26, a delightful restoration prophecy that has its initial fulfillment when a Jewish remnant returns from captivity in 537 B.C.E. Today, this prophecy helps us to see the marvelous blessings that the Messiah brings about in the spiritual paradise now and the literal Paradise to come.
20 “He will certainly give the rain for your seed with which you sow the ground, and as the produce of the ground bread, which must become fat and oily. Your livestock will graze in that day in a spacious pasture. And the cattle and the full-grown asses cultivating the ground will eat fodder seasoned with sorrel, which was winnowed with the shovel and with the fork.” (Isaiah 30:23, 24) “Fat and oily” bread—food rich in nourishment—will be man’s daily staple. The land will produce so abundantly that even the animals will benefit. Livestock will be fed “fodder seasoned with sorrel”—tasty fodder reserved for rare occasions. This food has even been “winnowed”—a treatment normally reserved for grain intended for human consumption. What delightful details Isaiah presents here to illustrate the richness of Jehovah’s blessings on faithful mankind!
21. Describe the completeness of the blessings to come.
21 “Upon every high mountain and upon every elevated hill there must come to be streams.” (Isaiah 30:25a)c Isaiah presents an apt word picture emphasizing the completeness of Jehovah’s blessings. No shortage of water—a precious commodity that will flow not only in the lowlands but on every mountain, even “upon every high mountain and upon every elevated hill.” Yes, hunger will be a thing of the past. (Psalm 72:16) Further, the prophet’s attention shifts to things even higher than the mountains. “The light of the full moon must become as the light of the glowing sun; and the very light of the glowing sun will become seven times as much, like the light of seven days, in the day that Jehovah binds up the breakdown of his people and heals even the severe wound resulting from the stroke by him.” (Isaiah 30:26) What a thrilling climax to this brilliant prophecy! The glory of God will shine forth in all its splendor. The blessings in store for God’s faithful worshipers will exceed vastly—sevenfold—anything that they have experienced before.
Judgment and Joy
22. In contrast with the blessings to come for the faithful, what does Jehovah have in store for the wicked?
22 The tone of Isaiah’s message changes again. “Look!” he says, as if to get his listeners’ attention. “The name of Jehovah is coming from far away, burning with his anger and with heavy clouds. As for his lips, they have become full of denunciation, and his tongue is like a devouring fire.” (Isaiah 30:27) Thus far, Jehovah has stayed away, allowing the enemies of his people to follow their own course. Now he draws closer—like a steadily approaching thunderstorm—to execute judgment. “His spirit is like a flooding torrent that reaches clear to the neck, to swing the nations to and fro with a sieve of worthlessness; and a bridle that causes one to wander about will be in the jaws of the peoples.” (Isaiah 30:28) Enemies of God’s people will be encircled by “a flooding torrent,” violently shaken “to and fro with a sieve,” and reined in with “a bridle.” They will be destroyed.
23. What causes “rejoicing of heart” for Christians today?
23 Again Isaiah’s tone changes as he describes the happy condition of faithful worshipers who will one day return to their land. “You people will come to have a song like that in the night that one sanctifies oneself for a festival, and rejoicing of heart like that of one walking with a flute to enter into the mountain of Jehovah, to the Rock of Israel.” (Isaiah 30:29) True Christians today experience a similar “rejoicing of heart” as they contemplate the judgment of Satan’s world; the protection extended to them by Jehovah, the “Rock of salvation;” and the Kingdom blessings to come.—Psalm 95:1.
24, 25. How does Isaiah’s prophecy emphasize the reality of Assyria’s coming judgment?
24 After this expression of gladness, Isaiah returns to the theme of judgment and identifies the object of God’s wrath. “Jehovah will certainly make the dignity of his voice to be heard and will make the descending of his arm to be seen, in the raging of anger and the flame of a devouring fire and cloudburst and rainstorm and hailstones. For because of the voice of Jehovah Assyria will be struck with terror; he will strike it even with a staff.” (Isaiah 30:30, 31) With this graphic description, Isaiah emphasizes the reality of God’s judgment of Assyria. In effect, Assyria stands before God and trembles at the sight of his ‘descending arm’ of judgment.
25 The prophet continues: “Every swing of his rod of chastisement that Jehovah will cause to settle down upon Assyria will certainly prove to be with tambourines and with harps; and with battles of brandishing he will actually fight against them. For his Topheth is set in order from recent times; it is also prepared for the king himself. He has made its pile deep. Fire and wood are in abundance. The breath of Jehovah, like a torrent of sulphur, is burning against it.” (Isaiah 30:32, 33) Topheth, in the Valley of Hinnom, is used here as a figurative place burning with fire. By showing that Assyria will end up there, Isaiah stresses the sudden and complete destruction that is to come upon that nation.—Compare 2 Kings 23:10.
26. (a) Jehovah’s proclamations against Assyria have what modern-day application? (b) How do Christians today keep in expectation of Jehovah?
26 Although this judgment message is directed against Assyria, the significance of Isaiah’s prophecy goes further. (Romans 15:4) Jehovah will again, as it were, come from afar to flood, shake, and bridle all those who oppress his people. (Ezekiel 38:18-23; 2 Peter 3:7; Revelation 19:11-21) May that day come quickly! Meanwhile, Christians eagerly await the day of deliverance. They derive strength from reflecting upon the vivid words recorded in Isaiah chapter 30. These words encourage God’s servants to treasure the privilege of prayer, apply themselves to Bible study, and meditate upon the Kingdom blessings to come. (Psalm 42:1, 2; Proverbs 2:1-6; Romans 12:12) Thus Isaiah’s words help all of us to keep in expectation of Jehovah.
a Note that if Judah had been faithful, the very opposite could have happened.—Leviticus 26:7, 8.
b This is the only place in the Bible where Jehovah is called “Grand Instructor.”
c Isaiah 30:25b reads: “In the day of the big slaughter when the towers fall.” In the initial fulfillment, this may refer to the fall of Babylon, which opened the way for Israel to enjoy the blessings foretold at Isaiah 30:18-26. (See paragraph 19.) It may also refer to the destruction at Armageddon, which will make possible the grandest fulfillment of these blessings in the new world.
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In Moses’ day, the Israelites escaped from Egypt. In Isaiah’s day, Judah goes to Egypt for help
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“Upon every elevated hill there must come to be streams”
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Jehovah will come “with his anger and with heavy clouds”