In our study of Isaiah chapter seventeen, we will look at the alliance that was formed by Syria and Israel against Judah and the consequences of choosing the wrong friends. In our "Facebook world" it seems like people befriend people that they hardly know but we must remember that our friendships (alliances) have consequences.
An oracle concerning Damascus: 'See, Damascus will no longer be a city but will become a heap of ruins. The cities of Aroer will be deserted and left to flocks, which will lie down, with no one to make them afraid.'
We see that God was going to judge the nation of Syria (whose capitol is Damascus). They were going to be judged because they made an alliance with the northern kingdom (Israel) against the southern kingdom (Judah). The "cities of Aroer" refers to the suburbs of the ancient city of Damascus. This prophecy has been fulfilled as the modern city of Damascus is not in the same location as the Damascus of Isaiah's day. It was common, at that time, to rebuild a city that had been destroyed but move it from the ruins of the old city.
'The fortified city will disappear from Ephraim, and royal power from Damascus; the remnant of Aram will be like the glory of the Israelites,' declares the Lord Almighty.
This verse is like a bridge connecting the fates of Israel (Ephraim) and Syria in this matter. Both of the nations were to face the judgment for their opposition to Judah and God's city (Jerusalem). God uses the name Ephraim for the northern kingdom to remind us of their idolatry (adultery) as they had refused to obey God and worship in Jerusalem. They had set up their own places of worship and even made an alliance with Syria to attack the city of Jerusalem. They were both guilty and so both were going to be judged. This should be a strong warning to us about choosing our friends. As we see here, the choices we make can have serious consequences. As Christians, we are called to reach out to others and show them the love of Jesus Christ but we must understand that those who reject Christ are enemies of Christ. Those who attack God's people (Christians) and oppose His will are enemies and will be judged accordingly. Those who go along with them instead of assisting God's people will be judged as well. Before you "friend" another person on Facebook or another social site, remember that you may be guilty by association in God's eyes.
'In that day the glory of Jacob will fade; the fat of his body will waste away. It will be as when a reaper gathers the standing grain and harvests the grain with his arm - as when a man gleans heads of grain in the Valley of Rephaim. Yet some gleanings will remain, as when an olive tree is beaten, leaving two or three olives on the topmost branches, four or five on the fruitful boughs,' declares the Lord, the God of Israel.
Now, the judgement turns to Israel as God describes the coming hard times. A body stores up fat during the good times in preparation for hard times and God says that Jacob (Israel) is headed for lean times. But, there would be a remnant left as described by the gleanings left in the field and the olives left on the tree. Olives were harvested by beating the trees with a stick to knock the fruit off. There would be some olives on the higher branches that would not be knocked off. Throughout the Bible, the olive tree is a symbol of spiritual richness and these "olives" that were left would be those who did not turn to idolatry. We see the same type of reference in Revelation 11 in regard to the two witnesses in the last days. These two, along with the 144,000, will be the modern equivalent of the Maccabees of the Old Testament times. They will hold fast to their faith in Jesus Christ during the period known as the Great Tribulation.
In that day men will look to their Maker and turn their eyes to the Holy One of Israel. They will not look to the altars, the work of their hands, and they will have no regard for the Asherah poles and the incense altars their fingers have made. In that day their strong cities, which they left because of the Israelites, will be like places abandoned to thickets and undergrowth. And all will be desolation.
This remnant of witnesses will be a shining example and will point men back to God. This passage describes the fact that the land of those who joined forces against God's people will be left desolate as the judgment falls on them. This has already happened in the case of Syria but it is going to happen even more in the last days when nations join to oppose God's people.
You have forgotten God your Savior; you have not remembered the Rock, your fortress. Therefore, though you set out the finest plants and plant imported vines, though on the day you set them out, you make them grow, and on the morning when you plant them, you bring them to bud, yet the harvest will be as nothing in the day of disease and incurable pain.
Now, God is speaking to the northern kingdom (Israel) and reminding them that they do not have the ability to create a harvest. Any farmer knows that he can plant the finest of seed and tend the field every day but it is only God who can make the plant produce fruit. It is the same with the kingdom of God and our role as Christians. We can sow the Word of God into the lives of people but it is only God who can use it to touch their hearts through the power of the Holy Spirit. Like Israel, there are many who have "forgotten God your Savior" and have developed programs and training for evangelism as if they have the ability to "bring people to Christ".
Of, the raging of many nations - they rage like the raging sea! Oh, the uproar of the peoples - they roar like the roaring of great waters! Although the peoples roar like the roar of surging waters, when he rebukes them they flee far away, driven before the wind like chaff on the hills, like tumbleweed before a gale. In the evening, sudden terror! Before the morning, they are gone! This is the portion of those who loot us, the lot of those who plunder us.
No matter how many nations join forces against God's people, the result is the same. The "sudden terror" speaks of the intervention of God on behalf of His people. This has been a pattern throughout the Bible and it is going to happen again in the last days. The fate of any alliance that opposes God's people is destruction; it always has been and forever will be!