The Burden of Damascus
And Syria and Israel as well
Is the city of Damascus destined for destruction? Many make the claim that the city has a target on it and will eventually be completely destroyed. The first verse of chapter seventeen of Isaiah is the reason for the claim. A true prophet speaks or writes the words of God. The Bible claims the word of God is infallible and His promises are unbreakable.
No matter how far-fetched the claim, if God says something will happen, then you can bank on it. It will happen. That’s the claim from scripture. If the Lord says to build a boat because it is going to rain, then you build a boat. That is history and a good subject for later discussion.
If a true prophet of God says a city will become a ruinous heap, you probably shouldn’t buy property in that city.
A test of God’s Word.
This chapter provides a worthy test of God’s prophetic prowess. Did God miss the mark? The city is still standing after many centuries have passed since this prophecy.
As we look at prophetic passages, it is always important to look for past fulfillments before assuming an event is destined for future fulfillment. If the city was completely destroyed in the past then we can assume that’s the fulfillment God predicted.
But in this case, we may have a problem. A brief glance at history tells us the city has been in existence long before this prophecy. It has never been an uninhabited ruinous heap.
The oldest city in the world
Several cities listed here, which are over 5000 years old, popularly claim to be “the oldest city in the world”.
We see Damascus right there in the midst of other cities which claim the title as “the oldest city in the world.”
So if that’s true, then the real estate value in Damascus is going to drop fast in the future.
There is so much war in and around the city, it’s not a stretch to imagine something devastating taking place. But the word of God implies complete destruction.
Damascus will cease from being a city, and it will be a ruinous heap.
A prophecy of doom upon Syria and Israel.
Damascus and Ephraim (Israel) are in the crosshairs of judgment
The burden against Damascus. “Behold, Damascus will cease from being a city, and it will be a ruinous heap. The cities of Aroer are forsaken; they will be for flocks which lie down, and no one will make them afraid. The fortress also will cease from Ephraim, the kingdom from Damascus, and the remnant of Syria; they will be as the glory of the children of Israel,” says the LORD of hosts. “In that day it shall come to pass that the glory of Jacob will wane, and the fatness of his flesh grow lean. It shall be as when the harvester gathers the grain and reaps the heads with his arm; It shall be as he who gathers heads of grain In the Valley of Rephaim. Yet gleaning grapes will be left in it, like the shaking of an olive tree, two or three olives at the top of the uppermost bough, four or five in its most fruitful branches,” says the LORD God of Israel.
Still at war
As the above table of ‘old cities’ makes clear, Damascus is one of the great cities of the ancient world. Today it still the most recognized city in the ancient nation of Syria. Syria sits to the north-east of Israel. They share a border along a small stretch of land known as the Golan Heights. It has been a hotly contested border region since the 1967 war.
Behold, Damascus will cease from being a city, and it will be a ruinous heap: Damascus, one of the most beautiful cities of the ancient world, was facing imminent destruction at the hands of an Assyrian army. Did that judgment from God fit the fulfillment of His claim of a city that would cease being a city? It doesn’t appear to be so.
Israel also faces future destruction
The fortress will also cease from Ephraim: Here the prophet refers to the northern kingdom of Israel by its dominant tribe, Ephraim. Back in the time when Isaiah preached, Israel and Syria made a military alignment against the southern Jewish nation of Judah. So, when the Assyrians attacked, Syria (Damascus) and Ephraim would face an attacking army. This is historical fact. It happened already so we see a partial fulfillment in Isaiah’s words. Historical evidence and the scriptures confirm this. 2 Kings 15:29 and 16:9.
Turning back to their Maker
In that day a man will look to his Maker, and his eyes will have respect for the Holy One of Israel. He will not look to the altars, the work of his hands; he will not respect what his fingers have made, nor the wooden images nor the incense altars. In that day his strong cities will be as a forsaken bough and an uppermost branch, which they left because of the children of Israel; and there will be desolation.
In that day a man will look to his Maker, and his eyes will have respect for the Holy One of Israel: It is a rare thing when people respond in humility to God’s judgment. The pride of mankind fights against any form of correction. The ‘me first’ mentality rejects any suggestion that correction is needed. This passage indicates some will look to their Maker and realize they have been wrong. This possibly refers to a future fulfillment among Jewish people. Jesus, the Son of God who became flesh and lived among us, was the Messiah the Jewish people longed for. They rejected Him. They demanded his death on a cross.
A day will come, after massive devastation and war, in which they will turn their eyes toward their rejected Messiah and accept him. Jesus, their Maker, will take his place as the Jewish Messiah and King of Israel.
You have forgotten God
Because you have forgotten the God of your salvation, and have not been mindful of the Rock of your stronghold, therefore you will plant pleasant plants and set out foreign seedlings; in the day you will make your plant to grow, and in the morning you will make your seed to flourish; but the harvest will be a heap of ruins in the day of grief and desperate sorrow.
You will plant pleasant plants … you will make your seed to flourish, but the harvest will be a heap of ruins. All their efforts will come to nothing. The hard work of tilling the soil, working the land, irrigating and patient waiting will yield no fruit. The Jewish nation forgot their God. They rebelled against Him and made treaties with nations who did not know the Lord. That was a recipe for failure.
Because you have forgotten the God of your salvation. The nation thought their salvation came from their own efforts. They had an army, and alliances with great nations, why would they need God? The Jewish nation committed one grave error after another. Leaving God on the sidelines and essentially forgetting Him was an error the Lord would not let pass. They were called to be a city set upon a hill that would declare the goodness of God. Their destiny was supposed to be different. They were supposed to show to other nations why it is important to keep a close relationship with the One True God. They failed that because they preferred to be like the other nations.
We do the same. We prefer to be like everyone else. God is only for Sundays, or maybe just for Christmas, or maybe not even then. We all forget God at times.
But God will remember Israel.
Woe to the multitude of many people who make a noise like the roar of the seas, and to the rushing of nations that make a rushing like the rushing of mighty waters! The nations will rush like the rushing of many waters; but God will rebuke them and they will flee far away, and be chased like the chaff of the mountains before the wind, like a rolling thing before the whirlwind. Then behold, at eventide, trouble! And before the morning, he is no more. This is the portion of those who plunder us and the lot of those who rob us.
The nations will rush like the rushing of many waters: God, during that time of history, used the Assyrian nation to bring judgment on Syria and Israel. They came in like an unstoppable flood of water. Devastation ensued. The people were left to scramble around to salvage what little remained.
The Lord used an invading army to judge his rebellious people. That same nation, Israel, is still in rebellion. They have a mighty army and they are making alliances with other nations. They trust in their ability to protect themselves.
That trust will lead to another downfall.
The city of Damascus has not ceased to exist–yet. That’s a future event.
A war is coming; actually a series of wars. In those wars, Damascus will cease to exist, and many parts of Israel will also see massive destruction. Numerous prophecy teachers believe that the Lord will repel any attacks against Israel, but the word’s of the prophets speak of a final devastation in Israel, a future war.
At the end of that devastation, the war of Armageddon, the Jewish nation will turn their eyes up to heaven and acknowledge their Maker.
Then the world will have peace.
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