The Effect of God's Judgments on the Good and on the Guilty
Isaiah 21:1-9
The burden of the desert of the sea. As whirlwinds in the south pass through; so it comes from the desert, from a terrible land.…

We gather, preliminarily:

1. That God uses not only elemental forces but human agents for the accomplishment of his righteous purposes. The winds and the waves are his ministers; but sometimes, as here, the whirlwinds he invokes are not the airs of heaven but the passions and agitations of human minds.

2. That the greatest human power is nothing in his mighty hand. Babylon was a "great power" indeed in human estimation at that time, but it needed only the whirlwind of God's holy indignation to sweep it away. Concerning the judgments of the Lord, we mark -


1. The suddenness and surprise of their overthrow. "Prepare the table... eat, drink," say they in the palace. But even while they are feasting comes the cry from the watchman on the walls, "Arise, ye princes, and anoint the shield" (ver. 5). How often, when the ungodly are in the midst of their unjust exactions or their unlawful pleasures, comes the blow which strikes the weapon from their hand, the cup from their lips (see Daniel 5:30; Acts 12:22, 23; Luke 12:20)!

2. The completeness of their downfall. "Babylon is fallen, is fallen (ver. 9) - fallen utterly, never more to rise; her tyranny broken to pieces, her fires of persecution put out. When God arises to judgment his enemies are not merely defeated, they are scattered.

3. The abasement of their pride. Babylon is fallen." The word is suggestive of an inglorious descent from a high seat of assumption and is certainly descriptive of the destruction of the Babylonian power. We know that God wills to humble the haughty, and that nothing is more certain to ensure humiliation than the spirit of pride (Proverbs 16:18; Proverbs 17:17; Isaiah 10:33; Luke 14:11).

4. The rebuke of their impiety. "The graven images he hath broken," etc. As idolatry was visited with the signs of God's wrath, so impiety, covetousness, absorbing worldliness - which are idolatry in modern form - must expect to receive the proofs of his displeasure.


1. Merciful relief from oppression. "All the sighing thereof have I made to cease." The downfall of the tyrant is the deliverance of the oppressed; hence the close connection between Divine judgments and human praise. As God, in his providence, brings cruelty, injustice, inconsiderateness, to its doom, he makes sighing and sorrow to flee away. There is much tyranny still to be struck down before all burdens will have been taken from the heavy-laden, and before all sighs shall cease from the heavy-hearted.

2. Conversion frown resentment to compassion. The vision which the prophet saw, albeit it was one of triumph over his enemies, excited his compassion; it was "a grievous vision" (ver. 2). He was even "bowed down at the hearing of it," "dismayed at the seeing of it" (ver. 3). The night which he loved (the night of his pleasure), instead of bringing him the sacred joy of communion with God and prophetic inspiration, brought to him sympathetic pain and distress. Thus was burning patriotic indignation turned into humane compassion. It may be taken, indeed, as an anticipation of that Christian magnanimity which "loves its enemies, and prays for them that despitefully use and persecute" it. When God's judgments on our enemies thus soften our spirits and call forth the kindlier and more generous sentiments, then do they serve an even higher end than when they make our sighs to cease and our songs to sound. - C.

Parallel Verses
KJV: The burden of the desert of the sea. As whirlwinds in the south pass through; so it cometh from the desert, from a terrible land.

WEB: The burden of the wilderness of the sea. As whirlwinds in the South sweep through, it comes from the wilderness, from an awesome land.

The Desert of the Sea
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