A grievous vision is declared to me; the treacherous dealer deals treacherously, and the spoiler spoils. Go up, O Elam: besiege…
The reference of this "burden is to Babylon, which was the successor to Assyria in executing the Divine judgments on the Jews. Babylonia is called the desert of the sea," as a poetical figure, suggested by the fact that its surging masses of people were like a sea-desert; or because it was a flat country, and full of lakes, like little seas. It was abundantly watered by the many streams of the river Euphrates. The prophet, writing when Babylon was the rising and triumphing nation, sees in vision her terrible fall and humiliation. Which siege of Babylon he refers to cannot be assured, but much can be said for Cheyne's suggestion, that the depression under which Isaiah writes is best explained by referring the vision to the first siege of Babylon, when Merodach-Baladan was king ( B.C. 709), whose interests were in harmony with those of Hezekiah, and whose humiliation Isaiah would regard as injurious to Judah. Watching the movements of these several nations, Assyria, Babylonia, Elam, Media, Judah, we meditate on -
I. RIGHT IDEAS OF GOD'S PROVIDENCE. We do not speak of providence so freely as our fathers did, because we have less impressive views of the Divine rule and control. As Dr. Bushnell expresses it, "our age is at the point of apogee from all the robuster notions of the Divine Being." We are more interested in the ordinary workings of Law, than in the continuous adjustments and qualifications of Law by the ever-pre-siding Lawgiver. Yet, if our eyes were opened, we might see manifest signs of what our fathers called "providence" in the personal, the family, and the national spheres of today. The proper idea of providence may be thus expressed - it is God using for moral purposes commonplace events, and therefore adjusting, arranging, and fitting together those events. Providence ordering or controlling the nations is "God in history." And the illustrations of Divine overruling which we see in the large spheres of the world-kingdoms, are designed to convince us of the reality of that overruling in the small details of our personal life.
II. THE PROVIDENTIAL DISTINGUISHED FROM THE MIRACULOUS. The distinction is in our apprehension; we cannot conceive of the distinction as recognized by God. As by the "providential" we mean God intervening to readjust the usual order of material events, it is plain that sometimes he may use forces with which we are familiar, and then we call his working "providential;" but at other times he may use forces with which we are unfamiliar, and then we call his working "miraculous." There need be no difficulty in recognizing resources in God beyond what he has been pleased to explain to man. God has not exhausted himself in making revelations to man. If we could see clearly we should see that "providential" and "miraculous" are convertible terms.
III. THE RELATION OF PROVIDENCE TO MORAL LAW. This may be put into a sentence. It is the executor of its sanctions. The rewards of obedience and the penalties of disobedience are not things deferred until some yet far-distant day. They are continually operating in all spheres, private and public. Ann what we call "providence" is the agency in their distribution. But our "providence" differs from "fate," or the pagan conception of the "furies," because it is the working of an infinitely wise and good Being, who acts upon comprehensive knowledge and sound judgment.
IV. THE RELATION OF PROVIDENCE TO NATIONS. Here we take one single point. Nations have a corporate life, so they are, as it were, individuals, with a distinct individual character and action. Just as God uses the individual man for his purposes, so he uses the individual nation. For the characteristics of nations, see Greece, Rome, Germany, France, etc. The natural expression of a nation's character or genius becomes the providential agency for carrying out God's purposes. Illustrate the conquering genius of Babylon under Nebuchadnezzar doing God's work in the destruction of the kingdom of Judah. The fact that a nation employed as an executor is still in God's control, is shown in God's judging that nation for evils that become manifest in its doing of that executive work. Efficient illustrations may be found in the movements and enterprises of the European nations during the last century. - R.T.
Parallel VersesKJV: A grievous vision is declared unto me; the treacherous dealer dealeth treacherously, and the spoiler spoileth. Go up, O Elam: besiege, O Media; all the sighing thereof have I made to cease.