Introduction - Book of Burdens - Part I
Dr. Joe Temple

Introduction

We are going to begin to look at a new section of the book of Isaiah which begins with chapter 13. I do not know that we will do any more than get acquainted with this section in this lesson because it is going to be a very important section, and we do want to understand it thoroughly before we get into it.

Keep in mind that when we began the study of the book of Isaiah, we pointed out to you that we were going to follow the natural outline of the book related to dates and subject matter, and that we have done. As we come to chapter 13 of the book of Isaiah, we are coming to the third section of the book. That is indicated chronologically by verse 28 of chapter 14 at which we have looked before, but which we call to your attention again:

Isaiah 14

28In the year that king Ahaz died was this burden.

The words, “this burden,” go back to verse 1 of chapter 13. That indicates that the portion which begins with chapter 13 is going to begin in the year that King Ahaz died. This means, of course, that chapters 7-12, at which we have been looking, were prophecies which were given by Isaiah during the reign of King Ahaz.

Those of you who are familiar with the history of Israel will remember that Hezekiah was the king who followed Ahaz, and so the portion of the Word which we begin to look at today is going to be a portion containing prophecies which were delivered by Isaiah during the reign of King Hezekiah. It begins with chapter 13 and concludes with chapter 23.

We said not only were we studying the book of Isaiah from the standpoint of the dates contained therein, but also from the standpoint of the subject matter. We recognize that we are still on the right track as far as our divisions of the book are concerned, because this section, chapters 13-23, is talking about the same thing. That thing is a burden, and for that reason this particular section of the book of Isaiah is called The Book of Burdens because every chapter has to do with a burden on one of ten nations which existed in the day of which Isaiah spoke, which have faded into oblivion down through the years, but which we believe, if we have interpreted the prophecy correctly, will make their appearance on the stage of the world again.

You will understand that the word burden means exactly what it suggests to you—a heavy weight. The messages that we are going to find in these chapters represent a message of judgment upon the nations concerned. I do not know how many of you are familiar with commentaries on the book of Isaiah but if you are, you know that very little has been written on the book of Isaiah and even still less on this particular section.

I never think about the dearth of material upon chapters 13-23 without thinking about what a liberal Bible scholar, if that is a correct connotation, by the name of Adam Smith, wrote concerning this particular section. He wrote, “With the exhilaration of one who traverses plain roads and beholds that prospect, he has passed through the opening chapters of the book as far as the end of chapter 12, but here he loses himself among a series of prophecies obscure in themselves and without obvious relation one to another. It is a very jungle of prophecy in which, without much gospel or geographical light, we have to grope our way.”

What Adam Smith said seems to be the feeling of even conservative Bible scholars, because so little has been written. But I want to go on record and say that we disagree with Dr. Smith and others of his ilk, because we believe that this section of the book of Isaiah, like every other portion of the Word of God is given by inspiration of God and is profitable.

We believe that this section of the book is profitable from a fourfold standpoint. We believe, if nothing else, this section of the book would give us the reason that the judgment of God has rested upon the nations of the world. Secular writers call to our attention from time to time that history repeats itself and point out to us that our own nation is in the same stage of history as was the Roman Empire just before destruction fell, and that is an absolute fact.

Judgment for the Sin of Pride

These portions of the Word of God which we are considering emphasize the same thing, with one particular emphasis. There is one reason God brings all nations into judgment and brings all nations to destruction, and that is exemplified in chapter 14, verses 13-14, where we have described for us the supreme example of the sin which provides the destruction of the nation. These words, if we interpret them according to their primary meaning, are the words of the king of Babylon. You will notice he says in verse 13:

Isaiah 14

13…I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north:
14I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High.

God replies:

Isaiah 14

15Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit.

If you will glance over at chapter 16, you will realize the sin of Babylon was the sin of Moab—another of the ten nations included in this section. We will read in verse 6:

Isaiah 16

6We have heard of the pride of Moab; he is very proud: even of his haughtiness, and his pride, and his wrath: but his lies shall not be so.

God visits judgment upon nations because of pride, and if secular historians can say that our nation is in the way of judgment because of the fact that history repeats itself, I can say on the authority of the Word of God that our nation is due for judgment because of the sin of pride.

Fulfillment of the Abrahamic Promise

There is another reason this section of Scripture is profitable, and that is God's dealings with these ten nations reveal the fulfillment of the Abrahamic promise contained in chapter 12 of the book of Genesis. Turn to Genesis, chapter 12, that we might refresh our memory as to the promise that God made to Abraham long ago, which still is in force, regardless of what people may think. In Genesis, chapter 12, verse 1, we read:

Genesis 12

1Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will shew thee:
2[Notice the promise that God made to Abraham] And I will make of thee a great nation [and He did, for the Jewish nation came out of the loins of Abraham] , and I will bless thee, and make thy name great [and He did, for Abraham is a sacred name in the three greatest religions that this world knows anything about—Judaism, Christianity and Mohammedanism. Then you notice He said] ; and thou shalt be a blessing [and he was] :

Now, notice verse 3:

Genesis 12

3And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.

Notice the last statement in verse 3: “In thee shall all of the families of the earth be blessed.” When you follow that through to its natural conclusion, you will realize that the Spirit of God was not talking about the man Abraham, but the Seed of Abraham, for the Seed of Abraham was the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the Lord Jesus Christ, all of the nations, all of the families of the earth, will eventually be blessed.

Look at the first part of that verse:

Genesis 12

3And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee…

Though this was true in the life of Abraham, the promise was not limited to Abraham. It has become a promise that has come down through all the ages, applicable to all the seed of Abraham, or more accurately, to the Jewish nation. God said, “I will bless the nations of the earth that bless the Jewish nation, and I will curse the nations of the earth which curse the Jewish nation.”

What God said to Abraham is proving true down to this present hour, and it will become very evident to our hearts as we study chapters 13-23 of the book of Isaiah, because the ten chapters which are the ten nations which are mentioned in these chapters are nations with whom God deals because of the way that they treated the nation of Israel.

May I say something that I hope you will understand. I say it on the basis of the Word of God. My only hope for our own nation lies in the fact that we have befriended the nation of Israel. My hope for this nation is that God will permit it to continue in spite of its faults and in spite of its sins. My hope for this nation is that this nation at the present time is a friend to Israel. If she continues that attitude of heart, then God will bless her, even though His curse rests upon other nations of the world.

Nations In Prophecy

The third thing that is true about this section of Isaiah, chapters 13-23, is the encouragement that comes to our hearts through fulfilled prophecy. When Isaiah uttered these words in the reign of King Hezekiah, every single nation about which he spoke had not appeared with any appreciable significance upon the stage of the world. Everything that he said was related to the future. For example, Isaiah, chapters 13 and 14 deal with the nation of Babylon and prophesied the destruction of Babylon in a strange way when Babylon, in the day that Isaiah uttered these words, was an insignificant village overshadowed by the nation of Assyria to such an extent that nobody even considered Babylon worth mentioning. Yet, two hundred years before Babylon came across the stage of history, reaching her zenith and going down the other side, Isaiah said it would occur, and it occurred exactly the way he said it would.

So we can talk about the other nations that are in this section of Scripture, and our hearts can be encouraged, because if Isaiah's prophecy can be fulfilled to the very minute detail in the past, we have every assurance to believe that the prophecy that is related yet to the future will also be fulfilled.

That brings me to the third thing that I want to suggest to you is profitable from this section of the Word of God—namely, that these chapters present to us the focal point of world history at the end of the age. As the end of the age approaches, we will see the nations which are mentioned in this passage of Scripture come to the very center of the stage and become nations that shall be reckoned with in the years that are to come, for everything that is said in this section was not fulfilled; only parts of it were fulfilled.

Someone says, “Of course, you are a preacher, and you are a little bit hipped on prophecy, so of course you could be expected to see things in the Bible and try to make them bear out your way of thinking, whether they do or not.” I don't know how many of you are familiar with Arnold Toynbe and the things which he has written. I don't endorse the man, but he has written some very thought-provoking things, and he is a reputable historian.

In 1948 he wrote a book that was called Civilization On Trial , and I never study this portion of the book of Isaiah without his words coming to mind. This is what he said: “We hear and feel [mind you, in 1948] the moving of three fourths of the population of the world awakening now for the first time: India, China, Indochina, Indonesia, Islam, and Eastern Europe. Their gravitational pull will draw the center of gravitation away from the islands of the sea and locate it some place equal distance from the western pull of the world's population in Europe and North Africa and the eastern pull of the world's population in China and India. The new location of this gravitational center of humanity would indicate a site in the neighborhood of ancient Babylon.” This is a secular historian.

The nations that we are going to be thinking about in this section are all located in the immediate area that Arnold Toynbe had in mind. He could sense the trend in 1948. Several years later we can see the trend even in increasing intensity, but he didn't discover anything new. He discovered something which God had written down a great many years ago, and we can expect to see in this section that which will relate to the focal point of interest as far as the history of the world is concerned.

Significance of the Number Ten

To further this suggestion, from a scriptural standpoint, I think that it is a significant thing that ten nations, and only ten, are mentioned in this particular section—not eleven, not twelve, not fifteen, but ten and only ten. In the day when Isaiah wrote these words, they considered ten to be the number of the signature of the whole, or the number which indicated finished. When they would write some article, instead of writing the words, The End , they would write the number 10 . That indicates to me that we are doing no violence to the Scripture when we recognize that the prophecies related to these nations are related to the end of the age.

It is even borne out still more clearly when you keep in mind that Daniel's image in the fourth chapter, which depicts the trend of the empires of the world, had ten toes as representative of the end of the age. The beast in the Revelation had ten horns as representative of the condition of the world at the end of the age, and here in the section at which we are looking are ten nations related to the end of the age.

Still further proof from a scriptural standpoint that we are not going to be talking solely about fulfilled prophecy, but prophecy that is yet to be fulfilled, is indicated by the place that this particular section has in the book of Isaiah.

We have not considered chapter 12 in detail, and we are not going to, because it is a song, and it pretty well speaks for itself. It is a song that the nation of Israel will sing when God has delivered them in the manner that we considered in chapter 11. When He takes them into the Millennium, they will sing, “Oh Lord, I will praise Thee. Though Thou was angry with me, Thine anger is turned away.” And then the words are recorded there: “They sing the praise of God.”

Skip over to chapter 26 and notice in the midst of a special section there an announcement right along the line that we are talking about. Notice verses 1 and 2:

Isaiah 26

1In that day shall this song be sung in the land of Judah; We have a strong city; salvation will God appoint for walls and bulwarks.
2Open ye the gates, that the righteous nation which keepeth the truth may enter in.

That is the Millennium. The Lord Jesus Christ is going to open the door to His kingdom upon the earth one day, and He is going to say to all the sheep nations of the world, “Enter into the kingdom prepared for you by your Father before the foundation of the world.”

In between these two passages of Scripture that speak of the millennial reign of Christ are these two chapters that deal with the ten nations upon whom God is going to have to visit judgment before His reign of righteousness can be complete. There should be no question in our minds that this section is not a jungle of prophecy that an individual has to wind his way through, hoping for a glimmer of light that will make the pathway a little clearer. This is a precious portion of the Word of God that has laid out for us a future so that we may not wonder what the future holds, and we need not even excuse our lack of knowledge of the future by lending some comfort to our souls in saying, “I do not know what the future holds, but I know who holds the future.” Thank God I know who holds the future, and I also know what the future holds, because the Bible makes it very plain. All we need to do is take the effort to find it out.

Lucifer's Fall From Heaven

The fourth reason this particular section of the book of Isaiah is profitable, as are all other portions of the Word of God profitable, is that in this portion of the Word of God we are going to find scriptural information that we would find in no other place in the Bible.

Have you ever had a child say to you, “Why did God make sin?” Have you ever had a child say to you, “Why did God make the Devil?” Have you been nonplussed for an answer? Have you ever had a child say to you, “Where did the Devil come from?” The answer to all of those questions is found in this section, chapters 13-23 of the book of Isaiah, and we will be looking at it in detail by and by, but the summary of it is found in chapter 14, verse 12. Isaiah, looking down through the corridor of time, said:

Isaiah 14

12How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!

We are not going to consider the chapter in this lesson; we are just introducing it to you. Lucifer is the Devil, and when you read the rest of the chapter, you will find out that one day he was an angel in Heaven with the same standing that a prime minister would have in a kingdom such as the kingdom of Britain. He was so successful in his pursuit of duties of prime minister and so attractive that the angels in Heaven could not help but compliment him. It went to his head, and he decided one day that if he was that good, he was as good as God. He decided that he would mount the throne of God and give Him a shove and sit down on the throne and be God.

Of course, because God is omniscient—the angels are not—God knew what he was thinking, and before he had a chance to put it into practice, God threw him out of Heaven. In the parlance of the world, it made him so mad that he has been spending all of the rest of his existence trying to get even with God. The book of Isaiah is the only book that tells you that. You wouldn't know that if it wasn't for this chapter, and yet men say that this section of the book of Isaiah is a jungle through which there is no clear pathway of understanding.

Judgment Pronounced On Babylon

In the next lesson, God willing, we are going to begin to think about chapters 13 and 14. We are going to think about the burden of Babylon—the judgment that God pronounced upon Babylon. I would like for you to read those two chapters very carefully before our next lesson, and I would like for you to see how many verses in these chapters are yet unfulfilled.

Some of them have been, but how many of them are yet unfulfilled, and what do these two chapters have to do with what is happening on the stage of the world today? We will find out, and you won't need to wonder what the future holds. You can learn how fast we are coming to the end of the age, and you can begin to pack your suitcase, if you like, because the nearer we come to the end of the age, the nearer are we to the coming of the Lord for His own. Remember, seven years before the end of this age actually occurs, Jesus Christ is going to come in the air and catch all believers up in the air to be with Himself.

Conclusion

Every time I pick up my newspaper and see these nations that we are going to be thinking about begin to make their influence felt on the affairs of the world, I say in my heart, at least, “Amen. Even so, come Lord Jesus.”


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