Isaiah 22 contrasts a sleeping, pleasure ridden, religious culture, with a weeping prophet trying to get the attention of God’s people. The Assyrian army had conquered many cities in Judah and had now surrounded Jerusalem. Isaiah asks the question why God’s people were gathering on the roof tops to party, confident of their victory when there had been no calling on the name of the Lord. Listen to the description Isaiah gives:
“What is happening? Why is everyone running to the rooftops? The whole city is in a terrible uproar. What do I see in this reveling city? Bodies are lying everywhere, killed not in battle but by famine and disease. Chariots fill your beautiful valleys, and charioteers storm your gates. Judah’s defenses have been stripped away. You run to the armory for your weapons. You inspect the breaks in the walls of Jerusalem. You store up water in the lower pool. You survey the houses and tear some down for stone to strengthen the walls. Between the city walls, you build a reservoir for water from the old pool. But you never ask for help from the One who did all this. You never considered the One who planned this long ago.”
“At that time the Lord, the LORD of Heaven’s Armies, called you to weep and mourn. He told you to shave your heads in sorrow for your sins and to wear clothes of burlap to show your remorse. But instead, you dance and play; you slaughter cattle and kill sheep. You feast on meat and drink wine. You say, “Let’s feast and drink, for tomorrow we die! (Isa. 22 ).”
It is striking, that even though they saw an approaching enemy, the danger to the city and its people, Israel continued to ignore the obvious and love their pleasure more than their God.
It appears the church finds itself in the same place again in the 21st century. Nations are in turmoil, culture is becoming more antichrist, debt continues to climb and 80% of American churches have plateaued or are in decline. One would think church members and leaders would be running through the streets with their hair on fire trying to get people’s attention. That is not the case.
We continue to be content with church as usual. We absent ourselves from corporate prayer meetings because we are too busy with our plans instead of God’s. We live for our vacations, our wine and beer, our bar room dancing and drugs and think God doesn’t care. We date while separated from our spouses, commit adultery, and approve of same sex relationships. We have no power to raise the dead because we are dead ourselves and don’t realize we are living in a backslidden condition. National, regional and local Church leaders are more interested in their corporate meeting agendas than seeking the face of God. Seldom is there a discussion about the need of personal and national awakening and those who do speak about it are looked at as odd aberrations from a modern church culture. All the while losing the next generation to a secular society because the church has now become secular in practice and has no power to get between the living and the dead.
We all seem so spiritually confident yet Isaiah closes this chapter in verse 25 with these words:
“But the LORD of Heaven’s Armies also says: “The time will come when I will pull out the nail that seemed so firm. It will come out and fall to the ground. Everything it supports will fall with it. I, the LORD, have spoken!”
There is a wakeup call coming to America and the American church. The next 18 months will bring radical shifts to our way of life and how we perceive our role in the culture. God tells us that every part of culture will be affected:
“Look! The LORD is about to destroy the earth and make it a vast wasteland. He devastates the surface of the earth and scatters the people. Priests and laypeople, servants and masters, maids and mistresses, buyers and sellers, lenders and borrowers, bankers and debtors—none will be spared (Is.24:1,2).”
Yet the Lord never leaves us without hope! Even though Israel refused, God’s call is still for us to turn back to him:
“At that time the Lord, the LORD of Heaven’s Armies, called you to weep and mourn. He told you to shave your heads in sorrow for your sins and to wear clothes of burlap to show your remorse (22:12).”
“In that day, everyone in the land of Judah will sing this song: Our city is strong! We are surrounded by the walls of God’s salvation. Open the gates to all who are righteous; allow the faithful to enter. You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you! Trust in the LORD always, for the LORD GOD is the eternal Rock. He humbles the proud and brings down the arrogant city. He brings it down to the dust. The poor and oppressed trample it underfoot, and the needy walk all over it. But for those who are righteous, the way is not steep and rough. You are a God who does what is right, and you smooth out the path ahead of them. LORD, we show our trust in you by obeying your laws; our heart’s desire is to glorify your name. All night long I search for you; in the morning I earnestly seek for God. For only when you come to judge the earth will people learn what is right (Isa. 26:1-9).”
It’s not too late for us! It’s not too late for the church or America! Let’s repent of our backslidings and call on the Lord again- It is our only hope and He is faithful!
Tyndale House Publishers. (2007). Holy Bible: New Living Translation (3rd ed.) (Is 22:12). Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers.