When I was a young kid, I watched Mr. Rodgers every morning. That guy had a great neighborhood. Everybody was so nice. As we pick up back in Isaiah, Israel’s neighborhood was awful. In truth, Israel didn’t help. Our passage today picks up in the section of God’s judgment on Israel’s neighbors. As we read, Isaiah uses several complicated metaphors, not all of which have a clear answer. Yet, his message is clear, God is patient in judgment, but every nation will face humiliation and come to understand God is King.
Isaiah opens with Hoy in Hebrew, linking us to verse 12 of the previous chapter (the NASB-“alas” shows this clearly). Its translation isn’t clear—alas, woe, ah—but it’s not good. It is a warning to pay attention.
Isaiah sends out this warning to “the land of whirring wings.” On the nose this is a reference to insects. We quickly learn that he is referring to the land of Cush. Cush was in the Nile river valley and there were lots of bugs. It is possible, however, even likely, that Isaiah is doing a word play, referring to “whirring wings” as the many ships sail up and down the Nile. The Greek translation of the OT says that outright, “wings of the land of ships.” We see in the passage a reference to sailing, and Isaiah cleverly takes that attribute and applies it to the swarming, noise, and annoyance of insects.
The Cushites sent ambassadors and messengers around. They possibly sent envoys to Israel to ally themselves against the impending threat of Assyria. However, Israel, nor Cush, could be spared from God’s judgment. Human cleverness and might cannot stand against God.
Of these ambassadors, Isaiah tells them to “Go!” Or as Jeff Foxworthy would say, “Git-on-outta-here.” More diplomatically, Isaiah is complimentary of their people while also kicking them out. “Tall and smooth” refers to their height and their bald heads. As one commentator writes, “Even Greeks such as Herodotus shared the general admiration felt in antiquity for the tall, handsome, clean-shaven Nubians of Cush. The military reputation they already possessed had been much enhanced by their recent conquest of mighty Egypt” (Expositors Bible Commentary).
In verse 4, the Lord responds. God quietly waits, observing sin and storing judgment. He is as silent as heat and dew. God’s patients sometimes frustrate us, “Why doesn’t He help the suffering and clean up injustice.” Yet, that’s exactly what he will do—just in his timing. Verses 5 and 6 paint a graphic picture of the judgment He will bring on Cush. Likewise, verse 7 shows that Cush will come to understand God is King, and they will bring gives to Him.
God will right every wrong and restore everything. But when he does that, people will stand on one of two sides. Either people will be saved by Christ or not. We are living in a time of grace, a time when people still have the chance to step from death to life. When judgment comes that time will be over.
He is patient, but don’t mistake quietness for inaction. Even in the hurt, even in the struggle, God is there. He is watching. And he has plans for every person who hurts one of his children.
This passage reminds me of a quote by one of my seminary professors. One day all people will be on their knees before Jesus, that seems like a pretty good way to live now. No matter how clever or mighty we are, God is greater.
By: Tyler Short — Connections Ministry Associate