One of the enjoyable experiences I had in seminary was getting to meet people from all sorts of places. One of my classmates that I got to know fairly well was a Canadian. During a season when I had a long commute, his family let me stay in their home for days at a time. I found the stories he told about life at the foot of the Canadian Rockies fascinating. After quite a few conversations, I came to believe that Canadians know more about Americans than Americans know about Canadians. Being a part of a nation that has a much larger population, it was easy for me to think less about neighboring countries.
Regardless of whether my observation is accurate, we can be sure from passages like 2 Kings 17 and 18 that the people of the little country of Judah thought a lot more about the Assyrian Empire than the Assyrians thought about Judah. What we see in Isaiah 13-23 is that despite coming from the small country of Judah, Isaiah still had the audacity to pronounce judgments on a host of ancient nations. Some of these nations were small like Philistia (14:28-32), Moab (15:1-16:14), Edom (21:11-12), and the Arabian tribes (21:13-17), but others were powerhouses: Babylon (13:1-14:23), Assyria (14:24-27), Egypt (19:1-18), and Cush (18:1-7).
What gave Isaiah the right to speak so authoritatively about so many nations? It was his God. The Lord was, and is, the one with the power and authority to speak truth to the nations. Isaiah spoke truly about great and small nations because the God he represented was the Creator of these nations. There was no God like his God.
We learn several truths from these chapters. First, regardless of their language or location, God was, and is, sovereign over nations small and great. He directs the affairs of each according to His purpose, and no one can ultimately stop that purpose (Isaiah 14:27). God’s sovereignty should lead us to trust in the One who is in control of all things (22:11).
Second, God specifically condemns the arrogant and looks with favor upon the humble. The boastful and smug will regret not recognizing God for who He is (Isaiah 16:6-7). Those who have the reputation for being the wisest on earth follow foolishness if they do not submit to their Maker (19:11-15). The humble take refuge in God while He judges the proud (Isaiah 14:32). In Isaiah’s prophecy against the economic powerhouse of Tyre, he claims that God has decided beforehand to humiliate the proud (23:9).
Third, we see in these chapters that even in judgment, God promises hope. A Davidic king will provide shelter for Moab (Isaiah 16:5). The Egyptians will eventually turn to the Lord and worship the Lord with the hated Assyrians (19:21-23). The once filthy wages of Tyre will later become holy to God (23:18).
Lastly, all these judgments point to the final judgment. When many people read Isaiah 14, they think of God’s final condemnation of Satan. Regardless of whether Isaiah 14 is about Satan, one only needs to compare the judgments on Babylon in Isaiah (specifically 21:9) with the judgment on the final Babylon in Revelation 18:2 to see that the earlier judgments foreshadow what will happen at the end of this age. At that time, God’s people will sing, “Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, for His judgments are true and just” (Revelation 19:1-2, ESV). Regardless of what nation we come from, there is no God like our God.