“Damascus will cease to be a city”

Several prophecies in Isaiah attracted our attention in our readings today. Damascus was the capital of Syria in those days – and still is today. We recall reading in the National Geographic Magazine that Damascus is the oldest most continuously inhabited city in the world and there is no evidence that it was ever destroyed like other cities; every other city that archaeologists have explored have suffered past destructions and rebuilding on the ruins.

But Isaiah is caused by God to write, “An oracle concerning Damascus. Behold, Damascus will cease to be a city and will become a heap of ruins” (17:1). The fulfilment of this prophecy is still to take place, it could be that it is not that far distant!

In reading parts of Isaiah we saw that some of the chapters should be broken into smaller sections; after all the division into chapters was made when the Bible was first printed. As you read you can see where the different revelations the prophet received suddenly change. Often we have the phrase, “In that day” to indicate some distinct events to occur at a particular time. Verse 9 starts with “in that day” and from there to the end of the chapter it describes “a day” (meaning ‘time’) when the enemies of Israel are judged. We read, “this is the portion of those who loot us, and the lot of those who plunder us” (verse 14) and while it had an application in the past, it surely has a final application, quite likely at the same time that Damascus becomes “a heap of ruins”.

Verse 3 is about a time in the future when “the remnant of Syria will be like the glory of the children of Israel, declares the LORD of hosts”. Syria is linked with Assyria and tomorrow’s chapter (19) ends with a intriguing picture (in verse 23) of a highway to be built “in that day” – the final verses telling us, “In that day Israel will be the third with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing in the midst of the earth, whom the LORD of hosts has blessed, saying, ‘Blessed be Egypt my people, and Assyria the work of my hands, and Israel my inheritance’”.

This is the time of the resurrection when the faithful of all nations will be there – for surely over the millennia there have been a good number in Egypt and Assyria (which includes Babylon) who have known and served the true God. Are you living so that you will be there “on that day”?