Isaiah 17

How long will any nation last? At the height of her power the people of every country dream that their land is going to continue forever. Yet the study of history and careful meditation upon God’s Word forces us to a position of more appropriate humility. Nation shall rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom. Meanwhile the eternal gospel will be proclaimed to the whole earth, and a very different kingdom that is not like any other enterprise in this world will be established and it will last forever.
Syria was once a great power. Her capital Damascus was mentioned in Isaiah 17. It is common for an entire country to be referred to in the Bible by the name of a leading city. Also, when the great city was taken, the whole society was humiliated. Damascus, we are told by Isaiah, will be a heap of ruins. Other important cities where many people were active in commerce and communication will now find their highest and best use to be only pasturelands for whatever flocks may remain after so many people have been destroyed. The symbols of military might will be leveled, and only a few people will remain.
We know that Damascus was captured by Tiglath-Pileser, a king of ancient Assyria, in 732 BC. Shortly after that the northern kingdom of Israel and her leading city of Samaria would also be subdued. All that would be left of Syria would be a tiny percentage of the fruitfulness that she once enjoyed. The remaining people would be like the two or three olives that have been missed on a tree after the harvesters have done a thorough job of gathering the good produce.
What would it be like to have a whole nation destroyed? All that was familiar and worthy of respect would suddenly be brought low. Only then might the people look to their Maker rather than to the idols which they once worshiped. Severe loss would perhaps help even Israel to consider once again the God of power who had created them. He alone could be the Rock of refuge for His people in a day of great trouble.
Who can stop the powerful foe when God grants him the opportunity to discipline and to destroy? His armies come like thunder, and the roar of his warriors makes an entire nation tremble. Once-mighty powers that have destroyed others are eventually brought to the day when a more terrifying adversary is able to dictate the terms of international relations. How far the mighty fall in that day!
Syria once approached Jerusalem with very proud boasts, but the Lord could make her flee in a moment before the storm of His presence. In the day of Syrian power, she had the capability of looting the people of God’s nation. But this was only by the permission of God, and only for a season of His choosing.
Though we may seem to lose for a time under the oppression of the world, the outcome of our warfare is not in doubt. Our great leader of the Church, the Lord Jesus Christ, has said that we will have tribulation in this world. Yet we are to be of good cheer, for He Himself has overcome the world. In His strength and faithfulness we stand fast in the gospel. The enemies of the name of Jesus cannot win forever. The love of God in Christ will be victorious.
Prayer from A Book of Prayers

God of Glory, Your works of redemption are marvelous. We would not see the wonder of salvation if You had no wrath against sin. There will be a powerful display of Your righteous judgment when Your Son returns. This would have been our portion had You not rescued us from great trouble. How can we thank You enough for Your kindness to us? We do not know what to say or do. Lead us forward as Your children. Show us how to follow You.