It is a mind-expanding experience to visit another land. More than likely the people we meet there may speak, eat, and behave differently than the hometown group to which we are most accustomed. If a person is wealthy enough, he may have some first-hand experience with neighboring nations, but relatively few people have ever been to a very exotic location. If that is true in the cosmopolitan era that we live in, it was certainly the case in the Ancient Near East of Isaiah’s day.
While the prophet seemed to be very aware of bordering countries, in this chapter he addresses the more remote land of Cush (southern Egypt and beyond). These people groups were far away from Israel in every way. Nonetheless the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had something to say to them. The Cushites were stirring up other surrounding nations, mighty conquerors who were “tall and smooth,” feared by others near and far. They were perhaps flexing their muscles together against the Assyrians. If they could gather the nations of the remote world of African tribes in a powerful assault against their enemies, perhaps they would prevail.
God addressed all the inhabitants of the world through His prophet. He was not threatened by the fierce alliances of men. His plans were not overturned by the strategies and capabilities of his image-bearers. He was (and is) the ultimate Gardener over all the earth, and the inhabitants of all lands were quietly pruned or rooted out as He saw fit. If He wanted to destroy a powerful nation, and give their land to the wild beasts, this was not hard for Him to do.
What was very surprising was that at the end of this chapter, the Lord announced that the tribes that Cush was joining together would instead be assembled by God to bring worship to the Lord of heaven and earth. Isaiah used the same language as he did in the beginning of the chapter to describe these distant groups. They were “a people tall and smooth.” They were “a people feared near and far.” They were “a nation mighty and conquering.” But the Lord of hosts would bring them to “Mount Zion.”
People from all over the world are streaming up the heavenly Mount Zion (Hebrews 12:22). They serve the ultimate Davidic King, the Jewish Messiah who atoned for the sins of both Jews and Gentiles. What mercy the Lord is showing to all the tribes of the earth! His plan is for the redemption of far off lands. Now we can call one another brothers and sisters in Christ though our customs may be very different from each other. What unites us is far more substantial than what may divide us. We are in Christ, and we bring our lives as tribute to the crucified and victorious Savior who led us up the holy mountain to God through His resurrection from the dead and His ascension into heaven (Psalm 68:18 and Ephesians 4:8).
Prayer from A Book of Prayers
Lord of the Nations, use Your ambassadors to bring the most excellent message to people who are presently far away from You. The final word for distant lands will not be wrath, though we surely all deserve to die for our rebellion. Even now people who were once so far off have been drawn near to You through Christ. They bring tribute as they worship You in Spirit and in truth. Bring Your Word to all the nations of the earth for the glory of Your holy Name.